If I can't connect with roaming, am I on vacation?

August 14, 2000|By Tim Baker

I'M OFF to Maine Friday. Two weeks on Penobscot Bay. Two weeks gazing at the shimmering waves and sparkling blue skies. I'll fall asleep to the wind whispering in the trees, then awake at first light to the call of a heron.

I won't need my Bose Wave-Radio/Stereo-CD digital alarm clock when dawn comes creeping over the Atlantic horizon. So I'm not taking it along. Not this year. No, I'm not taking any of those electronic contraptions and gadgets which permeate my reality here at home. For two weeks I'll escape the e-life for the pure and simple pleasures of rustic living.

Of course, I will have to take my Nokia 6100 cell phone. Because it's a long drive, 12 hours, and anything can happen on the way up. A breakdown, an accident, or even a flat tire and you're thinking, thank heavens you remembered to activate roaming. So the Nokia is really only a prudent exception to my otherwise absolute vow of e-abstinence on this vacation.

Except, that is, for my Internet-capable OmniSky/Palm Vx. Because how else could I use my new downloaded upgraded Global Positioning System software to find where I am on the back roads cutting across Massachusetts on my way north? It may be necessary, even though I've driven to Maine so many times I could reel off the route numbers, even if I hadn't been able to check them at www.ontheroad.com because my Hewlett-Packard Pavilion 8665C Pentium III 800MHz computer had crashed again.

But I'm certainly not taking that monster along -- not after what happened last year when I forgot my Isoter 6 Ultrasurge protector and one of those huge Maine thunderstorms rolled down the coast. That's when I finally gave up hauling my PC to Maine and bought my Toshiba Satellite 2210 CDT Intel Celeron 500Mhz laptop.

But you know what? I'm not bringing that thing along either.

How did I ever survive on vacation before I got myself digitally and electronically globalized? The question reminds me of my favorite Gary Larsen "Far Side" cartoon, "Life Before Television." A family sits around the den, mother and father relaxed on the sofa and the kids sprawled on the floor -- all of them, even the dog, staring at a blank wall.

Actually, when I go to Maine every summer, I try hard to disconnect my brain from the Web and unplug my mind from Netscape Communicator. I deliberately leave laptops and emails behind. For those two or three weeks every year, I want to experience myself, once again, outside the hubbub of my daily life at home.

In Columbia, the drone of Route 29 traffic plays both a phonic and metaphoric bass line. There, in Maine, as I watch the sun rise over Penobscot Bay, I hear no traffic at all. Only the wind, the lapping waves, the call of a sandpiper. Then the honest putt-putt of a lone lobster boat.

I experience a different consciousness when I get away to Maine. That's why I go. That's why I leave all this electronic stuff back home.

But doing this cold turkey is rough. All next week my fingers will twitch for a keyboard, and without a monitor to stare at for hours, my left eye gets this weird tick.

Don't worry about me, though. I've fought my way through e-withdrawal before. By next Friday, I'll have left the heebie-jeebies behind, and from there on it's all blue sky.

Tim Baker writes from Columbia and cannot be reached in Maine unless a file in your hand-held computer lists his cell phone, fax number or traveling email address.

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