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September 27, 2016

by Jeff Lofvers

 

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Autumn is officially here.

Many of my favorite days are in the fall. My wedding anniversary, my birthday, and Tricorder Night.

“What is Tricorder Night?” you ask. ”Are you in a cult?”

I'm glad you asked.

This story has no punchline, no moral. It's just a weird happy memory that I think of once a year. I have no real reason to share it; but as I walk the dog tonight, writing this news, I have no reason not to.

Tricorder Night, dear reader, is the first cool night of the year after summer. Why call it that? Because it's the first night calm and peaceful enough to light up the night air with the tiny battery powered lights and sounds of a Star Trek Tricorder toy.

A Tricorder, for non Star Trek fans, is a handheld scanning device that helped away teams survey their environment (duh). In the early 90's, Playmates toys produced one for kids, and it was a pretty accurate reproduction of the one from Star Trek (the REAL star trek… The Next Generation). The first year that came out, I received one as an early birthday present, and it was GREAT.

How old was I? I don't know… middle school? High school? Too old to be playing with toys as a child, but not quite old enough to be playing with toys as a man-child.

I ripped it out of the package and downplayed how excited I was to my parents. “What an accurate reproduction,” I said (or something along those lines). “Mother, Father, the indoor lighting conditions are not conducive to an accurate test of this toy's capabilities. I request permission to go outside and test this unit's functionality.”

“Request granted.” My parents said in unison.

I went outside, and it was beautiful. I mean, the toy was pretty nice, but the cool night air was truly beautiful. I was living in central Florida, a short drive from Disney World. Hot humid air had dominated every single night since March. That night, however, the sticky sweaty weather had finally broken.

It was raining a fine mist (a rare thing in Florida, where the average rainstorm appears to have the power to float your car away). It was dark, except for the lights from a park in the distance. There was a strange silence, interrupted only by the sounds of my toy tricorder.

I must've stayed outside for an hour. Just walking around the backyard, listening to my toy, dreaming of the tiny devices people would use in the future. What my parents thought I was up to, I'll never know.

To this day, it's one of my happiest memories. I've lived in a lot of different places, and made a lot of memories. The first cool weather comes at different intensities, different times of year, but every time, I think of that night, standing in the rain, listening to the Tricorder.

Why do I tell this story? Because I have a terrible memory, and one of these years I'll forget all about Tricorder Night. I also tell this story because it makes me happy. It was nice to dream, and it still is.

Holding the toy on the first cool night of autumn, I wasn't thinking of being a starfleet officer (at that exact moment). I was dreaming of a future with handheld electronic devices, a future with laptops, flat-screens, virtual reality, and a Riker beard of my very own. I was dreaming of what might come to be.

Two decades later, I'm several states away, walking my dog on a strikingly similar night. As I dictate this news, through my beard, I can't help but look at my smartphone, think of my laptop, flatscreen monitors, and VR device. I am holding a gateway to an entire world of knowledge in my hand (not the bag of scooped poop, I'm talking about the hand with the smartphone).

It didn't take centuries, I had nothing to do with it, but it's nice to know that I'm here to watch some dreams of the future come true.

Happy Tricorder night, everyone.

-Jeff

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