Parent Prison Experience

I made a special playlist on iTunes before going to see my dad for the first time as a free man. I sat up in my hotel room in Indianapolis, having arrived from Brooklyn at nearly 1 a.m. The room was dirty and badly designed, but I’d booked it last minute using an app. Now, I was back in my favorite Midwestern city, preoccupied with the phone in my hands, trying to answer the question, “What songs will I want to listen to on the way to see my father for the first time outside of prison?” I didn’t want to hear anything too loud or too fast. I wanted familiar and soothing; 60 tracks later, the list was lousy with Anita Baker, Lauryn Hill, and ‘90s-era Kenny Loggins.

Sleep did not show up that night. As scared as I was of the bedbugs I assumed surrounded me in that atrocious hotel, I was more afraid what would happen when I saw my father. Would the man who showed up be anything like the one I’d been imagining, and would I be anything like the daughter he thought he had? Would he be proud of me? How were we going to make this relationship — the real one — work? I lived in Brooklyn, and he would be staying with his sister in Indiana. More importantly, he had been in prison for 30 years and had no contact with modern technology.

From: Father Daughter Relationship – Parent Prison Experience

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6 thoughts on “Parent Prison Experience

  1. My dad and I went shopping for new clothes for him. Stores were a lot for him. He didn’t understand why everyone walked around looking down at their phones. He couldn’t fathom what could be happening on the phone that kept them so entranced. I tried to explain that there were often other people to talk to or look at on phones. Sometimes those people were far away, or people they didn’t even know. There were mostly no long-distance fees; there were photos and videos — basically the whole world could be on these screens. He thought about that for a minute and said, “But there are people all around right here. A lot of people we don’t know. Why not just look at them?” I didn’t have an answer to that.

    Out of the many really nice passages in this essay, I think it would have been hard to have picked between the excerpt above and this one.

    Two things really stand out here from the essay. The first is that the author has used contemporary technology as the lens through which she appreciates her father’s man-out-of-time experience. Which suggests that, like a lot of us, she’s conscious that she too spends a lot of time hunched over her device rather than interacting with the world right there around her, but she does it anyway.

    The second is that despite the technology addiction, she’s able to produce a fantastic and touching essay about a very human, non-technological episode of her life.

    Best of luck to her and to her father.

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    • “There are people right here!” but you don’t know those people. Smartphones and Facebook let you hang out with your friends no matter where you happen to be, and why wouldn’t you choose to hang out with your friends instead of random strangers in weird dirty badly-designed places that you’d chosen at the last minute using an app? Particularly when the modern paradigm is “if you look at someone, that’s an assault, that’s a challenge, that’s a negative comment about something stereotypical because why else would you look at someone?”

      The thing to remember about someone on a smartphone is that they aren’t really there at all, they’re in the Metaverse, and (pace Neal Stephenson) it beats the shit out of reality.

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      • Although I do have to say…

        “I was blocking apps in an effort to get my time and attention back.”

        I don’t understand this. I’ve never understood this. How can you be a person and be unable to ignore things? How can your mind develop in such a way that the smallest distraction must be followed, must be investigated, must take over every aspect of your waking mind? How can you have so little thought available to you that the smallest “DING” sucks up all of it?

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