I sat down on Saturday morning to deal with all my deferred e-mails from the week and suddenly, I couldn’t get on-line. Something popped up and offered a troubleshooting phone number and/or Website help from AT &T. Well, I couldn’t get online to ask questions about how to get online, could I? So I went to call, but my land-line phone had no dial tone and “no line” written on the screen. So it wasn’t exactly helpful to have a phone number and a Website address to figure out why my phone and Internet weren’t working, was it?
Enter my secret cell phone! I called the number and got passed around the usual robot to agent to tech support guy. At the end of the matter, they couldn’t solve anything and said they’d send a tech person to my house to check out my modem. On Monday morning. And this was Saturday morning. Two whole days (gasp!!) without phone or Internet!!!!
Ever resourceful, I called the couple of people who might have a reason to call me and gave them permission to activate my secret cell phone. And figured out I could walk to the neighborhood café to get online as needed. But meanwhile, decided to use my time well. Play my acoustic unplugged piano a bit more, write in my journal, clean out and organize my desk drawer, ride my bike to an art show, cook an appetizing ratatouille dinner, sit on the couch and read my Dicken’s novel. All the kinds of things I used to do before the world tried to convince me that life without computers was simply untenable.
I still remember the signal at midnight in the 1950’s when television stopped broadcasting. A friend in Iceland told me that there used to be a whole day each week when nothing was on television. On purpose. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, I instituted T.V. Awareness week at school which included a week without television. Parents and kids reported wonderful things that happened when the imagination kicked in instead of being robbed by the push of a button.
Of course, talking about television is laughable now. We have gathered most of our waking hours on screens large and small now, have no need to decide which of our two favorite shows to watch if they happened to be on at the same time, don’t need to consult TV Guide for someone else’s schedule. It’s all at our fingertips 24/7 and not just entertainment, but letter writing, information gathering, social networking and blog writing. I imagine none of us would give it up to return to “the good old days.” And I mean just about everyone all around the world. A young person from a small village in Ghana friended me on Facebook and wanted to know my “what’s ap?” info and was incredulous that I don’t have an i-Phone. That’s the world today.
But still I think it’s a good idea to consciously choose, both personally and better yet, collectively, to have time off the grid. A day each week (bring back the Sabbath!) where we all become Amish or Hassidic Jews, or a week each year, just to remember that it’s possible and often, delightful. Without the Siren call of the screen we might just hang around that dinner table conversing a bit longer or get out the old board games or try our hand at family music-making or get out the dress-up box and watch the kids put on their little play. Not to mention going out for a hike or skipping stones in a creek or climbing trees, playing hopscotch or Stone School on the front steps or freeze tag.
So on a Sunday morning, I’ll take a leisurely walk to the neighborhood Farmer’s Market. And then cheat by going to Starbucks and posting this blog online. That’s the world today.