Monday, September 10, 2012

Off the Grid

Over Labor Day, a small family emergency arose. After batting about several solutions, my husband and I decided that the best option was for me to drive down to Florida. We were lucky that my sister Jane could rearrange her work schedule to make the trip with me.

So, Jane arrived at 2 p.m. at Reagan International. We were on the road by 2:30, and we drove and drove and drove.

Along the way, I had hoped to stop and use my iPad. Or plug in my computer and get WiFi. But that didn't work. Once we're in the car, Jane and I adopt the Peter Pan approach to travel: Straight on till morning!

We don't listen to the radio. We talk. These drives have turned into long therapy sessions where we discuss our childhoods, our dreams and disappointments, and our plans for the future. To my great benefit, Jane is a wonderful plotting partner, so I share any ideas I have for books and stories and she helps me flesh them out.

Somewhere inside the South Carolina border, she pulled into a gas station and said, "That's it. That's all the driving I want to do for the day."

"Do you want me to take over?"

"Nope. I want to go to bed."

So I found us a hotel. Our ritual is to strip down to our undies, crawl in, and zonk out. Again...I had this grandiose idea that I'd check my emails, etc.the next day. But it didn't happen. The minute that light started streaming through the dirt-streaked windows of that hotel, Jane and I got a good look at our surroundings, said a collective, "YUCK," and threw on our clothes and raced toward the car.

Five more hours on the road took us to St. Augustine. We both have RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome), which is a neurological problem akin to Parkinson's. Our legs start to bother us, to the point that they ache and sometimes even jump around like a marionette's when the puppet master yanks the strings. We decided to walk around St. Augustine and find a spot to eat.

A slightly be-draggled me in St. Augustine, our country's oldest city.
At seven p.m. of the second day on the road, I drove past my house to take Jane to hers. The next morning, we both slept late, then I picked Jane up and took her down to the airport to retrieve her car. The next day, I drove to Miami to get my son. And two days later, I flew home.

It's been strange to be "off the grid." The emails have piled up. Isn't it odd how in this time of technology we expect--no, DEMAND--that people respond to us instantly? That every problem is a major problem that should be shared, parsed, and fixed at any hour of the night or day? That if someone doesn't respond to our call ASAP, we get snarky?

I have to admit...being off the grid was strangely freeing and refreshing. When I got an "I-Need-An-Answer-Right-Now" text message or email, I wrote back "I'm traveling." Of course, since I'm all thumbs on my Blackberry, it looked like "imtvling" but folks got the drift.

How about you? Do you ever unplug? Go rogue?


Linda O. Johnston said...

I hope your family emergency is resolved, Joanna. I was traveling this weekend for a happy family event, including a visit with my 3-month-old grandson, and I also wound up being off the Internet grid. I'm still paring down the junk emails I got--and trying to respond to those that deserve it!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

It's taken care of. More of a logistics challenge than anything else. I understand about going through the emails. Daunting!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dru said...

Glad you were able to take care of your family emergency.

If I'm traveling to relatives, I tend to be off grid and it does feel good until you check your email.

Jody said...

I don't read email when I'm on vacation. I may or may not check in with FB. I always tell people that if it's necessary to contact me, CALL on the phone.