Worldwide Wilderness

Photo Credit: Erin Arkison

5/16/2019–I have embarrassed my ancestors.

I am just coming off a week of roughing it and made a poor accounting of myself.

The saga started while our team at SystemsGo headed off to launch rockets at Smith Point, Texas, a jut of land below Anahuac in Southeast Texas.

We were bivouacked at small resort town of Oak Island. The enclave, not brimming with amenities in the best of times, was stripped of those after storms roared through, with winds, water, and the usual flotsam that makes local TV weathercasters’ lives worth living.

While we were never in physical danger, the storms left us with no power, no internet access, and no phone service. By extension, that meant no lights, no television, no radio, and no food–both the restaurant and “convenience” store were shuttered. That may have been the worst outcome–no coffee or breakfast tacos.

Here is where my wimpy-ness manifested. My job, my title, my raison d’etre is communication. I write, send out PR, and share refreshing insights on a panorama of subjects. The entire world awaits the fruits of my thoughts scattered across the electronic wilderness.

And yet, here I sat, one foot above sea level and 100 feet from alligator-infested bayous, unable to connect with that world. I could not call, text, or email my clients to tell them why I couldn’t update their web site or post their PR. Members of our team could not text or call each other. Which made for a lot of wasted trips and a few missed meals.

What really cut was that locals didn’t seem to notice the inconvenience. When we asked for an ETA on getting electricity back, we got shrugs. No one seemed to mind. While waiting for service at the launch site, the locals broke out the dominos for a spirited game of 42.

For me, to access internet service required a 60-mile round trip to find a restaurant with free wi-fi. Inconvenient, but it beat pacing in frustration.

And this is the point in the tale where I reveal the syrupy silver lining.

Starting the second night in a hotel with no power–which was now essentially a box with a bed–I decided to take a walk through Oak Island. Staying there for the third year, I had never really looked at the town. I came across a small park, where a dozen kids were shooting baskets and playing on the swings. While chatting, they told me this was the first time in several years they had gone to the park, since there was nothing to do at home with no power.

Back at the hotel, our team gathered on the balcony, with candles balanced on the railing. We shared anecdotes of our weather challenges, sipped room temperature beverages, and marveled at the brightness of a quarter moon in a world without streetlights. There was a gentleness to the evening as we drifted off to sleep without the annoying drone of the air conditioner.

So, after three days off the grid, was there a renewed appreciation for the simpler things in life?

NO!

I cannot go back. Once you have experienced the ability to connect with every person on the planet, with access to every fact known to humankind, and have the power to create art and stories literally under your fingertips as fast as you can think, who would want to give that up?

As I write this, I am sitting in a field staring at a fence. Without connection, I am literally living the hypothetical “between you and me and the fencepost.”

It’s not a stimulating destination.

Addendum:

The high water also claimed my laptop charger. So I had to nurse a laptop with 75% charge through three more days of service. Which meant this column was written on legal pads with a gimme pen from a local bank. Another justification for learning cursive, kids. And for stealing pens.

Ironic Twist:

Aaaaand just as I was posting this, THE ELECTRICITY WENT OFF AT MY HOME OFFICE! I had to redo the whole thing! That’s not really funny, Universe!