I was lounging with a few cronies recently, talking smart and knocking back a beaker or two of the good old elixir, when one of my associates mentioned what may have been the best marketing idea of the year for 2011.
It was so brilliant, in fact, that if I had any dough, and if I wasn’t such a bone-idle beggar, I would steal it and make a fortune.
What the idea was, in a nutshell, was a cold spot (or dead zone).
Unlike an Internet hot spot, of the sort that are popping up everywhere like long-lost relatives around a lottery winner, this would be a dead zone, where people could go to relax with no access to mobile phones or any other electronic device.
Like a vacation in Amish country, these establishments would offer a step back in time, and a place where nobody could get at one, thus providing a decadent break from the rat race.
For years, we have been engaged in a mad rush to get connected, and to build up wireless networks so we are accessible 24/7, no matter where we are.
The problem is, we got our wish.
Today, employers, co-workers, family, friends, and freaks of all descriptions can get at us via mobile phone, text message, and e-mail, and there is no refuge.
At the same time, radio, television and other forms of electronic intrusion are incessantly bombarding us with mostly useless information.
There was a time when one could retreat to the sanctity of a local pub, where a friendly and discrete barkeep would protect one’s privacy while attending to one’s spiritual needs, so to speak.
Alternatively, one could abandon civilization and venture into the wilderness to get away from it all.
Today, however, we are tethered by the invisible tentacles of our wireless masters, shackled to all and sundry wherever we go.
Taverns can’t hide us, and the mobile phone providers are pushing to construct cell towers even in the hallowed forests of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
It is sacrilege.
The dead zones might be the last frontier of liberty.
One can envision a sort of compact Shangri-la in which one could seek refuge from electronic interference.
The engineering details would have to be worked out, but the facilities would likely include some sort of jamming technology that would make it impossible for mobile phone signals to penetrate. Radio and television broadcasts would also be blocked.
Perhaps as a backup, the facilities could be constructed with shields that would provide additional physical protection from mobile messages.
The sites would be comfortable and tastefully decorated, and would perhaps offer some sort of light fare and liquid refreshments to fortify weary refugees.
The beauty of these places would be that in addition to providing an escape from the bonds of electronic intrusion, they would provide an iron-clad alibi.
No one could accuse the patrons of ignoring phone calls, text messages, or e-mails, because those things would not penetrate the barriers of the dead zone.
One could say with unassailable innocence that one did not receive the message until one emerged from the sanctuary.
This could give one the luxury of countless hours of uninterrupted peace.
One would have to rejoin the other rats in the race eventually, but a quiet interlude from time to time would be priceless.
I would be willing to pay a membership fee for this luxury, and I suspect others would, too.
We have achieved our goal of being infinitely connected with the world, but we have lost our freedom in the process.
A chain of dead zones across the land would provide safe havens for harried husbands, weary wives, and frazzled friends.
Perhaps one could even franchise the dead zones to create a network of little Edens across the country.
We have developed technology to help us get connected. Now, perhaps we can harness technology to help us regain our freedom by protecting us from those connections.