Last week, on two different occasions, I was openly mocked by a group of my peers, one professional and one social, for having a USB hard drive on my keychain. Now granted, my jump drive is not the manliest of peripherals. It's translucent purple plastic and was given to me by a former boss. It is not sleek, with metal and faux leather, but looks more like something from a gumball machine. Bear an embossed logo of a computer hardware giant, it does not - instead it is modestly festooned with the logo of a printer company, nearly rubbed off from being in my pocket. Regardless of its physical form, I was mocked by these two sectors of my Venn diagram for even having one.
Now my social compatriots are not the most technically savvy bunch. Hipsters, yes, but in an old school 80's idiom. They do finally all have email, so that's a milestone with this crowd of miscreant musicians. While they are all loquaciously knowledgeable about amplifiers and pickups and cables and whatnot, the simplest "hello World" of a webpage is deeply ensconced on the other side of the border formed by their digital ability. I have slowly been encroaching into their world with four-track recordings, but unlike the similar superior output by them all, the concept of digitizing them seems foreign, as if you tried to explain the virtues of a bicycle to a fish. They have been nice enough, expressing interest in my output, but when I pulled out my keys and said I might have one on my jump drive, they busted out laughing as if I had produced a pocket protector, hiked up my pants and started doing the cabbage patch.
The common bond among us is being music fans, always seeking new/old things, but forever they are asking to have a CD burnt of whatever is being discussed. I mean its cute and all, but why not send it in a telegram as well. I get to listen to music all day as a part of my job, and the thought of having to haul around and change CD's seems hopelessly quaint now. I use my handy jumpdrive to transfer music back and forth between home and office, with my music folder organized and shortcuts strategically placed that the contents of my folder are presented to me in a simple mouse-over off the start button. And would they have seen the light, that information is best served digital, I could've transferred them the songs in the least obtrusive manner. But burn you a CD? Why not request I churn you some butter?
Now the mocking at work came as an even bigger surprise. There was some cumbersome SDK that we needed to borrow, but the customer needed the CD back and their suggestion was to make a round trip. I thought I was being triumphant with my simple little drive, but again rained down upon me the pocket protector comments. What kind of nerd has a hard drive on his keychain? The kind that is always prepared, the 21st century Boy Scout with his digital Swiss Army knife.
I do realize that using it is not the most sophisticated mechanism for transferring data throughout the ether. Email servers, streaming media, yadda yadda. Sure I could set up a media streaming server from my home machine making my stuff at arm's reach constantly available. But those things require a silly level of devotion, spending time being my own tech support when I could be out kissing girls. I could carry an iPod with its gargantuan storage, but really, who am I fooling. I will never be seen on a treadmill boasting white earbuds pumping out Arcade Fire demos. The lowly jumpdrive is the perfect middle ground. It's cheap effortless technology that works like a charm, doing only one thing but doing it well. Lug thee your vinyl in an oversized messenger bag if you must. Zip and unzip your CD booklet and wait in line at the Office Depot with frazzled buyers of ink cartridges if you need to hold onto your shiny scratched up wax cylinders. Me, I got things to do and music to listen to while I'm at it.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com