On our family trip this summer to Yellowstone National Park, my wife found great accommodations for us at Headwaters Lodge at Flag Ranch. It is conveniently located just a few miles from the southern entrance to the park, providing easy access to Yellowstone and to Grand Tetons National Park. The cabins we stayed in were comfortable enough, but not luxurious in the least. They were not equipped with AC, which in the evening was no problem. We could open the windows, and the temperatures dropped significantly overnight. There were no televisions or radios, and there was absolutely no cell service or wifi access. The park literature made it clear that this kind of “disconnection” was somewhat deliberate, making it possible for visitors to appreciate the natural resources without electronic distractions.
Our campground was in quite a remote area between the two national parks, so we really weren’t surprised that we would have no cell service or wifi. The lodge claimed to have wifi access, but we were never able to connect. What was a bit surprising was the lack of cell service throughout the parks. The only time we had a decent signal was at two or three of the major attractions, such as Old Faithful Lodge, or at a few of the stores and restaurants. It took a day or so to get used to the idea of this kind of isolation, but the adjustment finally came, for me at least. The other functions of our devices worked, of course, and I was grateful to have the capability of taking photos with my phone, mainly as a backup for my small Cannon point-and-shoot. Not being able to get calls from my other son back home or other family members was a little unsettling, I must admit. I wouldn’t want to be that out of reach for weeks at a time, but for a few days, it was okay to be really away from so many of the elements of civilization.
I suspect the parks will eventually find it necessary to expand their cell service and even the wifi access, not only for park personnel, but also for vendors and visitors. Doing so will no doubt change the experience of being in these wilderness sanctuaries for most visitors, and that is a bit unfortunate. Being immersed in the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors is certainly hindered by our gadgets, and having an opportunity to explore the wonders of nature without them definitely enhanced the encounter for me.
I am getting old and crusty. I am coming to terms with the transformation, recognizing the clear signs that it is getting more difficult for me to cope with certain circumstances. No, I am not referring to aches and pains, fatigue, stiffness, or any other physical ailments. I have them, but they are few and for the most part do not pose any real threats nor create significant obstacles. My job is complex at times and generates the typical amount of stress that most professionals have to manage, but I certainly have no complaints there either. From time to time, worrying about my children and their future keeps me awake at night, but considering all the grief some parents face with their kids, I consider myself rather fortunate. I have the best wife a man could hope for — in that respect, I am the luckiest guy I’ve ever met.
So, what makes my blood pressure rise? What makes me angry enough to use language that only comedian Sam Kinison would have dared use? What makes me question if the advanced technology in this country may wind up destroying civilization and leaving us all in a helpless heap of hunger and despair? Here it is: modern product packaging. Surely you know what I’m referring to here. For heaven’s sake, Wikipedia even has an entry for it titled “Wrap Rage.”
When I pay good money for a product, I should be able to extract it from its package without undue hardship. I should not have to hunt for a tool in my house to open the package containing my new screwdriver. I should not have to look for bandages to cover the cuts on my hands from attempting to open my new box of Band-Aids. I surely should not have to risk slitting a vein with a sharp object to get to my new pair of scissors.
Even the most common product packages sometimes send me into a tantrum. I have practically crushed an entire bag of potato chips just trying to open the freekin’ thing. The same goes for the semi-clear bag inside the cereal box, that must be sealed with glue used on the exterior of satellites. And who hasn’t wrestled with the package containing those incredibly energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, like the poor woman in the photo? How much energy do we lose just trying to get the damned thing out of the impregnable plastic? I have come very close to throwing away a brand, spanking new CD rather than be forced to find a knife to slit the micro-thin, impenetrable covering that was apparently sealed onto the jewel case by magical forces beyond common human understanding.
And so, I find myself at the point in my life when I must ask the question that, sooner or later, all of us who reach the middle years will ask: why does it have to be so difficult?