Home > Hesitating > MAIN578 5th Floor (Government Information Center)

MAIN578 5th Floor (Government Information Center)

“To call something public is to define it as dirty, insufficient and hazardous. The ultimate paradigm of social spending is the public restroom.”

-PJ O’Rourke from ‘Parliment of Whores’

When last I found myself compelled to visit the men’s room here at the SanFrancisco Public Library this quote sprang to mind whilst I attempted to maneuver the close quarters of a toilet stall… The wall behind the battered, scarred and dangerously clogged bowl had been spattered with the bloody projections of someone’s overly taxed lungs and the barriers on either side showed the white-foam evidence of a seizure… There’s a seperate restroom in the children’s center on the second floor but I would rather face the unwashed masses of downtown’s transients and students than be viewed as a child-predator and removed forcibly by the security staff…

Yet Wednesday has become my day to travel through the city streets with direction, honing in on the holy grail… It’s not without its intrinsic joys– I saw for the first time in quite some time a hot-dog vendor entrenched amongst the pigeons and lunatics frequenting Civic Center Park… A while back I had been lamenting the loss of such signs of life wondering just what exactly had become of our peppy entrepreneurs who once brought such joy to the shopping masses… They’re lurking in the filth of downtown where more people are trying to make money than spend it when not busying themselves with trying to die…

As a rule I avoid the bus– I believe in public resources but also believe in having free motion while exploiting them…

It’s not a long walk from my house to the library and for the most part it’s enjoyable and safe enough… Admidst the blue-haired habituals scrutinizing the events corkboard or lodging complaints about the staff, the confused students grabbling with the dewey decimal system, and the aforementioned derelicts in search of a sink to bathe in I find the computer I’ve booked earlier in the week from my work and bask in the glory of internet access…

According to Rebecca Lieb (who seems to be the only person who has made mention of statistics released by the US Census Bureau) the West coast is the most connected region of the country in terms of internet usage… As to be expected this numbers fall gradually through the Northeast and Midwest before sinking in the silty mud of the Mississippi delta where just over half of the respondants to this mystery survey have household internet access… My household has very intermittent access through someone else’s wireless account if you sit with my roommate’s computer on the edge of the couch and angle yourself towards the window… In short I come to the library to use the internet because it doesn’t work where I live…

Statistically I have no excuse for such a state of existence… I’m white, highschool educated and from a (lower) middle-class background living on the west-coast… Yet none of the computers I own can ride a signal and most were made before the internet was a household term… Part of this is having no money to spend on things seen as trivial or luxurious but deep inside another part of me enjoys rebelling against the convenience awarded overwhelmingly to White America…

Technically I have the advantage of a moderate amount of internet education so it’s more like slumming in the ghetto during my post-college heyday– the distinction between being poor and being broke… Unlike the forty-five (or so) percent of households with no internet I have a collection of friends who feel bad for me and have been attempting to loan whatever they can to allow me free access to the wonders of the web… So not only am I slumming in the ghetto of the technological divide but I’m doing so on some sort of trust-fund and dress nicely when I’m not marching with the UFW or whatever… This makes me wonder:

As things become more ensnared in the world-wide-web what happens to those left behind? Not having a college degree has already become the debilitating stigma once more commonly associated with not having graduated highschool because you left to work in the meat-packing plant when you were fifteen; as news media is disimminated more frequently through means other than papers and televisions people who don’t have a computer are left more in the dark… Already I seem to suffer exclusion from conversations about internet-specific lifestyles (MySpace, blogs, news about anything other than local homicide rates and the weather) and scratch for kernals like a chicken trying to gather enough tidbits to figure out what’s going on around me… The most revolutionary communications tool since satellites and TV waves has been established– it’s here… I’m at the library being kicked off the computer… I have to go to the bathroom…

Sorry about the spelling and grammar but there’s no spellcheck to correct my inabilities… Quick and dirty from the field–B

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