Reality Truck: BYTE Me

"I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone." -- Lord ByronI'm beginning to become a little unglued at all the modern miracles that go with the technological age. Don't get me wrong. I'm not some wingnut who pounds out my work on a battered, but honorable, Smith-Corona. I've embraced the Internet for the speed and access to valuable information (such as pornography) it affords me, but I still find the whole revolution kind of spooky. Take internet shopping, for example. I was initially resistant to it for some of the same reasons I'm resistant to all forms of shopping, like my distaste for anything that parts me from my money. I have no patience for shopping. Malls are best reserved for people who don't already know what they want in life. These people are also the reason we have traffic. When I get in my car, it is always, and I do mean always with some greater purpose in mind -- even the briefest trip is always precipitated by a need of some sort (it may only be a need for Cheese Nips, but it is a need, and the trip has a point). Apparently, the rest of the population is just driving around, with no discernible destination and certainly no sense of urgency about arriving at that destination if one, in fact, existed. Doesn't anybody besides me have someplace they have to BE? I just read somewhere that if you feel compelled to raise your voice or gesture in the direction of your fellow drivers more than once or twice a YEAR, you are experiencing the symptoms of "Road Rage" and need to seek treatment. More than once or twice a year? Who the hell wrote this crap? The AMISH? I would consider myself a model of tolerance and restraint if I could refrain from screaming at fellow motorists more than twice every FIVE MINUTES. When everybody learns to DRIVE and masters the concept of TURN SIGNALS I will STOP hurling expletives in their direction and take some time off for TREATMENT. So it would seem that catalog and internet shopping were invented for people like me -- that is to say, people who really shouldn't be allowed out among the public without the benefit of heavy sedation. Now granted, I've always been resistant to giving my computer my credit card number (assuming it would charge a faster modem the second my back was turned), but as my esteemed colleague who writes our cyberia column points out: is it really any safer to blithely turn your Visa over to the pockmarked kid who brings you iced tea at the restaurant down the street?For all you know, he's disappearing into the back and spending a moment of quiet time with your American Express and QVC. What eventually overcame my cyber-reticence was the same thing that converted me to catalog shopping years ago: the ability to avoid many of the things I hate most in life-the aforementioned traffic, the need for a parking space, fellow shoppers, and surly or unduly aggressive salespeople. Alas, even the web has come up with its own version of a salesclerk. Like at Amazon.Com, for example, I can scroll to "Hello Rhonda Reeves. Click here to get special recommendations just for you." And of course, out of idle curiosity, I am compelled to click to find out what some anonymous computer has decided I ought to be reading these days. Last week, the first entry was "Beloved," by Toni Morrison -- which prompted my coworkers and I to presume that the lists were probably generically assembled based on generally "good for you" selections. The next few listings dispelled that notion. First was the amazingly specific "Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice: An Ethnobotanist Searches for New Medicine in the Amazon Rain Forest." Now, the closest I'm ever going to get to the Amazon Rain Forest is if it turns up in Smithsonian or on a National Geographic Special -- but I felt kinda worldly and flattered that this seemed (to a computer anyway) like the sort of high-minded reading I might undertake for fun. I basked briefly in the glow of refinement conferred upon me by this recommendation until I got to the next item: "The Pro Football Encyclopedia: The Complete and Definitive Record of Professional Football." The listing after that, "Memoirs of a Geisha," confirmed that the Internet is slowly developing a sense of humor. I guess I'll become really concerned when it develops the capacity to whine -- then I'll be out of a job. Of course as long as America Online is in charge, at least I'll never have to worry about it developing a brain.

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