One of the interesting – or annoying – things about living in the Adirondacks is that you get a perspective on how many things have become “taken for granted,” when in reality, there’s nothing “granted” about it. In fact, just two or three decades ago, they didn’t exist or were only available to a limited few. I realized this the morning when my internet connection started having problems because of the weather. It was annoying, to put it mildly. You see, I take it “for granted” that my connection will be working, and will have a reasonably high speed. But less than a decade ago (7 years, to be precise), my internet connection here would have been a dial-up, and that would have been “iffy.” But it was what was available. A decade before that? I would have been (and did) paying for that same connection “by the minute,” and if I’d lived here, I wouldn’t have had it at all.
Today, just about everyone in this country expects that there will be a good internet connection available. We can’t imagine that there wouldn’t be one. Yet, not 20 years ago, only a very, very few of us were using it, and in particular that new thing called “a web browser.” Today, it’s ubiquitous, a part of most of our lives.
The same holds true of cell phones. 20 years ago, they were bulky, only the wealthy had them, and they weren’t usable outside of a small area. Today, they’re small and have capabilities that high-end desktops didn’t have not that long ago. However, anyone who takes them for granted is in for a rude shock when they leave their “home areas.” People are often surprised to find out that I don’t have one. Not because I’m against them, or that I’m unable to afford one. The reason I don’t is quite simple: They don’t work around here. There are a few “hot spots” where you can, if you have the right provider, get a signal. But for the most part, you’re “out of contact.” So I see no reason to pay to have something I can’t use. But many people who come here on vacation are surprised, shocked, and have withdrawal symptoms when they find out their cellphones are … not working.
That’s just technology advances. We’re often surprised when we move out of home areas to find out that what is “normal” for us may not be normal for where we are. It’s particularly true when we start looking around the world. The things we assume are “normal” turn out to be non-existent, and even things we consider “primitive” aren’t available. We can turn on a tap in our homes, and clean water comes out. Despite a large industry around bottled water and hyping concerns, the reality is that the water is indeed safe to drink. Much of the world doesn’t enjoy that luxury. If water is available, it’s often contaminated or contains disease organisms. The water purification plants we take as “normal” aren’t.
We think nothing of flushing a toilet. Our waste disappears and goes off to be treated and disposed of. We expect that those, along with sinks to wash our hands, will be available anywhere. When it isn’t it’s something that shocks people. Here we have “primitive camping facilities.” They’re in wilderness areas, along hiking trails, or even a few campgrounds. The “state of the art?” This:
Yes, an outhouse. A simple hole in the ground with seat over it, and walls and a roof for privacy. A little over a century ago, this would have been the normal for most people in this country. Even this is an advancement over what many places in the world have. But many people are horrified when they find out they have to use one.
One of the lessons you learn living here is that there is nothing “for granted” about many of the facets of modern living. Sometimes it takes a disaster to teach people that, and even then, we tend to forget that for much of the world, even our “primitive” is an advancement.