William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Up North At The Lake, With No Phone, Computer, TV

Another day at the office.

Chris doesn’t have a computer. And he doesn’t want one. He’s my age and works at the Dobleski Marina as a mechanic. He has a house, family, couple of cars, and of course lives near the lake.

The shop has a few dozen men, and one day the boss switched to a new company to handle everybody’s benefits. This required the men to go on line with their “pass codes” and enter information. One by one the men came into the office to do so.

The first started pecking around with one finger, asking for help with the mouse. The boss asked, “What’s the matter. Don’t you know how to use a computer?”

“Nope. Don’t have one.”

Same thing with Chris—and with about a third of the men. No computer, no internet access at home. Why? They see no need for it. Chris said, “It’s a waste of time.” Costs too much, too.

“My boss said, ‘Why don’t you have the internet. It’s great!’ and he proceeded to show me some thing that took an hour to get it to work. Why do I need that?”

Chris also doesn’t have cable television. He had it once, but the company started raising the rates, raised them some more, and then raised them again. Chris called it quits. Said TV is a waste of time anyway. But to please his daughter he bought an antenna. He now gets five channels, and sometimes six if the weather is just right.

You probably already know, but Chris doesn’t have a smart phone, either. And he isn’t alone. Many people up here just don’t see the need.

Now the lake Chris lives on is a big one and the town is one with a lot of rich folks from down south who have summer mansions, in which they spend a week or four a year. These people aren’t any different than anybody else and like to play, but having orders of magnitude more money than most, their toys are shinier—and most of them float.

It’s Chris’s job to fix these toys. Last week, he had to fetch a 59-foot beauty from point A and drive it to point B, about thirty-some miles away. He drove the work boat over to get it (and towed it back), and took along Mitch who spends most of his days inside. Mitch is a detailer.

Now the person who owned that big boat also drives from A to B every now and then. That trip, a popular route, is the reason he bought the boat, and is why he pays for its docking and maintenance. Since the maintenance is expert, it isn’t cheap. Would you know how to fix the motor of one of these things?

The men at the marina are outside most of the summer, and even into the fall and part of the winter. They try to get the inside work done before January, because the building which houses the boats isn’t heated. And boy can it get cold up here, with plenty of snow.

Another fellow bought a fancy new boat and thought something was funny with it, so he called the marina to have somebody take a look at it. Chris was dispatched. Back out onto the lake, the sun shining, the wind just so. Tigers on the radio.

The man was waiting. He said, “My boat smells like water.”

Chris knew enough not to laugh and tried to get the man to explain more carefully what he meant. Well, he meant what he said. When he went below decks, he thought he smelled water.

Now it was costing plenty for Chris to come down and inspect the boat, and to give the man the feeling that he was getting something for his money, Chris told him that boats tend to smell that way, but if he liked he could run his dehumidifier once in a while.

This advice greatly cheered the man, who paid the hefty fee, and Chris got back into the work boat heading north. The sun was still shining.

Chris is gratefully these rich folk want to play in his back yard. If they weren’t there, the 59-foot boats wouldn’t be there, a source of beauty would go missing, and far fewer people up north could make a living. And although Yours Truly didn’t talk with any, it’s a good bet these rich folks are glad people like Chris are around, too.

The names have all been changed, but the story hasn’t.

20 Comments

  1. I have no cable TV (same reason—had it, rates went up, plus quality of shows became very, very poor) but an antenna and analog TV’s with a converter box. I suppose technically one of my phones is a smart phone, but it has no data package and I have no intention of adding one. I only bought it because I couldn’t get cell reception at my cabin (in case of emergency) through any other carrier. I have no idea how to text on any of my phones and don’t intend to learn. Obviously, I do have internet and it does consume much of my time, but this is my “occupation” when not gardening, mowing, painting, cooking and other such tasks about the home.

    Our cabin has no water, no electricity outside of DC on a solar panel and battery, no electronics are taken there, not even a radio. It’s very peaceful. A friend in the area used to have internet and was miserable, always fighting with relatives on Facebook, etc. She couldn’t afford to repair her satellite dish or get another one, so she dropped internet. She is so much happier.

    I especially like your comments about Chris having a job because people who have money and don’t want to learn boat repair pay him to do the repairs. It has always been my husband and mine’s contention that one earns a living in part to pay others to do that which you prefer not to. As we got older and our income went up, more and more of our money would go to the mechanic because crawling under cars and looking for the problem was nearly as much fun as writing a check for someone else to do it. It’s a very excellent way to look at life.

  2. Chris can’t be anti-technology if he can fix diesel engines. He’s just practical as you have to be unless excess money intervenes and separates you from physical work. Several generations back there probably was a “Chris” who preferred to stick with sails and didn’t put much stock in engines. But times change. Today’s Chris will have grandkids who know electronics as well has he knows engines.

