Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Off the grid, on my mind

Photo by Jessica Simmons
HALF MOON KAY — Standing in cool sea water so blue and clear it looked like a swimming pool, with soft white sand under my feet and a towering thunderhead on the horizon dropping a sheet of rain against the blue sky, I could sense how far off the grid I was.

My phone, which has become both a lifeline and a distraction in recent years, was in a stateroom on the cruise ship that had brought me to this place with my family. It had not been employed for a few days, though my daughter continued using her phone for taking photos and keeping up with the time.

For a week, I did not surf the web, update Facebook, post to Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr or any of the other social media that sucks away my moments. I didn’t send or receive a single text or a phone call. Because I’ve stopped wearing a watch (trusting my phone to carry that burden) I didn’t even know what time it was for most of the journey.

And I plopped down in the water, felt the sun drying salt on my face, and knew it was all good.

No sooner had we returned to port and “civilization,” than all of us turned our eyes to our phones and tried to catch up on all we had missed. The car ride back home was quiet as everyone (except the driver) busily reconnected with their cyber lives, myself included.

Just a few years ago, I was one of those Luddites who thought he would never need a cell phone. Then I thought I would never need one that allowed me to text messages rather than place calls (I still would rather talk to you than trade half-conversations via text). Then I thought I would never need a “smart” phone.

I was wrong about all of that. It’s a necessity in the multi-media business, and has become so in private life, where I’ve been known to work myself into a tizzy (use of that word proves I’m old) if my wife or children don’t respond to repeated attempts to reach them by call or text in the space of an hour or so. Not to mention being able to watch videos, listen to music, take HD photos, talk via Facetime and so forth.

But for a week, it didn’t matter what TV shows I missed (my DVR was saving them for me anyway), or what breaking news I caught later in the day. I wasn’t checking my phone to ensure I hadn’t missed someone’s message or email. Time was only important when dinner was approaching or to be sure we were back from an excursion before the ship sailed.

The world, as I experienced it, slowed down. It was quieter. I could take my time with something, relish a moment rather than trying to snap a selfie in the midst of it. (My daughter, however, took more than 250 photos on her phone, and my wife shot nearly as many on her camera, so the trip was still well documented. I don’t mean my comments here to devalue their effort.)

I read a book and a bunch of old comics I took on the trip. I watched the deep blue sea drift by. I spoke to strangers, helped my family/team win a trivia contest, held hands with my wife as we walked the streets of Nassau, joked with my kids. We made midnight visits to the buffet or to get ice cream.

But best of all, being off the grid gave us each other’s undivided attention, and provided me the chance to look them in the eyes and tell them how much they mean to me, and how wonderful it was to be with them on this adventure and in this life.


Peace.
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