Daytona Bike Week is just around the corner, and I’m thinking back to the time when THUNDER PRESS Editor-in-Chief Terry, South Editor Robert and I stayed in a house that was advertised as a quaint bungalow. We soon found out that the realtor’s version of quaint was just another way of saying that the house hadn’t been inhabited in years, and was only set up for the occasional unsuspecting traveler unlucky enough to land there.
As is often the case when we rent lodging sight unseen, what was advertised as a bedroom was actually a tiny dining alcove with a daybed shoved in the corner. Even more disturbing was the lack of an Internet connection or even a phone line, meaning it would be impossible for us to upload our work, check e-mail or have any contact at all with the outside world.
Once we realized that we were basically screwed, at least from a journalistic point of view, I made a mad dash over to the Verizon store on International Speedway Boulevard and bought a WiFi modem; two-year contract and all. When I got back to the house, Terry was sitting at kitchen table, watching the battery die on his laptop. The old house had never been upgraded and the electrical outlets couldn’t handle three-prong plugs, so there was no way to charge the thing.
I dug into my travel bag and came up with a three-prong plug adapter. Terry, in his gratitude, exclaimed, “Thanks, Marje. You’re a real road warrior.” I was a bit taken aback by the comment. To me, “road warrior” conjures up images from Mad Max and other movies of that genre. I responded with a smile, but silently asked myself, “Is he being sarcastic?”
Maybe not. Maybe the revered and respected title of road warrior has changed in these modern times. Maybe it no longer refers to someone who truly lives the biker life, riding many thousands of miles every year, battling bad weather and mechanical breakdowns. Maybe it now means someone who has fought the technology wars and emerged victorious. And I don’t mean Mac vs. PC. That’s so 20th century.
It could be that the measure of today’s road warrior is calculated by how connected she is, by the number of Facebook friends she has, or maybe by how many posts she makes and the number of responses received. One evening last summer I rode to a Mexican restaurant where I snapped a photo of my dinner, posted it to my timeline and captioned it, “My first fish taco.” I got more “likes” and comments than I’d ever received previously—or since. That’s gotta be worth some points. Oh, you didn’t know? There’s a Member Rewards program for road warriors and I’m well on my way to silver status. Don’t forget—double points on Thursdays and triple if you tweet to at least 20 friends.
And that brings us the kinds of tools that make one a road warrior. In most dystopian action films, the traditional road warrior emerges after the complete breakdown of society, and makes his way through the perils of the post-apocalypse with the only tools available—some primitive weapons, his survival instincts and pure courage. I’ve discovered that the only tool I really need to be a modern-day road warrior is my smartphone. I can check into Foursquare and let all my virtual friends know where I am every minute of every day. I can share my interests on Pinterest. I mean, doesn’t everyone want to know that I’m buying groceries at ShopRite, then picking up the part I ordered at the bike shop followed by lunch at Potbelly’s Riverside Café? And I just know you want to see the shade of nail polish I picked for my pedicure.
But there’s a dark side to being a modern warrior, and that comes in when you’re riding 80 mph on the highway and your phone vibrates itself out of its belt holder, flying across the median and smashing into a million pieces. That happened to me on one long-distance road trip and I’m afraid I didn’t fare very well. Without my phone to tell me what the weather was, I didn’t know what to do. Never mind that I can look at the sky to see if it’s going to rain and that if my hands are cold I can put on my gloves.
At the next gas stop, I was afraid to go on. It was getting near dusk, and without my travel services app, I was worried about where to stay for the night. I guess I forgot that Interstates have half a dozen motels at every exit. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was experiencing disconnect anxiety; a bona fide medical condition that occurs when one is separated from a phone or the Internet. Apparently 60 percent of Americans experience this anxiety when not connected to our devices, so at least I’m not alone in my addiction. My symptoms—sweaty palms, irritability, insomnia and depression—weren’t relieved until I could acquire a new phone a few days later.
The road warrior of yore was independent and lived by his wits and his wiles. Sadly, today’s road warrior lives and dies by the strength of the nearest satellite or cell phone tower.
Oh, wait! There’s a Road Warrior game on Google Play. I wonder how many points I can earn?