They say you can tell if a storm is getting closer by counting how long it takes to hear thunder roll in after each lightning bolt. And on a dark and stormy night not so long ago, when a massive summer tempest was brewing, the thunder and lighting were popping almost instantaneously.
Suddenly, a powerful bolt hit the side of the McCurry house (or at least very close to it), causing pandemonium inside for the residents. The children were frightened, but no damage was apparent, so everyone went back to bed. As the time increased between each strike, they knew the storm had passed them by.
When the morning sunshine came, however, they discovered that not all the remnants of the storm had passed. One of the TVs would turn on, but blinked every 45 seconds. And the Wii games would only play without sound! A quick and frantic scan of the house revealed that those were the best-functioning electronics. Reaching the last TV and finding it unresponsive, they finally understood the terrifying truth: all the TVs and electronics were blown!
With surge protectors on almost everything, how could this have happened? Lightning had surged through the phone line to the AT&T box, causing everything that was connected to it to get damaged.
This was the beginning of our year-long cleanse — life without Internet and cable. Yes, that’s right: a whole year! Can you imagine going a year without TV? At the time, we couldn’t, either. But it was forced upon us cold-turkey. In an instant, we lost all the shows we had earmarked to watch. And no more channel surfing or aimless web browsing. Getting the computers working on our phone’s WIFI hotspots wasn’t always easy, but it was helpful in a pinch.
Yes, it does sound a lot like living as the Amish do … but as our family discovered, there are benefits to having a simple life without relying on ubiquitous on-demand entertainment.
Finding the games tucked away in the closet was one of those benefits — especially Monopoly. It certainly teaches your children to be landlords and not tenants! Reading books also became one of the most popular activities in the house. A quiet home without the constant background noise was an unexpected but welcome blessing.
Of course, a year is a long time. Homework was made more difficult when Internet pages wouldn’t fully load on the computer via our phones’ hotspots. Missed Bears and Viking games were hard, too — although we seemed to find a way to get invited to the occasional Sunday afternoon game. And over time, the children forgot all about the addicting sounds of Mario Brothers! (I’m not sure that was a bad thing!)
Today, our Internet is up and running again, but we recently decided that we would pull the plug altogether on cable. No, we’re not totally going off the grid again — we’re just a little more choosy about what put on the TV. An HD antenna powers all the local channels (and more) for free! Yes, free! And we are using Netflix for streaming movies. It feels good to kick the cable to the curb.
Today, we still live our lives with that forced reset in our memories, taking time to enjoy the non-digital (and far more important things) in life. It shouldn’t have taken a lightning strike to make this decision … but I’m certainly glad it happened.
Mike is a village of Clarendon Hills
resident; husband; Indian Princess; Indian Guide Dad; a Coach; an “old” football player and a real estate broker. Mike’s columns are usually crafted about the buzz in and around the area. It sometimes has a spin on real estate or cultural information, highlight a new business or announce school happenings. He might include a “get-to-know” about some of our interesting residents and even a little about history. Whatever it is, it is sure to be about the “Talk of the Town”.