The Ad reads that I will ask myself: What did you do before you had this?
I washed myself efficiently, didn’t waste water and got the hell out of the shower, that’s what.
The wonderfully funny NPR program Wait!Wait! Don’t Tell Me! last Saturday highlighted a product that up to this point, I knew nothing about. To wit: a shower curtain with holders for your iPad, phone, your camera. Really? Yep, really.
For just $26.95, you too can demonstrate to the rest of the world how addicted you are to your devices. Like the Apple employees who constantly bonk themselves on the head by walking into the glass doors at their new headquarters because- well of course- they are walking while staring into their phones, this device allows you to waste lots of precious water, waste more time on line, and even- WOW- take photos. I can’t speak for anyone else but there aren’t many people I want to see naked in the shower (OK I take that back, Idris Elba and Chris Hemsworth fall into that category but please, not the full frontal).
One of the lines in the ad reads, You will wonder what you did before you had this.
NO, I won’t.
In the category of inane, stupid products, this one takes the cake.
However it sells because this is where we are as a society.
I Just Can’t Put it Down!
“Psychologist Larry Rosen and his colleagues at California State University found that 51 percent of individuals born in the 1980s and 1990s experienced moderate to high levels of anxiety when they were kept from checking in with their devices for more than 15 minutes. Interestingly, the percentage drops slightly — to 42 percent — for those born between 1965 and 1979.” The Conversation, 9/25/2017.
As a Baby Boomer, I often forget that I have a phone around. That’s not so much my age but the simple fact that I don’t care that much about it. I do my best to live my life off screen, and not looking to compare my world to others’ Instagram photos. That’s living life on the sidelines. The phone is a tool, not a phantom limb, as some people experience it if it’s been temporarily misplaced.
That’s the tip of the iceberg. We spend between 10–14 hours a day in front of our devices already, whether it’s a computer, a phone or the television. These devices have hijacked our lives, interfered with our ability to communicate with each other, and have led to a slew of deaths:
Deaths from selfies, with 21- year-old males topping the list and usually falling from heights (https://petapixel.com/2016/02/09/numbers-behind-selfie-deaths-around-world/)
Some 6000 pedestrian deaths due to distracted walking (http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/news-and-resources-pedestrian-safety.aspx)
During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That’s just during the day, when most are (somewhat) sober. Add alcohol or drugs and darkness and then the fun really starts. (https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving) Some eleven teens die every day due to texting while driving. Cell phone use is grossly under-reported in car crashes- the truth is we simply don’t know how widespread it is and how much danger anyone else is in on the crosswalks, the side streets, our national highways.
But I wanna text in the shower
When I was in my late teens, I had developed a serious cigarette habit. Smoked five packs a day. My first act upon waking was to light up. While I was in the shower I had a cigarette balanced, burning, on the top of the toilet. There were cigarette burns all over my car, my clothes, my house, my body. It was absurd.
Just as absurd as putting your iPad or phone into a pocket in the shower.
I quit smoking cold turkey at 19. Starting running the same day. I thought I’d cough my lungs out. But I did it. Tobacco may not own me. Sugar may not own me (and I never met a Krispy Kreme donut I didn’t like). Big Pharma may not own me. And a cell phone may not own me.
Addiction is addiction is addiction. It makes no difference whether your product of choice is opioids or Oprah on YouTube. You are addicted if you cannot put it down, period. You don’t have a life. You have a digital umbilical cord and you are owned and controlled by Apple et. al.
“But I’m not addicted to my phone”
I have many much younger friends who haughtily state that they can leave their phone alone any time. Right. That’s until they lose it or leave it at home by mistake. It’s the single worst emergency of the day. It reminds me of people dying from esophageal cancer who insist on smoking a cigarette through a hole in their throats. It’s that powerful. Denial is the classic knee jerk reaction- I’ve lied to myself about tobacco, sugar, and many other addictions I’ve beaten. Didn’t change the truth. Recognizing that there might be a problem changes the truth- when you’ve lost friends, your kid causes a student to commit suicide through cyber bullying, your entire existence is narrowed to a bunch of screens all day where other people live while you watch. Habits are insidious. We hardly know when one has become toxic until we pay a high price.
