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 [email protected].

More in Opinion

LETTER: Resist the Borg

Nice to hear Clallam County may achieve herd immunity as early as… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Olympic Peninsula driving guide

The signs of summer are all around. The roar of the lawn… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: The speed of the sound of live music

WATER IN THE desert: That’s how it felt when I heard the… Continue reading

LETTER: Poverty, overpopulation

What does poverty have to do with overpopulation? As a young person… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Requiem for a river

Spring is a time of hope on the river. The salmon eggs… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The Orca Task Force

Last week we examined the tragic results of capturing the orca for… Continue reading

Meiqi Liang 
photo courtesy of Meiqi Liang
DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: A year of transformation — in place

The post stopped me in the middle of my scrolling. Here was… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: A history of whaling continued

Last week, we reviewed the industrial slaughter that pushed our large whales… Continue reading

Paul Hansen
POINT OF VIEW: To save family farms like mine, pass capital gains as emergency measure

THE PANDEMIC HIT Washington hard. The economic collapse that arrived with it… Continue reading

ron allen
Legislature: Support Trust Land Transfer for state forests

People on the Olympic Peninsula benefit from our state forest lands in… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: A short history of whaling

It’s always fun to look back at this day in history to… Continue reading

Douglas Woodruff Jr.
Come together to save steelhead

OUR STEELHEAD ARE in serious trouble. For the Washington Department of Fish… Continue reading