PAT NEAL: Device deprivation disorder

ON SOME OF these clear spring days you just know summer is on the way.

Maybe it’s the seasonally adjusted gas prices that tell you it’s only a matter of time before the tourist hordes invade the Olympic Peninsula.

With the miracle of climate change, people down south — we call them “climate refugees” — are busy planning trips away from their homes where summertime temperatures get higher than 100 degrees or so for weeks on end.

While the locals will complain about a wet, rainy summer that’s perfect for the climate refugees who have come north precisely for the cool weather.

They think being wet is cool and who am I, a concierge of the tourist industry, to argue?

I tell tourists if it doesn’t rain in the rainforest you have been cheated out of a unique nature experience.

An experience, unfortunately, that is often marred by a yawning gap in the infrastructure of this great nation.

Our country is tied together with a network of cellphone reception that is necessary for our quality of life.

According to some study somewhere, American teens spend an average of nine hours a day online, compared to about six hours for those aged 8 to 12.

Then the parents of these unfortunate prodigies, who, if truth be told, would just as soon be on their own phone as talk to another family member, drive the family out into the wilderness where they have to go cold turkey with no devices just because some mountains or trees get in the way of phone reception.

The fact is, there are embarrassing gaps in cellphone reception all over the Peninsula.

It might not seem like a big deal to you, but you’re not a guide in the trenches of the tourist industry dealing with people suffering from device depravation disorder who discover they have been lured to a backwoods dead-zone where none of their devices work.

This is a problem.

I have personally observed the effects of device depravation disorder on humans in the wilderness.

At first, they are confused. They think nobody likes them and in all probability nobody does.

People on devices have a hard time with personal relationships.

They have a lot of anxiety that seems to be based on a vague belief that everyone else has it better than they do, which I can identify with because, in my case, it happens to be true.

People forcibly deprived of their devices will sometimes be forced to talk to other people in an effort to establish human contact without phone service.

People with device deprivation disorder often panic while assuming something has gone terribly wrong with their world. It has.

As long as people are on devices, they are just tired and stressed.

Once the device stops working the thin veneer of civility dissolves.

Sometimes, people with device deprivation disorder are forced to take notice of the natural world that is around us.

You can walk through a forest of 1,000-year-old trees, go to beaches where the whales spout and waterfalls where you can watch the salmon jump over. If only the cellphone worked.

Nobody is going to like these scenic splendors if you can’t get them on social media.

By neglecting to address the scourge of device deprivation disorder and its effects on the recreational wonderland of the Olympic Peninsula, we risk losing our share of the tourist market to areas that provide this essential service.

Reliable, universal cellphone coverage for tourists is an idea whose time has come.

We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal

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