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[at-l] Computers and courtesy

     This post will probably piss some folks off, because of its content, 
tone, and wording. I wish this were avoidable, but I'm afraid it can't be 

     That being said, I wanted to thank all the folks who've written, both 
publicly, and privately to me, in regards to my recent "survey" on computers 
in the woods, their use, and how hikers view them.  Nearly all of the 
comments I read or received were thoughtful, sensible, and educational.

     However, one comment really bothered me.  I won't embarass the guy by 
naming him, but I will comment on his remarks.  In discussing the propriety 
of computers on the trail, and the etiquette involving their use, this 
fellow made it very clear that he intended to carry and use his computer 
throughout his trip, wherever and however he wished, and that he didn't give 
a rat's ass how others felt about this behavior.  In no uncertain terms, he 
said, and I quote, "I don't feel I should have to hide in the woods to use 
it."  As far as the etiquette surrounding the use of electronic gadgetry on 
the A.T. he said "Each person should decide for themselves."

    I know this guy has yet to thru-hike, so perhaps he's merely speaking 
out of ignorance, but he has absolutely no idea how wrong his mindset and 
attitude is, particularly as regards the feelings and considerations of 
other hikers.  There's a curious, and completely false mindset about the 
Trail regarding that timeworn, overstated, and frequently mis-used old 
chestnut, "hike your own hike."

    HYOH does not now, nor did it ever mean, that one can do as they damned 
well please when hiking the A.T.  What it means for most people, and after 
10,000  miles on the Trail and having personally met more than a quarter of 
all the people who have thru-hiked, I think I know what I'm talking about 
here---what "Hike Your Own Hike" means for most folks is that how you view 
your hike, why you choose to hike, what you hope to get out of your trip, is 
your business.  What you carry, how far or how fast you go, is your 
business.  Northbound, or south, flip-flop, sectioner, blue-blazer, 
whatever---is YOUR business.  Your are pretty much free to hike as you 
please, as long as your actions or behavior do no damage to the Trail, the 
thru-hiker community, to the environment, or to other hikers.  You are 
essentially free to hike and live as you please, provided your actions or 
behavior do not have a negative impact on the Trail, or on those with whom 
you're sharing it.  In other words, your "right" to Hike Your Own Hike stops 
flat when it interferes with others' right to hike theirs, and obviously, 
such behavior as improper cell phone use, playing video games, listening to 
a radio or tape deck without an earplug----all of this is clearly 
unacceptable, rude, classless, offensive, selfish, boorish, inconsiderate 
behavior.  I don't think any of us would argue that the tradition of Hiking 
One's Own Hike would permit the indiscriminate, thoughtless behavior I've 
just described.  And to state that proper behavior in this regard is 
something that "Each person should decide for themselves" is absolutely 
wrong.  It is a comment so manifestly self-centered and ignorant that it 
could have ONLY been made by someone who has spent little time on the A.T.

    And here's the news:  An awful lot of folks view computers, and other 
high-tech links to the outside world in the exact same light.  Don't get me 
wrong.  I am not, and never would tell someone what they may or may not 
carry.  I obviously don't have that right, and wouldn't want it.  It's not 
my business what other folks bring with them.  But it is EVERYONE'S business 
how these things are used, and there is a very clear, very well understood 
etiquette involving the use of these toys.  It's realy very simple:

    1)  Most people go into the woods and mountains, in part, to leave this 
sort of thing behind for awhile.  They do not need, or want, permanent 
reminders or electronic umbilical cords that would remind them of the world 
they've left, and will have to return to so soon.  In short, most folks DO 
NOT welcome the sight or public use of these items.

    2)If computers and phones must be carried, they should be used 
discreetly, and PRIVATELY.  Nobody goes out in the woods to see other folks 
yakking on the phone, or tapping away in a shelter or while sitting at a 
scenic vista.  The public use of these items, their noise, their very 
presence, even, is viewed by most folks as intrusive, unnecessary, and 
absolutely destructive of their "wilderness" experience.  It is not behavior 
that others should be compelled to witness.

   3)In that it's very clear how most folks feel about this, then it's also 
clear that anyone who willfully and purposefully disregards this established 
etiquette is selfish, thoughtless, and rude.  People like this should 
rethink what they're doing in the woods.  If this is your attitude and 
mindset, then a well-travelled, public Trail, especially a highly social one 
such as the A.T., is NOT for them.

   4)If, after knowing all this, one still continues to use one's toys 
wherever and however they see fit, without thought as to the felings or 
concerns of anyone else, well, this to me brands one as an asshole of truly 
extraordinary proportions.  Happily, tho, in my experience, people of this 
sort are easily recognized by other hikers, and are treated as though they 
were carrying typhoid.  They generally don't last very long, they tend to be 
whiners and very high-maintenance types, and they usually can't hack more 
than a few weeks on the Trail.  They tend to slink back home, telling 
friends and family about some spurious injury that ended their trip.  But in 
any case, they can't hack the Trail, and they don't last.  And if they do 
stick around, they tend to hike alone.  People like this are poison and 
everyone knows it.

     Whew.  Strog stuff, I know, but it needed to be said.  If you're going 
to spend any real time on the A.T., you MUST be aware of the needs and 
considerations of other hikers, and you must be willing to adapt or 
compromise your needs and wants to conform with the desires of others.  If 
you are unable, or more likely, unwilling to be considerate of the needs of 
others, if you genuinely feel that matters such as those discussed above are 
something that "each person should decide for themselves," well here's the 
news:  Anyone that truly feels this way does not belong on the A.T.  The me! 
me! me! philosophy so prevalent in modern life is the exact opposite of what 
life is like on the Trail, and anyone who puts their needs and desires so 
far ahead the concerns of their fellows simply doesn't understand what the 
Trail is all about.  Hike Your Own Hike, by all means---but when Hiking 
Yours starts interfering with other folks' right to Hike Theirs, then we've 
got a problem.

                                       Jack Tarlin
                                   (AT 95-96;97;98;99; and
                                       hopefully '00)

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