Monday, April 11, 2016

The Price of Quiet

 A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a program talking about Green Bank, West Virginia.  Green Bank is a very small town that is located within the 13,000 square mile area that comprises the United States National Radio Quiet Zone. What caught my attention was the fact that within the 10 square miles surrounding Green Bank, you can't use a cell phone nor can you use a number of other conveniences that most Americans take for granted. There is no WIFI, no iPads, no Bluetooths, no microwave ovens, no TV remotes, no garage door openers, no wireless headsets, and not so much as a remote operated toy car.
Looks a lot like a toilet made out of Legos or am I seeing things?
WHAAAT???? Well...The reason for all these "must haves" that evidently are "not so much must haves" in  Green Bank is that the town is within spitting distance to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, which operates the world's largest radio telescope. A radio telescope isn't the type of telescope you look through to see into space.  It is the type of telescope that measures sound coming from space. It can detect the energy from a falling snowflake as it hits the ground. It's real purpose, however, is to detect sounds from galaxies millions of miles away. In order for the collected data not to be corrupted,  the town needs to have a minimal level of noise and no radio frequency interruptions. According to Jay Lockman, one of the principle scientist at Green Bank, "If you want to hear quiet noises, you need to keep the noise down."

The locals, of course are very aware of all the rules and know that there is a
surveillance truck that drives around to locate offenders.  The "radio police" will track the offender and request that they discontinue using whatever contraband item that is messing with GBT.

During the course of the program, a few of the locals were interviewed saying they love the "old fashioned" lifestyle.  One person described their life as being "as it was in the 1950's".  AHHH, simpler times...according the them.

I hear phrases like "simpler times" and the "good ole days" a lot lately. My generation of Boomers seem to be getting very nostalgic as of late and love to talk about how much easier life was "back in the day". Was it easier or were we used to how things were done in that era and couldn't appreciate the power of computers and all it's technological cousins. AND..can we even imagine our lives without remote controls?

Any way...I am not sure that I would be willing to go back in time to pre-electronics if given the opportunity.  I do love my devices. The very thought of not having access to a computer or a cellphone, elicits a cold sweat and feeling of panic.  I have lived prior to their invention and I seemed to manage but that was before I knew of their existence.

When some of the teenagers of Green Bank were asked if they felt deprived by not having the ability to text their friends,  they said no.  They  answered that they can meet up with their friends and talk.  While I admit that is a novel approach, would they still of answered the question like that had they gotten used to texting only to have it taken away.  Would they feel deprived then? OR..for the rest of us...if our electronics went away, would we get used to the new way we would have to do things (or old way, depending on how you look at this)?

Would I want to move to Green Bank, West Virginia?  Depends on the day you ask me. Yesterday, I might of been persuaded.

Yesterday, I discontinued using the cellular carrier that I have used since 1995.   Yes, I booted their little @ss to the curb. It was not a friendly firing.
It wasn't without digital shrapnel.

My long time readers might remember that hubby works for a company that sends him around the world from time to time.  Next week he leaves for an 8 week assignment in Canada. He has worked there several times in the past for months at a time...we love CANADA.  What does Canada have to do with my cellular provider, you ask?

On previous trips to any international location, whether it's Canada, Europe, Mexico...where could get a plan to cover your cellphone calls, texts and media in a foreign country at somewhat of a "reasonable" rate (if you use the loosest definition of reasonable imaginable). BTW...I am talking plans that extend more than 2 weeks as opposed to vacation plans that are of a short duration.

Well, it turns out the the Canadian plans with my now former provider, were crazy...crazy expensive and crazy unrealistic.

So...I called my old company's biggest competitor and they have a really good North American plan that allows for unlimited calls between Canada and the US for a very nominal fee.  Unlimited is a word I really like when it is applied to anything dealing with cellular service.  BUT...of course there are BUTs...the plan is cheap enough but switching companies is pretty much like self flagellation.  I am sure they would provide the whips and chains at a cost but the cost would be ridiculously high.

In order to switch from one cellular company to another you have to purchase phones that work on their network. DUH!  What has changed since my last phone purchase is that all the major carriers now put the payout of your new phone onto your bill in installments.  There are ways around this if you are a "current" customer but if you are a "new' can do.

AND about the time you are still reeling at the cost of the phone, (or in our case 2 phones because hubby and I will be talking to each other between the US and Canada) you get the added joy of activation fees, taxes,  cost of the plan, accessories for the new phone because you have to know that phone manufacturers continually change the size of their devices to "encourage" you to buy a new cases, chargers, etc. because your old stuff in now garbage.

AND still the fun doesn't end because you have to set up the new account and the new phones with new User IDs and new passcodes, new voice mailboxes and new profiles and on and on and on.

Which brings us back to Green Bank and easier times...There is stress related to technology for sure.  Is the stress of getting and staying connected worth it for the pleasure and convenience provided by all this technology?  Is being surround by people talking and staring at their devices worth it for not having to manually change your TV station or lift your garage door? 

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