Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Turn Off the Power

Last Friday, during the garage sale, I noticed that my cell phone battery was very low. This was kind of annoying, since I had people all day calling me about the sale, but what can you do? I threw it on the charger. By the evening, it was charged up again.

Saturday my phone starts beeping and letting me know it is low on power again. I thought it was kind of odd, but I had been texting a bit and that always uses up a lot of power, so back on the charger it went.

Saturday night after the sale I went to grab my phone off the charger to make a call.... and it was hot. Really hot. I have to admit, I wasn't too surprised when it wouldn't turn on. It was fried. I had someone I was supposed to call, and I knew they would be concerned if they didn't hear from me, so I decided to send them an email and let them know the scoop.

So, I went into my office, turned on the PC, clicked to go to the internet, and then it whirred oddly for a moment... and died...

I can't say I was terribly shocked, I knew it had been close to dying for quite awhile. You see, a couple of years ago my beloved iBook died. This was about the time when my money troubles were starting and the divorce was looming. I didn't want to buy a new computer (and it would have cost over $500 to fix mine) so I started going into the office on the weekends to check email and do banking. My boss, running into me one Sunday evening working away, felt pity for me and offered me an old PC he had laying around - warning me that he suspected it had hard drive problems. Now, I'm an Apple girl because that is what I use at work and I love them, but a free computer is a free computer and all I needed it for was simple internet kind of stuff, so I gleefully accepted.

My office has a number of computer parts laying about, so they threw in a monitor, and I was in business! Sure, the PC made horrible noises and occasionally froze up, but for the most part it would work. I just never saved anything of any importance on it.

Then a friend came to the rescue. He had an old iMac - one of the old cute red plastic ones. Fabulous! Quite a few years ago I had had one of those on my desk at work - I was thrilled to accept his for home. There was only one tiny problem... he used a cable modem and I needed wireless. I've had the computer for awhile, but finally last week I decided to buy a
USB wireless antenna. I had some help from the tech team at my office picking one out and it arrived last week Monday. With the garage sale, I hadn't had time to install it, so I figured now was the perfect time! I could kill two birds with one stone - get the antenna set up and send out my email. That's when I discovered another problem... the antenna was only compatible with OS X, and guess who had OS 9 on her "new-to-her" iMac? Sigh.....

So, I was pretty much out for the count Saturday night. Unless I wanted to use semaphore or smoke signals, no one was going to be hearing from me. I briefly considered getting dressed and going into the office to make a call, but it was very, very briefly. You have to understand that this was 10 p.m. at night, I was dead tired from the sale, in my pajamas and in absolutely no mood to put on shoes. I decided that my calls would just have to wait until Sunday.

It was a very strange feeling to know that I had absolutely no way of contacting anyone. People today are in such constant contact with others. I actually myself getting tense and nervous about it, and for a little while I felt really uneasy. Then I thought about it more. This is really only a problem of today's society. If you go back just 8 or 9 years, you would have found me living in an apartment with no cell phone, no internet and only a land line. There were times when that land line went down. I didn't worry about it - I barely thought about it. In fact, if you go back just a little further, I remember having only a land line and no call waiting or voice mail. If someone was on the phone (or accidentally left the phone off the hook for 3 days the way my parents did once) then too bad. Now my blood pressure was rising because if someone wanted to contact me, they couldn't. It was bizarre.

Once I realized how silly I was being, I settled down. In fact, I wondered if maybe this wasn't someone looking out for me - I was in absolutely no shape to talk to anyone Saturday night; the best thing I could have done was just sit quietly for awhile, and that was just what I was forced to do. It was good not to have to think about that little hunk of metal and plastic that I carry around all the time. I started to wonder if maybe I needed to do this more often. I do it a lot at the cabin - I don't have internet there and cell reception is spotty, but I don't at home. Maybe I need to turn the phone off a little more at home. Electronics are wonderful, but only when they are working for us, not when we are slaves to them.

(By the way, I did solve both the phone and the computer problems, but more on that in another post.)

Photo by: rtisbute
via flickr


April said...

Great realization: we never used to be in such constant contact. Yeah, we're "better connected," but some peace of mind and quiet spaces left when the electronics became 24/7. It never hurts to turn off the machines and take a step back into a less more personal and little less intense world.

Dawn said...

April, I couldn't agree more. One of my friends and I recently had a discussion about text messaging in particular - for some reason that seems very "immediate" and both of us said that we felt a strong pressure to respond instantly - even if the text wasn't about anything important. Without realizing it, I think it has been raising my stress levels. I need to start being more aware of how technology is affecting me. I like the peace of mind of knowing I can make a call in an emergency - but how often does that really happen?

Catie said...

I really have been trying to be conscious of the fact that just because someone calls me on my cell or texts me does not mean I have to be instantly available! It's great when I need to be 'on call' for my life, but it's still just a tool to make my life easier. I get to choose what that means!

Dawn said...

Catie - I have been trying to be aware of it too, ever since you and I talked about it, but it was in kind of a vague way. This was kind of a dramatic object lesson on why I should! I would like to get back to where I respond to text when I want to, return calls according to importance, and feel better about just turning the dang thing off once and awhile.

Simplelivin' said...

I was just having a conversation with a co-worker this morning about 'being plugged in'. It is really sad how much we rely on electronics, and how much we use them to communicate with each other. I feel like face-to-face time is dropping because why not send an email, or text.

Dawn said...

Simplelivin' - I don't know that my face to face time has dropped, personally. I can't think of anyone that I see less because I just email or text them, in fact, I would say for myself, it is the opposite, Because I email and text my friends, I am more likely to see them. With regular emails I am more likely to set up a time to get together and texting is great for impromptu - "Hey, what are you doing right now? We are at XX, come join us!" That might be different for other folks though.

I find that all the electronics get into my alone time. I was just thinking about a long walk in the woods I took recently, when I was interrupted by text messages. It was good to have the phone (in case of a slip and fall or something) but why in heaven's name didn't I turn it off or at least put it on silent?? That is the piece I want to work more on for myself, is turning it off more when I need quiet time.

The Everyday Minimalist said...

I must say, I love having the use of email more than a cellphone.

I prefer sending an email with the details, phone numbers, names and times.

Without that piece of email to refer to, my friends usually end up calling me back to clarify where I am and at what time.

Just wastes time :)

Dawn said...

TEM - I can see how that would work well! My problem is that I only have email on my computers - so if you sent it to me, I would have to remember to jot down the information! I have occasionally forgot - it makes it hard if it was sent to my work email. :) Now, if I had email on my phone - that would be great.