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The (Great) Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder - c. 1563
"One day, we'll plug ourselves into a recharge cord as soon as we sit in the driver's seat …"

My iPhone features so many settings that it's a genuine wonder why it works at all. I don't often use it to make or receive calls, for even with the speaker turned up just as loud as it goes, it whispers at me. Further, when traveling, I find myself more often out of range than anywhere within it. Whole cities like Tucson seem mostly comprised of dead zones. Heaven help anyone seeking a wi-fi connection, for these seem few and very far between. Starbucks® remains the travelers old reliable, though, offering clean rest rooms and decent wi-fi almost everywhere. They serve the traveler like Kinko's® used to before FedEx® took them over. The Muse downloads maps of the region to her iPhone because otherwise GoogleMaps® would mostly remain inaccessible. I tend to ignore my iPhone when traveling, so complicated does connecting become. The Muse and The Otter mysteriously remain somewhat online regardless, probably because they've mastered their settings in ways that I most certainly never will. We hop from HotSpot to HotSpot seeking to stay connected.

I can't remember how I stayed connected before cell phones, even though my connection today seems spotty and intermittent.
We stop for gas and I'm trying to get a new page view count for my latest posting, feeling more distant for each failure. We might not even think to turn on a hotel room TV, but we're plugging into the wi-fi first thing, struggling with the freshly curious password configuration. Once in, we might just as well be back home. I'm texting with Emily The Cat Sitter for an update on the kittens, checking weather in Sao Paulo, Brazil, thumbing through the NYTimes, and deleting unwanted email with all the vigor of an old time telephone operator. The telephone works best when connected to The Schooner's electronics, which will respond to voice commands and provide enough fidelity that even I can understand the person on the other end of the lifeless line. It also displays our progress on a small screen while playing old Frank Sinatra recordings. Modern travel tries to leach out everything boring with continuous distractions.

We're sincerely distracted travelers, semi-securely isolated within the same bubble we carry around at home. The technology seems just intermittent enough to convince us that we're roughing it, but we're a far, far cry from the way it used to be back when a weekly hand written letter might arrive before we got back and quarter-swallowing public phones provided the only possibility for instant connection, but only when and if one could be found. Then, traveling served as a great black hole within which one disappeared. Road miles were accompanied by weak AM radio signals from stations that seemed to exclusively play old Garry Puckett and The Union Gap recordings or live feeds from revival meetings, though I doubt either ever really managed to save anyone from either road boredom or eternal damnation. We managed to slip into a road coma and make our five hundred miles each day without all the connections we fail to maintain today.

The connections mostly fail to deliver on their promises. Someday we might experience some form of universal connectivity. Today, it's few and seemingly always farthest away when we really need it. Especially within cities, where I might think connection might prove ubiquitous, it's not, though it's my imagining that it might be which seems to most frustrate me. Connection never was the birthright I sometimes catch myself expecting it to be. I'm often, even usually, left with only me to connect with myself, a fading art in this WhyFidelity world. I might prefer to simply disappear sometimes, to not even try to stay connected. Another overlong day away from every possible connection and I find my notifications stacked up like commuter flights trying to land at La Guardia. I expel my backlog, grateful for the accumulated notoriety, thinking my many correspondents must be wondering what became of usually so responsive old me. I've spent the day in-between, neither there nor here yet, my iPhone trying to forget its purpose. One day, we'll plug ourselves into a recharge cord as soon as we sit in the driver's seat, and we'll remain connected even when down in some rocky draw deep within The Saguaro National Forest. Until then, we'll be in and back out again, but seemingly mostly out and maybe even about, seeking WhyFidelity for a change.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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