There are six technological devices on my dresser, seven if you count the pair of speakers as two — those, a TV, blu-ray player, modem, router and a hand-held radio I carry between my bedroom and bathroom in the morning to listen to public radio.
I’ll admit it, I kind of want to watch a movie right now. I’m not usually home alone with so much uninterrupted time to do so. But, as I learned the one time I used a nail file and tape to indetectably open and reseal my Christmas presents, I’d only be cheating myself. My parents were away from home, and none would be the wiser. Except that wrapped gifts lose their magic when you know what they’re hiding, and I wasn’t going to spoil the zen of my no-tech weekend over a rom-com or workplace comedy. So I read.
I picked up Sylvia Plath’s Ariel, a slim book of poetry I’ve been moving around since high school. The intro was nice, about her being all elbows and “unfashionably patient,” but then I stumbled upon a word I didn’t know. My first instinct was to google.
What could “dolor” mean? It looked like an unconjugated Spanish verb or the letter D, plus “color.” A dull color? I knew a Dolores once; maybe it meant miserable.
Just then I remembered the Webster’s pocket dictionary sitting atop my pile of stuff to donate. If it could tell me what “dolor” meant, I’d keep it. And … nothing. A big letdown between the words “doing” and “dominant.” I skimmed the other entries — draft, dress, dumb. This dictionary was dumb. What kind of person doesn’t know these words? And so next I read the dictionary, to test myself.
In the A section, there were five words I didn’t know, or wasn’t totally sure of. And I realized something else about everyday words: They’re kind of tough to define. Try to describe what “any” means. Really. You know its meaning well, but it’s not exactly easy to pinpoint. The dictionary’s pronunciation guide threw me off, too. What was an ass-ist? Some kind of clown? Then my eyes came into focus and I read it correctly: assist. I didn’t bother reading B. I took a nap.
When I woke up, I read a self-help book which will not be named here, then got ready for a friend’s birthday party. I didn’t know many people there, but without the option of shying away into my cell phone, I got to know them. One described herself as a Saganist — a hardcore devotee of astronomer Carl Sagan, with a portrait tattoo to prove it — and all were enchanted, if somewhat frightened, by the prospect of going a weekend without technology.
“It sounds fun … and painful,” most people observed. And they were right.
There were pros and cons to my unplugged weekend. Honestly, it was lonely and boring at times, but it was also more focused and productive. Without the distraction that is the Internet and texting and social networking, I was able to get a lot done. I read an entire book! I took naps! I finally tackled chores I had been putting off forever because I had nothing better to do, and no one to interrupt me. It was a little frustrating to have to avoid legitimate tasks like paying bills, but I could wait.
I still managed to get in social time by solidifying all my plans ahead of time. Saturday morning I caught a friend completing a half-marathon at Red Rock. Sunday, I had plans to meet a couple of friends for dinner and, to my delight, a few more than expected showed up. It was like a surprise party for the girl without the cell phone. And I think my lack of said device allowed me to see my surroundings more fully, to hear my friends more carefully.
Still, I powered up Monday morning, checked my e-mail and went on a liking spree on Instagram. A friend texted me almost instantly.
“I got really excited to see your like on Instagram! It’s weird cause I like digitally missed you,” she said. “It’s weird how I was affected by your break … I’ve never thought about a person having a tech presence before.”
“I missed you, too!” I said. “I’m back now for good!”
It took no time at all to kickstart my Internet addiction. Later, at work, I paid bills and remembered to google “dolor.” I was glad to learn my guess wasn’t far off.
Dolor (n) - mental suffering or anguish, grief. From “dolere,” to feel pain, grieve.
Now, after manning the trenches of the unwired West, I can honestly say that to live without technology for a weekend is to live — mostly — without dolor.