It’s not easy to get away nowadays, but your inbox will wait
19 September 2011
VEGAS INC Coverage
Everywhere I looked, a message needed attention.
It was the dog days of summer, and the inbox was backed up with messages I needed to read and a whole lot I didn’t. Forwarded and replied, linked and attached. Some from familiar senders, others from folks I’d never met and never would.
Digital voice mails from my office phone were in the mix, sitting there onscreen, waiting to be acknowledged, returned or disregarded altogether.
Facebook was hopping, too, overflowing with likes, postings, birthdays and suggestions. So much activity that you actually had to check it a few times a day to make sure you didn’t miss anything truly insignificant, like where a distant cousin was eating pizza.
Over yonder on Twitter, things were bustling as well, with entertainment and sports writers tweeting and being re-tweeted in every direction. For my own part, I’d foolishly begun tweeting six months earlier, and the pressure was on to do more. But the daily routine of life does not inspire great tweets, and I’d preferred to ignore Twitter rather than send out lame missives.
Only a few days earlier, they had handed me a new iPhone, and I was already fully caught up in it: Checking for messages far too often; trying to retrieve voice mails that were starting to multiply; searching for new apps, both essential and frivolous; trying to type on a keyboard too small for human fingers; but so mesmerized by the latest technology that I wasn’t willing to turn its power off.
And there remained many more sources to check, more places where messages were lodged. For instance, one must be always vigilant for texts, a means of communication that can fall under the radar for those who spend all day on a desktop, but which have clearly become the primary medium for much of society.
So many messages to send and receive, but so little time, with something always ringing or vibrating or beeping in the background. I found myself desperate for a break from the electronic overload, needing to put all the keyboards aside, and there was just one certain way to do that.
And so I committed to an adventure with old friends George and John, to a river we all knew to be far out of signal range. When they told me what this year’s fishing destination was, I boasted to everyone at the office that I would be out of signal range for eight days. No phones, emails or texts. Don’t even try to reach me, I told everybody.
Of course, as departure grew nigh, my courageous tune changed a bit, prompted by external influences.
“I wouldn’t go on a trip like that,” said my physician during a routine visit. “I would never be more than an hour away from medical services. I’m not kidding.”
Scheduled to fly to the Arctic Circle and having arranged for a plane to drop us off on a faraway river, the plan was in fact to be several days away from any doctors, but it didn’t seem like the right time or place to bring that up.
Bundled as best we could be for rain, sleet and cold, we headed out. I was typing every stop along the way, trying to pare down the number of emails that would be awaiting my return.
When we landed in Nome after about eight hours of flying, I turned on my phone to see the message I had prayed for.
“No service,” it said at the top of the screen. It was at that point that my getaway formally began.
We fished for Arctic char all week, our fly rods continually bent with activity, letting almost all of them go, saving one here or there for dinner. There were bear signs everywhere, which kept me looking over my shoulder when it got foggy for a couple days.
The experience was a wildlife exhibit, all set in the rolling and treeless hills of the Arctic zone. The air was crisp, maybe sunny one day but windy and rainy the next. The northern lights shone like a beacon at night. The water was pure enough to drink straight from the river.
We moved our camp steadily down the river, and after eight days, we provided our GPS coordinates to a pilot, who retrieved us on a river bank.
All too soon, I was back in range, the signal once again strong. Hundreds of emails awaited my attention, but instead, I went straight to Facebook. I needed to keep up with that cousin.
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