Monday, December 06, 2010

The self-contained citizen

One of the great features of travel has been the chance to overdose on movies. But last night I found myself crouched over my laptop while the Hotel Durant's wide-screen television stayed dark. Now that Netflix is streaming (mostly old or odd) movies on the internet, I can do better by reserving the choice of time and title to myself, rather than to Ted Turner or American Movie Channel. By the same token, the Durant's telephone stays quiet while I touch base with my iPhone.

Less and less do we dip into the common pool of experience. Wealthy people live in gated communities and send their kids to Sidwell Friends. Coin-operated telephones are close to vanishing from the public space (and are seldom operated by coins any longer, now that a quarter can't do what a nickel used to accomplish). The Sundeck atop Aspen Mountain still has its bank of phones outside the restrooms, but the only customer they had yesterday was one of the Mexican busboys. (What ski bums used to do in Aspen is now done by Mexicans and by Australians on summer vacation.) The customers each had a cell phone to himself.

We all seem to be specialists now. We pretend to "celebrate diversity," as the posters at the University of New Hampshire say, but in fact our lives are less and less diverse. Gives a whole new twist to the notion of E Pluribus Unum. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

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