Modern life is easy to take for granted. We become accustomed to things so quickly, and things change so fast, that it is sometimes hard to remember what life used to be like for people back in olden times. This past weekend I had the opportunity to experience life as it used to be as I took my family on a trip to a place where no one carried around any electronic devices of any kind: a gigantic modern water park.
Since my family is so comically large at this point, we get the group discount rates when we go places. This made Jay Peak’s Pump House the perfect place for a large birthday celebration. All 22 of us rolled up for 4-6 hours of wet fun, which meant that our phones were stowed in the lockers for the day and we were left to wander around, splashing about like neanderthals.
I first noticed the absence of technology about 12 seconds in, as my Facebook muscle twitched and I attempted to reach for my phone that was not there. It was unsettling to say the least. Then I saw my children having a great time, so I went to take a photo of them, but the only photo I took is a memory, stored in my faulty brain. Ah, but it’s actually more fun not to be worried about trying to photograph everything! I could swim and play, sliding down huge water slides and relaxing in the hot tub. Who needs to be tethered to tech all the time?!
I started to get really twitchy when I encountered my first long line. I walked up some stairs until I reached the back of the queue, and then I just…stood there, waiting to go down the orange slide. I waited for a few moments, and nothing happened. Then I waited a few more moments. Still nothing. I started to get antsy. Normally I would kill the time by checking my e-mail, or browsing Facebook, or at least playing some Candy Crush, but not this time. This time I just had to stand there, alone with my thoughts. Then, suddenly, the line moved! I took two steps forward! And then stopped. And waited. Again. And again. And again. For twenty minutes.
I don’t know if you know how long twenty minutes is when you are standing alone with a bunch of other people and you have no smart phone, but it is a long time. I was able to spend a few seconds planning out my next move (maybe the green slide again?), and I probably took at least two or three of the minutes scanning the place for people I knew from up on my high perch, but the majority of the time I just stood there wondering how I was going to make it all the way to top of the line without internet. I was reminded of the days of yore, back in my youth, when I would stand in lines and just…wait. I don’t know how I survived it. By the time I got to the front of the line I had come up with a really good plot for a movie that I was going to write, all of which I have currently forgotten, and I also decided that writing a blog post about standing in a long line without my phone would probably be very exciting. Shows what I know.
For the rest of the day I wandered about, seeing things that I wanted to Instagram, hearing things that I wanted to Facebook, and wondering things that I wanted to Google. The snack bar there is called “The Warming Shelter,” which I found quite odd, as it is, by far, the coldest area there. This would have been a fine thing to post to social media, but of course I couldn’t.
As I was standing in line at The Warming Shelter, waiting to get lunch with no apps to help me pass the time, the woman in front of me said to her children, quite sharply and with no trace of irony, “Do I look like I’m made of money?!” This caused me to accidentally laugh out loud, because it was such a classic parent thing to say. Have you ever found yourself saying something so parentally cliché that you can’t believe that words that have just come out of your word hole? I desperately wanted to share this thought with the entire universe, but I had no conduit to the outside world. I only had corn dogs and onion rings. And I only got one onion ring because they were so delicious that my family ate them all. Also, as it turns out, cranky mothers scolding their children do not like to be laughed at by the guy behind them in the corn dog line. But none of my online friends would ever know this crucial piece of information.
As the day wound down, Ruby decided that she was going to try out the surfing simulator, and this was the last straw. I was done swimming anyway, and I needed to capture this moment, so I caved. I went to the locker and I got my phone out. When Ruby boogie boarded her way across the generated waves, I was there to film it all. I’m glad I did. She looked awesome. And once I had that phone back in my hand, I was a monster. I started taking pictures of everything, and I checked Facebook, and my e-mail, and I texted someone just for the heck of it. I got on Instagram. I rejoined the modern age of comfort and detachment and breathed a sigh of relief, though I almost thought that I had nearly become something better, even as I felt it slip away.
On the drive home I got some tunes going on the iPod while my wife went on Yelp to find us a place to eat dinner, which we found using Google Maps. When we arrived we ordered some food, and as we waited for it to come we spent our time taking pictures of each other and looking up fun facts on the internet. We had a great time with our technology restored, and we didn’t feel suddenly withdrawn or disconnected from each other. Nobody felt anything but exhausted and happy. But even though I was happy to have my phone again, it’s also nice to take a break from it once in while, so we can remember how our ancestors used to live when they went to the gigantic modern water parks of the past.