I'm halfway home from Oslo, stuck at the Newark Airport for a few hours, waiting for a connector to Seattle. I'm drinking coffee to help delay my bedtime. It may be noon in Seattle, but my body thinks it's nine p.m Oslo time. I've been up since seven am Oslo and I have another nine hours to go. Today will be a long day.
Thanks to a laptop, an mp3 player and a pair of noise reducing head phones, I can cocoon myself, listen to music and block out the world. All around me are weary travelers doing the same. Their diversions may be video games or or text messaging, but we are all using our gadgets to tune out, clustering around the power outlets while our devices recharge, but never going so far as to say 'Hi' to one another.
Who says we are social creatures? I think we are creatures that love to be entertained. Our gadgets are now more entertaining than our fellow men so society is being left behind. I have heard of the 'grass eaters' from Japan-- a new generation of young Japanese who don't date, don't engage in society, don't have career plans, they've seen their parents lives and don't want that. They don't want a nice place to live and all the creature comforts it offers. I don't think these grass eaters are unique to Japan. I see them in America all the time. Choosing to opt out by mindlessly entertaining themselves rather than becoming productive and involved.
We don't need that much to be happy. Once you have a good place to sleep, a good meal every now and then, a few good friends, a bit of entertainment and some clothes on your back, everything else is really not necessary. Yet American society has no place for this style of life. Our leaders and role models are most always financially successful. Yet the enticements for the grass eaters to join in-- work hard for 40 years, buy the latest creature comforts, retire someplace nice-- pale in comparison to doing what you want, when you want, with the people you want.
In the past the grass eaters would have loudly rebelled like the hippies of the sixties. What's different today is that they focus their energy into entertainment. Amusement as a surrogate for happiness. No rioting needed. Any squalid place can be a comfortable home when you can listen to music, play games and watch TV. And so, it's easier to drop out now than it ever was before.
The men's bathroom smells bad. Uncleaned outhouse bad. I would have left had nature not demanded I stay.
I've heard my first dead Michael Jackson joke. His will states his plastic parts are to be recycled into Lego so that children everywhere can continue to play with him.
When I heard that, I wanted to text it to my friends. Why text it? I didn't want to call my friends (For free) and tell them the joke. I wanted to text it and pay. More convenient and I wouldn't have to talk to them.
All afternoon a man has been shuttling people back and forth in a golf cart-- the elderly, crippled, parents with kids. The card doesn't emit a warning sound so ever few seconds he shouts "Beep! Beep!" What a great job.
I try out the noise cancelling headphones at an electronics store in the airport. They are pricey but very good. For a few hundred dollars I can block out virtually all noise around me. I also try on the My-Vu glasses that display a TV screen when you put them on. I'm not as impressed with these. The My-Vu screen may be in a pair of glasses, but they don't project a large screen. Instead it looks like a small screen a few feet in front of me. If that's all I get, then I may as well stick with my Zune as it is really is a small screen a few feet in front of me.
But, the My-Vu will improve. Just as blurry 50 inch projection screens have morphed into 50 inch LCD screens more clear than what you seen in a theater, one day, not too many years from now, I will be able to don unobtrusive goggles that display a clear wrap around image. How much will this lower our standard of living? What kind of hovel would I choose to live in if I knew that I could put on goggles and noise canceling head phones and be magically transported away? Grass Eaters already spend most of their free time at the computer and the screen. They really don't care about the kind of place they live in. It's an expense and not an investment. If the right goggles allow them to cut this expense, then they will do it.
Maybe there is a business opportunity here- a rooming house with high speed Internet access and laundry service.
My flight is leaving soon. I quickly get something to eat. I’m tempted to try Mc Donalds, I haven’t ate there in years, but the line is long. I look at the hot dogs at the place next door. They disgust me. I settle on a pizza place. One of the pizzas has greenery on it and I ask what it is. The server doesn't know so I settle on the sausage and pepperoni.
No table is free, but a single man sitting alone at a table for four. I ask him if I may sit there. He kind says yes. We proceed to ignore each other while we eat. Sometimes he smiles, but mostly his face is impassive.
The pizza slice is mediocre. And now I crave a home cooked meal, properly prepared with lots of veggies. I’m looking forward to home. I want to stare at my screens in my crappy office and listen to music on my premium speakers.
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