No, Van Halen fans, I'm not talking about "Hot for Teacher," although ...heh, heh... I am always hot for teacher. Mrs. Odd is, of course, a teacher and a major distraction for boys above a certain age!
In this case, it is Mr. Orwell and his wee narrative I reference. I read it in 9th grade, which was like, um, forever ago. Or in other terms, 1984 (...the year, not the book) was still in the future. It was one of the few pieces of literature I read in school (as in involuntary, compulsory, 'cause They said so...) that I liked and sort of got the point. I remember distinctly feeling creeped out by the idea of a wall-sized t.v. that never turned off and constantly being monitored. Omnipresent screens, poli-business mega-entities, loss of individualism. It was, frankly, scary-assed fiction.
So I found myself on JetBlue flying to the New Orleans a week or so ago, and I got to thinking about the seat back in front of me. Now there is a phrase I never imagined I'd write. But I did truly find myself contemplating the seat back in front of me. If you have flown JetBlue or other carriers recently, you know what I'm talking about. There is an 8" screen embedded in the rear of the headrest, so you can watch whatever you want to watch during the flight. Or can you?
Okay, so it wasn't a huge wall-sized screen, but when it's only eighteen inches from your face, does the size really matter (Okay, size matters...snicker, snicker)? And you know what? You can't turn it off. Nope. You can dim it 'til it's dark, but "off" is "off" and "dim" is "on, just not bright." Okay, Mr. Orwell, nice call.
So what did I do? I took a picture of the screen, which shows a slightly plump woman staring back at me, hands open in what can only be described as a beseeching gesture. She's sitting on what looks to be comfortable living room furniture, and she is trying to make eye contact with me, I swear. Yeah, I took the picture with my iPhone, which I rarely use as a phone but use constantly to check e-mail, take pictures, watch YouTube videos, and plan my life. The irony of having a computer-camera-radio thingy in my hand, on an airplane, taking a picture of t.v. that doesn't really turn off struck me as very nicely Orwellian. Again, Mr. Orwell, well done. Oh, then I posted the picture to Facebook, so my friends can keep track of my very interesting life.
Let me be clear here, in case you were wondering. We were not going to New Orleans to do mission work. We were going to New Orleans because no one in New Orleans knows who we are, and we wanted to let off some steam. A little of this, a little of that. But a little of this or that without our neighbors leaning over our table or the chance encounter with a student. So, no cameras was the rule. Turns out we sort of ignored the fact that our phones are cameras, but we were pretty good about not taking pictures of every moment, snaring just a few snapshots to capture the crazy that is New Orleans. But I couldn't help notice how many cameras there were, stuck to the sides of buildings, light poles, in lobbies, outside clubs. Even in a city where being anonymous is a right, we still were being imaged an awful lot. How anonymous were we?
People talk about not wanting Big Brother in their lives, but I get the sneaking suspicion that is all talk. Maybe it's a post-9/11 thing, or an outgrowth of the technology boom, or that we are all a bit A.D.H.D., or that we are self-important and need to prove our worth to everyone else, or that we just like gadgets, but for for all the blather that we want privacy and no interference from outside forces, we do spend a lot of time and treasure guaranteeing the opposite is true. I find the irony of this so delicious, I think I'll share my thoughts with some complete strangers. Oh, wait...