20 May 2012

The weight of preventing boredom

My chap's choir are rehearsing today for a concert at the Royal Festival Hall on London's Southbank, which is fairly touristy spot on the river, lots to see and do. So I thought I'd go with him in the car in the early afternoon, rather than brave public transport later in the day, and spend the rehearsal time wandering around taking photos and peering in shop windows. However it's a grey, cold, windy London day, so I find myself perched at a table in the lobby of the Royal Festival Hall, where the wifi is strong and free and there's a café downstairs.

Earlier today, with the prospect of photos in mind, I was getting ready to leave the house and realised I'd been preparing for my afternoon of leisure since the week before. Last night I'd charged my camera battery and computer, decided on the netbook over the laptop, based on battery life, cleared the CF card for the camera and debated with camera bag to take - would I need both the wide angle and the 50mm lens? This morning I dug through several cupboards to find the Kensington lock to secure the laptop to a mooring hook in the boot of the car and decided the purchase of a lock box for the boot might be worthwhile.

Last week, I researched (in person, with a photo on my phone as proof) the parking arrangements at the venue (and found them satisfactory) and bought a last-minute ticket for the show online (singles only, up in the nose bleed seats) which I collected a couple of hours ago by swiping my credit card through a slot in a self-service ticket machine in the foyer.

In my rucksack right now, I have a netbook with mini-mouse and mat, DSLR camera with two lenses, iPod and Sennheiser earphones (the chunky kind), smart phone, wallet, notebook and pens and the April issue of the Fortean Times. All in the name of staving off boredom. I commented to my chap as we were leaving, my shoulder groaning under the weight of all this technology, that 15 years ago I would have taken a book and maybe a pad and pen.

Technology has provided me with so many options for staying occupied and connected that a pen and a book aren't enough any more. Of course I still HAVE a pen and a book, in case of no wifi, battery death or eyesight begging for forgiveness from bright screens. But it's unlikely that I'll use them when I have the kit to take high resolution photos, tweak up the colours and contrast from the featureless grey of the London sky and upload them to Facebook, with comments and tags,  so my mum in Australia can see how I've spent my Sunday. All within 30 minutes of taking them. I have my own music and thick earphones to protect me from the horrors of other people's conversations and a smart phone in case I don't want to crank up the netbook. All in the name of 'just in case'.

The concert starts in a couple of hours, so I'll go back to the car and secure the netbook and hide the camera bag in the boot as best I can, telling the niggling voice in my head that it will all be fine, our car doesn't look like it has anything valuable in it, there's CCTV and guards in the car park, which is brightly lit and hardly a spot for theft from cars. It's that, or lug it all with me into the theatre, into the toilets, tuck it under my seat and apologise to people trying to get past in the narrow space between rows. Between the netbook and the camera, there's £1,200 worth of gear sitting in the boot of our little car, obscured only by the vinyl boot cover, protected only by the locking mechanism on the car and a flimsy keylocked coated wire. If it was just a book and a pen I wouldn't even be thinking about it.

Is it worth it? I ask myself. I honestly don't know. Would I have taken the photos and uploaded them to Facebook TODAY had I not had the means to? They're not particularly interesting photos, and in the grey light, not even very good. My mum will probably like them, she likes most of the things I do, and I amused myself by tagging myself in a photo of the exterior of the hall - 'that's me, right now, right there!'. My chap has also posted a photo from inside the hall with his iPhone and I've commented with *waves*, as I can hear them rehearsing from where I'm sitting, so we're doing that coupley-Facebook thing that makes everyone a bit nauseous - us included.

Would I have had more value in a book and a pad and pen? I wrote this post sitting here, took some photos in less than ideal light and had a look over what my friends were posting on Facebook. I probably could have read an entire book in the time I've spent on tech today. Or written someone a letter. Or started that young adult novel series I've been promising I'd write.

Would that have been a more valid choice? Should I see posting photos on Facebook as 'connecting' with people? Should I have stayed home and Hoover'd? Does it really matter? Other people spent their afternoon at the football. Or watching TV. Or at the pub. Or weeding the garden. Or, in the case of people at other tables here, doing physics homework till that got boring and ended up watching rap videos on YouTube.

Choices aside, what I find really interesting about my own behaviour today is that I would rather haul over 10kgs of stuff around with me, fretting quietly about their safety when I leave them in the car, so I can take and edit photos and get online to write about them, then write about hauling 10kgs of stuff around to do just that. The clichéd part of my brain is humming with phrases like 'sign of the times', 'addicted to technology and validation', but the short answer is, I have the means to do this, so I am. Reading my book can wait for lunchtime tomorrow when I hide from the people I work with and letter writing can wait for those evenings I can't bear to look at a computer screen any more that day.

Taking photos today showed my friends and family on the other side of the planet what I'm seeing, in almost real time, and many of them will never see those things in person. Taking photos in bad light gives me another opportunity to learn about taking and edit photos and writing a blog post is always practice, even if it's as long and rambly as this one. But most of all, I enjoyed taking photos and writing this post. Which I think is the best validation of all.