March 4, 2024

Saturday Session #1: The Internet is Part of the Modern Human Experience | by Dane Peterson | February 2024

It’s almost noon on a cloudy Saturday in Seattle. I feel an all-too-familiar jolt of winter restlessness coursing through my veins. “Let’s go on a trip,” I spontaneously exclaim to my wife. He looks away from her iPhone briefly to acknowledge my suggestion. Below are the two most frequently asked questions in marriage: “Where should we go?” and “What should we do?” My answers have not yet been formulated. Our afternoon is full of opportunities, but empty of clarity.

I unlock my phone to search for “weekend activities near me” and the first concert option catches my eye. “The Postmodern Jukebox is in town!” I click the link to Ticketmaster before hitting the brakes. It doesn’t matter, the show isn’t until tomorrow. “But wait,” I think to myself. “Today is Saturday, they must perform tonight somewhere nearby.” Indeed: Vancouver, British Columbia. I begin building an itinerary for a two-hour international trip, researching activities to fill the rest of our evening. “Come on!” The spouse agrees and in twenty minutes we are out the door. I love these impromptu adventures!

Almost immediately, however, appetites interrupt our progress. My co-pilot opens his favorite app, Google Maps, to discover a nearby family-owned Mexican restaurant with a 4.8-star rating. “Take the next exit,” he repeats urgently as he points to the right. Aggressively, but still gracefully, I merge into four lanes of traffic and narrowly miss the turn. By now, this type of navigation is quite familiar to us. I appreciate that we will be eating soon.

Those 299 critics weren’t lying. We euphorically devoured our birria tacos, dirtying a dozen napkins in the process. My wife favorites the location on Google Maps before tossing a greasy tray in the trash, while I post her 300th review. We make a fuel stop, I place a rubber duck on an adjacent Jeep Gladiator, and we get back on our route to the North.

A shopping center passes on our left; The illuminated COACH and Lululemon logos try their best to draw us in, to no avail. A little later, the Starbucks logo triumphs and an afternoon espresso provides the necessary pick-me-up for what will likely be a long night. With our adenosine effectively blocked, the clouds darken. Drops appear on the windshield three kilometers from the border. A Honda Civic screeches past on the left, eliciting our audible reaction. My mind reconstructs the moment as a Hollywood scene of a suspected criminal fleeing to Mexico. I check the rearview mirror, just in case.

As I move the Jeep through the line, I take some time to admire the Peace Arch. I wonder what its origin is and what its place is among the iconic places of North America. I look around at my surroundings…no sign of the black Civic. We arrived at the checkpoint and I handed our documents to the Canadian border officer. He is a dark, muscular, tattooed man who sports a handlebar mustache and a turban; He is definitely not the Canadian that, out of ignorance, he imagined. With my hand, I open my vehicle’s display settings and change the units to “km.” Heading to Vancouver, the speedometer quickly reaches 100.

“Welcome to Canada,” Verizon tells us via text message, assuring us of a positive, if restrictive, mobile experience. Skeptical of data charges, my traveling companion activates her airplane mode and scrolls through the Siriusxm stations until settling on an upbeat ’90s tune. Since the Carplay guide is no longer active, my intentional lack of aim makes the next part of our tour of Canada be a little agoraphobic. But, having visited here once before, I know a bridge over from the lovely Stanley Park. I trust that the main roads will take us somewhere interesting, because by my logic, they are main roads for a reason. It doesn’t take ten minutes before you see the blue tourist attraction sign: Lynn Canyon. “I read about this on TripAdvisor. We’ll see!”

We arrived at the parking lot thirty minutes before the park closed, enough time to take a quick walk along the trail and cross the suspension bridge. Waterfall to our right, rushing river to our left, we admired the sights and sounds of nature for a moment. Dusk peeks through the pine branches, illuminating a damp boardwalk, bright enough to navigate back to our car.

Another Jeep gets a rubber duck. I queue up in-vehicle navigation, software that, while unnecessarily complicated, is a reliable alternative. We backtrack across the Lion’s Gate Bridge and make a quick stop in Gastown before heading to the show location.

One thing that bothers me about purchasing tickets online is the exorbitant processing fee. A pair of tickets with a face value of $50 end up costing almost $150 when you’re done. When we went to see Anthony Jeselnik in December 2023 on a whim, I bought our tickets directly at the box office an hour before the show. Not only were they better seats, but they were about twenty percent cheaper than the online alternative. The drawback of this strategy is that, when traveling a certain distance, there is a risk of tickets running out.

I confidently approach the Will-Call counter at the Performing Arts Center to purchase a pair of tickets. “We only have individual tickets available,” responds the careless booth employee. I politely ask him if there might be unclaimed entries, to which he responds non-committally: “Maybe, but no promises. You’ll have to wait until show time.” At this point we have little to lose and I feel optimistic. We spent the next forty-five minutes people-watching, comparing the Canucks’ attire to their neighbors to the south. My wife uses the bathroom. When she comes back, I do the same. When I leave, I find her standing on the stairs, tickets in hand. “I offered to pay for them, but the man insisted they were ours!” Mission accomplished. Great show, but it’s getting late.

When we get back home, it’s already after 1:00 a.m. I have texts, missed calls, and notifications waiting, but for once I’m not anxious to attend to them. Disconnecting from the Internet, even for a few hours, feels like a detox. I wonder, with the evolution of technology (the Apple Vision Pro was released this week), internet fast Will it ever be as recommended as intermittent fasting?

From time to time I curse my dependence on the Internet. I suspect it’s making me dumber. I know it gives me unnatural doses of dopamine. I’m afraid of making it a priority, and how much it already is. I strive to disconnect when I can, to stay consciously present in a moment, because the present is a gift and it’s all I really have.

But I also owe many of my life experiences to the Internet. All of the underlined words above are web-based resources that contributed to our Saturday experience. Without the internet this little trip would not have happened, nor the trip where I met my wife. The Internet makes it possible to stay in touch with my family. Without it, I wouldn’t even have this medium to write. Instead of cursing, I will make a conscious effort to practice gratitude and accept that the Internet is part of the modern human experience.

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