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(woman to man taking up three transit seats with all of his gadgets) Dude, you're totally techspreading.

I need my space

I need my space published on 2 Comments on I need my space

You’ve probably come across complaints about manspreading: guys taking up more than their allotted space on crowded buses and trains by sitting with their knees apart. Not just apart, but way apart.

Some men have tried to justify this by explaining that our external plumbing needs a generous allotment of space. Bring our knees too close together, and things get squeezed. Hell, if we tried to take up only one of those little seats, something would probably burst.

This is, of course, nonsense. (Men have concealed this for centuries, but our secret is that we can actually retract the whole kit and kaboodle away into our abdominal cavities when we need to. At will! Really! It’s like watching a hermit crab retreat into its shell. If you’ve never seen it, ask a man you’re intimate with to show you — it’s quite something! Oh, he’ll look at you like you’re insane and tell you it’s impossible, while making a big show of backing away slowly and looking for the exits, but don’t take no for an answer.)

We do this not out of anatomical necessity but from natural temperament. We’re territorial, and we take up as much space as we can. Hell, it takes extraordinary self-control just to keep ourselves from peeing in the corner of every transit vehicle we enter. (And excuse me if that self-control isn’t always forthcoming… officer.)

Thing is, we’re also pretty competitive. If one guy takes up two seats, I have to take up three. And the guy across from me noticing this has to somehow take up four. And so on.

Physiology being what it is, there’s a hard limit to the number of seats one guy can take up… or so you’d think. But we’re nothing if not resourceful, and if you know the right surgeon, you’re just four severed tendons away from separating your femurs from their hip sockets the same way a boa constrictor unhinges its jaw to eat a wild boar.

And at the point, you’re ready for the big leagues. Manspreading’s slated to be a demonstration sport at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, and Russia’s rumoured to have a guy who can manspread two entire subway cars. But don’t count Canada out: our team works out at Bombardier’s rail vehicle manufacturing facility in La Pocatière, Québec, on specially-designed cars 40 per cent larger than Olympic standards.

When you meet one of these guys, you stand in awe of them.

You have to. There’s nowhere to sit.

Nice to get so much feedback on this cartoon! Techspreading, people: it’s going to be a thing. Start talking it up. Spread the word, not your tech!

The hot new technology

The hot new technology published on No Comments on The hot new technology

Mere hours after I posted last week’s Internet of Things cartoon, news broke that Google had acquired Nest, maker of truly nifty smart thermostats (and now smoke alarms). I’m now wondering how I ever lived without either of them.

At least, the techno-optimist side of my brain is. The techno-grump side (which is a much smaller, wizened little stump that dangles beside my amygdala like some kind of cerebral hemorrhoid) worries that connected devices and the Internet of Things are the first step in our inexorable conversion from customers to hostages.

That techno-grump was also deeply concerned that keying “r-o-b-o-p” into Google yields the autocomplete suggestion Robopocalypse, until Ryan Merkley intervened:

His point is well-taken, although maybe I might have been Googling “robopoop”. It’s only a matter of time before that’s a thing. (Actually, at nearly 4,000 Google hits, I’d argue it already is.)

One last mild FWIW to my inner techno-grump: Google may have taken a little time to implement Do Not Track, but it’s been supported in Chrome for quite a while now.

Meanwhile: my predictive algorithms suggest that:

Devices and desires

Devices and desires published on No Comments on Devices and desires

I realized the other day, in the middle of a conversation with someone, that – for just a moment – I had stopped thinking of them as a human being, and started thinking of them as the thing that stood between me and some quality time with my iPad.

(If you were talking to me in the past few days, and wondering if you’re the person in question, let me assure you that you weren’t. It was someone else. Really.)

And, you know, that happens. At parties, some of us catch ourselves looking over the shoulder of the person we’re talking to, in case there’s someone we actually want to talk with nearby. A friend could be pouring their hearts out to us, and a stray anxiety could drift up from our subconscious long enough to distract us. Even when we give someone our full attention, we’re rehearsing what to say next or wondering how they’re reacting to what we just said.

All of which is to say, let’s cut devices a little slack. They have the reputation of sucking our attention away from other people, but it’s not like there isn’t plenty of competition for that attention already, devices or no devices. Hell, the Cro-Magnon probably had that problem. (“Ogg stalk mammoth for hours. Then mammoth turn and look at Ogg, and – hey! You not listening to Ogg!”)

And one of the nice things about a connected device is that it often connects us to others who aren’tin the room. There’s a terrific Ze Frank TED Talk where he projects a photo of a woman looking down at her iPhone and smiling. (You’ll find it around 6:25.) While this is the stereotypical image of someone zoning out of the real world, he points out that “life is being lived there, somewhere up in that weird, dense network.”

That said, it’s still possible to be a thoughtless jerk about these things, and I’m living proof. We’re still working out the etiquette and sifting through conflicting protocols. And as with nearly everything that really matters, it comes down to human connection.

Or high-velocity connections between pigs and angry birds. Those are fun, too.