  3. Gary, that’s actually very sad. Electronics seem to pull people away from each other and increase our isolation. People text each other sitting in the same room rather than actually speak. They stay on their phones through dinner, never speaking to each other. The anonymity seems to encourage bad behaviour. Admittedly, urbanization seemed to have the same effect and it’s probably unavoidable. However, as Paul Harvey used to say, “Not all that we call progress is progress.” I realize you may not be saying that this is a good thing—I’m just noting that I find it a move in the wrong direction.

  4. If it wasn’t for computers and iPhones we would never have seen this.

  5. Sheri, I was thinking radar, GPS, sonar, and other marine-related electronics to come. If Chris raises them right and the gummint doesn’t infect them, they’ll love the wild as much as he.

  6. I don’t own a boat or a smart phone, but I really want to buy a new vehicle, preferably a minivan. I told Mr. JH that a new minivan would make me happier. He disagreed with me. Anyway, I think I’m going to buy a minivan to find out if I am right.

  7. Gary—Sorry, I misunderstood. Yes, a lot of tech truly makes like much better. Thanks for reminding me of this.

    DAV—What cool commercial!

  8. How do you know how someone rides his bike to work and doesn’t have a television? They’ll tell you!

    In regards to isolation via technology, Nicolas Carr has a new book coming out – The Glass Cage. http://www.amazon.com/The-Glass-Cage-Automation-Us/dp/0393240762

    I’m not convinced that technology truly isolates us – some people are introverts who are drained by social interaction, and technology allows them to socialize without much of the frustration of in-person interaction. And to be honest, what happens when I get on an airplane next to Chatty Cathy? I have to hear her life story and all her political opinions for 2 hours straight, smiling and saying “oh, how about that” and working really hard to try to hint that I’d like to sit and read my book please.

  9. What cool commercial!

    Reminds me of a full page ad I saw many years ago that called out the features of a No. 2 Pencil word processor.

    I, too, eschew technology. I’ve long ago sworn off fishing rods. They lead to antisocial behavior what with sitting in the middle of a lake doing nothing creative and barely interacting with those around you. Might as well be a couch potato pothead. Yes, there are those who chat up a storm but ya gotta wonder why they brought the rods.

  10. “I, too, eschew technology. I’ve long ago sworn off fishing rods. They lead to antisocial behavior what with sitting in the middle of a lake doing nothing creative and barely interacting with those around you. Might as well be a couch potato pothead. Yes, there are those who chat up a storm but ya gotta wonder why they brought the rods.”

    Couch potato potheads don’t bring home dinner. 🙂

  11. Couch potato potheads don’t bring home dinner.

    Neither do most fishermen from what I’ve seen but point taken.

  12. hey folks, wasn’t there someone named Thoreau who did this same bit?

  13. Couch potato potheads don’t bring home dinner.

    I might ask if there is really a need to bring home dinner anymore. A few quick swipes on my Android and utilizing Pizza Delivery Technology, I can have it brought to my door without leaving the couch.

  14. DAV, take up fly fishing. It’s interesting, challenging, and creative. Granted, it’s often solo, but fly fishermen love to gather to relate exploits and tie a few flies.

  15. Gary,

    Yes it is easy to get hooked by technology and that’s the snag. But it doesn’t necessarily mean hermitage. Even when shouting out for pizza with my Android I can employ some outdated social engineering for nostalgia’s sake. I sometimes swap tips (too often a one-sided thing) with the delivery guy when we gather.

    As for fly fishing, that sounds unnourishing unless maybe you can bag some rather large deer flies.

  16. I went into a bar once.

    It smelled like beer.

    – MJM

  17. DAV! What are you? A closet communist?! Of course we have to still bag our meals lest the government enslave us and make us dependent on those silly electronic devices. There’s nothing like dragging a dead dear through 4 inches of snow up hill to the truck to get the old juices flowing. And without gardening, I might not be able to lift that 50 lb duck food bag from the feed store (girls can have some ego, too!). Nature is just so much fun and grocery stores just are not. As for the pizza, I haven’t lived anywhere a pizza could be delivered since I was 17.

  18. DAV, the point of fly fishing is nourishing the soul.

  19. Sheri,
    Hunting is fine sport but in the Xbox version of Duke Nukem you don’t have to drag your kills home.

    Gary might be onto something though with the deer flies depending on where he lives. I’ve been told the ones in parts of Canada can feed a family of four for a week. It’s been intimated to me that strangely the much larger Canadian Pacific diesels are rarely killed and eaten. Hunting is too much work I suppose.

    Sorry to hear you live in desolation. Obamacare should fix that as it has here in wilds near DC. Be sure to check the Pizza Delivery option that comes with the Silver package. It’s from the government so it is helpful.

    Gary,
    Fly fishing may be nourishing for the soul but I’ve been told pot brownies are as well however that just may be propaganda circulated by some local farmers. You might want to consider some, though. Hear they make Duke Nukem more fun and the lyrics to In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida begin to make more sense. Could be why it was recorded in a town named Hempstead in the first place.


    Quite coincidentally, today my s-mail in-box had a downloaded copy of the IKEA bookbook. Spooky.

  20. DAV: I can get pizza delivery through Obamacare? Sign me up!!!

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