Wednesday, November 25, 2009


For seven days we were without Internet service. What an eye-opening experience. The last time I went for an extended time without Internet was when I was at a writer's retreat for a month in Northern Minnesota. I only got online once at the library during the whole month. While we were in Mexico, we did not have Internet at our living quarters, but nearby coffee shops had free wireless access, and it was fun to spend time online in these outdoor cafes munching delicious food prepared by others and sipping caffeinated drinks. We even had Internet service on our Alaskan cruise, albeit expensive service, but a means by which to connect daily to the world!

So seven days without service brought up a lot of stuff, most significantly the habit of mind I've acquired related to being connected to a world wide web. The impulse to get online arises frequently all day long, most obviously in terms of checking email and Facebook, but also for dozens of other reasons as well:

My betta fish is sick, so I head to the computer to look up sick betta. Whoa, not possible. I need to do billing for my freelance business. Oops! Online accounting service is not accessible. I'm going to an unfamiliar location in Modesto. No Map Quest. I can't get to my online class or review my grandson's essay for his literature class to email to him in time for class the next day. I'm writing a "Get Well" card and realize I'm not sure of the spelling of a word. Normally, I'd head for the online dictionary. Nope have to lug out the heavy weight Merriam Webster hardback.

Unable to get online at home, we grabbed laptops and headed for places with Internet access. Starbucks was the first destination! What a zoo. First, there are many steps involved in getting a Starbucks account, including buying a product card with at least $5 and then navigating the account application before actually getting to "free" wifi. Then there is contending with helpful patrons who want to continue the conversation AFTER you are finally happily online and only want to focus on the 200+ email in your inbox. Then there is the piped in music (not my preferred genre) and the surrounding young adult conversations and the guy trying to sell someone life insurance. The library was an option only if we stayed in our car because they were closed for the week, but we had one low battery so that didn't last long. We headed to relatives and got slightly caught up on the most important tasks in our online lives, but this involved 30 minutes of driving both ways. SIGH! We were frustrated to say the least. We just wanted our cozy connection at home.

The upside?? Well, there was one. I got all kinds of chores done: all the hand-washing, putting away spring/summer clothes and organizing closets and drawers, more yard work than I've done in the last 3 months, lots of handwritten notes I've been meaning to do, and I read three books. (I read all the time, but the Internet definitely competes with reading time.)

We are back online thanks to the patient perseverance of the techs at Mother Lode Internet who had to troubleshoot problems both with their tower and our hardware. The moral of the story? After a week of being disconnected, we've decided to reserve one full day a month for being off line and one day a week during which we can check in for an hour but must refrain from all other access. We want to maintain our practice in being disconnected.

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