We dropped Buster off at school on Saturday – felt rather badly for him; his usual roomie – a close friend – will be out for a semester having surgery, and while the new guy seems chill, I think it suddenly struck him, full force, that he’d be missing his friend. Otherwise it was interesting to watch him become happier and more excited as we drove into “his” neighborhood. I think all-in-all he’s glad to be back at school. I was surprised at all the kids hauling flat-screen tv’s and all manner of electronic systems into their rooms, though.
But the car trip! Argh. Ever since my childhood, when my birth-father would pack us in the car and force us to “see America” I have abhorred long trips by car. (I discuss my dislike of such trips, briefly, here) I especially dislike trips that “should” take 5 hours and inevitably take 8 or more.
This weekend, both coming and going, the traffic was horrendous. The rest stops were mostly deplorable (I have a pal who drives a lot owns a book called Drive I-95: Exit by Exit Info, Maps, History and Trivia which she says is invaluable, especially for avoiding gross rest stops; I needed something like that!), and I couldn’t help notice that while the radio blared news of “economic crisis,” at each rest stop the lines for fast food, ice cream, coffee, cinnabons, gum, magazines and the rest were absurdly long.
The roads were packed with RV’s and vacationers and solitary drivers out getting to where they were going, and anywhere we stopped – anywhere – there were televisions blaring, all set to CNN. Having a late supper in a very crowded, very noisy pub, one set was on CNN and the other on the Olympic diving, and I guess CNN was doing a special on Obama because my non-political husband noticed that for the whole time we were there, the coverage was Only Obama.
Then we noticed the same thing at each rest-stop; all sets were tuned to CNN, and CNN was Only Obama. I supposed that since the Democrat Convention was gearing up and Obama had just named Biden as his veep, the excessive coverage was to be expected – somewhat – but when we stopped for coffee the next day and he saw yet another set, tuned to CNN and discussing “why does Europe love Obama so much,” he shook his head. “I understand about the convention and all,” he said to me, “but this just feels almost unseemly, to me. It’s non-stop to the point where it feels like political idolatry or something. I don’t remember ever feeling like any one politician is just being lobbed at me incessantly, like this.”
The other thing I couldn’t help noticing was that most people, after glancing up at the television, got a bored, glassy-eyed look and moved on. But then, Buster says most Americans have that bored-glassy look these days, so that may not have anything to do with Obama-saturation.
Maybe Americans are glassy-eyed and bored-looking because they are logey from fast food, they are overloaded on instrumentation – phones and blackberries constantly intruding on thoughts and silence – and they are trying to shield themselves from full and complete sensory overload via the blaring televisions that are simply everywhere they turn.
I’m a bit of a homebody, I’ll admit it; but each time I go out in public for an extended length of time, I am struck again at how impossible it is to form a simple eye-contact -and-nodding connection to other humans, and how increasingly difficult it is becoming to simply hold on to one’s own thoughts – to keep one’s own processes from being intruded upon – and not simply by random acts of rudeness, but by the overabundance of instrumentation and blaring information. It feels like the cultural sensory overload is so complete that one can barely think at all when in public and moving with the masses.
I am very glad that Dick Meyer wrote Why We Hate Us; it is a good and necessary book. But maybe he needs to write another one called Turn off the Damn TV’s, Unplug the Earbuds and Let’s Be People Living in a Common World Once More!
Heh. Or something.
Glad to be back. Blogging will be lightish, as I have to deliver a book review and an essay.
Blogging might get even lighter, later, as – like the author of Random Thoughts, I consider the possibility of getting a real job, as the writing experiment seems to be fizzling out – but more on that, anon.