While in the theater to see The Nun (which ended up being the biggest take) this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that the pre-movie adds were all about apps. I couldn’t help it because, much to my own chagrin, I’d left the house too quickly and I hadn’t brought a book to read while waiting. This may not be news to some people, but different cinema chains have different “channels” of what passes for entertainment and ads to try to draw viewers in early. The movie house we used to frequent in New Jersey had a variety of goods on show, most of the time. The one we visited here in Pennsylvania presumed that everyone had their phones in hand, waiting for the show to begin. On screen was the idolization of the app.
My phone is old enough that most modern apps don’t work on it. Most of the time that doesn’t matter to me since I’m not addicted to the device. Of course, when you’re trying to park your car in a town that offers only online options for such a convenience, I sometimes wish I could download the relevant necessary software. Otherwise, I often wonder what we’ve lost in our lust for connectivity. Coming out of New York on the longer distance bus recently, the driver called out, as leaving the Port Authority, “Lights on or off?” The unanimous chorus, for I didn’t speak, answered “Off!” I glanced around. I was surrounded by devices. I carry a book-light with me on the bus, for this has happened before.
“Drink the Kool-Aid” has become post-Jonestown slang for simply following the suggestion of someone without considering the consequences. I sometimes wonder if our smartphones come in more than one flavor. I’m not talking about features or physical colors. As apps chip away at our money, a little bit at a time, they also take larger pieces of our time. I’ve experienced it too, but mostly on my laptop (I don’t text—my thumbs aren’t that limber, and besides, the apocopated messages often lead to misunderstanding, emojis or not), the wonder of one link leading to another then realizing an hour has disappeared and I still feel hungry. Perhaps that’s the draw to the modern commuter. Or movie goer. I’m sitting in the theater, taking a break from unpacking. In my version of multitasking, I’m also doing research by watching a horror movie. Around me eyes glow eerily in the dark. I’m lost in the forest of unsleeping apps.
Posted in Current Events, Just for Fun, Memoirs, Movies, Popular Culture, Posts
Tagged apps, cinema, commuting, Internet, smartphone, The Nun
Alogotransiphobia doesn’t just strike me when I’m on the bus. Whenever I travel anywhere I try to take a book along. To the DMV. To movie theaters. To take the paper to the shredding truck. Anywhere there might be a line. There comes a time when you realize every second is a gift, and time runs swiftly through the glass. Life’s too short not to read. So it is that I find myself in a hotel for a night. Feeling somewhat like taking a risk, I’ve only brought three books. Will I read them all tonight? Most likely not. But just in case…
Alogotransiphobia is real. In my long-distance commuting days—in a past still very recent—I tried to calculate carefully. Would I finish this book in the three hours I knew I’d have on New Jersey Transit? If even a chance seemed to exist that I would, I would add another book to my bag. But then that occasional Monday morning would arrive when somehow Sunday night seemed to slip away unbidden, leaving me bleary eyed and foggy brained to face pre-dawn alone on a deserted street corner. And I neglected to calculate the chances. Once in a great while, on such a day I would finish a book only to face a very long ride home without another. Alogotransiphobia would kick in. I would squirm in my seat as well as in my mind, anxious to get off that bus, as if I needed to shower to wash the feeling of wasted time off me. A commute without a book was remaindered, unrecoverable time. Lost time. Squandered.
For two months now I’ve been delivered from the daily commuting life. Now I find the opposite phobia. That which entails staying at home and having so much to do that time to read is stolen back by that cosmic trickster we call fate. I try to carve out time for reading, but the funny thing about work is that when you do it from home you feel you have to prove yourself. I suspect employers know that. A certain type of worker—perhaps one who’s lost a job or two in recent years—will always reach for supererogation. And such a one will even sacrifice literacy on the altar of an assured paycheck. Until recent days I was like a hermit on the bus. Those around me may have been going in the same direction but we were in completely separate places. I was, during the commute, lost in a book. Alogotransiphobia was in the seat right beside me.
I keep odd hours. Although we don’t live far from New York City, as the pigeon flies, public transit sets the schedule for my day. (I’m merely writing as a representative here, since I know others keep my hours as well.) Since I’m usually waking up around 3 a.m., I have to go to bed pretty early. One night recently I turned in around 8:00 p.m. and fell into a fitful sleep. When I awoke three hours later, it was as if my gray matter were a thunderhead. Ideas, worries, and memories flashing like lightning. Concerned, I watched the clock since I knew it was a work day. When three rolled around with no more sleep I hoped it would be like one of those rare days of interrupted rest when my conscious mind does just fine. Would it function that way on just three hours of sleep?
This incident brought home to me once again the mystery of consciousness. I had a meeting in New York I couldn’t miss that day, but by mid-morning (in real-people time) I was seeing things that weren’t there—an almost Trumpian dissociation from reality. Then I’d snap back to awareness and realize my mind was drifting off to steal some of the sleep it refused during the hours of darkness. Using the usual tricks I stayed awake for the workday and even for the bus ride home, with only brief momentary lapses where what had been reality had stopped making sense. Consciousness, it seems, functions best with a well-rested brain. A good night’s sleep put me back to normal the next day.
Reflecting back over that previous 24 hours, I thought how surreal they’d felt. Not to put too fine a point on it, but they were like an altered state of consciousness. Religions, some claim, began because of such altered states. They are strange and powerful. And fairly universal—almost everyone experiences them from time to time, whether by sleep deprivation, controlled substance use, or prayer and meditation. Even knowing the cause (going to bed with a lot on your mind when you have to wake early, for example) doesn’t change just how real the experience feels. This is one of the reasons that rationality doesn’t explain all of experience. In the same brain there are Jekyll and Hyde aspects to consciousness, interchanging with each other every few hours. As the movie Inception underscored, you don’t remember how you entered the dream. You’re just there. And when that world intrudes on the conscious, rationally ordered territory of wakefulness, the questions can become quite religious. Unless, of course, I’m still dreaming.