I traveled back in time last week. Back to my hometown.
A trip back to the Walrus family homestead is always an adventure, and a bracing reminder of how far we’ve come in the last few years. It’s stepping into the Land that Time Forgot.
Walrustropolis is a little town in the great American small-town tradition. About 2,000 souls, not a Starbucks in sight. Two stoplights — up from one just a few years ago.
The newspaper comes out once a week, the nearest TV stations are 90 miles away. The post office is more popular than the World Wide Web as a source of information.
Internet cafe? You might as well ask directions to Alpha Centauri. “Well, I don’t know what that inter-thing is, but if you’re hungry, we’ve got the truck stop out by the Interstate.” Or there’s the McDonald’s that’s been there for about a decade. Along with the Dairy Queen, that’s about it.
There’s a hardware store. Not Lowe’s, not Home Depot, not even an Ace. Nary a big box casts a shadow on the streets. There’s no Best Buy, no Target, no Costco. Believe it or not, there isn’t even a Walmart.
We went to see my grandmother, whose home is solidly based on 1970s technology. The woman doesn’t have an iPod, but she does have an 8-track player. Doesn’t use it, but by golly, she still has it. Computer? No need. She has a telephone she can use to communicate with. Not a cell phone, mind you — a good old-fashioned landline that works quite well.
And if you’re thinking about poaching an Internet signal from the neighbors while you’re there, forget it. They don’t have it either. You’ll have to trek to the aforementioned McDonald’s for a wi-fi signal — even though a befuddled cashier told my wife “waah faah? I don’t have any idea what you’re saying” the first time she asked about it. Never mind the sign on the door that said “Wi-fi inside.”
It’s basically a forced trip back to a simpler time. Without constant access to news, weather, tweets and status updates, the transition can be jarring at first. But it soon becomes nice to unplug briefly from the daily information feed.
It’s fun to relax without the constant interruptions of email, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and all the other demands in our hyperlinked world. But only for a while.
Truth is, our connections, if curated wisely, can make us better informed, keep us up to date with people we care about, and generally make life easier. After a day or so, doing without the modern conveniences starts getting old.
And we did take one step to bring my grandmother into the 21st century. We replaced her 19-inch old-style television with a nice 32-inch flat screen. What were her words as I carried the old set out to await the trash man?
“Here, let me help you with that.”