The Collegian
Thursday, December 08, 2022

Village Idiot: Lost in a parking lot

You never realize how life-shatteringly dependent we all are on our cell phones until you lose it for a few hours. Story time!

It all started as an innocent trip to Ukrop's. A nice pack of sushi had been on my mind all day -- spicy tuna to be exact -- and by three in the afternoon I was ready to get my Tokyo Fantasy on.

It was a two-man expedition to The Village. My friend drove. A familiar locale it was, a place so closely associated with our school that we could walk to it with our eyes closed. All was going well until he stopped his car in front of The Krop's, our supposed destination, and told me to get out. I asked him why.

"No sushi for me," he says. "I'm going for some Moe's. Meet me at my car." Our paths diverge, and so it begins.

I nod and venture forth into the supermarket, past the chorus of cash registers beeping away transactions, through the fruit and vegetable stands chastising me for my diet's thorough lack of nutrition, and finally to my beloved sushi table.

Fastforward a few minutes and I'm standing on the corner of The Village, dumbly craning my neck to and fro looking for signs of my friend's vehicle. Nothing. I reach down into my pocket for my cell phone to contact him. Again, nothing.

Somewhere back in my apartment, my phone sits on a desk, accidentally forgotten.

I feel like the Village idiot. Under any other circumstances this situation would be resolved within a few rings or maybe a quick text message. But without the comfort of technology -- that instant link between two people -- I am lost. Suddenly, there is distance between me and my goal. I must traverse.

So I start searching. Now, the Ukrop's plaza might not seem like that big of an area, but when you're flying blind looking for a generic sedan in a sea of Camrys and Civics, suddenly the task seems more difficult.

Moe's is my first stop. The last known site of my target. Perhaps he'll still be there, nursing a burrito, waiting for this weary traveler.

I enter the restaurant. "Welcome to Moe's!" I smile and nod -- their forced greeting is always kind of awkward, isn't it? But still my objective is nowhere in sight.

My quest continues.

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Now you must understand, I never suspected a cell phone was such a vital device in my day-to-day survival. After all, I got through middle school and a good portion of high school relying solely on landlines and some quarters for pay phones. What made life without Verizon so easy then? How was I faltering so tragically now?

I meander the sidewalk and comb the crowd. The only thing that catches my eye is the new Cheeburger Cheeburger opening up, a welcome addition. It makes me wonder what other great stores could take up shop here in The Village. First thing that comes to mind is a Chuck E. Cheese's -- because ball pits are the shit.

More wandering. I navigate the parking lot like Frodo through Mordor, dodging speedwalkers, strollers and the stereotypically terrible Virginia driver. Seriously, it's called a blinker.

The vacancy of electronic communication has become a stranglehold on my soul. Just a little more than a decade ago the cell phone was still an endangered species, reserved only for businessmen and rich kids. How did we all survive back then? It baffles me.

By this point, I remember that I haven't checked my e-mail in more than an hour. Now an Internet cafe seems like a better choice for a spot in The Village.

The growth of technology has been coupled with an almost perverted reliance on it by us humans. We check our e-mails incessantly, diving into our collective computer screens for hours on end, mindlessly surfing the depths of the Internet with no rhyme or reason.

The sunlight is starting to hurt my eyes. Have I really become this dependent on the all-holy iPhone, the Google gods, the deities of Dell? It makes me want to trash my laptop and move into the mountains. But even there, the wireless signals still reach.

Is this dependence a drug? Can our thirst for technology ever be satiated? Or will we forever crave more, a faster fix, a better buzz?

As I limp onward, so close to giving up, I hear from the distance my name being called. My friend has found me, rescued me from the fringe. And it only took the better part of an hour.

When I get back to my apartment, my phone has six missed calls and a few "Where are you?" texts. I realize that technology has become an inescapable part of us now, the cell phone an extension of our voice, our fingertips.

But before we go burying our heads in the screens, let's all take a minute to reflect. Maybe it's healthy to leave your cell at home every once and awhile. Take time off from its grasp, its narcotic necessity. Find a balance, and maybe do things old-school now and again. Just make sure you figure out where you're meeting your friend before you separate.

And for the record, more than anything I want a movie theater to move into the Ukrop's plaza. But one that plays only that movie, "The Rock."

Because Sean Connery is also the shit.

Contact assistant opinion editor Michael Gaynor at michael.gaynor@richmond.edu

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