LongDistance

LongDistance
" … a history where LongDistance briefly grew ever shorter before smartly snapping back closer to its traditional borders."

Geezers have always loved to tell stories about The Old Days, by which I mean the days when this world still seemed young to them. The later days, these days where geezers experience their ever advancing age, seem downright ancient in comparison, for they feature patterns grown far too familiar to frequently surprise or even delight, while back then, every new morning brought promise and discovery. Every generation believes that this world was produced for their delight and personal enlightenment. I remember doubting the existence of history then. How could history have been if I had not been included in it? I considered everything chronicled as having occurred before I was born to be a rumor, fiction created to cover up an obvious truth, that there could not possibly be a world without me being in it. Of course life eventually beat that notion out of me, once I'd started accumulating my own history for which many had not been present to witness. Aging eventually cures self-centeredness.

Horizons seemed to have broadened since then.
When I was a kid, connections to the outside world were few: a console radio big enough for me to crawl inside and a big black Bakelite rotary dial phone which could, in an emergency, reach out of the valley to connect us to people far, far away. LongDistance was exclusively reserved for special or especially tragic occasions. I understood it to be egregiously expensive, something only rich people used with any frequency. It was a marvel to me, clear evidence of advanced scientific progress, sitting right there ready to ring on the dining room desk. Over the course of my brief life, LongDistance lost much of its specialness. No desktop today even holds a phone in our household, and we've lost any distinction between local and LongDistance. I'm unsure of my local area code, since not even my personal phone carries a local number. Civilization's spread all over the place, boundaries ever more indistinct, or at least they were before the lock down order came.

Life suddenly came to more closely resemble the world I had grown up in. Distances, shrunken just weeks before, had become vast again. Where the prior summer, The Muse and I had one afternoon hopped a flight to Paris, this year, we fussed over a twenty mile toodle, just like in the good old days. Flying then was what somebody else did. We mostly stayed at home. Travel, in those days before the Interstates, was painstaking and slow, so we mostly compensated by just staying very close to home. It was a special occasion should we, my birth family, head over any horizon, and never to stay in hotels, but with family there. LongDistance was serious business, and we all grew up parochial as Hell, familiar with our local customs and nobody else's. Neighborhoods were universes. Across town, the rough equivalent of space travel.

We can't tele-transport ourselves quite yet, but we can dial long distance on our watches without even incurring a toll charge, something not even Dick Tracy could do back then. I maintain relationships across and even between continents, but I feel confident that I will not be traveling to visit anywhere but here for the foreseeable future. I learned how to live like this before I ever learned to live otherwise, and I suppose that I should not be surprised to discover that I already know the rules of this freshly-imposed road. I ache to see my kids and grandkids, but I have ready access to LongDistance with a handy video assistant. I can bore my grandkids without having to travel any distance at all.

Our mobility seems the root cause of this Damned Pandemic's pall. It might have stayed a distant rumor had we not conspired to challenge the once universally-respected space/time continuum. All of human civilization once moved no faster than the speed of a walking horse, which naturally discouraged any of us from ever traveling very far from home. We stayed near our birthplaces and somehow managed to eek out an existence there. Trains came, and steam boats, then cars and trucks, and civilization became a blur buzzing around us. We just had to hop on board and amaze ourselves as we became a blur to everyone else, perhaps to ourselves, too. The days when The Muse would hop a flight to DC every other week or when I commuted each week from Portland to an office in Silicon Valley seem like futuristic scientific fiction or dystopic history, barely believable. Travel, which would find The Muse and I driving lazy two-lane turns up through the Sand Hill country, seems like ancient history, a history where LongDistance briefly grew ever shorter before smartly snapping back closer to its traditional borders.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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