Before powering off my iPhone, I sing Siri the chorus from a Led Zeppelin tune: "I can't quit you, baby, so I'm gonna put you down for a while." Her purple halo spins, then she replies: "I never said you could."

I send a final post before going dark: "Digital Blackout this week! No cell phone, no social media, no Internet. You can reach me via land line, U.S. Mail, smoke signals, or drop by for a visit! " I group e-mail my home phone number and snail-mail address, then sit in silence for 20 minutes staring at a blank computer screen.


Robbie Jeffreys wasn't one of the kids who volunteered to participate in the Digital Blackout campaign. Rather, he had his cell phone ripped out of his soft teenage hands.

"Yeah, I've had my phone taken away a bunch of times, actually," says the ninth-grader at Scriber Lake High School in Edmonds. "This last time my mom took it away because I was being super-disrespectful." He'd been on a parent-mandated blackout for almost three weeks and agreed to be my sponsor during my self-imposed purge.

"My phone's like my baby. It was in my hands all the time. It's how I kept in contact with my friends, and lots of girlfriends," he says. I ask Mr. Heartthrob how he stayed sane while abstaining. "Well, when I think about my phone, it makes it worse. Try and do stuff to take your mind off it."

As I leave my house going cellular commando, I have dueling emotions: One is liberation, leaving it all behind; the other is the fear of being out of range, primarily in case of an emergency. I think about the times I may really need my cell: if I get a flat tire, if I have a heart attack, if someone in my family has a heart attack, or if I can't remember the name of that actor who was in My Left Foot. That's about it.

The Internet's appeal becomes quite apparent as I attempt to buy tickets for this weekend's Bob Dylan concert. Without Craigslist or StubHub, I don't have a clue how to proceed. I could scalp tix the night of, but would prefer not to be arrested. I'm left with only one choice: 1-800-TicketBastard. And that means finding a phone book, a task akin to hunting down an abacus or an 8-track player. Three disconnected numbers, $223, and 18 minutes later, I have two tickets for the show.

Typically when I'm writing an essay, I want to look smarter than I am by tying the topic into some grandiose perspective. And that means Googling it. This week I was fucked: no Wiki, no search engines. How would I include nuggets of wisdom beyond my own? Oh, right: the library.

I often pirate music and check out DVDs at the library, so I know the lay of the land. The Information Desk, however, is unknown territory. The librarian has that stern — and sexy — glare that makes it clear she's aware of my outstanding fines. A "Rules of Conduct" brochure sits on her desk like a sheriff's badge.

I manage to say a few words about my project when she directs me to the bank of library computers. "Yeah, I can't do that. I'm on a digital blackout."

Not looking up, she begins surfing the system's database. "Do you know about Dick Proenneke? He went to Alaska and cut himself off from society." Before you can say Dewey decimal, she's busily writing down numbers and titles; the woman makes Bing look like a beeper. Transcendentalist poets, Amish authors, off-the-grid living, simplicity, neurological studies. I have to literally stop her brainstorming. "Please, just show me the books."

I sit in a very tiny chair in the children's area and lose myself for hours in Henry David Thoreau's journals. I even find a quote that might make me seem wise about my newfound awareness this week: "It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"

On my way to checkout, I grab the librarian's card: Leslie Sumida, Children's Librarian. "Good luck with your project," she says with a smile before turning back to the toddler at her arm. Google's got nothing on her.

"Part of being bored is just being okay with it," my 15-year-old sponsor explains. "I just do stuff that keeps me busy. I cut wood or go to the gym or draw. In a way, my phone was a big distraction. After a while, you won't even remember your friends on Facebook or whatever."

In fact, I haven't thought of a single Facebook friend this entire week; only 16 of my now 527 "friends" do I actually see in the real world. I take Robbie's advice and go to a yoga class, where my teacher talks about something else I haven't thought about in a while: the sound of my own breath, moving into my chest and lungs.

Dragging a journal around often brings unwanted attention. "What is that, your diary?" spits a drunken inquisitor. Whereas you might think a man silently jotting his thoughts down on paper would create space for the scribe to think, it's now a strange odyssey, like finding a rotary phone, a jukebox, or a leper. "Are you grading a paper, or what?"

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7 comments
chrisanonymous
chrisanonymous

TL;DR 
OP is getting old and starts to hate on new technology.
Goes on a quest to reaffirm his POV.
Quotes Shakespeare at the end to complete ultimate cliché.

loosecannonsbluesban
loosecannonsbluesban

The possibility of a solar eruption from the Sun which hits the earth is a VERY real possibility.  A solar eruption recently occured that, had the trajectory of it been towards the earth, would have wiped out all electrical connectivity world wide, maybe even wiping a large portion of our atmosphere away!  So, we would truly have an apocolypse.  We are not prepareing for this and we really should.  Buildings should be built Hobbit style, underground with HVAC systems designed to produce water and oxygen and food in the interior.  We're like rats that when faced with certain death will busy themselves with non-important things, even knowing that the danger of dying is clear and present. 

Ted House
Ted House

I still don't have any type of smart phone, and i get by just fine thanks. No need to pay for internet on the go.

Joe Rollins
Joe Rollins

Get lost. Be less addicted to FB/Twitter.

ckrescho
ckrescho

What is the deal with that photo?

Flyer9753
Flyer9753 topcommenter

 @ckrescho 

 

Yeah that photo is more than a little creepy

 
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