With apologies to the fine and knowingly-named Toronto store, from whom this title was cadged.
In the summer of '01, we attended an enormous family gathering in a rustic cottage on the banks of the Rideau. I was diligently applying myself to a manuscript at the time and had made it a habit to wake early in order to do the work -- seven days a week, no ifs, ands or buts. I followed through on this habit, even at the cottage.
My first morning there, I thought it would be swell to try this on the dock. It looks like an ideal environment for the task, after all -- doesn't it? My watch chimed at 5:30. I pulled myself out of bed, retrieved my laptop, and stole down to the dock.
Half-an-hour into my work, a canoe appeared on the river -- some guy out with his Labrador Retriever. They came closer, and it became apparent he was aiming to use the dock. I smiled and said hello. He scowled at my laptop, glanced away and muttered "Yup". As he drew alongside the dock, his Lab jumped out of the boat and into the water. It suddenly occurred to me this mutt was fixing to greet me. I frantically mashed buttons to save-and-quit. The dog clambered to shore and shook himself off. I had a choice to make. I slapped the computer shut and quickly stowed it before the slobbering, dripping cur came and thrust its snout in my lap.
The dog's owner made an unconvincing attempt to restrain her. The damage done (lost data, safe technology), I resigned myself to putting on a good face: this glum canoeist, I reasoned, might be the cottage owner, and our use of the facilities was given to us at quite a bargain.
I admired his canoe -- a strip-wood beauty of some vintage. "Looks like the sort of craft Bill Mason would have used," I said. The guy brightened. Mason was in fact a friend of the family, and spent time caring for their canoes. He took a deep breath, then said, "Those were very different days."
He talked of how the cottage -- or rather, "The Cottage" -- was a place their family went to in order to escape the tyranny of modern life. Electricity came late to The Cottage; radio came some time later, and an old black-and-white TV set was introduced in the 80s. When you weren't swimming, hiking or canoeing, The Cottage was a place where you read, or played cards and board games -- a retreat that served to reinvigorate you for your vocational life.
"Technology has a way of taking that away from you, and levelling everything out," he said. "Just canoeing this morning, I counted seven new cottages, all larger than ours. All but one of them has a satellite dish on the roof."
"If it makes you feel any better," I said, "I was writing fiction." This appeared to have no effect on him whatsoever, so I thanked him for the cottage, and complimented his selection of books (Gibbon's Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire was there in its entirety). We shook hands, then he and his dog left.
Now, my brother and all my code-writing friends will attest to the fact that I'm all but a confirmed Luddite, but I do think we can be good stewards of new technologies. Later that same day I mentioned the incident to my brother-in-law. "Would he have felt any better if I'd been out there with a pad of paper and a ballpoint pen?" I asked.
He thought it over. "Parchment and quill might have been the safest option," he said.
So what gets me casting back to this strange encounter? This weird picture, on the Sympatico.msn.ca homesite:
The picture links to this story. Now, here's my question: given the aforementioned encounter and my endorsement of a book like Full Catastrophe Living, am I entirely out-of-order when I think this picture and story are altogether daft?