Wednesday, November 09, 2011

COLUMN: Teleport

Remember last week when I wrote about the fall TV season? Remember how it was kind of a cop-out column to hide the fact that I really spent the entire week doing nothing but free-form laziness?

Well, apparently, I did ONE thing last week other than create a Shane-shaped indentation on my couch: I somehow managed to get off my butt just long enough to catch a gnarly virulent cold. LAST week, I stayed on the couch for no good reason. THIS week, I've been on the same couch hacking, coughing, sneezing, and generally being a phlegm factory. I was hoping for a change of pace this week, but a riveting round of "Contagion: The Home Game" wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

None of this is particularly conducive to good column-writing. Normally, when I'm bone dry on column ideas, I've always got two topics to fall back on: my girlfriend and my cats. Well, the cats haven't done anything this week other than sleep by my side, and as for the girlfriend…? I'll currently leave that with a terse "no comment," but perhaps one day I'll fill in the details should I ever change jobs from humor columnist to despondent-loser-who'll-forever-be-unlucky-in-love columnist.

In the meantime, though, I needed inspiration. That's why late this weekend, I wadded up a pair of Kleenex, shoved them in my nostrils in the most attractive of fashions, grabbed some orange juice, and hit the road. Perhaps a good old-fashioned aimless drive around the QC would provide some column fodder.

I wondered what to write about as I detoured around the barricades on 15th St. in Rock Island… I wondered what to write about as I merged down to one lane on Moline's 6th Ave… to not be able to use the 7th Ave. on-ramp to I-74… to not be able to use the Airport Rd. off-ramp of I-280… (do you see a pattern developing here?)

Not to get all Seinfeld on you, but what's the deal with all the road construction? At this rate, 2011 will clearly be remembered as The Year You Can't Always Get Where You Want. You simply can't get from Point A to B these days without getting slowed down, re-routed, or stared at menacingly by a guy holding a "SLOW" sign. And don't get me started on Iowa, a state I barely remember thanks to this summer's bridge work.

I should be happy, I suppose, and in a way I am -- a lot of this road work is being done thanks to allocation of federal funds that help keep folks off the unemployment line, and that's never a bad thing. I guess I just never expected all the work to be done SIMULTANEOUSLY -- and I never expected it to drastically impact my morning commute. But the work on Moline's 6th Avenue often causes morning traffic to back up all the way to Rock Island's 7th Avenue, and that's my daily terrain. At this point, I've used up any brownie points I've ever gained at work on habitual road construction-related tardiness, and it's frankly too much drama to be had before I've even had a sip of coffee.

We are supposed to be a technologically evolved society. What happened to the future we were told to expect from a kajillion different sci-fi books? We were promised jetpacks, flying cars, robot maids, food pills, and Mars colonization. Well, ancient books of the past, I'll let those things all slide -- in exchange for ONE of your should-have-happened-by-now advances: I want teleportation. Every day, men of science make countless achievements in countless fields. And I'm pretty sure that, given enough time together in the same room, they could figure out how to zap us across the river to avoid bridge construction.

This notion caused me to fantasize about a world where you could yell, "Beam me up, Scotty" and be swept away to any part of the world you fancied. It sounds absolutely delightful, but when the cold harsh reality sinks in, I can easily imagine some problems with the advent of teleportation:

(1) For one, you can't tell me that it wouldn't HURT. I'm no expert in Trekkian physics, but I believe the basic idea of the teleporter beam is that one's body is converted into a kind of molecular energy and then essentially re-assembled at its destination point. Well, I can tell you that when microscopic portions of my finger lose molecules due to a paper cut, it hurts like a mother. I can't believe that the dis-assembly and re-assembly of my entire body wouldn't produce the kind of pain that would merit years of therapy to get over. Maybe that's why the red-shirted guys were all too happy to join the landing parties and face their certain death -- they'd already lost the will to live from a lifetime of gut-wrenching teleportation pain.

(2) Teleportation would do BAD things for the local economy. I mean, the Quad Cities are neat and all, but when your lunch options are either driving to Hardee's or teleporting to Paris real quick? I don't think the Thickburger would win out.

(3) How would the logistics of a teleporter work? Let's say that you wanted to teleport yourself to the summit of Mt. Everest for a quick look-see. How would you work it so that you weren't teleporting into the exact same quadrant of real estate as 342 other people at the exact same second? Clearly, you'd need some kind of extensive teleportation air-traffic control system manned by incredibly well-trained professionals. No offense if you're one of them, but I've seen some of the folks they hire to man our toll roads, and I'd hate to think that those same people would be my only safeguard against teleporting directly into the spleen of a sherpa.

(4) The teleportation industry had better require extensive manpower, since its inception would be simultaneously sending planes, trains, and automobiles the way of the dodo. The only way to save those other industries would be to make teleportation an incredibly expensive luxury -- and it would be a horrific to drive to work every day in a world where Snooki and The Situation could teleport themselves to the Jersey Shore anytime they wanted. Plus, teleporters would probably be big and cumbersome and take up an entire room of your house -- until Steve Jobs III invents the iPort, and then you'd have to deal with Apple recommending a bunch of destinations to you every time you wanted to take a simple teleport to the grocery store… it'd just be a hassle.

The moral of the story is clear: In the future, I should probably take Nyquil AFTER writing my column. As for teleportation, maybe it's best to deal with road construction and let our children's children's children conquer the space-time continuum -- as soon as they've had their food pills.

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