So I'm at a La Madeleine near SMU campus, and celebrating my having successfully navigated here through the usual nightmare of rush hour on the 75 by jumping on Barnes and Noble's free wi-fi. Thanks, BN. (I logged in so they'd know it was me. My Nook and I spend LOTS of money over there.) I'm snarfing down a quiche Lorraine--at least I think it is a quiche Lorraine; it's a quiche, anyway, with cheese and eggs and spinach and a nice crusty crust--and some bread before I change into my bathing suit and head over to the natatorium for the warm-up, the prep for the Big Swim. I guess we can call it the Little Swim.
I realize this is unbecoming a Buddhist but I'm starting to get nervous. Last year I went off the blocks too fast and almost crashed and burned at 900. I seriously thought I was going to have to quit, right there in front of God and Joan and everybody else. I managed to recover, slow down a little bit, get my breath back and soldier on, but it was a close thing. A couple of days ago I did 2350, which isn't that far from my personal-distance best. And I'm feeling pretty good, so really, I should be okay. It's just that in addition to feeling pretty good, I also feel pretty tired, and in addition to 2350 I've also turned in some 1400s. So, yeah, a little nervous.
Now, consider that my nervous self is typing this paragraph on a keyboard that's attached to a monitor that folds down over the top of said keyboard and disappears when I don't need it. The paragraph then floats through the air, over to the Barnes&Noble, where it slides inside a wi-fi hub (I don't know what one really looks like, but I imagine a big black box with many relay switches) and down a phone line and into the ether. I don't know what ether is. It used to be the stuff between stars that nobody could prove exists, but since we proved it doesn't exist, I guess we could call it dark matter now. Somehow, the paragraph navigates this dark matter and comes back out through another wi-fi hub and across empty space to your laptop (or cell phone or iPad or whatever) where you are now reading it. And just like that, it's the paragraph heard 'round the world. Well, I suppose there are plenty of more significant paragraphs out there, but still, that's pretty darn cool. So. Is it technology or magic?
Some of you are probably at least passing familiar with the Unfrozen Cave Man Lawyer. Back when Saturday Night Live was actually funny, the late Phil Hartman (he wasn't late then; he was right on time) would show up in a suit and play Keyrock, the cave man. Keyrock fell into a Big Giant Hole In Ice one day about, oh, 100,000 years ago. In 1988, some scientists found him and thawed him out. He eventually went to law school and became a personal injury lawyer. The modern world frightens and confuses him. "When I see a solar eclipse, like the one I went to last year in Hawaii, I think, 'Oh no! Is the moon eating the sun?' I don't know. I'm a cave man. But," he would continue, "I do know that my client is entitled to millions of dollars for his injuries suffered in that horrible car crash."
Keyrock didn't survive to see wireless Internet access, but I expect he'd have opinions as to how it works. "I may believe there are little men in my laptop sending smoke signals to other little men in the wi-fi hub," he'd probably say to the jury, "but I also believe my client is innocent!" Actually, that's as good a guess as any. I have no clue how wi-fi hubs work. I know it has something to do with radio signals and phone lines and cable TV and G4s, whatever those are, but beyond that I am stumped. It might as well be magic. Poof! Oh, hey, an e-mail. "You May Already Be A Winner." Geez, I get a lot of those.
Okay, I admit I was roundly disappointed when I discovered that no matter how much you waved the magic wand you'd made out of one of Dad's barbecue skewers, a tie pin you found at a thrift store, and some duct tape, your favorite doll didn't really come to life and become your best pal. (I should have waited for the teddy bear movie and realized what a bad idea this was to start with). But I managed to survive this poor deprived childhood and make it into a world where I can get on a big metal tube with lots of other people, fall asleep and wake up in London. Where I can get stock quotes, movie listings, traffic reports and the calorie count of a Starbucks pumpkin scone on a device I carry around in my pocket. Which also makes phone calls, however infrequently. And just incidentally, it also takes pictures. So you should be able to see me swimming like mad for the end of the 2k right about, oh, say, tomorrow at this time.
Unless I fall into a Big Giant Hole In Ice.