I’ve been on a bit of an internet fast this week.
While I’ve long reasoned that it’s probably not healthy to take my computer to bed with me as I’ve often done, my reasons for this week’s fast are more practical than self-sacrficial.
My current domicile doesn’t have wi-fi, and I don’t want to pay a $100 a month to get it.
That means over my morning coffee, I don’t check my overnight email, scan the NY TImes home page, or read Sacred Space, but listen to NPR, read a chapter in my book of the moment and review the day’s to-do list. Something similar happens in the evening. It’s actually very civilized.
Nevertheless, this being the modern era, I can’t completely shut myself off from the information super highway, so I go to the public library, just around the corner from the Federal Street garrett, to check email, conduct various research projects, and continue with my online Coursera course which is supposed to teach me how to argue.
I’ve long been a regular patron of the library, making near daily visits, but now that my visits are indeed daily, scheduled, and generally longer, I’m getting a different perspective on the surroundings. There’s a community here.
On the computer set aside for word processing, a woman transfers numbers from a clip board piled two-inches high with multi-columned sheets filled with numbers to an Excel spread sheet. There’s a calculator involved somehow, also white out and aggressive crosshatching. She pursues this work diligently, daily. It’s not yet clear to me for what purpose.
I’ve learned from one couple that the Days Inn accepts security deposits in cash while the Clipper Ship Inn requires a credit card number. Also, the wisdom passed from thirty-somethiing boyfriend to thirty-something girlfriend, that if her son’s foster parents can’t trust her in the little things they won’t trust her in the big things. She wants to compose an email demanding to see her son, but suggests it might be better/different if she asks to see Jeremy? Where are they sleeping tonight?
There are others who play video games all day, sit in the conference room and speak on the phone for as long as I have ever seen them, and scroll unceasingly on their iPhones. I don’t presume to understand the order or structure of their lives, their struggles and achievements, in this day or this life, though I know they exist.
I wonder what they think of me. I do much more typing than anyone else, I’ve noticed. I also don’t eat, in accordance with the visible signage. What other habits or activities do I unknowingly project which take on meaning through others’ viewing?
There’s a community like this at the coffee shop in town too, of course, but that community is much more homogeneous and exclusive. The price of a cup of coffee pays not only for the wifi passcode but separation from those recently released from the shelter.
I don’t doubt the significance of their typing or interest of their scrolling, for no other reason, really, than their ability to purchase a cup of coffee. They could be just as crazy as me typing this blog away at the public library. Who’s to say?