At first glance you might be tempted to dismiss this as a simplistic parody of the Verizon ad campaign. But the inclusion of an Amish gentleman is so startlingly odd that it raises this panel above such ordinary interpretation. It took an hour before I even noticed the echoes of the Verizon ad, I was so obsessed with figuring out why this Amish man had a cell phone.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am going to admit up front that my knowledge of the Amish comes entirely from watching Witness and Kingpin and has not been updated since. It's possible a subsequent Amish synod resulted in an ecclesiastical change which allows the use of cellular phones. I would not know. Nor, I suspect would almost anyone else outside of Pennsylvania Dutch country. So even if that conception of the Amish is outdated, it remains the backdrop for this panel.
The depiction of the Amish gentleman can only mean that this panel, in fact, speaks to the impact of technology on the modern condition. We live in a world where communication must be instantaneous and devices must be multi-functional. A world in which email has become antiquated in favor of IM and SMS. A world in which people will take a phone call in the middle of a movie or while using a public restroom stall. A world in which a 4-year old is equally likely to recognize a phone as a camera or a communication device.
In such a world, the role of religion in daily life is replaced by the graven image of modern convenience, even for a Luddite like this Amish gentleman. After all, who wants to drive several blocks to church to talk with their Pastor when Oprah can be viewed on TiVo at the precise moment the viewer needs moral and emotional support? Who wants to invest the time and patience to pray and wait for an answer on God's terms when 1-800-PSYCHIC is available with immediate answers to your problems, 24x7x365, and costs less than a 10% tithe?
In the path of this technological assualt against a simple way of life stand Burl and Joy (or sit, as the case may be). They are the modern day Zax, unwilling to yield an inch to the tide of technology, happy to allow the overpass to be built around them while they stand (or sit, as the case may be) in an unmoving protest.
The panel, however, makes it clear that their resistance is futile.
Although it is not visible (probably obscured by the dialog balloon), you can be sure the porch rockers on which Burl and Joy sit are surmounted by a scythe, just like the rocker on the other side of the porch. This antiquated implement, a symbol of the inevitable passage of time, hangs like a Sword of Damocles above them, threatening death and dismemberment should they remain stationery. They must move if they are to remain alive.
But in a world where technology and commerce are kin, there is an easy escape hatch. The porch rockers are for sale. They can be purchased, taken home, and positioned in a spot free from dangling implements of death. Burl and Joy can be spared the horrors of encroaching technology by a steady stream of purchases (the modern-day indulgence).
Which brings us around again to the aggressive commercialism the Verizon parody targets. This theme is further strengthened by a sign which anticipates a 45-minute wait for a meal and invites you into the gift shop while you wait. A second sign provides the final piece of the puzzle, indicating that the store is open 2 hours before the restaurant and closes 2 hours after the restaurant.
In other words: purchasing power will set you free, brothers and sisters!
Visit the gift shop for the following marginalia:
- If you stare too long at the perspective of the rockers relative to each other, the porch, and the door, you may become dizzy. You have been warned.
- Joy appears to be wearing fishnet slippers.