A Week Without Wi-Fi

at 11:43 PM

The morning started with my usual routine -- get up, gulp a cup of coffee while checking email. But as I stared at the screen, no messages loaded. "Unable to connect" the screen announced grimly. Finally, it dawned on me. My wi-fi wasn't working.

An urgent call to my Internet provider confirmed it. The modem had failed, but a repair tech would be over to install a new one. The bad news: they couldn't come for a week.

A week without wi-fi? I may as well try to go a week without oxygen. Impossible.

As the day started, without wi-fi, I realized how every little task involved the Internet. What time is the next Muni? Who won the Giants game? How long do I boil pasta? What time is that TV show on? What's my bank balance?

But the week wore on, and a strange thing happened. Without the endless distractions of the Internet, I suddenly had more hours in the day. I found time to read real books again. I started buying the daily newspaper.  With no wi-fi, instead of emailing friends and family, I used my smartphone to actually call people. I went to cafes, not for free wi-fi, but to visit with friends face-to-face instead of over Face Time. My wi-fi network was down, but  my real-life network was stronger than ever.

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A week without wi-fi forced me to stop focusing on what I couldn't do and start noticing what I could do.

I found it was possible to simply wait for the bus, instead of downloading arrival times. I could just go to the bank. And who won a Giants game was simply a matter of eavesdropping in any public place. In fact, I discovered a little-known fact about the World Wide Web. Almost anything you want to do with the Internet can be done without the Internet.

By the time my "impossible" week ended, I was almost sorry to see the repair tech show up. And though I'm back on-line, these days, I'm less likely to get lost in that meandering, bottomless, time-warp rabbit hole of the Internet. Who hasn't casually glanced at news headlines for a moment and ended up, hours later, reading about a topic light-years away from where you started?

My week without wi-fi taught me something. Sometimes when you're unable to connect, you'll notice all the other real connections you have. And I'm glad I found out their signal strength is excellent.

With a Perspective, I'm Richard Swerdlow.

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Richard Swerdlow teaches in the San Francisco Unified School District.

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