The Modern World and Its Discontents

As regular readers of this publication have no doubt already noticed, even on a ordinary day we have no affinity for this modern world. This has been no ordinary day, however, and we are more fed up than usual.
It all started a week or so ago when we noticed that our connection to the internet, one of the few saving graces of modernity, had somehow gone awry. According to one of those little boxes that appear on a computer screen when investigating such matters our cable was unplugged, despite our slightly less reliable real world observation that our cable was indeed plugged, and after some time-consuming difficulty in getting in telephonic touch with a representative of our internet provider, and much time-consuming difficulty in running through his incomprehensible internet-testing drills, we were advised that there must be something wrong with the cable connecting our modern to our computer. The cable looked much as it always had, leading us to suspect that it had something to do with an update our computer-maker had offered offered around the same time, which upon being downloaded turned out to have pretty much re-configured the whole machine, but we were advised by the people on the telephone, who presumably knew what they were talking about, that we’d have to purchase a new cable from one of their local stores.
We won’t mention the name of the internet provider, lest they retaliate with further complications, but suffice to say it is a major telecommunications company that once enjoyed a legally-protected monopoly on its industry. Despite the company’s prominence, however, its closest store was clear over at 21st and Maize. The internet was still coming in and our dispatches were still going out due to some strange metaphysical force called “wi-fi,” albeit at a frustratingly slow pace, and there was a daunting amount of snow on the ground, which we can’t really blame on modernity, although the global warming crowd will probably try to find some post-industrial explanation for it, so we procrastinated on our purchase of the cable for a week or so.
For those of you unfamiliar with the cartography of Wichita, Kansas, 21st and Maize is so far on the west side of the city that you can almost see the Rocky Mountains from there, and beyond where any of you have any reason for Wichita to exist, and the journey seemed daunting. It’s a spot we can fondly recall from our boyhoods as an antique gas station where Ma and Pa Kettle used to do business surrounded by scenic wheat fields, but is now on that densely populated west-of-the-Big-Ditch part of town where the traffic is tortuous and the stoplights take forever, and all the businesses are links on national chains and the architecture is unimpressively upscale and everything seems less like Wichita, Kansas, than Anywhere, USA. Our own residence is a few blocks west of the Arkansas River and therefore technically west side, even if it is in the fashionable Riverside neighborhood, so we can’t be snobby about such things, and it’s not as if the oh-so-chic 21st and Rock Road traffic jam out on the far east side is any less offensive to our old-part-of-town sensibilities, but we do dread a drive to 21st and Maize even in the recently inclement weather.
Of course the store did not have the promised cable, but of course there was a large electronics chain right across the street, and it had a cable we thought might be worth betting a rather small amount of dollars on. We figured we’d also wager the meager price of one of those thingamajigs that plugs the cable with the square plastic prongs with the little plastic peg into those one of those cables with the rectangular metallic prongs that actually plugs into our new computer, just on the off chance that the old one was the problem, and then we spent interminable minutes at incessant stoplights on the way on home with our newly purchased gear. The thingamajig that plugs the cable with the square plastic prong with the little plastic peg into the one of those cables with the rectangular metallic prongs required that we download a compact disc onto computer, which also proved to be time-consuming and difficult, and then another one of those little boxes on the computer screen indicated that it had created a new portal to the internet, and when we clicked on the magic icons that bring us the internet we we were met with more boxes offering instructions to log on. This proved easy enough until a password was requested, at which point we realized we had long forgotten which of the innumerable “open sesame” incantations was requested, and after several futile guesses we wound up consuming more time and encountering more difficulty getting an actual human from that big inhuman telecommunications company on the telephone.
She was quite nice and helpful, we must say, but her help was time-consuming and difficult. It involved much typing and clicking, including some code numbers listed on tiny script on our modem, and we kept typing “7” instead of “?” because the type was so small and our brains are accustomed to seeing numbers rather than punctuation marks in code numbers, so much re-typing and re-clicking was required, but we eventually worked it all out. We were soon plugged into the internet by wire rather than “wi-fi,” as God and Thomas Edison intended, and suddenly everything was going so fast that you’re probably speed-reading through this posting. In short order the Drudge Report and the rest of the right-wing media had caught us up on the day’s news, but alas, it did little to improve our opinion of the modern world.
At least the forecast for our formerly small and pleasant prairie city is calling for clear skies and gradually increasing temperatures through the next week, to an extent that we might even be able to have the top down on our next drive across our unnecessarily enlarged town, and if that’s a result of the modern world’s carbon emissions we’re still glad of it. Early Sunday morning we’ll spring forward to another hour of daylight, too, another modern innovation that doesn’t actually extend the extent of daylight but at least pushes into the evening where it belongs, and we’re also glad of that, even if it means the preacher at out our old west side church won’t get our usual alert attention during his Sunday morning sermon. We expect the days will grow warmer and longer yet, no matter what the modern world might contrive, so we will be hopeful and continue to air our gripes about the modern world on this newfangled internet machine.

— Bud Norman


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