Charging our phones to cope with the end of days…

17 02 2013


Over the years, I have contemplated Armageddon hundreds of times. Not in a how do I achieve it sort of way, but more along the lines of what happens when civilization breaks down and the ants – or worse, the programming department at MTV – take over.

Pop culture has prepared me for a worst-case scenario, normally to the sound of a power ballad and the sight of some last heroic act of defiance. With the destruction of most of the planet  now assured,  the natural consequence of this anticipated disaster is always a plucky band of survivors who set out to rebuild society, while fighting off zombies or Republicans.

This is, of course, utter bobbins.

Probably because most people would treat the decline of western civilization as a chance to feather their own nest – thanks to genetic mutation – and get on with their lives in same self-serving way that they had before the asteroid/alien attack/zombies had even been predicted (or created) by the small group of intellectuals that monitor such events.

There is also the concept that humanity is only three meals away from anarchy (probably thought up by a deep thinker such as Marx, Nietzsche or Plato). Deprive human beings of food and we allegedly revert back to a version of Homo sapiens that used clubs as a way of making their point.

Sadly, even the three-meal theory goes out the window in our 21st century dystopia.

How do I know this? Because I watched it happen. And it had nothing to do with food, and everything to do with mobile devices.

Perhaps I should explain. I live in a tiny town about 45 minutes south of Boston, inhabited by a significant proportion of the one-percent and their ever-growing brood of potential venture capitalists.

Most of them are great people, living the American Dream in a community that exists in a strange state of being connected to the outside world and yet seemingly isolated from the misery of modern society.

Put it this way, I don’t lock my car at night – although that could be because I want somebody to nick it!

Anyway, I digress. On February 9, my little town of Eastwick/Dobbs Mill (the name has been changed to protect the soccer moms and little leaguers) got hit with a snowstorm.

Nothing unusual about that, it’s the Northeast of the U.S., winters can be harsh and most people in the town spend their weekends skiing anyway.

For anyone that doesn’t live on the East Coast of the U.S., the blizzard – inexplicably called ‘Nemo’ by The Weather Channel – that hit us that Friday night is probably filed away under the category of “whatever.” After all, if you live in New Orleans or in Los Angeles, then big loads of snow are less interesting than hurricanes, earthquakes or wildfires.

Roads were shut, plows came out and the area descended into darkness. The pub stopped serving at around 10 and the inhabitants either went to bed or got in their SUVS and drove into Boston. For those of us that couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel, we just put some extra clothes on and went to sleep, naively believing that this is America in the 21st Century and that the power would be back sooner rather than later.

To cut a long story short, it wasn’t. For most of us, it didn’t come back until nearly three days later, although there were some surrounding towns that either lost nothing or spent several days huddled around a hastily purchased generator.

“Eastwick” officials, in their infinite wisdom, decided that providing some sort of emergency shelter was probably a good idea, mainly for the elderly and families whose entertainment systems had shut down. One presumes that this was all part of a well-thought out disaster plan, a scenario that had been discussed at length in the hallowed corridors of the local town hall.

To be fair, it was a good idea.

It gave people somewhere to go, hot meals and coffee (saving us from the possibility of anarchy) and, the rumor was, it would have a Mobile Device Charging Point. The important thing to remember is that they never said that it would have lots of charging points…just one.

Anyone following my trail of breadcrumbs may have realized where the problem was going to lie in this plan.

Humanity can’t survive without mobile phones. To be fair, it seems that we also can’t survive without iPads, iPhones, laptops and mobile gaming systems. One charging point was always going to be subject to an undignified display of territorial pissing.

However, once again, the organizers of the “warming center” had thought of this. Yes, it was one point, but it had numerous power strips all connected to a central electrical outlet. More than enough, one would think for everyone to obey the simple 45-minute charging rule that was written in black ink on a sheet of A3 stuck to the wall.

There are no prizes for guessing that it wasn’t.

When I got there – having run my Windows phone down to it’s bare bones – the MDCP was covered in phones, tablets and laptops. Small children could be heard asking when their iPad would be ready, harassed parents spent their time trying to pretend that they weren’t breaking the 45-minute rule while unplugging any device that had a charger obstructing their access to a socket.

If it wasn’t anarchy, it was a fairly good impression. Mobile devices were charged, swapped around, delivered to small child – despite the fact that we were in a school, hence there were books to read! – and then the whole process would start again.

And in the middle of all this apparent chaos, a group of senior citizens sat quietly in their deck chairs and did something unusual…they engaged in conversation. Not one of them made their way to the MDCP, keeping warm was more important, a priority that seemed to be secondary to the younger residents of “Dobbs Mill,” most of whom wanted to know why they couldn’t use Facebook or play Angry Birds.

Three meals from anarchy? Try three hours with no mobile device…and the decline of western civilization comes ever closer. And it took a blizzard in New England to make me realize that humanity may not be up to the challenge.

All we need now are the zombies.

There was a plan. I was going to post my 200th piece of random rambling last year…then shutter the doors and have a reboot. Somehow that didn’t happen and here we are in February 2013. Happily, the world didn’t end on December 21, and this has allowed me to carry on procrastinating in my usual way. The above post was written as a favor to my friends at Tiny Mind Gazette, and so I can’t even claim that this is a piece of unseen content…because its already been tweeted and suchlike. Still, it makes a nice way to enter blogging hibernation, and in the words of a famous Austrian…I’ll be back.



One response

17 02 2013
Martin Jol

Happy trails. Come back to the Internet soon.

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