A couple of weeks ago, I caught myself in the following compromising position:
Caught in the suburban robo-dad hivemind today. 3 houses in a row synchronized ballet of husbands sweeping sidewalk leaves, moving cars.
— Mark Wallace (@markwallace) July 24, 2015
Literally three houses in a row of us, not quite suburban, I admit (Glen Park is very much part of San Francisco, if a pleasantly sleepy, family-oriented part — our Islington?), three of us sweeping leaves in near-suburban synchronicity, moving cars to avoid the “seet seepah,” as my nearly-three-year-olds call it, then bustling it off to work — though I think two of us merely repaired to our garage offices / mancaves, there to slot ourselves into the ecosystem of technology, as that word (“technology,” that is) has come to be defined.
Not that it bothered me. It was more amusing than anything else, more a reminder of something I’m more and more convinced of with each passing year, as I see more of the world more times over: that the snapshots of life captured in television and movies (broadly defined here to include streaming narrative media of whatever delivery vector) are really quite accurate. There’s a sense in which we really are suburban drones, doing our suburban dance on the ends of strings twitched by a barely glimpsed system that runs on its own clocks, its own internal and very faulty logic. And we just mindlessly go along, because it’s the second (or fourth) Friday of the month, and the streets must be cleaned.
That’s absolutely a lie, of course. TV is quite accurate, but only on the most surface level. You can be as mindless as you like about your life, or as mindful. And if you’re out there with us sweeping the leaves off your sidewalk minutes before the street sweeper comes by, it probably means that (a) you’re lucky enough to have a sidewalk to sweep, (b) you care enough about your homestead to want to groom it in some way (or your wife has convinced you to — in which case you’re lucky enough to have a wife), and (c) you have the luxury of sweeping leaves at 9:50 in the morning, rather than having bustled it off to work hours earlier, as much of the world has to do.
So if this is you and you’re worried about being sucked down into the maelstrom of suburbia, never to be heard from again, join me instead in a prayer of thanks. Which is really not the post I set out to write this morning, but that’s just the way it is.