At Walmart yesterday a man walked from the back to the front of the store cursing loudly. This wasn’t a disease-caused situation; this wasn’t a self-directed tirade. He was clearly pissed at someone in the store, either in customer service, or, for all I know, his boss, since I couldn’t tell if he was an employee or not. But he walked by, yelling, “This is F.ing ridiculous!!” and on and on, stopping when he was near someone who did work there to direct his anger to that unfortunate soul.
From where I stood it sounded like it took him about five minutes to exit. One woman near me raised her eyebrows and commented that she wants to leave in case he comes back with a bomb or a gun or friends. I understand the fear.
I stood also wondering just how far away I was from being that guy.
Everyone is getting angry way to easily these days. Drivers and workers and customers, everyone. You. Me. And not just at Walmart where a little temper-tantrum from time to time is understood. Everywhere. Everyone. From leadership, opposition parties, faculty, students, police, everyone. It is as if we’ve all had way too much caffeine, or are constantly being poked, or aren’t getting enough sleep. I honestly don’t remember another time in my life when so many were so angry so much of the time.
I stopped at a light and noticed a group of people on their cellphones at a few tables at a corner pub. In cars, on the sidewalk, in the restaurant, the stores, the hallways, the offices, the entire population is on their phones. If those phones were all landlines, I thought, we would never be able to navigate the millions of miles of wires set out to trip us up. Every single human would have long telephone wires running from them to poles everywhere they went, and of course since we don’t live in a symmetrical world, the thick intrusion of wires would be like liquid, like air, like soup so thick we couldn’t walk or see or even breathe.
The light turned and I drove on, and eventually I made it to near my home, out in the country, nothing but the bay and the river and some farmland for dozens of miles in three of four directions. I could breathe, I could look out uninterrupted, I could think clearly. I could relax.
Contemplate this: Every single cell phone is searching for frequencies set out from towers, usually trying to find three towers to hook up to. And this is constant from every single active cell phone looking to hook up or already connected to the towers which transmit the information—calls, data, etc—to the destination, all the time. All the time.
Isn’t it possible our immersion in this saturated atmosphere is fucking with our mood, playing games with our attention span and anxiety level? Our blood pressure? It’s as if while sitting at a stoplight I am drowning under an invisible sea of signals and frequencies, and while it keeps me connected it makes it difficult to function. It isn’t that we are being “converted” into technology, or that technology is ruling us. No. I think it is just the mechanisms to make this all function have saturated the air, cutting off our oxygen, making us stupid.
I want to get out of my car at a stoplight and climb on the roof, or, better, climb a telephone pole to the top. But since towers are usually really tall my own refuge is to escape, to drive to where the “pavement turns to sand,” and break free from the tsunami of data.
Perhaps from some mountainside or the vista from a cliff on the bay, if we could somehow bend light to illuminate that which we can’t presently see, down in the city or other busy areas, a haze of black, or deep purple, or dust-like energy would pulsate before our eyes.
The region from central New York State to the Ohio Valley has been determined to have some of the highest levels of oxygen in the air anywhere. It is easier to breathe there, and more than a few times the regions have been rated to have some of the happiest people with the lowest rates of crime and violence.
And the cellphone reception sucks. Go take a good view in the wildness and see how calm you feel.
Coincidence? I doubt it.