This past week, I went off the grid.
This was not one of those get-back-to-nature, Walden-in-a-cabin-in-the-woods-for-two-years kind of thing. Nor have I fallen in love with Glamping.
Instead, this was a situation where I signed up for VOIP phone service and all my internet service was terminated by my ISP.
So, after more than five hours on the phone (thank heavens I have unlimited calls on my mobile), the only resolution was that I was going to have to wait a week until a technician could come and, as far as I could tell, do the same thing I could have done myself in 10 minutes (which is what happened, in case you were curious).
My frustration aside, as I learned the hard way it would have no effect on the outcome of my case, I went past denial and into acceptance. I wasn’t going to have internet access at my home for the week. That meant no landline (remember the ill-fated VOIP decision), no internet for my desktop or Wi-Fi for my laptop or mobiles and no TV (we’re in the middle of cutting our cords and making the move to streaming. Again, great timing).
So, while we were not going back to the horse and buggy days, we had definitely lost our 21st century conveniences that we had come to rely on so dearly.
But even though our lives did not resemble Little House on The Prairie (we still had electricity, two Macs and a pair of kindles), we were forced to adopt a simplicity (the words of Thoreau come back to me. I would look them up and quote them directly but, you know…) for which we never planned.
The first thing I noticed was that my urge to check my email and social media status was indeed like an addiction. I would get an actual twitch in my thumbs to check my status updates and latest communiques. But, since we are frugal and have the data plan of an 85-year-old hermit who’s not to sure about this “internet” fad, there was no way I was using my precious few megabytes to see who had sent me junk mail. I still had unlimited texting (the telegraph of our era) and, after a while, not checking my phone or computer regularly became a matter of principle. I am on summer vacation right now and there is nothing that can’t wait a day or two.
I did have a chance to go to my office, use the Wi-Fi and my computer to check my messages on my home and work emails. I also caught up with the news by scanning CNN and other sites. If it was 150 years ago, this would be akin to going into town and visiting the general store or tavern.
Another throwback to the past was that, without television, I had to rely on the radio for news and weather updates. A technology from my grandparents generation was becoming essential to my own.
But during this temporary internet Armageddon, how did I survive intellectually? Well, I’ve always liked a nightly dose of television, but my love for books is something my wife and I have in common. So, the idiot screen was replaced by the kindle screen (and a couple of actual, dead trees with ink on them from the library). I was just finishing one book when my fiber optic lifeline went out. I conquered three more while I was sans distraction.
We also had more time to work on our summer project of minimizing our possessions. For years we keep talking about cleaning out the garage and the house but never do it. This year we started the project, but were going slower than desired. With no TV there are fewer excuses to not clean everything out.
Yes, I miss my shows, but I have to admit that some evenings we were just looking for something to watch because that’s what we did every night: watch TV. You want to get your money’s worth on your streaming TV channels, so eat dinner (often in front of the TV) and binge on the food and shows. When we get the internet back (which was our mantra, like when the Pioneers said “When we reach California”, I think we will be more selective about what we view and perhaps balance out our TV and non-TV nights.
And, when I eventually switch from my current F******* provider to one that has its S******* together (those aren’t cuss words, folks, but the names of the companies with some key letters missing. The similarity is rather convenient however), I will do so with an understanding that my time off the grid helped me to understand that unplugging definitely has its benefits.
Now, would you pass me that candle while I sit against my cabin wall and read about the Los Angeles Library Fire of ’86.
1986, that is.