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To walk alone

“Sudden gray phantoms seemed to manifest upon inner room walls where a curtain was still undrawn against the night, or there were whisperings and murmurs where a window in a tomblike building was still open.”

A city is silent when its occupants are sequestered, souls staring at televisions blazing in blue tones. In Ray Bradbury’s 1951 tale “The Pedestrian” only one man wanders the streets, a man “alone in this world of A.D. 2053.”

The story Bradbury tells strikingly observes that technology causes us to draw into ourselves into isolation from friends and family and the outside world.

The protagonist of the story is a creator of things — he is, by admission, an author, though the authorities regard him as “unemployed.” The rest of humanity are consumers — consumers of television (or future media) and consumers of goods and services, heaping up material possessions until the outside world is entirely subdued.

Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” may not be the best written story, but it is especially prescient. (The story, in in PDF form, can be found here.) The person who hazards into the corners of the city is regarded with suspicion, such activities are denigrated.

I recall once wandering the streets when I was stopped by a police officer for “suspicious” behavior. I was carrying a mag light (it was dark) and there had been some “reports” of car break-ins. The officer was kind enough, explained his purpose, and accepted my statement — “Just out for a walk.” What struck me as tragic was that such activities are automatically regarded with suspicion. No one thinks first: oh, he pondering, traversing this path deep in though. No one asks, “What are you thinking?” but “What are you doing?”

© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.


“Not in the habit of writeing letters”

In the early 1900s, people found work in an entirely new industry: the typewriter, one of many technologies that signaled the dawn of a new era. During this time, typewritten correspondence was becoming a thing, and demand for machines was ever-increasing.

J.S. Wade was one of the many finding employment in this new field, landing a job at Remington in Denver, Colorado. Apart from a single letter in my collection, I have no other information about J.S. Wade, but his letter speaks volumes.

“My Dear Aunt,” he wrote in 1903, “I sent you a letter a short time ago and will try to send you another… I am still working at the Remingtin [sic] Typewriter Co. and like it very much.”

The letter, generally uncorrected, continues: “We are all well and happy.” He notes that Mamma intends to watch a show with Mrs. Sutton, and Papa intends to go fishing and hunting for the summer. Delightfully, J.S. employs a mere two periods in the letter, preferring commas where else periods should be employed. At the end of the letter, he even “corrects” his punctuation, converting a much-needed period into a comma.

His letter is brief and self-deprecating: “You must not laugh at me because I skip around so with my letter for I am not in the habit of writeing [sic] letters.” He ends affectionately saying, “You must write soon and let us know about the folkes [sic] down where you are, well so long for this time and be happy.”

It is interesting to note that instead of a lower-case L for the number 1, he employes the capital “I” — the early standard Remington’s did not have 1’s — which is evident in the date. How many people preferred the Roman numeral I, not knowing that the lower-case L was intended for that use? Seems even Remington employees did not know this.

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© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.



© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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