by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
April 18, 2009
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Quick! Name five things we used to depend upon that are rapidly disappearing. Okay - newspapers, magazines, landlines, network television, mail.
Are you surprised? We're living in a remarkable age. Our technology is moving at warp speed. Our culture is changing daily. Our minds are flying while our economy is collapsing. It's like a huge mind/body dichotomy, a series of cosmic tears in our universe.
For example, I write a piece that mentions Hellen Keller and wonder if younger people even know who she is. Yet when the first U.S. polio epidemic comes up in conversation, I Google it and seconds later I'm looking at page 320 of a 2006 textbook called "Introduction to Epidemiology" by Ray M. Merril and Thomas C. Timmreck. Illustrated. Fourth edition. The first epidemic was in Rutland in 1894, with 130 reported cases. Wow.
I live and die by the computer on my desk. But if I wanted to, I could write at the library, where all I have to do is plug in my laptop and hitch a ride on their WiFi. Then I'll have all the books in the library at my disposal as well as the whole Internet. Talk about riding a rocket!
But even the laptop - shrinking in size and price every day - is becoming obsolete. Now people carry the Internet in their pocket. If they get lost in the woods, they can use their iPhone as a compass. If they get lost in the city, they can find the nearest sushi bar. Yes, there's an "app" for that.
I live in the woods, and it takes two satellite dishes to get me through the day - one for the Internet and one for television. But like many people in rural areas, I still depend on my landline. One day last month I picked up the phone and the line was dead. It had never happened before. I freaked out.
FairPoint, which now owns the landlines in Vermont, managed to eventually fix the problem. But the company is having serious financial problems. It may go bankrupt. And then what? All of Vermont's lines could go dead at once. It would make for a dreadful silence.
There's even talk of having to use the Obama stimulus money to bail out FairPoint instead of fixing our roads and funding our startup businesses. What a waste.
Jim Douglas has been governor since Jan. 9, 2003 (it took less than a second to find that date on Wikipedia) and we still don't have universal broadband. Despite Douglas' many failures - and vetoing the gay marriage bill is only the start of it - his real sin is that he hasn't yet wired the state. By now, every sheep should have a cell phone and every cow a computer.
People are scared. They're hoarding money. Even the wealthy ones. Even if they didn't have their savings with Bernie Madoff. If people don't buy, then manufacturers and stores suffer - and who had the crazy idea that you could build an entire economy on people selling things to other people in the first place? Talk about a Ponzi scheme!
So advertising is shrinking. Newspapers and magazines are struggling.
And by the way, newspaper delivery is an endangered species. Also, mail itself. It turns out that junk mail - which we all hated - has taken to the Internet under the nom de plume of "spam." And the U.S. Post Office is hurting from the loss. There's talk of cutting back on delivery days.
Network television is also going the way of the dodo. And by the way, "The Dodo is a lesson in extinction. First sighted around 1600 on Mauritius, an island in the Indian Ocean, the Dodo was extinct less than eighty years later." (American Museum of Natural History). Once the networks discovered cheap reality television, it was all downhill.
Luckily, the cable networks and premium channels are stepping into the breech. But you don't need a television to see their programs. You can get most of them on the Internet. And if you wait, you can get them without advertising from your local video store. Or even from Netflix. As long as the postal service survives, of course.
Also dead as the dodo is any confidence in the future. Jobs have left the continental United States in droves. Suburbia is being foreclosed upon. Malls are dying. Boats and cars are being abandoned. The U.S. government is printing more and more money to bail out industries that shouldn't exist anymore. They bet their future on the Hummer? What were they thinking?
I may be a dinosaur. Some days I think it makes more sense to plant a garden, milk a cow and ride a horse to market. I miss butchers and bakers and fishmongers and candy stores and soda fountains. I miss trains.
Then I remember that I'm wired to the gills. And there are so many things from long ago that I never want to see again, like girdles and polio.
On and on it goes. Every day we hear of a new technology - Sexting? Twitter? Every day is a new carnival ride. The United States of America in 2009? Is there an app for that?
Joyce Marcel is a freelance journalist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.