AMATEUR NATURALIST

Papa’s got a brand new jeejah

A snapshot of life inside the jeejah.
A snapshot of life inside the jeejah.
Posted Aug. 14, 2011, at 2:32 p.m.

It’s not that I’m literally from another planet. Though I think from time to time this has been debated among my friends. But the distance from here to the 1970s — which I remember like yesterday — seems to be expanding at a cosmological rate.

Take my new jeejah, for example, which my wife got for me around July 4, Independence Day, and set about teaching me to use. It does all kinds of things I used to be able to do before I got it. It can make phone calls, send text messages, surf the Internet, play music tracks, take photos. It also can display actual text if I feel like reading, although it seems to think this is an improbable impulse because the type on its 2-by-4-inch screen is too tiny to make out without an app for an electron microscope. Which I do not know how to download yet.

My jeejah does other things I did not know how to do and am not sure why I want to, though everybody in my house wants me to do them. For example, it can link into satellites that will tell me exactly where I am anytime I want to know. Like, if I am standing in my backyard next to the ash tree and want to know where I am, I can fire up my jeejah, tap a bunch of screen lights — sometimes you have to tap them two or three times before they wake up — and my jeejah screen will tell me exactly where I am. Awesome. (Although, once I was sitting near Bass Park and asked the jeejah where I was, and it told me I was at the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Hospital. Not sure how to interpret this.)

And not only that, when I go into where-am-I-now mode, my jeejah also starts telling other people exactly where I am, too. Double awesome, because then Bonnie can tell I am not at the park, but home. Also, cops who might be wondering what I’m doing can look on their own jeejahs, pinpoint exactly where I am and take a good guess at what I might be doing, and then if they feel the need they can drive right to where I am with no hassle, pick me up and throw me in jail. Or, even better, I can head off the confusion by asking my jeejah where the Waldo County Jail is, following the directions there and turning myself in, saving the cops the hassle of coming to get me and me the anxiety of wondering when they are going to show up in my yard.

Neither the jeejah nor the cops (as far as I can tell) know that my backyard is a little Starhenge and my Shed is a little library where for years I have been practicing theorics without a jeejah. I guess neither the jeejah nor the cops care about the theorics as long as the practice does not involve illicit drugs, burglary or terrorism threats — which it doesn’t by the way, just to be clear. The only thing that might make any of them uneasy is that it does not require a jeejah, and this is where the possibility of exoplanetary origins seeps in.

I’m on pretty good terms with the spiders around my yard, and there are a lot of them, of many different kinds. Although worldwide there are around 175,000 species of spiders (most of them unnamed), hardly any of them are aquatic. This has led some entomologists to speculate that spiders did not evolve out of water-based environments, like practically every other living thing on Earth, but instead spiders might have come to Earth on stray comets or pieces of other planets.

I’m not saying spiders are literally from other planets. But spiders can’t run jeejahs either. Whether they practice arachnid theorics, I wish I knew. I wonder what would happen — in the same way the Singularity people want someday to plug near-sentient computers into their own brains — if you plugged a near-sentient computer into a house spider’s brain.

What kind of awesome would transpire from that, I wonder. Personally I would not like to live in a computer, or have a computer living in me and forming a human-jeejah reticulum where I would be tapping only the imaginary lights of my own screen mind and being eternally at one with the whereabouts of the county jail.

I’ve got my jeejah working. But after I go into a text-messaging session with my son and essentially live there in the screen for a half-hour or so, then when I finally lift my eyes and renotice the sun and a breeze and poplar leaves clattering right there nearby all along even though I was aware only of tiny little glowing microscopic letters and words and the skeletal jeejah-speak voice that presumably is generated by my son, I feel like I have re-emerged into a whole different world. Outside the jeejah, which is rapidly becoming here, it’s like another planet. To me there is no there there. But there it is. It’s hard to remember what life was like before syntactic devices, but it was. A long time ago, far, far away.

Dana Wilde’s collection of Amateur Naturalist and other writings, “The Other End of the Driveway,” is available from booklocker.com and from online and local booksellers.

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