Three People, Four Screens

Dearest Rachel –

As much as things will forever be different going forward, there are times when I realize that in some ways, things really haven’t changed at all. For one thing, I realize that the three of us – Kevin, Daniel and I – are not really all that far removed from the way of the three of us were back at home: three people, staring at four different screens.

There’s Daniel, sitting there on the sofa, watching YouTube (or Rumble, or BitChute – I really haven’t any idea), engrossed in the words of the preachers and the prophets and the political pundits. There’s Kevin, in his recliner, watching the latest discussions about his favorite bands (Rush, in particular), or playing his video games, be it Diablo, Civilization or – believe it or not – Minecraft. And then there’s me, sitting between them with my computer in front of me, staring at the latest news feed, or perhaps the occasional YouTube channel. And all this with the background noise of the television being on, playing either MeTV, American Ninja Warrior, or one of the many shows Kevin has recorded on his DVR system that he needs to clear from his queue before they get removed due to having sat there unwatched for too long.

It’s really not that far removed from the way we were ourselves, more nights than not. Take out what Kevin was doing, substitute yourself and your Candy Crush or your Gardens of Time, and this tableau might as well be set at home.

Look, I’m not saying this out of any resentment. Yes, I observed what was going on from time to time, but I always concluded that, while we each may have been wasting time in our own ways, it was, as the old saying goes, a case of “time you enjoyed wasting is never wasted time.” So, I may have occasionally commented on the situation, but I never really insisted on a setting aside the computers, and just talking. If nothing else, we had a walks with Chompers for that.

And I had no right or reason to call either of you out or something that I was – and still am, let’s be honest – just as guilty of. And so it continued, each of us caught up in our own thing, just as the three of us now are. And that’s not likely to change even now. What each of us wants to do is different, and yet it all keeps us in the same room together, at the very least. It’s not so much companionable silence, as it is companionable white noise, perhaps.

Sure, I regret not having insisted more often or more strenuously about setting the computers aside and just… talking. But would I be able to remember at this point what was said during those times any better than, say, our walks with the old boy? Probably not, and we’d both have felt in the moment that we weren’t doing what we really wanted to in any event. So I let it go. I mean, we had all the time in the world anyway, right?

Matt Groening, in his old “Life in Hell” comic series, observed that the great miracle of television was the fact that it allowed a group of people who absolutely hated each other (and I think he was referring to his own family – and by extension, many other families, unfortunately for him and those other people) to sit in the same room together for hours on end without killing each other. But there’s this other side of the coin that he couldn’t possibly for scene, haven’t written that observation in the days before the Internet was a thing. The thing is, the proliferation of computers and the Internet allows everybody to sit in the same room – even if they truly care about each other – and not engage each other in the slightest, as they are all busy doing their own thing in peace. And sure, this would’ve been a positive boon for the Groenings, but I wonder how much we may have missed out on, how many connections we didn’t make with each other, because we were too caught up in our own preferences.

But never mind. Something new has come up in my newsfeed, and I need to go check it out. Talk to you later.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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