HAWES: Traveling back to a time before tech


Kelly Hawes

As I reached for my phone for what seemed like the 50th time, it occurred to me that I really wasn’t comfortable being cut off from the rest of the world.

I had no signal, so I couldn’t call anyone. And no one could call me.

I also couldn’t check my email, and every time I launched Facebook, I saw the same post I had seen all those times before. I had no idea what was happening on Twitter.

Google couldn’t even tell me where I was.

I couldn’t send or receive text messages. It was as if I had dropped off the face of the earth.

This had all happened by accident. My wife and I were spending a Saturday night at a state park, and we had somehow wandered away from our cellular communications network.

We were incommunicado. It was almost as if we had stepped back in time to a day when people had never heard of the internet, to a time when phones hung on a wall or sat on a desk, and they had to be connected to a network of wires to be able to reach anyone at all.

I could no longer pull my phone from my pocket and fire off a message to a friend or a colleague hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

I was reminded of the 1960s, when to send a greeting to a friend you needed a postcard and a stamp. That stamp might cost only a nickel, but delivery could take weeks or even months.

A postcard mailed to Grandma from a family vacation might well reach its destination after the family returned home.

Clearly, I had been spoiled by modern technology. That contraption in my pocket could give me today’s weather forecast or the latest news from around the world.

It could also send a picture of a cute dog to everyone on my friends list, and it could order a pizza to be delivered to my door or picked up on my way home.

Using that tiny device in the palm of my hand, I could sit in on a business meeting or attend a lecture in a college class.

I could listen to my favorite team on the radio or even cast the game to a smart TV.

If I only had a signal. With even the slightest bit of a signal I could call my son to complain about the lousy officiating. We could talk about the implications of this loss for March Madness only weeks away.

But I had not even a hint of a signal. The device in my hand was as worthless as a rock.

Moments like this provide a stark reminder of just how attached I am to this lousy phone. Each time I look again at that small screen is an illustration of just how often I check to see how many of my friends have reacted to that picture of the dog or to the latest news out of Washington.

And what exactly was the latest news out of Washington anyway?

I had no idea. I was lost in the wilderness. My friends couldn’t reach me. My colleagues at work couldn’t reach me. My family couldn’t reach me.

It was like that for almost 24 hours. Sitting there in that park, we were completely out of touch. It was an unfamiliar feeling.

I was reminded of that the very next day when the phone rang just as I was about to sit down to dinner. There was a crisis at work. Dinner would have to wait.

Firing up my laptop, I took a moment to reflect. Modern technology has its advantages. Then again, so does a little time in the wilderness.

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI newspapers in Indiana.