Monday, February 16, 2009

Unplugged for $2.05

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I unplugged.

The experiment/rehabilitation began two Fridays ago. My goal? Stay off the grid for as long as I could in order to make serious progress in Project Z. I targeted a 50 hour window... a tough, yet clearly obtainable goal.

At some point, I'd like to go for a full week. Then two. Then a month. Then two.

The definition of 'off the grid' for me did not include a Unabomber type of shack in the middle of nowhere. Although, at times that concept sounded appealing. My version of 50 hours off of the grid included a complete shut down of my cell phone, email, and especially the ever-addicting Twitter, Bloglines, and other news readers. I essentially flushed my stash down the toilet or poured the hooch down the drain.

I successfully had a 90% unplugged weekend. I allowed myself access to the internet mostly for research while I wrote. I stayed true to that 'net allowance and did not abuse that luxury.

I survived the first day but forgot that I had to buy Bonnaroo tickets. I hopped online, purchased a ticket, and the entire transaction time took less than five minutes. I also sent a couple of work-related emails (more of the "Dude, where's my check!" variety) but I did not read any mail until I reconnected late on Sunday night.

On the second day, I craved for a big ass iced tea and walked to Jack in the Box. That became a sort of a writing routine that I developed. The big assed ice tea cost $2.05 with tax. I can't tell if I'm addicted to...
1. the plight sitting at the booths inside Jack in the Box
2. the iced tea
3. the walking meditation
4. the opportunity to unfrazzle my frazzled thoughts
The big assed iced tea came in an oversized plastic cup with photo a taco and a plate of mozarella sticks splashed on the side. The cup had a skinny bottom to fit into car cup holders. Jack in the Box knew their LA-based clientele consumed more fast food in their cars than inside their dingy excuses for restaurants. After all, in a town where image is everything, no one would want to be caught inside a Jack in the Box by paparazzi.

The Jack in the Box on the corner introduced a self-order kiosk. At first I thought that was a nifty way to speed things up. But they completely eliminated a cashier altogether.

Before you used to have to stand behind slow-witted dweebs who could barely order a taco let alone figure out how to use the fuckin' machine. The kiosk's other minor flaw... it did not accept change, only dollar bills. I assumed that was done on purpose so ghetto-rats couldn't roll up in there with a jar full of pennies and buy a Jumbo Jack one penny at a time.

Time are tough. There was a time back at the peak of the poker boom when I was so flushed with cash that I'd drop a $20 bill and not even give a shit about picking it up. It was a waste of my time. I could have outsourced a virtual assistant from Bangalore to do that for me. And it would have only cost me $1.

These days, if I see a penny on a ground I'll knock over old ladies to pick it up. The penny's monetary value has ill significance for me. I'm hording precious metals for the apocalypse. Someday I'll have smelt the pennies into weapons. Besides, a sock full of pennies makes for a good self-defense weapon according to all those "surviving 2012" websites.

The cost of my big assed iced tea? $2.05. I inserted three $1 bills into the machine and after a series of rumblings, 95 cents in coins emptied out into a small bowl at the bottom of the machine. I walked over to the counter and someone in a hairnet handed me an empty cup. Did I forgot to tell you that it was self-service drinks?

Behold the future of fast food. Thank you. Come again.

In thirty years, there will be no humans working in McDonalds. Just machines serving freeze dried cloned version of Dom Deluise's assburgers. After there's no more rainforestes to clear cut to raise cattle, the fast food conglomeratess will have to resort to alternative means of fulfilling their high demand for Big Macs and Quarter Pounders. Machines feeding humans to humans, like a scene out of the Matrix.

Every fast food joint will be manned by automated machines and robots. You walk inside and place your order at a kiosk and pay with the microchip imbedded into your index finger. You take a seat. A robot nuked kangaroo nuggets or groundhumanassburger patties into microwaves and ninety seconds later your food would pops out on your table via a series of underground tubing network.

Although Jack in the Box is just a block away from our apartment, I brought my phone with me just in case I got shanked while standing in line and I needed to call 911 for an ambulance.

I turned on my phone for the short trip and noticed that I missed a call from my brother by about an hour. The call? Sort of important. My mother had fallen down a short flight of stairs. She was shaken up but supposedly OK. Of course, the one time that I unplugged, something like that happened. It turned out that she wasn't OK and had to go to the hospital and spent the night. Long story short -- fracture, no surgery, plenty of generic vicodin... with refills.

Again 364 days out of the year, my mother can successfully walk down a flight of stairs. However, the first day that I unplug, she managed to forgot how to descend stairs.

Unless, she was drunk. Quite possible. And I'm not one to judge. Then, well, if she was half in the bag, then tough break. Whaddya gonna do? Sometimes inebriated people fall down and hurt themselves. Then they go to the doctor who fix them up and give them drugs. Then they have booze and drugs. Wait a second...

With my mother situation stabilized, I turned off the phone for the rest of the unplugging experiment. I benefited from limiting the amount of distractions and ignoring everyone's daily dramas on the intertubes worked wonders.

The internet is a magnet for distraction. How many version of Peg by Steely Dan can you really watch on You Tube anyway?

But that kid on drugs. That still makes me laugh every time I watch it, like four times a day. Every time I get high I hope that I get half as high as that kid.

Is this real life?

The initial stage of unplugging is the toughest part. Connecting? Feeling important? It's a drug, an addiction. You have to know about everything at all times and don't want to miss a thing. After the first few hours, it got easier. I no longer cared about current events and slipped into my own bubble of self-importance. I needed to delve deep and peel bag layers and layers of onion-like emotions in order to focus on the task at hand.

The result? Good ones. Lots of progress.

However, I missed chronicling the mundaneness of everyday life both on Twitter, and here. Like tales of "my girlfriend if a pothead" such as the night that Nicky made a run to the dispensary and picked up a batch of unpressed trichromes. She must have smoked herself into obliteration because she fell asleep halfway through I'm Not There.

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