A few thoughts: On Something and SDRs

By Sandy Compton
Reader Columnist

At Oakland Airport, I await a flight to Spokane, the last leg home from Seattle. It’s a roundabout way to get there, but it fits the day, which has been roundabout also. I still like to fly, but there are a number of SDRs that go with flying these days that I could do without. “SDR,” by the way, stands for Stupid Damn Rule. 

Sandy Compton.

I start the day learning an SDR: Bags can’t be checked with the airline until four hours before departure. Got it. Won’t make that mistake again. I go back to the hotel, and check my bag at the front desk. This takes 40 minutes and another 40 when I retrieve my bag before returning to the airport. Counting the 40 minutes it took to learn the SDR, I lost two hours of a perfectly good Saturday morning I’d planned to spend in downtown Seattle. 

Yesterday, I spent a maddeningly unproductive hour trying to upgrade software on my computer. After we leave Seattle and fly up to the mandatory 10,001 feet before turning our electronics back on (is this an SDR?), I try to connect with the onboard WiFi, watching the reload wheel spin and spin as my 9-year-old pinhead Mac battles it out for bandwidth. It loses. At Oakland, it won’t shake hands with the free WiFi at all. Instead, Boingo Hotspot hijacks my modem again and again. I want to find its little electronic soul, rip it out and recycle it.

We are at the mercy of our electronics. And SDRs.

In its defense, the electronic revolution has made life better in a number of ways. We shoot words and images across the void at will. The communications device in my lap pushed me further into the writing world than I might have gone otherwise. My friends and I communicate via Facebook, email and text. Sometimes, we even arrange to talk to each other.

It’s also made the publishing and writing world careless about the final product, less discriminatory about what gets printed — on paper or electronically — and less trustworthy. Remember what Abe Lincoln said: “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.” And God forbid our devices don’t work instantly or all the time.

Meanwhile, back in Seattle, after reclaiming my bag at the hotel and returning to the airport, I trip over said bag and fall on my face in the courtesy bus landing area. Good Samaritans rush to my aid, helping me pick up various accoutrements spilled out of my backpack — headphones, headlamp, camera charger, M&Ms — stuffing them back into my pack as I get a handle on my camera and which way is up. I am stunned at first, then angry and disgusted with myself. I am grateful for the assist— but I edge toward seething. But Something steps in, and then it is OK. Something — with a capital S. 

Whatever you may or may not think about Spirit, and whatever it might be, I still encounter it in my life on a regular basis. It is Something I know not what, try as I might to have figured it out, but it is a helpful Something. This is not a whole lot to hold on to some days, but it’s all I have. And all I really need. So… 

Our tendency as humans is to try to quantify everything, often with SDRs, but some things can’t be quantified. In the myriad names of Something, many SDRs have been made, but it’s doubtful that anyone really knows what Something is up to. When I start to think I do, I am often disappointed. But, it seems to me that just about the time I’m suffering something I really have no control over, Something steps in and saves me from extra misery. 

A distinct image from my wait at SeaTac is of a thin young woman in black yoga pants dragging a roll-around suitcase with one hand and holding her cell phone in front of her with the other as if it was a compass — which maybe it was. Maybe that’s her Something. It might not look like mine, but if it works for her, Something bless her.  

Here’s to more run-ins with Something, whatever It might be, and fewer SDRs. I think this world could use both. 

Sandy Compton is the editor and publisher at Blue Creek Press and author of 11 books of fiction and nonfiction. His latest is The Dog With His Head On Sideways, available at Sandpoint bookstores, and online at bluecreekpress.com or Amazon.

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