By now, you've probably all thoroughly digested Jeff Bezos' "60 Minutes" bombshell that he foresees a future in which Amazon delivers books via drones.
The reactions seemed to range from "that's awesome" to "that's idiotic" to "that's impossible."
I belong to the latter two groups. While I understand that the Federal Aviation Administration is looking at revamping our airspace rules for the drone age, I don't see how a private fleet of "octocopters" delivering packages that weigh 5 pounds or less could take flight without massive problems ensuing.
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What about the first person who panics at the noise, thinking he's being attacked by a swarm of Africanized killer bees, and runs his car off the road?
Won't the drones have to be equipped with mace to keep the nation's front yard dogs away?
And I can only imagine some of our less responsible citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights with a little target practice if the drone happens to wander into their private airspace.
But maybe we shouldn't doubt Bezos. After all, he has created a barely profitable company whose stock price isn't punished by Wall Street for it. He also has (legally) bribed the U.S. Post Office into Sunday delivery in major metropolitan areas for Amazon packages. Maybe a drone air force that offers customers near-instant gratification isn't so far-fetched.
The mini-media firestorm was briefly interesting, but in its aftermath, I started thinking about time, about what happens to us when we are forced to wait in anticipation of something, and how there may be greater pleasure in waiting than in instant gratification.
I was visited by a deep childhood memory and something called the Weekly Reader Children's Book Club. The Weekly Reader was a kid-centric newspaper delivered to classrooms; the book club was its companion. The club came with an order form on which you selected the titles to receive in a future package. Because my mom owned a bookstore (talk about instant gratification!), I had no need for the Weekly Reader Book Club. But I would order books anyway, waiting not-so-patiently for their arrival.
I wanted the books desperately because there could never be enough books, but somehow the waiting made it more special even than mom's express delivery.
It's not unlike another practice many parents will engage in this holiday season: the placing of gifts under the tree before Christmas. My parents did this. When they weren't looking, I would shake each box, guessing the contents inside. As Christmas approached, I would dream about how awesome my life might be once I owned my own Atari (didn't happen) or a Walter Payton jersey (did happen).
It's like the anticipation we experience in reading a good book: the wondering about what could possibly happen eventually is replaced by the happenings themselves.
Sometimes the happenings disappoint (no Atari), and the hopes we had exceeded the execution. In hindsight, the anticipation was the better part of the enjoyment.
Waiting for a book does not necessarily spoil the experience, but heightens it — at least for me. Amazon already has a digital option for those who need instant access. I can't help but feel that in our rush to compress time, we're losing something pleasurable.
If Bezos wants to launch his drones, he should do it for just-in-time delivery of life-saving medications like insulin or asthma inhalers or fresh herbs for cooking that are difficult to keep in supermarkets.
We don't need it for books. Books don't spoil.
Biblioracle John Warner is the author of "The Funny Man." Follow him on Twitter @Biblioracle.
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