Tuesday, August 07, 2012


So we spent a week high up in the mountains. Among my reflections come a few thoughts on the wired world in which we live and an iron-clad realization that I am a child of the first world, wholly accustomed to pampering, comfort, and ease. Especially ease.

Let me list our "privations":

1. Limited cable.

2. No cell phone coverage.

3. No Wifi in our unit.

4. Dicey GPS coverage.

Now, we had potable water, electricity, and a land line. This was not primitive camping. A pool, hot tub, and tennis courts were a five minute walk from our front door. The resort had a small office with Wifi.

We had a stunning mountain view out the back door, for the love Pete.

But we didn't have use of our gadgets. And we are so accustomed to our gadgets.

Dave would go up to the office every day or two to check our email. I made it up there once or twice. Dave casually mentioned that he had a message he thought he should have answered. And it all made me think about days gone by when people would go out of town, and Planet Earth would continue to rotate on its axis with or without their input.

Dave and Kelly? They're on vacation.

I love our gadgets. We passed a Robert Toombs' Bridge, and I thought, "Wasn't he the Confederate Vice President? Or was he a Civil War general?" And if I had been home, I would have Googled Robert Toombs and given the kids a brief lecture on the Civil War. (And they're probably de-lighted we were Wifi free.)

I don't hoard brochures like I used to. What's the point? You Google the place, head over to Mapquest for directions, plug in the GPS and you're good.

Except when the GPS goes all squirrelly and flashes images of your car on the middle of a grassy knoll and everyone starts to laugh about the seven-passenger van with no pick up morphing into an All Terrain Vehicle. But then you start to worry that it's right and you're wrong and though you're fairly confident you're not actually tearing up a grassy knoll, you couldn't prove it a court of law because Oh! My! Gosh! you didn't pack an atlas.

On this trip, we bought a map, an actual paper map, one that you read and fold and don't expect to speak the entire length of the trip no matter how badly you need to make a u-turn.

Then there are the gadgets of entertainment variety. When in-car DVD players became all the rage, I was the hold out who was having none of it, no way, nope.  Dave bought ours without asking my opinion on the subject. That was the year torrential rains turned our fifteen hour drive from Detroit into a seventeen hour drive from Detroit. That would be the year I was ten weeks pregnant with John, the year that I was vomiting before we pulled out of my sister's drive way.

Let's offer a moment of silence for my late electronic friend that gave me seventeen hours of sanity during a trip that would otherwise be described as nothing short of heinous.

The downside of these devices  -- and this holds true for electronics of all varieties -- is that you come to rely on them.  Before the DVD player, we packed coloring books and crayons, matchbox cars and playing cards. We played car bingo and Twenty Questions. We still do some of that, but truth be told, we rely much more on the electronic babysitter than I would like (which is one of the reasons, I was so reluctant to get one in the first place).

And you shouldn't really rely on them because there is a further downside -- these portable DVD players are cheap -- in price, yes, but mostly in workmanship. They weigh about two pounds and can withstand very little in the way of jostling. But you use them in an over-stuffed car with four kids and -- guess what? -- jostled they get. And suddenly they aren't working. And you're counting on the DVD player to provide a little diversion and the diversion goes belly up. And the cards and crayons and cars? Well, you didn't pack them.

Before cell phones, we had back up plans for communication. If we get separated, we'll meet in front of Cinderella's castle at 9:15. Now we can talk or text 24-7 except when we can't and then we're left scratching our heads about what we ever did without them.

I'm glad we had this little reality check on our three hour drive weeks before our -- gulp, cringe, grimace -- fifteen hour drive which looms before me.

To my family up North: You better fully appreciate how much I love you.


Kris said...

We just went camping for 5 days with no electronic anything. It was actually really nice. Made me think of all those things you mentioned. And our car DVD player was dead as a doornail when we got in the car, so no movies either. The kids managed to survive in the car with books and ipods. And some sleeping. They didn't miss any of it while we were camping. Board games were played, books were read, they actually talked to each other and to us. Amazing.

Anonymous said...

My ailing 14-year-old daughter has now watched all the episodes of Friends (1994-2004). I've watched quite a few of them with her and had some good laughs. The thing she has repeatedly commented on is how great it is that they Actually Just Talk to Each Other, instead of texting and doing facebook and taking photos to put on facebook, etc., while in each other's company. She thinks that's really great. She's aware that by 2004, people had mobile phones and the internet was on the go, and she likes that in the world of Friends they still just get together in person and pay direct attention to one another. It's sad that that seems a novel idea. But at the same time we also enjoy a lot of benefits because of the internet and our gadgets.

Kelly said...

Kris - That sounds like great fun. I wish we camped more than we do.

Christine - That's very insightful. I find myself, especially since I started blogging, thinking about how to record little events in a way that almost disrupts simply experiencing the events. It's sort of the plight of a writer. Since I was very small, I've felt as though I were in the process of telling a story. It's hard to describe.

I agree that there are huge positives in all this. One young friend who had a hard time breaking the ice in relationships found texting a less intimidating way to initiate conversation.


Kris said...

Kelly -- it's easier when tiny people are bigger (my youngest is 7). Although we did camp when we had littles like Ainsley. I have found that I would rather do it for a longer period of time (4 or 5 days) rather than a weekend - it's so much work to get everything together and set up, that a weekend doesn't seem worth it.