I just bought a video

by francine Hardaway on October 17, 2005

I just bought a video IPOD, which I haven�t even received yet. However, to welcome it, I also downloaded iTunes 6, and then three episodes of �Desperate Housewives,� which I have only watched once on TV and then dismissed. I cannot wait to receive the IPOD and catch up on these important cultural artifacts while I�m on the plane to China and India in November.

And that�s why I hope they never allow cell phones on airplanes.

Before you tell me I�m a Luddite, let me tell YOU I�m the most wired woman I know; for years I�ve been the informal tech support for friends and family, although I majored in English while in college. Or maybe I majored in intellectual curiosity, so when technology became the big �happening� thing about twenty-five years ago, I jumped on board at a full run.

But all these years of early adoption have done the same thing to me that they�ve done to everyone: they�ve converted a former thinker and reader into a frenetic, connected multitasker who no longer even reads the morning paper because she already scanned the news on Google or saw it on CNBC. I live a life of picture-in-picture, with a crawl at the bottom of the screen, zapping the commercials so that every hour is reduced to forty-three minutes.

Airplanes and yoga retreats are my only surcease. On an airplane, I can�t turn the computer on until the aircraft reaches some altitude the pilot thinks makes it okay for me to use my electronic devices, and I can�t connect to the Internet at all. It�s a nice break from the habit I picked up in the �90s of waking up in the middle of the night to check my email.

I suppose I could make a phone call, and indeed have done so, but only at a cost I refuse to incur except in an emergency.

So I�m left to my own devices. I can sleep. Or I can read. And because I fly often, I have come to look forward to plane rides as times when I can actually start and finish a book. Sometimes I start the book on one flight, and it happens to be the tail end of a trip, when I am heading home, which happened to me coming home from Africa, when I started �The Zanzibar Chest,� a book about African history. I was fascinated by it.

Until we landed. Three months later, when I flew the next time, I had to pick up where I left off, and I couldn�t even remember what I�d read. I finally did catch up and finish it, although not between flights. I�ve begun to take notice of my habits, and I notice that I do not read books in the course of my every day life.

Why should I? How could I? Every moment of my life is packed with communication. I listen to music or talk radio, speak on the phone with my Bluetooth headset, instant message and email all day long, web conference when necessary, attend meetings, shop online, and hang out in bars and at Starbucks. When I go home, I sleep, usually with the TV on.

And kids who are growing up now are less contemplative than I am, if that�s possible. They also play video games. Many of them don�t have a childhood habit of reading to remember.

I�m not saying there�s anything holy about books. I�m the first one to tell you film is compelling, and knowledge can be gained through any medium. No, it�s �down time� that�s holy, and we just don�t have it anymore as a nation. Or as a world. Somehow it�s one of those things we can�t afford, like some people in third world countries can�t afford food.

But I�ve been reading (or perhaps I should more accurately say scanning) a lot of articles lately about how the US is losing its lead in research and development, or innovation. And I think these things are related. Bombarded daily by stimuli, unable to find a moment to think, how can we innovate anything?

So perhaps it�s not such a bad idea to keep on banning cell phones on airplanes. We might get a fortuitous invention from an engineer or a scientist going back and forth from India or China who has a moment to think.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

DesperateHousewivesFan January 25, 2008 at 9:43 am

I’m from germany, where iTunes don’t sells episodes of Desperate Housewives, but I need the iTunes Covers of it. It would be great if you could send me the cover(s) to my e-mail-adress (Desperate-Housewives-Fan@jubii.de)
Thank You (:

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