It was decided on the evening of September 17th, 2017.
September 18th, 2017 would be the day of my 24-hour, self-imposed moratorium on cell phone and internet use. Making the decision to live as my ancestors did was a difficult choice, but one I felt was imperative if I was to gain an understanding of the struggle of the ones that came before me.
So, the evening before unplugging, I sent a plethora of text messages, emails, and social media posts to inform everyone of my decision.
The texts, emails, and social media responses I received back, as you can imagine, were diverse.
Seventeen friends said, “What in the hell is the matter with you?”
Forty-two friends and three family members called me an “Idiot.”
“That’s great! Good luck, and we’ll see you on the other side.” – Love, Dad.
“Moron.” – Love, Your Cat.
I was nonplussed, but I was committed to the task at hand. These name callers were only strengthening my resolve!
I slept well, with the thought of “roughing it” in my mind. Go time.
The morning dawned as it usually does, with the sun emerging from the trees on the eastern side of my property. Birds chirped, squirrels ran around in frenetic circles, either playing with each other or trying to kill each other (I’ve never been able to tell the difference).
This will be easy, I thought to myself. After all, I’m old enough to remember what life was like before this electronic dependency descended upon us, like a great plague. Generation X: The generation that has lived in both worlds.
“Who won the baseball game last night?” asked my son.
“Let me check my phone,” I said.
“Awww . . .” said my daughter. “No phones.”
Crap, I thought. She’s right.
“Let me check the paper,” I said. Unfortunately, the game had ended too late to be in the morning print edition. How did people live like this, walking around without knowing if their favorite team had won? I wondered. This is barbaric.
So it went, for the better part of the morning. No text messages from my wife telling me that she hopes I have a nice day. No updates from Facebook on what important things my friends were up to, like taking their kids to the park or eating fast food. No links to disreputable news outlets. No email spam or rejection letters from online humor websites in my inbox. Silence. Deafening silence.
By the afternoon, as clouds approached from the west and without the benefit of having an umbrella (I make a habit of checking the weather app on my phone each morning), I got utterly poured on as I ran helplessly to my car. Soaked and cold, I was beginning to question whether this noble idea had, in fact, been a good one.
The drive home was untenable. Having to wait ten minutes for a traffic report on the radio meant I was already past the last exit of escape and would have to endure sitting in a non-moving vehicle for an additional 45 minutes.
When I did arrive home, tired and weary, I took solace in the fact that my electronic-less sentence was almost over. My kids were FaceTiming their friends or watching YouTube and laughing at humorous things I wasn’t a part of.
As evening approached, so did the onset of a scratchy throat. This was surely the result of being ill-prepared in a rain storm, having walked around in wet clothes for the better part of four hours. Still, I needed to be sure. My life was at stake.
How in the world am I not going to Google my symptoms? I thought. To live in a constant state of flux regarding my medical condition was simply too much to bear.
“That’s it!” I declared to my family. “I must determine the root cause of my health issues!”
Four pairs of eye rolls followed my proclamation. I expected my wife and two children to do this, but my cat?! I didn’t even think cats were capable of rolling their eyes. Staring at you until you grow uncomfortable? Yes. But rolling their eyes at you?
I powered on my phone and Googled “scratchy throat,” saddened by my inability to see this through to the end and ignoring the looks of disappointment on the faces of my family and cat.
The good news? In all likelihood, I am suffering from the onset of a common cold, though it could be whooping cough, diphtheria, or even rubella. I’ve spent the last 20 hours living like I was in the year 1820, so any of these medical possibilities would seem to fit.
I really missed the connection, just not the rejection letters.