By A.D. Freudenheim  

27 February 2005

Clear, blue, sunny skies. Temperatures in the 70s and 80s. A beach, extremely gentle waves, light blue waters. Plenty of drinks, and lots of beach chairs from which to enjoy them. A pool or two, and a hot tub. Cool evening air and beautiful sunsets. The sound of the Coqui frog chirping in the background after dark. Aren’t vacations a drag?


I write a lot, as anyone who reads this website surely knows, and when I travel, whether for work or pleasure, I try to make sure that my schedule leaves me the time I need: to find a quiet place, and sit and write for a while. Since I am also usually writing several different things concurrently, I do most of my writing on a word processor, where I can keep track of the evolution of different pieces of writing – and make changes to it – more effectively than I can with a pen and paper.

Few vacations go off without a hitch, and the thrill of Murphy’s Law is that while something very likely will go wrong ... rarely does one know in advance what that something will be. In the case of this recent vacation, from which I have just returned, I made a decision not to bring a computer. Leaving the laptop was a major concession – one reason I bought such a small computer was precisely to be able to travel with it easily – but for this vacation I wanted to be firmly away; I wanted the idea of e-mail to be enough of a challenge that I never rose to it; I wanted to disconnect. Nor did I want the hassle of bringing the laptop for a purpose as straightforward as writing.

I love writing outside. As much as the isolation of a home-office or the quiet of a hotel room can help me concentrate, writing outside is pure joy, and it helps stimulate my brain in ways that go beyond what mere quietude allows. And on this vacation, I did still want to write, and my Palm Pilot – equipped with a word processor, a slot for memory cards, and an extremely portable and functional keyboard – should have done the trick, as it has before. I could get the benefits of technology without the hassles or temptations.

For a day, it did just that, and an hour spent with a glass of wine and the evening breeze was productive indeed. On the second night, however, it all changed: in the middle of writing, the Palm’s screen flashed brightly, and then with another flicker, returned to the most basic of Palm Pilot screens: a confirmation of my location, date, and time. Everything I had been working on was gone, every change I had made or idea I had jotted down, was gone. In fact, everything on the Palm Pilot had been erased, calendars and contact information and the arcana of jots and doodles on its Note pad system, and even the most vague hint of a word processing program. Vanished.

Thank god for that glass of wine. Likewise for the back-up I made of the whole system before I left town.

What I lost in this little fiasco are a bunch of ideas that I can probably regurgitate, over time; the article I had planned to post today, of which I now have only the same small starting stub that I had written before I left New York (along with my own sense that, surely, if I wrote it once I can write it again); and the calm of the vacation, that was briefly lost, too, as I tried to figure out what had gone wrong and whether I could fix it. (The answer was no.)

I took all of this as a sign – that my instinct to leave the laptop had been the right one, and that I should probably have gone one further and left the Palm Pilot (or, at least, the keyboard) home, too – and also as a reminder that, by and large, these things are not the end of the world. Inconvenient, a nuisance, perhaps even frustrating (what if I’d needed a phone number?), but definitely not the end of the world. In fact, the problems we had on the last day of vacation, including a breakdown of the bus taking us to the airport, and then a breakdown of the airplane that was supposed to take us home, were more frustrating and more serious.

I love to write, but this experience was a good indicator that I can survive a vacation without the technology I normally use to do so. Not to mention a reminder that if that equation ever changes, I know I will be in big trouble indeed.

  Copyright 2005, by A.D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
This page is part of: The Truth As I See It.