I stopped at my usual station to fill up my gas tank this weekend, getting ready for a week of out of town meetings at schools. The pump was brand new, and I liked the crisp, clean display that was easy to read in the bright sunshine, and the new handle that felt clean instead of cruddy. As soon as my gas started pumping, the display switched to show me the three-day weather forecast. “That’s pretty cool,” I thought. But then, the screen switched to “TV mode” and NFL highlights began playing at an ear-shattering volume. Really?
I’m amazed at the number of screens I encounter out and about. They are in bathrooms and airport terminals, on planes and buses, in our hands, in minivans and waiting rooms. It’s not like I’m completely against TV, as there are a number of great shows on such as POV on PBS, and more. It’s not that I’m against technology – I have a laptop, iPad and iPod, and I teach schools how to use technology to enhance instruction and communication. I use technology every day.
It’s just that I want to choose when and where I get my exposure to TV and media. Do I want to have a TV blaring at me while pumping gas? Not at all. I like standing there, watching traffic go by, looking at the park across the street, watching clouds, feeling the breeze while I get a small break from driving. I probably won’t go back to that gas station again.
I have learned to be creative at finding seats in airports close enough to see what’s happening but far away from the gate and the TV screens blaring Fox News, although it’s impossible to escape entirely. I discovered how to make the screen on the airplane seat in front of me go dark. I sit around the corner in my doctor’s office waiting room with my book to get away from the video screen.
Have we gotten so uncomfortable with silence? With waiting patiently? With quiet moments without distraction? With focusing on one thing at a time?
We passed a law in Wisconsin limiting smoking indoors, to protect people from air pollution. I wish we could limit media pollution, too. Choice is a beautiful thing.