I want to keep moving.
So does Ariana, the child who doesn’t say anything but “why?” and “what?” and is currently kneeling on the floor of the train in a seat diagonally behind me. Her head is in her hands because her mother has yelled at her to stop sticking her face between the window and the back of my chair. She’d been doing this for the last 15 minutes or so while our train is separated in two (Half goes to Boston, the rest to NYC. I’m in the latter, transferring to D.C. for a conference on journalism and politics.). While her head was mere inches from my ear, she was blowing spit bubbles, muttering and kicking my seat.
I haven’t actually introduced myself to this pebbles-hair-do-ed two-year-old. I was completely eavesdropping and heard her name. As I spy over my computer screen, one of Ariana’s hands has gently wandered to the shoe of the man sitting beside her. I think she’s trying to untie his shoelaces. I hope they know each other …
Someone is listening to “Kids” by MGMT on repeat. Don’t they know that song is overplayed? I bet the hipster chick across from me with the sweet tat running down her arm knows. Anyway. I really like this whole “being-in-transit” thing. Hmm, it seems the man whose shoelaces are now untied definitely knows the little girl. He just gave her a stare-down for misbehaving, followed by a big hug. Obviously, this environment allows my mind to wander – and that’s when cool things happen.
Passing by them, a number of travelers attempt to bridge the gap between NYC and Boston-bound trains. They are met with the harsh reality that these two cars are no longer connected. I had to jump ship from the Boston-bound half, sadly, where I had staked out a most excellent table in the dining car, one that came equipped with shoddy Internet, plenty of outlets, lots of light and the faint smell of espresso.
“The whole train’s shakin’ – Oh, they just unhooked. Shit’s fucked up, man,” a man groans in a raspy voice behind me. I have never experienced this train-splitting phenomenon either, dearest traveling companion. But while the process deprives us of electricity (my computer is on the verge of shut-down, and the air in this car is becoming unbearably hot – OH GOD they’ve just warned us we will be experiencing a slight bump and to remain seated) it is not currently bringing me down (I can’t the same for Ariana who is now squealing).
I’m kind of happy just to be here in the in-between. I mean, I’m REALLY excited to get to D.C. I wouldn’t want to be on this train forever. But without going ahead and quoting the clichéd phrase, I’m enjoying my ride.
To put it a different way, I’ve just finished this book, Linked by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi (with tagline How Everything is Connected and What It All Means). I haven’t thought about it enough yet, but I’m pretty sure it was slightly disappointing because for all of it’s connection-making (in relation to lots of things I didn’t know anything about) it didn’t really teach me anything I didn’t already know, if that makes any sense.
If the title doesn’t say it all, the book is about how everything is connected to everything else by way of at least one other thing, if not directly. Think Six Degrees of Separation stuff. He’s not so shallow to simply point out that the connections exist. He does, after all, tackle what they mean.
But I guess at this point I’m more concerned with the kind of connection, or well, what its connection is to what it’s connecting is. Let me try again: how much is the medium the message?
Just look at me. I’m increasingly wired, digital. Right now I’m connecting with my friends and audience over the Internet just doing this whole blog thing. I’m filing homework assignments remotely over the weekend. My dream job is, well, working for the Internet (more glamorously, making connections). Web conferences are awesome – I could easily be going to one of those. It would be a lot more … convenient. Speaking of, email, or better yet, content management systems for group projects, meetings, getting things done – even awesome-er.
But … web links aren’t as beautiful as the train tracks along the Hudson River. Waiting for pages to download is hardly a breathtaking experience. Even in all the glory Barabasi has described it in, network architecture doesn’t send shivers up my spine like the NYC skyline (I’m hopeless).
Ohh but these networks aren’t inconvenient. They don’t make me wait very long and they usually seem to be working for me instead of against me, unlike whoever designed the networks of the great New York state transit system.
Maybe I want to be made to wait every now and then. I’m really glad that Syracuse is a day trip away from Washington. And I had to find a place to stay there and a way to get there instead of being in the comfort of my own home.
Well, I’ve survived the “bump.” And it shut up the screaming kid. Power is back. Oh man, the Internet is even working here. Annnnd I’m diving right back into it.