Early Friday morning, after a crazy week of midterms and tradeshow prep, I paced my front porch before dawn, waiting for the cab to take me to the airport. I had gotten home from class at 11 PM the night before and frantically packed for a weekend away and a tradeshow, finally crashing into bed around 1 AM before rising again at 4:30. I tossed and turned in between, fretting I wouldn’t wake up with the alarm.
To top it off, my cab was 30 stress-filled minutes late.
But Friday at noon, I rented a brand-new Corolla and drove away from all of that, windows down, hair whipping around, sunglasses framing my gaze at palm trees. I had miscalculated my layers and was sweating in running shoes and jeans, but the sweat felt so good – warm and summery.
For two hours I drove south into increasingly rural Florida. The speed limits increased as the scenery changed from Orlando sprawl to orange groves and cows.
And then I arrived. I stayed a wonderful weekend with my 85-year-old grandma at her senior retirement community, comprised of a couple hundred small homes, many of which are converted RVs. The pace of life is entirely different: my cell phone picks up only the weakest single bar of Edge network signal, and the internet is an optional expense and experience. As we watched TV Friday night, my grandma asked if I had heard anything about “that Facebook thing,” and I smiled, telling her that indeed, it’s part of my job and I’m always connected.
All day, we watched people walking and biking (and golf carting) up the street to the community center, where the pool, laundry facilities and a host of daily activities form the nucleus of the little neighborhood. A schedule of activities on her fridge lists several options for each day, from bingo and crafts to health screenings and shrimp boils.
It was exactly what I needed. I sent a couple idle tweets as we were in town to eat out, but for the most part, I was cut off, and after the initial twitching, it was bliss.
Saturday, I slept in, waking up with a face full of Floridian sunshine, and after a light breakfast, went for a fabulous run. Since the community is hemmed between a highway and a lake, my route was limited, so I zig-zagged up the streets and around a pond, and then through an orange grove, with trees dotted with fruit ripe for picking. Afterwards, I went for my second swim of the weekend, soaking up sunshine and warmth and peace.
Sunday morning we went out for a leisurely breakfast. “What would you like to do?” Grandma asked once we returned, bellies full of French toast and coffee, facing just a few hours before I had to leave.
“Sunshine,” I answered, knowing that although I would spend a few more days in Florida, I would be trapped inside a windowless, over-air conditioned convention center.
So we sat on her patio in lawn chairs, our books unopened as we chatted idly in the sunshine. We didn’t talk non-stop, and the comfortable silences were filled with enjoying a beautiful summer day – in February.
Reluctantly, I packed up the car, grabbed a couple oranges off her tree, squeezed Grandma tight, and drove north. Soon my phone dinged with emails and missed tweets, but I ignored them, trying to savor the unplugged peace as long as possible.
I need to do that more often.
How do you unplug? I often unplug for a few hours on a weekend – or an entire weekend day, when possible – but this was so much better.