This post originally appeared on Folk Rebellion.
The idea arrived in an idle moment. It was the early ‘90s and I was navigating my first decade of existence — a formative period I’ll forever associate with missing teeth, ill-fitting overalls, and a firm belief in the miracle of Santa Claus. On this particular occasion, I was buckled into the middle row of my family’s legendary sky blue Dodge Caravan, counting cows and semi-trailers en route from Maine to my grandparents in upstate New York. Staring into the rear side of a felt headrest, I had an epiphany: Wouldn’t it be amazing if this thing had a T.V.?
In the absence of gadgets, my antiquated in-car entertainment was limited to the aforementioned cattle counting, traditional boredom affirming games like ABC Bingo and I-Spy, arguments with my siblings and early existential introspection to the soundtrack of Van Morrison and The Chieftain’s Irish Heartbeat — on compact cassette, no less. I might’ve read, but something about a stationary page in a moving vehicle has never quite agreed with my stomach. Instead, I was forced to occupy my time with the intangible; my idle arsenal was largely limited to my imagination and thoughts. The horror.
"My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some humor and some style." - Maya AngelouTweet It!
A decade or so later, I’m an “after” product of orthodontics, regularly in adult-sized overalls, and still very much enamored of the holiday season’s glorified, albeit commercialized hero. I’m increasingly bitter, however, that I’ve yet to be fairly compensated for my trillion-dollar tech idea. Or maybe I’m just cynical in response to FOMO. Although portable entertainment became mainstream soon after my road trip epiphany, my parents never purchased a vehicle with a built-in DVD player. Nor did they install a CD player in that blue minivan. When I inherited the once reliable vehicle, road tunes were possible only by way of a battery-operated boom box, cradled in the arms over a passenger in an effort to minimize skipping on bumpy roads.
The digital deprivation extended to my family’s living room, where our T.V. situation would remain stuck in 1992 until I was well into college and legally permitted to drink alcohol. I welcomed digital cable into my life with a true toast over winter break circa 2010, the same year I nannied for a 3 year-old who possessed his very own iPad. Two years later I invested in my first smartphone, and I’ve been using my thumbs to combat road trip boredom ever since (unless I’m driving, of course).
Last week, I found myself with a 4-hour train ride from Boston to New York — the reverse leg of that same day’s morning voyage, which I’d spent in a zombie-like state of sleep deprivation. I found a seat in the business class (when a man reluctantly moved his briefcase) and opened my laptop with the intention of editing a paper on wearable technology. But then I looked around and found I was far from alone; each and every one of my neighbors was behind a screen. It was creepy and, for some reason, a little sad.
I closed my computer and impulsively pulled out a smaller computer — my phone. After a brief exchange of emotionally representative emojis with my better half and (a not-so-brief) underwhelming scroll through social media, I forced myself to return my iPhone to its pocket habitat and commence a 4-hour marathon of absolutely nothing.
I wondered what the woman in the sensible shoes and turtleneck was tapping about, and to whom. I counted e-readers and paperbacks in the laps of my fellow passengers and wondered at what point convenience outweighs the smell of a real book. I read dog-eared pages until my head spun and then looked out the window until the night turned the glass into a mirror and I decided I looked like a huge creep. Finally, I stared into the back of a headrest, made a mental note to call my grandparents and thought long and hard about this great idea I had nearly two decades ago when my family would ride in a single minivan to upstate New York.
Love to write?
Every month we select at few writers to help us explore what it means to live a life of reflection and intention. Reach out to Helen, our editor at Helen.W@holstee.com to learn more
Like Mindfull Matter?
You are going to love The Holstee Subscription. Every month we explore one new mindful theme through art, words, and action. Sign up today and get your inspiration delivered!Learn More