Imagine a town with no WiFi, no cell phones or cordless phones. Write a short story in which your main character resides in a town with similar restrictions. Is living off the grid a choice? How do the daily tasks and communication of your character differ without the convenience of the tools and technology we often take for granted?
Getting on the bus was the easy part. Getting off the bus was the second easy part. Staying in this backward town was not so easy. I came from New York City. One of the busiest cities in the world. Everywhere one turned there was an electronic billboard or people walking like zombies. Cell phones glued to their hand.
I was so tired of people and their technology. I had even been swept away by it. I had the latest computers, cell phones, televisions and apps for them. I had a smart phone and a smart TV.
Then one day I got tired of it all. I felt mindless. Lost. People online were even more vindictive than people face to face. They always claimed to be available but when I needed them, they suddenly were not. Phones glued to their hand, but they were unable to answer my call or respond to my text. But when I didn’t respond, all hell broke loose.
So, I sold all my high tech devices. Another crock. It costs a fortune to buy these items. Yet selling them, even when they are practically brand new, it sells for a pittance of the original price. I bought an old fashioned flip phone to keep just for emergency purposes.
And I moved. To a small town that banned all electronic devices. Everything was done like it was before the invention of cell phones. Landline phones. Handwritten letters. Neighbors visited each other. Cars were simple too. None of those fancy computer chips. No touchscreens. No Bluetooth connections or WiFi. No internet was allowed in this little quiet town either. People here lived a simpler life. I had grown up with the technology boom. Could I survive without it? I was about to find out.
Hours later, I had settled in my rented and furnished home. Kitchen appliances were simple but worked. There was a television but it looked like it came out of the 70s or 80s kicking a screaming. It was one I vaguely remembered as a child. With a huge stand encasing the TV. There was a remote and when I checked, it only got the basic channels. No cable.
My first days were easy. I got up, had a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Dressed and went to work as a grocery stocker. It was simple work and I didn’t interact with people other than the odd customer not sure where an item was located. It didn’t take me long to know the regulars from the visitors.
At night, I came home had dinner, watched a little TV or read a book and went to sleep before repeating the process the next day.
Neighbors came by and introduced themselves. I was polite but kept to myself. They stopped coming around and even stopped trying to say hello to me if they passed me on the sidewalk.
After about a month, the withdrawal from the instantly connected world was getting to me. Other than newspapers and the local news reports, I had no idea what was happening in the world. It would be easy for me to hop a bus and go to a neighboring town that allowed technology on my day off, but the whole point was to push through this. And if I did, I would be tempted to use technology in this forbidden location.
People lived thousands of years without the technology of today and they survived just fine. One could argue it was that you couldn’t miss what you didn’t know, but they survived all the same.
Like a drug addict, I cracked. Two months later, I boarded a bus. Went to the next town. Bought a cheap laptop and used smart phone. The rest of the day, I spent in a coffee shop getting my fix. Then I returned home. My items hidden in my bag like contraband.
Soon, I was fully addicted. I was sneaking around my house using the technology. Blinds pulled tight. While there was no WiFi in this town, there were limited cell phone towers. Mostly at the edges of town to catch people driving by and not into the town. I was able to hook up to my mobile network and get a weak connection. Many times, I packed the technology away. Buried it deep in the back of my closet. But to no avail. It was soon out again.
Then the inevitable happened. There was a knock on my door. I knocked over my glass of water. Luckily it missed my computer. Peering out the peephole, I saw the sheriff and his deputy. Dashing around, I quickly hid my banned electronics before opening the door.
I was told to pack all my things. They were taking me to the bus station. I was to board the first bus that came and never return. When asked why, they showed me documents that traced illegal cell phone use to me at this house.
While they waited in the living room, I packed all my clothes which was all I came with into my suitcase. I put the banned equipment in the suitcase as well. Then I was escorted by police car, no sirens, to the bus station. People were outside watching our progression. It almost felt like a funeral. Mine.
I bought a bus ticket and boarded the very next bus. Back to New York and the loud busy life for me. Getting off the bus into the loudness of the city was almost a culture shock after the quiet of the small town.
It had been a hard lesson learned. I would never go without technology, but I did learn to curb it and not let it control me. I controlled it.