The 24-Hour, No Electronics Challenge

By Dave Palmer

June 27th brought some fairly wicked weather to the metro-Detroit area. Thunderstorms with quarter-size and golf-ball-size hail menaced several counties, complete with high-speed winds and reports of tornadoes. While the area that I was in was spared most of the brunt of mother nature’s wrath, she did manage to plunge most of my surrounding subdivision back into the 17th century with a good old-fashioned power outage.

Like most people in this situation, my wife and I took on a kind of deer-in-headlights look as we realized that everything we had been planning to do on this fateful Sunday involved using electricity of some nature, including cooking. Indeed, I had prepared a tray of fish sticks to bake and was preheating the oven when the lights went out. Not to be separated from my choice of cuisine for the evening, I went fishing in the garage for a small propane grill, which I found and proceeded to use to cook the fish sticks. (You’d be surprised at how well fish sticks come out when grilled.)

Once we had secured cooked sustenance, it was on to entertainment. Well, crap…the internet router is not working, the computers will only last so long on their batteries, and obviously the television and Blu-Ray players both are temporarily out of commission. What is a body to do without all of our electronic amusements?

Of course, the first thing to do was to locate all of our candles and flashlights so we could actually see how many things there are around the house to tease us with their glowing eyes closed by a lack of functioning electricity. Next on the list: Entertainment!

Fortunately for us, we have a rather large collection of board games, books, and other non-electronic methods of entertainment. So, I went into the basement to find a novel I had started what seemed like eons ago, and my wife found solace in reading as well. Once we were tired of reading, we relegated ourselves to something that today’s society is increasingly having a hard time doing without the mask of social media: having an actual conversation.

Later that evening, we went to bed sans the whirring of our ceiling fan or the hum of central air conditioning. The next day, we awoke to blank clock face desiring nothing but a warm cup of coffee to ease the pain of rising earlier than normal thanks to our blank bedroom clock faces. The battery-powered clocks in the dining room told us that we really needed that coffee. Now, to turn to our old friend, Mr. Coffee…Drat! Foiled again! You get yet another round, lack of modern convenience.

Unwilling to pay coffeehouse prices, or any price for coffee other than what was on the grocery bill and the few cents it costs to fill the coffeemaker, we turned to the outdoor grill and an old-fashioned, non-electric percolator. However, lacking in the critical thinking skills necessary to combat a blustery morning and the fact that the grill was not providing enough concentrated heat to boil the water in the percolator, we turned to nearby relatives and asked them nicely to make us some coffee with their house so wonderfully lit by electricity.

We stayed and chatted for while over several cups of joe, then took our leave with a carafe full of coffee so we would not have a repeat of the past morning. Later that day, we invited one of my wife’s sisters over to join us in our “glamping.” (Whereas, you have most of today’s modern conveniences save the availability of steady electricity.) More board games and ensued until the sister took her leave, and we were back to filling our time with crossword puzzles and figuring out how to make a delicious dinner without an electric stove to cook it on or an oven to bake it in.

We were eventually saved by DTE when the power came back on, nearly 24 hours after it had gone off. Or is saved really the word we’re looking for here? Sure, it was nice to have the power back on and do a little less wondering about how to conduct ourselves in our daily lives.

However, I couldn’t help but reflect that it is because of these so-called “modern conveniences” that we were left wondering what to do and how to do it. Our society has ben so engulfed in a virtual reality of digital updates and electronic air clutter that we seem to have forgotten how to be human beings. We seem to have forgotten that if we ask nicely, others may help us out. We seem to have forgotten, or just plain eliminated, things in our life that are analog in nature and don’t require any sort of power to provide us entertainment. We have gotten to a point where we feel marooned on a desert island if we have to go even one hour without our digital world.

Therefore, I challenge each and every one of you to completely unplug yourself for one day. Just one 24 hour period, try to live without Facebook, Twitter, computers, and television. (Battery operated radios are acceptable for entertainment purposes.) Try to avoid using electricity at all for one day, save what your battery-stored power can provide. Disconnect yourself for one day, and you may realize what it’s really like to live.


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