Table of Plenty

I’m writing this longhand, in case anyone is wondering. I decided to spend a day without using the internet and figured that while I’m at it, I might as well minimize my usage of computers in general. Something very annoying happened today (Sunday). I went down to the library to watch a movie that I had been meaning to see for a while. It was The Others, a haunted house movie with Nicole Kidman. Recently, I’ve been delving deeper and deeper into the horror genre, and it helped that this one featured Christopher Eccleston—one of my favorite Doctors—in a supporting role. Anyway, when I got there and asked for the movie at the reserves desk (I had even written down the call number beforehand so that I wouldn’t have to look it up on the online catalogue), I discovered that every viewing station in the media center was either taken or not working properly. So I borrowed a pair of headphones and went to the computer lab to watch it there. And then my troubles began.

A computer lab is not an ideal setting for watching a movie. This one was brightly lit, with lots of background noise. But I logged onto a computer and started watching anyway. The movie was okay. It’s got a lot of tropes that have by now become overfamiliar: creepy kids, glacial pacing, supporting characters who seem to know more than they’re letting on. It was kinda creepy, but also the sort of thing where you’re constant fighting the urge to shout advice at the screen. Then Christopher Eccleston showed up. I clapped. Then the DVD started skipping. I tried jumping ahead a few minutes, wiping down the DVD, and switching computers. Nothing helped. I immediately transformed into a giant green rage monster and smashed an entire wing of my school’s main library to pieces. Then I calmed down and walked home wearing nothing but the stretchy purple shorts that I keep on at all times in case the universe conspires to thwart me—which, make no mistake, it did.

Artist's rendering.

Artist’s rendering.

It would be one thing if the DVD had skipped ten minutes into the movie. Instead, it waited until I was almost an hour in, then started fucking up. Who wants to buy a ticket to see half a movie? You couldn’t sell that at any price. Nobody wants to see that, period. My first impulse was to go on YouTube or Daily Motion to see if anyone had posted the full movie, but of course, that would mean going on the internet. I hate everyone right now. The hardest part about not using the internet is figuring out what you’re going to do when you get home. I always switch on my computer and spend an hour or two doing nothing much. Now, I have to turn to my book and DVD collection for entertainment. I placed a hold on The Others at the public library over a month ago, but I guess their copy is missing or something. You can all die slowly.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I went an entire day without the internet. When it went down at one of my old apartments, it took my roommate several weeks to get it back up again. During that time, I had to lug my laptop down to the school library (I lived just a block off-campus) every morning just to check my email and watch the last night’s Daily Show. It wasn’t that bad, really, although my porn consumption dropped considerably. (I actually did start watching it once in the library, then stopped because I just didn’t think any student should have to see that by accident.) But seriously, what did people do in the days before internet? I remember coming home and turning on the TV. So maybe not much has changed.

I don’t go on vacation very often. The last time I can say with certainty that I did not use the internet occurred when my family drove up to Oregon for the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. We spent a day and a half there, saw three plays, wandered around town, then went home. It was weird. I definitely remember spending a lot of time sitting around wondering what to do next. In ancient Egypt, did people scrawl pictures of kittens playing keyboards on clay tablets and pass the around or something? What did they do for mindless entertainment back then?

I’m trying to get down to what’s really important, but it’s kind of difficult. I’ve gone without Facebook before, but without Google, I can’t check the location of, say, music or bookstores in Manhattan where I can browse for a while just to blow off steam. Without the internet, I’d have to check the phone book (or doorstop, as it’s known to most), then look at a map of the city to figure out where I’m going. That, or ask someone who knows. Interacting with people is scary.

Some people thought the internet was going to change everything. Others think it doesn’t change much. I think it does change a little bit, but it’s nothing you can’t adjust to, given time. And yes, I suppose there are greater tragedies than not getting to see all of a decent-enough horror movie, but it always sucks to be denied something that you had every right to expect. It doesn’t always take a long time to find another apartment, but getting kicked out of one always sucks. I have to go now. I’m getting hungry and I still have to do the laundry tonight. In the meantime, try to understand that while you may feel you’ve earned a seat at the table, the Flying Spaghetti Monster will deny you that for no reason other than that it can. I’m still not going on the internet, though. Because sooner or later, I always win.

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