Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Things we've lost

Silence and Darkness...

Or at least those of us who live in urban and suburban environments have.

I'm not exactly geriatric, nor a backwoods hermit; but I can remember a time when I could have my window and blinds open at night, and be bothered neither by the sounds of urbanity, nor excessive light.

I live in what is effectively a very large suburb; 1/4 mile east and 1/4 south of a major street with plenty of houses and trees in between; and highways 2 miles away in one direction and 3 in the other.

It's a quiet neighborhood by todays standards; and not particularly near any excessive sources of noise.

Yet, if I open my windows and blinds at night; I might as well be in times square at noon, for the level of noise and light coming in to assault the senses.

There are traffic, police, and fire noises; 24/7/52. There is enough light to read by on every street.

The night should be quiet, and peaceful... at least at 3am; but we've created these islands of perpetual daytime.

Thus, we seal ourselves off from the environment more and more. We close the windows, put up thick drapes and blinds... in my case I even run a fan all night (both to maintain airflow, and to drown out the sounds with white noise).

Even then, it's not enough, because the light has invaded our bedrooms.

It used to be, when you turned something off; it was actually turned off. No more. Everything goes into "standby mode" now. Where once flipping the power switch meant darkness; now everything has a little (or not so little) "status" LED.

We have a television, a cable box, a clock, and a desktop computer in our bedroom (it's our bedroom media center)... oh and of course both of our cellphones, and both cellphone chargers; and frequently both of our laptops. Every single one of these devices has at least one LED that's always on, even when the systems are in standby mode. If you include the display, mouse, keyboard etc... the desktop computer has 12 (and this is a factory standard desktop, not some modded neon loaded case).

Some of these LEDs can only be shut off by unplugging the devices in question; which of course would negate their purpose.

These aren't jsut dim little indicators either; some of them are bright enough to be clearly visible in direct bright sunlight. When we shut every single light in the room off; our walls and ceilings are painted with blue, green, red, and orange light; some of it even blinking.

Again, this light is nearly bright enough to read by. It's like trying to sleep with a disco light show playing.

We have taken to facing things down on our bedside tables, and covering the worst offenders with paper, towels, blankets facecloths... whatever it takes; just to get a little bit of darkness.

Yes, we could remove these items from our bedroom; but the whole point of having them in the first place, was to have them there. We keep our phones, and cell phones and other things near to us, so that they might fulfill their purpose better. What good is a cellphone in the house, if you have to rush to the living room to answer it when you get an emergency call?

Yes, I'm griping about those optional extra conveniences; and perhaps these irritations are just an inevitable side effect of them. We could choose to live without them after all... but why do we have to?

The manufacturers of these devices understand how they will be used; and intend for such uses... why on earth is it necessary to put a status LED that could be used as a flashlight, on the charger of a cellphone... and then make it blink?

The illogic and downright stupidity of it confounds me.