© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Essay: Science Fiction Is Now Science Reality

Guy Sie

High tech things like livestreaming, constant connectivity, and young professionals seem to be a natural fit. But as Lake Effect essayist Ed Makowski points out, not everyone thinks so:

The Apple Watch has come out and by the time you hear this it will probably already be ancient news by contemporary standards. Science fiction is now science reality! But my wrist is already taken by another dance partner. My wrist watch. The basic one that just tells you the time. Just like sometimes when asking a mature family member to, "Text you something..." and their response is, "it's a phone, I use it to make calls like a phone. I'll call you..." When I want to know the time, I just want to know the time.

I'm surprised by how many people mention my watch. And not because it's one of these current models with a cartoonishly huge face that screams, "I want desperately to be the alpha male of this room!" It's also the only jewelry I wear, cost about $45 dollars, has worked fine for a few years. But how often people notice my watch has lead me to wonder if they've become an endangered species.

Using a watch I don't have to dig around in my pocket to pull out my phone. Besides, let's be honest, when was the last time you pulled out your phone, looked at the time, then put it back in your pocket? Realistically if I pull out my phone to look at it I'll end up checking my email. Then I'll see who put a funny cat video on facebook. After that runs the usual course of whatever is totally blowing everyone's mind forever for at least this afternoon, I'll start reading articles, shopping for motorcycles I'm never going to buy.

Last week I was bow hunting on a Tuesday afternoon. I went out because the temperature drop generally equates to larger deer getting up and moving around.  I've killed time on my smartphone while waiting around for someone or something many times. I've even read a bunch of articles about deer behavior. Then while out hunting, instead of listening to the birds and sounds in the brush, subtle steps shuffling the leaves, I was reading an article about color photographs of San Francisco taken after the 1906 earthquake. I glanced up from my phone and I saw the body of a very broad deer. I peered over the brush inside which I'd so carefully hid and he had between 10 and 16 points on his enormous rack. This deer would have translated to food for many months, a year maybe. Here was the big one, the lifetime buck all these people write about in the articles I've read on my phone. He came out of the brush exactly where I patterned him, 20 feet away from me in silence. But he was already behind two apple trees. I watched him for twenty minutes, not spooking him, until he scampered off, never offering a shot.

This isn't some silly metaphor, I literally let the big one get away because I was looking at my phone, using camouflage gloves with convenient touch screen fingertip pads. I was frittering when I should have been focusing.

When I was a teenager I used to think of adults with tan lines from watches as slaves to someone else's whim. That they needed to consult a watch before making a decision. It never dawned on me that someday there might be more seductive tools than a watch to absorb one's time.

I wouldn't classify myself as new age, but there is something to be said for being in the moment you're inside of. Taking in the woods while you have them, and consulting a wristwatch to see how long you have before dark, with a phone tucked in your pocket for emergencies. I hope someday you don't have a similar story you're trying to fit into only 140 characteres.