Waiting ...

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"I'm certainly a sucker for the technology I carry around in my pocket."

I might be addicted to weather prediction. I find myself continuously checking WeatherUnderground then following up by double checking WeatherBug, comparing their predictions against each other. WU predicts light showers to start at six am. WeatherBug reports that the closest lightening strike in the last thirty minutes occurred twenty one hundred and three miles away. No need for me to duck and cover this morning. The current radar shows a snow cloud moving toward my current location. I wonder if I'll be painting shoe molding this morning or waiting for the rain to arrive instead.

The ninety percent chance of wind and rain yesterday turned out to produce a passably perfect April day with bright sun speckled with mildly threatening clouds which hopped right over us.
The Grand Other and I walked to the park to swing but we wore our rain gear, gear we ended up not needing after all. I swear that I've spent at least half my time over the last two months waiting for rain that only showed up about half the time. I've become infamous around the remodeling project for reporting—parroting the latest WeatherUnderground prediction—when the next storm would appear. I've been right about half the time, and even with my generally paranoid reaction to these semi-unreliable predictions, I've still been surprised by showers just after finishing a final top coat, rushing still sticky boards into the cover of the over-crowded garage. The next day or the day after, I sand out the resulting imperfections and add another coat, one eye scanning the Western horizon for the next potential bushwhacking storm front.

One of the effects of increasingly accessible technology seems to be an increasing awareness (or pseudo-awareness) of the immediate future. My pocket phone buzzes to remind me a half hour before every scheduled appointment. The latest radar map tracks incoming storm fronts. More of my brain seems to be focusing upon a future that hasn't quite arrived yet and ever less on whatever's right before my eyes. I consequently move as if I knew what lies just around every next corner, but in reflection, I realize that I have not known. The confidence with which I parrot the last predictions seems to say more about me than about the weather. I know for absolute certain that it might rain sometime today, but how should that shred of knowledge influence my behavior? Most usually, I find myself foregoing and delaying in deference to what must certainly be minor gods, if they're gods at all, and their almost certain precision which seems to be reliably accurate about half the time.

Before this technology overtook me, I remember scanning the sky for horsetail clouds, a once fairly certain sign that rain would shortly follow. My senses used to speak to me more than I ever hear them speaking now. They've largely been replaced by seemingly more reliable senses which don't turn out to actually be more reliable, though they might well be much more definitive. Like the loudmouthed kid who could confidently proclaim most anything without compunction, my weather apps don't know much more than my nose ever knew, but they back up their assertions with multi-color maps featuring wind speeds at hundreds of individual locations. Never having been trained in the arcane arts of meteorology, I interpret these maps in ways no self-respecting meteorologist ever would, drawing my own unwarranted conclusions to produce technologically-assisted self-delusion and to justify a whole lot of waiting. I would have started painting already except rain's predicted to arrive before the coat could dry.

When telegraphy technology became widespread in the 1850s, people started behaving just the same way that I catch myself behaving under the influence of my weather predicting apps. For the first time in the history of humanity, information could move at a speed exceeding that of a walking horse, and people started projecting ever further into the near future as a result. In the spooling up before the outbreak of the Civil War, governments began responding to events they were confident were about to happen so they could co-opt the anticipated effect of the events which never happened. Self-fulfilling prophecies produced worse than worse case scenarios, driven by the confidence their new technology seemed to encourage. The gods might possess real prescience, though our technology, which sometimes seems to induce a god-like omniscience in us, doesn't allow any of us to really see whatever's around the next corner. In my case, I've been waiting in confident assurance of rain clouds that often never arrived, foregoing effort that could have been productively engaged. A small shortcoming, but perhaps carrying a larger walk-up call.

Few influences more undermine the quality of human experience than pseudo-knowledge. The cock-sure confident investor buoyed by misapprehensions that he's finally unwrapped the eternal mystery of the market turns out to be a reliable schlemiel in the long run. Nobody seems more blind than those capable of finely calculating outcomes. We hold technology powerful enough to project futures we hardly understand how to interpret, so we project our own plodding horse understandings onto their multi-colored maps to utterly misunderstand what they merely imply before confidently changing our plans to quietly undermine our best intentions. By the end of the day, I might catch myself having waited out another rain storm that never showed up, shoving today's tasks into tomorrow and my life, which I can only live in the moment-to-moment now, into some someday future which will likely never arrive. I'm certainly a sucker for the technology I carry around in my pocket.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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