As Jerry and I drove across the serene Sonoran desert, I noticed smoke signals near the mountains on the horizon. Puffs of dirt whooshed upward toward the clouds. We know the rising dust as dust devils but they always remind me of smoke signals. I said to Jerry, “Just think. Before email or telephones, Native American tribes used smoke signals for (long-distant) communication. I wonder if they ever had miscommunication? Maybe three puffs of smoke meant ‘we’re doing well’ and four puffs of smoke meant ‘it’s war.’ What if they meant to send three puffs and accidentally sent a fourth puff?”
What if you decided to live one year without social media? Or for that matter, live without any electronic devices hooked up to the Internet? Could you do it?
I’m reading the book (on my Kindle), What Falls from the Sky by Esther Emery, a true story written by a young woman who decides on a whim to live an entire year without the Internet. The author explains she had become addicted to scrolling and tapping. She argued with people she didn’t know in comment threads. She had lost authentic interaction with the real world.
“Can’t we sit outside?” I asked our hostess as she led us to an indoor window table. I added, “I requested an outdoor table by the creek.”
Our hostess, a young twenty-something with long flowing hair like Rapunzel-in-the-making, gave me a pouty, glum look and shook her head slowly, “Not tonight, it’s raining.”
“It’s not raining,” I said, although I knew we had arrived in Sedona to celebrate our fortieth wedding anniversary in the heart of the monsoon season. It had rained earlier in the day.
While in the hospital recovering from hip replacement surgery, my eyes opened to something I hadn’t thought of before. The EMTs, the nurses, my surgeon, and the nursing assistants didn’t need to extend kindnesses beyond their job requirements. Yet, many of them did.
“Jerry, would you like some coffee,” nurse Jackie asked, noticing Jerry seated next to my hospital bed. He said he would and that he needed ice in the coffee to cool it down. Soon Jackie returned with a giant cup of coffee and a cup of ice. Count this as one of the many things I noticed that I wouldn’t have expected. I would have thought Jackie would say, “You can grab a cup of coffee in the cafeteria.” But to get it for him? I didn’t expect that.
“Um, excuse me,” I said to our young server who had the looks and style of a Kardashian. “My chicken noodle soup doesn’t have any noodles.”
Kim, I’ll call her Kim just for the sake of not knowing her real name, stopped and inspected my soup. She leaned over for a better look.
I glanced at her, waiting for her immediate reaction, such as, “Whada’ya know! No noodles,” and whisk my soup away for a fast exchange of soup with noodles.
But Kim didn’t say anything and gave me a perplexed expression, her eyeliner and jewelry flashing dazzling sparkles in the dimmed lighting.