Screenlessness

There’s something touching, really, about learning of “Turn Off Your Screen Week” on television.

As I walked to work this week, dodging texting pedestrians, turning to answer remarks that were being addressed not to me but to somebody at the other end of a phone I couldn’t even see, I wondered how something so basically Unamerican could ever be instituted. I wondered even harder later in the day, as I wandered through the aisles at the grocery store wondering whatever happened to Quisp. A woman was barking into her phone “Well, did you send it recently? I checked my email ten minutes ago!”

I give it about five more years before somebody makes it illegal to go out of your home without some sort of electronic device. You MUST be able to answer the phone, read email, or text someone at a moment’s notice. You will need the device anyhow to feed a parking meter or pay for your purchases at a store. The panhandler singing the Flintstones theme on the corner will no longer except cash: you’ll need to swipe your smartphone across the symbol on his permit to deposit the money directly to his account.

Which brings us unavoidably to that old Kindle vs. Book business.

Unlike a Kindle, Nook, Noodle, or other readable pad, a mere book will not accept email, phone calls, text messages, or alerts telling you that the manufacturer is no longer supporting the system you’re using. I have been reminded that you CAN play games on a book (hangman, tic-tac-toe) but you have to supply your own sound effects. A book comes with certain disconcerting side effects, in that if you get really, really interested in the text, you will not notice the phone ringing away in your pocket or shoulder holster or in your bangs, or wherever else you carry it. (PLEASE don’t tell me.)

This is not to say that the book system is without distractions. A buzzing fly or a small child playing Street Vice XVII can still break in on your enjoyment of the book. The book, however, is perfectly suited for swatting most distractions. (I would wait to swat the small child until you are sure the parents are busy posting something on Facebook.)

But a common everyday book contains nothing to distract you from the text. It will not ring nor buzz to tell you to stop what you’re doing and learn that your second cousin has just had the best frozen yogurt in Duluth. Your boss cannot break into the passage where the hero admits he has figured out the boy holding the horses is really the heroine in disguise, and tell you all about the latest updates to the pension plan for employees in the fifth through seventh levels on the organizational chart. You can look at pictures of cute kitties only if you are reading a book with pictures of cute kitties.

So, anyway, you’d better come in July and buy a bunch of these soothing devices in July. Because I expect they’ll be banned in about SIX more years. You shouldn’t be doing something that takes you that far from your screen.

(By the way, you did print this out and read it on paper, right?)

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