By Nadine Karel
I was sitting on my couch, computer on my lap, Phillies game quietly playing on TV in the background. The oven was preheating, a fan was vacillating to keep my living room cool on this late June evening. I had multiple pages open in my web browser: email, Facebook, Wikipedia.
In an instant, everything went quiet and still. I heard the click of the fan as it stopped moving, the TV screen faded to black, my computer seemed to freeze.
My head snapped up, alarmed at this sudden change in atmosphere. I laughed a little at myself when I realized that it was just the power that had shut off. I glanced outside, to remind myself that it was a beautiful summer evening, not a cloud in the sky, not a storm in sight.
"Must be some kind of fluke," I muttered to myself. "The power will be back on in a minute."
Several minutes passed and nothing happened. Hmm. I got up and walked around my apartment for a minute, completely at a loss. What in the world was I supposed to do now?
I like to think of myself as someone who does not need to be connected at all times. I don't own a Smartphone, I don't Tweet, I don't watch much TV. This is unusual for members of my generation. I'm either at the tail end of Generation X, or a forerunner of Generation Y; regardless, most members of either generation are probably more technologically dependent, and skilled, than me.
Or so I thought, until that summer evening when my power went off. A tree fell somewhere in my neighborhood, breaking a wire which then cut off power to blocks of homes and buildings. I stood at my opened window, eavesdropping on the conversation of my neighbors: "PECO is working on it. But they have no idea how long it will take to restore power."
I can deal with this, I thought. This is easy. There are so many other things that I can do! Who needs a computer, or a television?
But still, I paced. Unsettled, I lied down on my couch and stared at the ceiling. I took in the stillness of the room and wondered what in the world I did before I owned a computer. Just as quickly as I had lied down, I sat back up. Snap out of it, Nadine! I admonished myself. You do not need a Phillies game and Facebook chat to have an enjoyable evening!
And I didn't. So often, the small details of my life run on autopilot. When I'm home in the evenings, it is easy to take what I have for granted: the ability to cook a hot meal; music filling my kitchen; live, televised action from a baseball game; social networking at my fingertips. Take these things away and life suddenly becomes a little more quiet, a little more simple. And this is not necessarily a bad thing.
That summer evening, when I lost power for the night, I reframed my thinking and looked at that window of unconnected time as a gift. I asked myself, What would I do when it felt like I had "nothing" to do?
I called my mother. As the evening light waned, I rearranged furniture and hung up a poster that had been sitting in my closet for two years. I sat on my porch and talked with a neighbor. I watched lightening bugs flit around the yard. I had peaches and ice cream for dinner. I searched for candles and strategically placed them around my apartment. The light from the flames was beautiful and peaceful.
When I woke in the morning power was restored and life proceeded as usual. Well, almost. I poured hot coffee into my mug and instead of settling down on my couch and opening my laptop, I walked out onto my porch and stood there, sipping my coffee. Facebook would always be there; this summer morning would not.