The techno-dumbing of the American male.
Technology is making men dumber. There's no easy way around it: Manly men — the hairy-chested brutes who would pan-fry a rhino and flambé a cave full of terrorists all before breaking for a three-martini lunch at the strip club — are being attacked by superfluous technology that renders our brains into little more than bacon fat and bean dip. Where men were formerly valuable to society for their finely honed "hunter-gatherer" instincts, many have been diminished to a "user-drooler" role.
The degree of our manly degradation became clear to me on a recent backcountry excursion near Monticello, NM. My kids and I were exploring the canyons along the Alamosa River, pressing our carbon footprint solidly into the isolated dirt roads and river crossings with my monolithic, inefficient, unrepentant four-wheel-drive pickup. We found a shady cottonwood grove off the road where we grilled some burgers and hauled out our .22-caliber rifles for a bit of shooting practice. Hearing a motor coming up the canyon, we turned to see who was passing by.
A late-model Pontiac sedan with expensive-looking wheels larger than a manhole cover and less ground clearance than a gerbil was grinding up the canyon, dipping into the water crossings and dragging rocks with the undercarriage. I double-checked my beverage and it was indeed non-alcoholic; I blinked hard, and my son and I marveled at the complete indifference the driver was showing to his expensive car. We got back to lunch, but a few minutes later the sedan returned, and the driver rolled down his window.
"Can you help me? I think I'm lost," the driver said from inside his leather-lined cocoon of Detroit decadence.
My son approached his car and asked, "Where are you going?"
"Washington," the driver said. My son and I looked at each other, not sure we heard correctly. In hindsight, there was only one thing we could say to make sure we understood the magnitude of the challenge.
"State or DC?" The driver confirmed state.
"Where are you coming from?" we asked, to which he replied Texas. We understood the problem much better knowing that.
It seemed the young man had been blindly following his satellite-linked GPS device, which advised him to exit the interstate at Cuchillo and, apparently, take a shortcut to the Pacific Northwest through the Gila. This route is rarely traveled to Washington because it's a remote two-lane road, which becomes a remote dirt road, pocked with remote river crossings and rocks. The motorist blindly put his full confidence in what was clearly some satellite's idea of a practical joke. I am not sure at what point he should have understood the magnitude of the electronic error, but it was clearly before rocks were gouging the muffler.
Luckily, I had a map in the truck, which I showed to politely illustrate precisely how wrong his GPS was. "We use these in the backcountry," I explained. "It's paper GPS. Old school."
I assume the young man made it back to the highway and took my advice to store his GPS device somewhere outside his moving window at speed. But if not, I take solace in knowing that the coyotes ate well that night.
As we trundled farther up the canyon, my kids and I reflected on the cost of technology on antiquated attributes like self-sufficiency and traditional manly comportment. For example, many men no longer know how to drive a vehicle equipped with a standard transmission, or how to back up a trailer without rearview cameras and beeping things. Men used to be able to calculate a tip at a restaurant without whipping out a cell phone app.
It appeared that 10,000 years of manly knowledge — from how to avoid becoming an appetizer for a saber-toothed tiger to building a moon rocket — have become superfluous in an age of easily accessed information.
Which is too bad, because there are few things that men are otherwise exclusively qualified for. Nobody pees better from an upright position than we men. We can grow facial hair. We can fertilize eggs. And it's a scientific fact that men get sexier with age.
If we lose the ability to intuitively navigate, that's one less thing to recommend us to the genetic continuum, and we become that much closer to obsolescence. In an ever-rising sea of dumbness, it's important that we maintain a small raft of dignity, and the last time I checked, rafts don't come with antennae, PowerPoints or wi-fi hotspots.
And there's still no road from Cuchillo to Washington.
Henry Lightcap pees standing up in Las Cruces.