While Stephen and I were headed south from Indianapolis back home to Nashville, I used the convenience of my BlackBerry to connect to CNN to catch up on some headlines, since I didn't have a chance to get online before we left. As I peered into my small digital window to the rest of the world, I found this headline:
Internet failure hits two continents
I read the article and discovered that a large cable in the Mediterranean had been snapped, and many digital services came to a standstill in parts of the Middle East and Asia.
I began to wonder what would happen if our technological infrastructure in the US also suffered a similar, accidental fate. I wondered what might happen if I couldn't log on to check email or play Scrabulous or read blogs. What if I couldn't see how many people had visited my blog today or I couldn't see how many minutes I've used on my cell phone? What if I couldn't catch up on headlines or approve MySpace friend requests? What would I do?
And then, thanks again to the handy utilities on my functioning phone, I checked the weather.
Around the time of the outage, it was 77 in Dubai, 72 in Doha, 77 in Riyadh, and 72 in Kuwait.
I wonder how many executives and business types over there were refreshing their browsers, restarting their machines or yelling into phones in tall office buildings in these cities. I wonder how many were upset they couldn't get work done and vented about it to anyone they thought might listen. I wonder how many ignored the fact that the weather was darn near perfect outside.
I wonder how many missed the convenience of not being able to do something because they were focused on the inconvenience of not being able to do something.
A lot of inconveniences in our life (nearly all of the ones related to our modern technology) are really just conveniences in disguise. The inconvenience of not getting a cell signal is really a convenience of being able to enjoy silence. The inconvenience of a depleted iPod battery is actually the convenience of being able to have a conversation. The inconvenience of a traffic jam is just the convenience of being able to listen to the news on NPR or call an old friend.
We so easily buy new toys and gadgets, thinking they're the very things that will allow us to save time in an effort to use all that saved time to build relationships or volunteer. We think that the convenience of our digital tools will allow us to eliminate the inconvenience of not being able to have any time for the things we enjoy doing. And then, when our items that promise convenience become inconvenient by not working, we immediately become inconvenienced by focusing on their inconvenience, and then ignore the convenience being offered in the form of a break from the norm. We miss the convenience truly created by these items that promise so much convenience. In other words, our tools of convenience sometimes only give us that when they break.
So, the next time your iPhone won't turn on or your laptop won't boot up quickly, or your Internet doesn't work, give thanks to the digital gods. You've just been conveniently gifted with the chance to have a conversation, read a book or walk in the park.