Monday, July 20, 2015

OFF THE GRID JITTERS

By Kate Collins

This past weekend I attended a family reunion at an Indiana State Park deep in the woods of Brown County. We booked rooms at a lodge that had very nice, woodsy-themed accommodations and access to all the activities in the park. And except for the torrential rain Friday and the intense heat Saturday and Sunday, (real feel =
107 °) we had a lovely time. It’s always a joy to see family scattered across the country and catch up with what’s happening in their lives.

One big problem with the weekend: the internet connection was terrible. It ranged from poor to none, and for people who are hooked to their cell phones by an electronic umbilical cord, that caused major distress.


We couldn’t phone each other to coordinate activities.
We couldn’t text.
We couldn’t check email.
We couldn’t post on Facebook or Twitter.
We couldn’t do internet searches to find information on various sites of interest.

Those with Verizon fared a tiny bit better as there was a cell towel somewhere in the area, but we AT&T-ers were out of luck.  Wouldn’t you think someone at AT&T would say, “Hey, that’s a popular vacation area. So maybe we should, like, make our phones work there?”

Sadly no.

If you were a fly on the wall, you would’ve seen a bunch of nervous people anxiously checking their phones for service (one bar was considered a gold mine) every few minutes until the batteries ran out.  Random beeps could be heard every so often and twenty-five people would grab their phones and eagerly search for a message. And then one lucky person would shout, “Eureka! It’s me!” and do a little happy dance, hands waving in the air so everyone could see their lighted screen. Unfortunately, the message was usually three hours old.

I got my brother’s text at 7:20 a.m. He sent it at 11:30 p.m. the night before to let me know he made it safely. My daughter’s text came in while we were having dinner. She was sitting across from me at the time. The message read: “I’ll meet you in the lobby in half an hour.”

Service in the charming town of Nashville was no better. One nice clerk said, “You have AT&T? Oh, I'm sorry.”  Those with Verizon phones suddenly became the “popular kids.”

We actually had to resort to making multiple trips up and down various hallways trying to remember who was in what room and communicating face to face (except for those of us who got the wrong room numbers and frightened random strangers by calling through the door, "Hey, come on down to the lounge. We've got photos of you!"

I apologize if I missed a Facebook post I was tagged in, but would I trade a good connection for this reunion weekend? No way.  In fact, it might have been a blessing. We couldn’t sit around checking our phones during times when we gathered to eat and share family stories. We actually had to interact in person! Oh, the joy of seeing a twinkle in someone’s eye when a funny story was told.

However, now that I’m back home and connected once more, I feel a sense of relief – followed by that familiar feeling of panic at finding a hundred emails to sort through. I don't even want to think about Facebook.

Did I actually miss all that?
Would you feel panic at not having a connection?

12 comments:

Maggie Sefton said...

So, true, Kate. We're all dragging around this invisible electronic tether because of the wired world we live in. Right now, I'm at the river house which somettimes has spotty wifi because it's surrounded by woods. But I'm LOL at the image of knocking on strangers' doors and announcing you guys have "pictures of you!" :)

Kate Collins said...

Yep, and I'm sure you'd be shocked to learn who that person knocking on doors was, Maggie.

Karen in Ohio said...

After a bit, you adjust. As you know, I travel quite a bit by car. Last year I drove the equivalent of halfway across the US three different times, plus a few other, shorter trips. We've had Verizon since the late 90's, and it's really kind of amazing how much coverage there is, even in remote areas.

My 85-year old mother is practically surgically attached to her iPhone, with service from T-Mobile. Which does not work at all, anywhere on our very urban property in Cincinnati. My daughter's boyfriend, who is traveling abroad all year while also conducting his business via email, etc., also has T-Mobile. He had to stand out by the road to get a text when he was here.

The worst was in Tanzania, in the middle of the Serengeti, where my husband kept insisting that I check his email. They only have dial-up in the remote places we stayed, and it was very limited bandwidth. Only one person at a time could get a download, and since everyone was there for dinner at the same time, it was extremely frustrating. I finally quit that job and decided whatever it was could wait until we got back to the States. Everyone important had our itinerary, so they could reach us, if need be.

Anonymous said...

I am a very reluctant cell phone user. I still have a landline at home and vastly prefer it. I got a cell phone since I'm in my 60s, travel by myself most of the time, and don't really have the strength in my hands to change a tire if I needed to do so. I also carry the cell phone when I go for my morning walk in case an emergency happens. Cordella

Kathleen Costa said...

It is a disturbing wake-up call...or text 😆, when you discover how essential one's connection to Internet, texts, emails, and social media sites truly are. At the drop of a hat, I google 'hats;' I hear a ding, and I check my phone like a Pavlov's dog; I see that spinning wheel for 'loading,' and I feel my heart starting to pound nervously. Tech? Heck!

Kate Collins said...

After awhile you just have to shrug and say, Oh well! Either that or shoot your phone.

Kate Collins said...

Funny, Kathleen! When I see that spinning wheel, I want to go punch someone at my internet provider. It happens with increasing regularity and I can't get my work done. Ah, the modern frustrations. I wonder if people cursed at smoke when it wouldn't go up in the right signal?

Margaret said...

One of my favorite places is The Forks, Maine; population 35 (it was 37 the last time I was there.) There is not much around it on Route 201 but paper mill land; and wonderful white water rafting on the Dead and Kennebec rivers. When we go, we stay at Crab Apple and there are specfic places where you can and you can't get service.
My only issue is being out of reach of those at home. Since I have a pet sitter who cares for my girls, I do want to be reachable. But as far as any other reason (like e-mail or internet searches) i could care less.
Living in NYS Capital Region, I really want to visit Letchworth State Park, but service is spotty inside the park. I have thought of renting a satelite phone for the time there. Again I don't know if I could handle being out of reach from those at home. But being cut off from everything else is absolutely fine.

Dru said...

I think I would be okay without cell phone service as long as I have plenty of books downloaded on my kindle. At some point, I would have to venture outdoors to seek some form of service.

Elaine Klingbeil said...

We just got back from a family reunion. It was my mom, my siblings, our kids and grand kids. There were 84 of us. We did have internet and cell phone service but everyone was so busy! It was fantastic! It was at a waterpark resort so cell phones were left in the rooms a lot. We were in a building that was 5 units long and the doors opened between all the units so it was like one really big cabin. We had to have two units that were not connected but they were nearby. We got everyone together for meals and for picture time by word of mouth. And no one went missing! My mom was so happy to have this happen, as we all were. But we did get it planned pretty much by emails so we are very thankful for that.

Kate Collins said...

I hear you, Margaret. My kids were with me, and that was a load off my mind -- except when I couldn't find them! LOL

Kate Collins said...

Family reunions are so much fun! It sounds like you have a big happy family, too. I really enjoy them. And we also planned everything by email. So much easier than a whole bunch of phone calls. Or the pony express.