They say that “timing is everything.” I’m unsure who “they” are, and even though I made a somewhat feeble attempt to find the answer to that burning question, I came up …
They say that “timing is everything.” I’m unsure who “they” are, and even though I made a somewhat feeble attempt to find the answer to that burning question, I came up empty-handed. So, here’s the thing: Last February, I made plans to take a vacation in March—something I had not done for (literally) years. After scrimping and saving, I had squirreled away a couple of bucks and made arrangements with the powers that be to take two whole weeks off without interruption. I began formulating a plan, placing calls to some folks I thought I might visit while on my proposed “road trip to nowhere” which sounded dreamy, yet doable.
“I’ve written more than 500 columns without a break,” I declared on my Facebook page, complaining that my hectic schedule had finally taken its toll. “I deserve this,” I added, as if I needed to defend my position. “Good for you,” Uncle Sid responded online. “Come visit us in Florida!” And then it happened.
In the wake of the pandemic, my plans for a getaway sputtered and fizzled out. Overnight, the planet had metaphorically tilted on its axis and life as we know it had changed, forever altering our view of the global landscape and what’s most important, which did not include visiting friends in Myrtle Beach, sipping Mai Tai’s on the sand, or enjoying lazy days in the car, slowly wending my way towards Florida and Uncle Sid. I know, I know… it all sounds like a first-world problem now, but way back in March, I was devastated. For those of you unfamiliar with the (relatively new) term, a first-world problem is defined as a “usually minor or trivial problem or annoyance experienced by people in relatively privileged circumstances—especially as contrasted with problems of greater social significance facing people in underdeveloped parts of the world.” In terms of first-world problems, according to Wikipedia writer Ben Sin, a good example is “probably a cracked phone screen.”
Feeling dejected, I lamented having given up cable, opting instead for less pricey subscription services like HULU, Netflix and Amazon Prime—yet still complaining that there was nothing to watch on TV. “Gimme a break,” the dog seemed to say, happily gnawing on a bone and rolling her adorable eyes. “Sounds like a first-world problem to me.”
Scrolling through thousands of offerings available on YouTube, I stumbled across a number of what appeared to be virtual “windows on the world”: hours-long videos of scenic views that place the observer in Edwardian-era libraries, on mountain tops in Switzerland, seated at cozy cafés in France (replete with customers chatter and glasses clinking) or even sprawled on a beach somewhere sipping realistic-looking but just-out-of-reach Mai Tai’s.“Well, this is relaxing,” I muttered to Dharma, who growled at the screen as a computer-generated cat curled up by the virtual fireplace I had selected to play in the background.
While I toiled away on column number 501, I explored the virtual world at my fingertips, stopping for breaks in a variety of rooms and locales, pausing to gaze at the nighttime sky from the confines of a “cozy astronomy room” decorated with bookshelves, telescopes and antiques as thunder rumbled in the distance and computer generated raindrops splattered against the very realistic leaded window panes. Without leaving home, I had discovered the much-needed break I had sought, and even though it’s less than perfect, I’ll take it.
Video production companies with entrancing names like “Calmed by Nature” and “The Vault of Ambiance” abound, and since I’m still unable to actually take the road trip that I’m sure I deserve, I find myself drawn to their sophisticated software and the soothing pitter-pat of the virtual rain that often lulls me to sleep, long after the dog has figured out she can’t actually chase the virtual cat, which, in my humble opinion, is the only kind of cat to have. It doesn’t hurt that I have a gigantic state-of-the-art flat screen in my living room with which to immerse myself in the “Vault of Ambience,” but wish I had one just as large in the bedroom, too. Sound like a first-world problem you say? Gimme a break!
Note: According to an unnamed source on the internet, these examples of first world problems might “seem like nothing but they can and often do totally spoil your day.”
Fun Fact: “Gimme a Break!” is an American sitcom television series created by Mort Lachman and Sy Rosen that aired on NBC for six seasons from October 29, 1981 until May 12, 1987. The series starred Nell Carter as the housekeeper for a widowed police chief (Dolph Sweet) and his three daughters. – Wikipedia