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Midnight in Samarkand 

Technology and isolation at an international hub

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Recently, while waiting between flights at the San Francisco Airport, I found myself sitting at the airport bar, as I normally do, imbibing a Harvey Wallbanger—as I normally do—watching the action on the tarmac, as well as admiring the general strangeness of the surrounding venue. In many ways, this place is a present-day Silk Road outpost, a crossroads and exchange of foreign ideas and peoples. One of the redeeming qualities of waiting in the airport has always been the opportunity to meet different people and have random conversations that go on about random things, in the process gaining a perspective on life I never otherwise probably would get.

How often in your everyday existence, for example, have you encountered some dirt farmer named Joe from Lusk who struck it rich because of the vast petroleum deposits on his land, or a girl named Anemone from the Netherlands who was out of the Old World for the first time, let alone have an actual conversation with them? Some of the strangest conversations I have ever had occurred at airports, yet this veritable mosaic of multicolored views seems to be slowly but surely going the way of the buffalo.

Looking around, I noticed virtually everyone was stoned on some sort of digital opiate—everyday people reduced to the stupor of Haight Street junkies, strung out on the marvels of modern communication devices, chasing dragons on their iPods.

People live for the junk. People constantly have to update where they are, who they are with and what they are doing on the 36 different social media platforms they use, all for approval of their digital minions. People seem more excited about what someone else will say about what happened to them, rather than enjoying the raw insanity of what might actually happen.

After a couple drinks, my flight was called, and I sifted my way through the sea of digital dope fiends, the absence of a stale-piss aroma the only thing assuring me I wasn't in the Civic Center MUNI station at midnight.

Mike Harkins is a guru of Nuristani shamanic rituals and a leading authority on small hand tools. He currently resides in a fortified compound near Santa Rosa.

Open Mic is a weekly op/ed feature in the Bohemian. We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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