I hate Survivor.

Here at Company X, it's a busy Monday, everyone working hard. The technicians propagate antigen, conduct quality control tests, assay various substances, run experiments, and so on. The sales force shows people around the ancient corporate campus in this apocryphal Boston surburb. The receptionists answer the phone, the managers smile, the scientists relax in their sheltered offices. Me, I'm in my cube. Avoiding work. There are so many things that I have to write, things with daunting names like "validation protocols", "development reports", "IACUC protocols", yet I can't bring myself to start. Oh joy. Technical writing has never been more fun.

But sometimes, when you kick up your heels and decide that, screw it, the week's just started and that work can just wait, you become aware of certain ambient noises that drift over the charcoal gray cubicle walls and under that horrific corporate ceiling tile and fluorescent lights. The electronic trill of a phone, perhaps. The almost-subliminal thrum of the HVAC running. The sonic backdrop to the corporate environment, like birdsong in the country or the honking of horns in the city. I close my eyes and let it wash over me, a euphonic bath.


But suddenly, then it happens: somewhere in the distance, someone is listening to Sugar Ray. This is usually bad enough, as Sugar Ray is-let's not mince words-complete and utter shit. But that's not the worst thing I hear. Oh, no, sir. From far away I hear a voice, so distant it's almost genderless (though I believe it's a woman's voice):

"Can you believe that Shii Ann was voted off?"

Then, a response: "What are Rupert and Jenna going to do?"

Hold the fucking phone.

I dig my fingers into the laminate plywood of my workstation, jaw tightly clenched in mind-blasting rage. Why? Why in God's name are these people talking about this?

There is something wrong with America, something very deeply wrong. I'm sure that someone has already had a w/u about this, but honestly. When did people on television become more important than our own neighbors and friends? When was our sense of community finally sacrificed on the altar of entertainment? Yes, something is deeply flawed with our country--and no, it's not just GWB's ruinous administration. There's a feeling of being closed off that these sprawl-dwellers who watch Survivor and bring it up, well, all the time have yet to face. Driving their SUVs to work in the corporate park, then driving back home. The occasional stop at Wal-Mart. Not really going outside, nor making their kids go outside. They stay in, parents and kids both, getting fatter and paler. Their brains slowly melt into a gelatinous, tapioca-like ooze. They lose a sense of self and a sense of place, and lose their sense of functioning within a viable society. No, let the powers that be run everything. There's wicked things in this world, even right next door, but not here. Here, you are safe. Forget altruism. Forget interacting. Just passively accept everything. It's been a long day, and you're tired. So tired. So order that pizza, kick up your heels, and watch the pyschosocial mechanations that have been candy-coated and served up to you piping hot.

Urban sprawl is truly the bane of our country. Most of our inner cities are in decay, with some lucky exceptions (New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco). People drive everywhere, never walking or interacting with each other anymore. Free time is spent in front of the tube, because people are "too tired" to go to a coffeehouse or library, or anywhere, mainly because it involves driving.

So we stay in, and satisfy our wasted lives by watching what other people do instead of doing it ourselves. We live vicarously through the actions of others, especially on reality TV at its most scheming and Machiavellian. Survivor. The Apprentice. Big Brother. Even the gross-out fest that is Fear Factor. Why?

It's time to take back the streets. It's time to get out there. It's a beautiful spring day. The leaves are finally out on the trees. Flowers are blossoming. Walk, don't drive, to the nearest store, if you need to go and can possibly foot the distance. And if you can't walk there, because it's too far away, then for God's sake, draft new zoning laws to you can. Read a book. Play a game. Have fun. Live life.

Because on your deathbed, no one's going to want to talk about Survivor.