Products like this pocket shower curtain play to the puerile child in all of us. We want what we want when we want it. There is no self-discipline. As you stand there in your self-absorbed warmth, there are places in America and all over the world that are running out of water. Cape Town, South Africa is about to become the world’s petri dish for what happens when there are too many people, not enough water, and rationing isn’t working. It’s likely to get very ugly (https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/02/cape-town-running-out-of-water-drought-taps-shutoff-other-cities/) when four million people get their water taps turned off.
And we want to stand in the shower playing on our pads.
Technology makes a good servant but a bad master
Sir Francis Bacon’s quote about money, adapted for today, is more true than ever. Facebook executives who made billions having commandeered our synapses and our full attention are now heading to Esalen Institute to discuss how to undo the damage. The genie is out of the bottle, and no industry which stands to gain from our addiction is going to give up its hold on our eyeballs and mental bandwidth. The appearance of screens on certain ski lifts in Colorado is just the beginning of the wholesale invasion of every single space that you used to think was private, quiet and personal. I can’t even fill my gas tank without a screen’s shrieking at me.
Ski lifts, standing quietly in thought at a gas station, being by one’s self in the shower used to be places of thoughtful reverie. Now they are places where we can be bombarded with products and messages. There is no company in America which doesn’t want your eyeballs on their ads, and there are increasingly more places to force this crap down your throat.
Trees and billboards
When I was growing up in Central Florida, it used to be a joke to see all the billboards on I-4 from Orlando to Tampa. A friend of my father’s, the great humorist Ogden Nash (1902–1971), wrote a ditty which said it all at the time:
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Indeed unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all.
Today’s billboards are our devices. Ubiquitous, but primarily a method to get us to buy stuff. You can’t even get all the way through a dog rescue video without having it interrupted by an ad.
The shower curtain in question has pockets for all heights, so that your youngest children can grow up socially stunted and inept as well. How very thoughtful. Parents used to worry about commercials for sugary cereals and candies that target kids during the Saturday morning cartoons. Now they hand their kids cell phones as baby sitters. I’s just a different kind of sweet, but far more insidious.
Being in Life
I can’t speak for anyone else. My phone is for business and calls to friends. It’s a tool. Beyond that it doesn’t have permission to put me in danger, distract me from my surroundings, and above all, hijack my entire life. Rather than watch hundreds of cat videos, I’d rather be out in the world watching real lions in Tanzania. Rather than paying extra for streaming YouTube videos of other people’s lives, I’d rather be out kayaking in Iceland or climbing a mountain in Nepal. Living out loud, in other words. I don’t take Instagram shots to impress my friends. I take photos after I have gotten drunk from the wonder. I can lose photos. I can’t lose memories.
My showers are short. As they should be in a world losing its water rights to Nestle and Coca Cola -owned by Monsanto, the world’s Darth Vader (http://www.bottledlifefilm.com/index.php/the-story.html). One of the reasons they are getting away with this kind of thing is that we are not paying attention.
Time Flows Down the Drain
Ladies and gentlemen, that is right where big corporations and government want us: distracted, mindless, and doing little more than putting an angry face on news we don’t like on Facebook. So many of us are literally and figuratively standing in the shower for hours, unable to decouple from the devices that are running- and in some cases ruining- our lives. Time, like water, flows down the drain at warp speed. We can be busy making memories or making memes.
There is no CGI on earth so beautiful as the Grand Canyon at sunset. No vision so grand as vast flocks of flamingos heading skyward over Lake Natrone, Tanzania. No memories so precious as of those we love, with whom we spend the only thing we have worth giving: our interrupted, un-distracted time.
All we have is the present moment. Increasingly, we don’t even have that- our present is stolen when we’re distracted. As long as your eyes are on a screen, you are somewhere else. Just ask your kids at dinner when they want to tell you a story about their day at school, and you get mad because you’re watching a video on YouTube. Just ask your honey how she feels when she’s in the mood and you’re watching replays of the game and can’t be bothered.
Memes vs. memories.
Your devices- and all the corporations and advertisers who feed on your bandwidth- own you. Until, of course, you take your life back.
Especially in the shower.