This weekend, I am dog sitting, which means I am subject to the routines of a 15-pound, happy creature named Marlee. It also means that I have to figure out the tech devices that punctuate each room of the tiny house: TV remotes (oh, how I long for the days of getting up to literally turn the channel—of which there were four when I was young); coffee makers (I should have brought my tea kettle with me); no land-line phone (I do not know how to answer a call on my cell); and, of course, Wifi.
Basically, I have adjusted to the necessity of Wifi the same way that I approach the introduction of any tech invention into my life: Uncomfortably and atypically, I do not ask too many questions. Just tell me which buttons to press, in which order, and if I need the secret password to enter the layered and labyrinthian world of technology. My normal modus operandi would be to understand the how and why: Question, ponder, and question again—as often as necessary—until I understand well enough to teach somebody else. In the case of most things tech, however, my primary m.o. is: Tell me what to do.
I consider myself relatively free from the bondage of devices. I view my usage as rudimentary, i.e., laptop only: emails, writing projects, research and articles of interest, bill paying, and a smattering of Youtube videos and Facebook word games. My cell phone—“old-fashioned” flip style—is emergency and travel only; I do not have TV, only a setup for DVDs; no microwave or coffee maker that tortures sleepy morning minds; and no fancy music mechanism. (My toolbox-sized boom box from the ‘90s sits on a shelf, plugged in to the wall, with a stack of CDs nearby.)
And then it happened: I awoke on the first morning in Marlee’s home, and tried to adhere to my normal feel-good start to the day. First, I figured out how to get hot water out of the coffee maker for my tea. (Why this requires pressing three different buttons, and then tricking the machine into releasing the water by lifting and closing the lid is exactly the type of question I have learned to swallow, begrudgingly…)
As the tea steeped, I did a quick practice of spinal flexes, easy stretches, qigong tapping, and body swings and rotations.
Next, with tea in hand, I sat down to my laptop. I do enjoy scanning the news and sparking my brain with word games first thing in the morning. But wait: How does this work again? My Wifi “network” is now the homeowners’ network: How do I get that? Oh, yeh: That wavy line in the corner—click on it, and wait. Luckily, the owners left the name and the required password.
Wait, wait, as the computer scans, scans, “looking for networks…” I tried one that is a variation of the guest network: The password did not work.
And then the real surprise: a hit of actual anxiety! I feel as if I am trapped in a box with very little air; I feel paralyzed in space and time. I do all the ridiculous things one does when one does not know what to do: I repeat each step, achieve the same non-result, and do that again and again. Finally, I admit that I will not be able to access the internet, that I must greet the day without my laptop: Heaven forbid!
Fortunately, I remain a reader of actual books and periodicals, a few of which I brought with me. And because I am a word game aficionado, I have some back issues of The New York Times crosswords with me. I also have a yellow legal pad, in case I feel the need to write longhand.
And then there is that most wondrous of things: one’s imagination. I turned off the laptop, and turned my back on it. I created a blended kundalini, Pilates, qigong, and somatics movement session for myself. With more clarity of mind, I remembered that I could call the owners for the password; however, I also recognized that this debacle may be a significant message in itself. How did I let myself be seduced by a device? The onus is on me to be aware of the invisible line between control of the device’s role in my life, and the device’s control of me.
I learned something else as a result of my uneasy foray into the land of no-access: I can still write a blog post on my laptop without an internet connection. (Now, if only I could load it for you to read…)