Disconnect, Reconnect

On Tuesday, a huge thunder, lightening and wind storm tore through the area. Trees fell, roads were blocked, power was lost. Our family was separated for an anxious hour.

Ultimately, we were reunited, we only lost power temporarily. Some of the beautiful maple and elm trees that surround our house lost limbs. But overall, the effects of this storm were less than others we have experienced over the years that we have lived out here in the flatlands.

But, the cable is out. So no TV. And that means no land line – not that we have really noticed. The high speed internet is out – no modem, no wi-fi.

Both my spouse and I are home based workers. I gave up my office years ago. It was a wasted expense and the pressure to get home at the end of the day was too high. Some of my more creative moments happen after hours and it’s easier to sneak into my office and work on something. I’ve never enjoyed “Go to my PC” moments.

What this has given me an education on, is how far we still really have to go in this new digital age. How tenuous, this electronic connection.  I’ve never been cutting edge when it come to technology, but I am pretty darn current. A modem from my wireless provider would certainly help. But it’s also another expense. One more way for corporate America to get in my pockets and watch what I do. I do have access to my clients, email, and obviously, this blog. But while I love my ‘droid enabled smart phone, it’s wonderful widgets and apps, typing on it, reading on it, working on it, is a chore. My ‘droid is a tool. And despite it’s elegant appearance, it’s still remarkably crude.

At last week’s family reunion, I got engaged in a wonderful discussion with one of my nieces. She has fallen hard for the green movement. Grows her own food. Cooks holistically. Lives simply. Has rejected much of her middle class background and values. It’s marvelous to see her commitment, her dedication. It caused me to reflect on my ideological stances from that time. Am I more flexible these days, or simply less patient? The latter perhaps.

She announced that she really didn’t think she needed her computer all that much anymore and that she was considering typing all of her papers next semester on an old manual typewriter. It was a jaw dropping announcement. We were incredulous. How could you do that? We went into a recitation of what it was like in our college years. The ribbons, the correction fluid, the noise. The weight of even the portable models. A nice laptop or tablet with a good word processing program is so much better. Here, try our iPad!

On the other hand. If we had lost power, eventually even the smart phones would have died. If we were as disconnected as she was, we wouldn’t find ourselves in line for coffee and a table at Panera. I wouldn’t have people lined up behind me at the study corral at the library. The library’s wi-fi wouldn’t be overloaded.

Industry consultant Bob Sacks frequently preaches that we’re at the dawn of a wonderful new age. I think he may be right. But I am skeptical that our corporate partners will yield power to readers and authors so easily. We should be ready, he says. He’s right.  I think  am. But we’re in that in-between moment right now and all I can say is what I have said in the past regarding all of this technology. It needs a label. And the label needs to say:

“Caution: Technology Does Not Work As Advertised. Chill.”

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