Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Bigger Picture on the Little Screens

Ever since NYC cabs got their high-tech makeover by having video screens installed in the backseat of every ride there has been an anger and/or concern brewing inside me that I can't quite seem to put my finger on.

Is it because the hard-working, hardly respected non-lucrative earning cabbies have to pay upwards toward $3000 dollars to have the screens installed? Is it because they're forced to pay for any repairs or vandalism to the screen itself? Is it because I feel for the cabbies that they have to pay the 5% credit card fee for every credit card fare purchase? Is it because of the GPS tracking systems, another seemingly suspicious mode of surveillance sugar-coated in the excuse of protection for the customer or crackdown on "illegal" cabs? Or, is it because I can't help but feel it's another MegaCorp working with the city to make more money by taking advantage of an industry where the majority of workers are foreigners and immigrants? I have a feeling if the cab industry was 90% American employed opposed to 90% immigrant/foreign employed we'd be hearing a lot more about this issue.

Or am I angry and concerned over the content on the screens themselves? As a Manhattan resident I don't remember ever being asked or filling out a survey to see if I even wanted to have these screens in the cabs. Instead, they were just installed as if it were assumed that these screens and media content was something everyone wanted or would be impressed by.

But frankly, I fucking hate these screens AND I do feel for the cabbies. The last thing I need during my enjoyable ride through pedestrian-exciting and architecturally fascinating New York is more inundation from heavy corporate advertisers, newscasters dictating the latest thing I should be fearful of, movie times, sports scores, stock tickers, up-to-the minute weather, and talentless celebrities like Terry Hatcher offering me "Entertainment Updates!" Cabs used to be a relief. A respite from the rest of the city and a a wonderful tour through, in and around it. Now it's just like a mobile Times Square- no matter how easy it is to pay with a credit card.

I've discussed these frustrations with friends of mine and I have often get blasted for making an "issue" out of nothing. "It's easier to pay with credit/debit cards!" "I enjoyed catching up on sports scores." "Even restaurants have to pay the 5% credit fee- why should cabs be different?" And of the course the obvious, "You can always just turn it off. It takes a second."

Well of course I know I can just turn it off and it only takes a second. But I don't want to have to do that in the first place! Why couldn't we have just left things the way they were? To me this "high-tech" make over is both a headache for me and the cabbie.

Maybe the reason I'm so upset is because I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle of anti-techno assimilation. I don't have an ipod. I try not to text conversations but attempt to actually have them. I don't need television to fill the void and I don't need a cell phone to busy my personal time between point A and B. But all around me these modes are becoming an epidemic and I'm losing this world to gadget zombies. Try getting directions from someone on the street these days. It's impossible. Everyone's ears are clogged by headphones or their eyes are staring at their cell phones.

Have we come this far into the future to be so self-satisfyingly numb? Was it ever fashion to remain conscious of the outside world, nature, people and genuine eye contact? Should I just "grow up and get over it" stop being so concerned, give up my hope for humanity and fill my ears with music at all times and my hands with text messages? Endless, ubiquitous distraction.

Oh no! I'm experiencing feelings! Quick, please, I- I need, I need an "Entertainment Update" Stat!


David said...

I just take the subway.

Anonymous said...

I agree.

My concern about surveillance isn't that I'm going to get caught doing something wrong. I'm concerned about what the city is going to do wrong once they have had the data.

Surveillance data is always abused by government. Always. It's the one thing that you can always count on.

Also, regarding the post below, I think your gay book list is a lot better.


Its Not That Serious said...

get over it. Its really not that serious. If you dont want to deal with it go back to new jersey. I used to like reading your blog cause I think youre cute but now all you do is trash people. If someone wants to go to G bar, let them. If someone wants to walk down the street listening to music, let them. It has absolutely nothing to do with you. Judging them just makes you look intolerant. You sound like a liberal nazi.

Anonymous said...

i'm with you all the way on this one. didn't you feel similarly when commercial airlines began installing those fold down and seat back lcd screens?

anyway, ad pollution is a serious issue suffering inadequate discussion; no one ought to become upset over your take on it. you're still cute and your blog is still awesome.


Anonymous said...

@ Its Not That Serious said...
It's a side effect of the Sustiva, he can't help it.

Needless to say, for someone who is this abhorrent to media overload, you sure do love to blog. And myspace. And facebook. And youtube. And reside in the East Village, still holding onto the assumption that it's "the last cool hood in Manhattan".

You are the peanut under the elephant's foot in the media circus known as New York 2007. Don't try to fight it because it's only getting worse. Complaining about will only make that peanut shell crack faster.

Anonymous said...

I agree. The anti media stance is a bit contradictory from someone who blogs and myspaces. I mean I dont have a tv either but I dont make those who do feel bad about it. Assuming you are better than these people because you dont WANT an ipod or a cell phone is just as wrong as making others feel bad for not having them.
Have fun in Berlin.

Anonymous said...

dont you work IN MEDIA?

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