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Off the 8's: Unplugging is hard to do

Monday - 3/10/2014, 6:45am  ET

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Just how hard can it be to stay off the phone for one day? (WTOP File)

WASHINGTON -- I unplugged for a day and survived, I think.

The whole idea of unplugging from the iMac, iPad and iPhone was part of a national campaign to get people to put down the devices that keep us plugged in and hooked 24/7. It's an innocent enough concept, and, in fact, I have unplugged on vacations in the past and lived to tell about it.

But this turned out quite differently.

At sunset on Friday, I gathered up all my high tech "stuff" and stacked it away. These things that are almost constantly in my hands and at the end of my gaze were going to be out of sight out of mind.

Well, trust me - they never were out of mind, but I also couldn't leave them out of sight. I'm an information junkie, and I am coming to realize just how much I need that little fix. I left my devices in the family room, right on top of the table next to my favorite chair. You see, most of my books are even on these devices. Unplugging had become a big deal for me. At least when I unplugged on vacation, I always had the option of sneaking a peek if I wanted. Having that comforting option was now unacceptable, but I was gonna do this -- I was gonna unplug for a day.

6 p.m. Friday - My daughters say it's "cool" that I'm unplugging, but admit there's no way they would. It's Friday night, the family is together and I'm thinking this is going to be the easiest time in the next 24 hours. I was right.

Bedtime, 11 p.m. - Ordinarily I recharge my devices while I sleep. Tonight, I'm leaving them downstairs. They're not with me. I'm thinking of them and they don't even think, much less of me. I'm wondering if there is a way to cheat without cheating. Now I'm frustrated that I'm thinking this way. Bedtime for Bonzo.

5 a.m. Saturday - I'm up and already thinking about being unplugged all day. A little wrestling with the dogs and some breakfast, and still no newspaper. The delivery guy is running late - of all days. And I bet all the stories and scores in the paper are dated. I don't know what's going on. I don't like how this feels.

6 a.m. - Still no paper and yes, I've been poking my head out the front door looking. Well, I'll turn on the TV. There's so little news on TV that I'm thinking the networks have really dropped the ball on information. TV stinks early on a Saturday morning. The dogs know I'm anxious because that's how they are behaving and I know they feed off me.

6:45 a.m. - Still no paper and now I'm thinking about all my apps that would help me catch up. Oh yeah; I asked a friend for a favor for my daughters and I'm now wondering whether he emailed back. I resist. But the urge is stronger than I would like to admit.

7:15 a.m. - The stinking paper shows up. Wow; I'm devouring the paper like its some kind of delicacy. But just like with the TV, I'm not getting enough. This isn't working.

8 a.m. - My family starts getting up and they all ask how I'm doing. I tell them I'm fine, but I know I'm not. I'm a little agitated, deep down - angry that this exercise is so darn distracting. Time to make a plan.

9 a.m. - I'm making a mental list of all the things I can do to keep busy and distract myself from being unplugged: Get in the car and get a haircut.

I should have arrived earlier. The place is packed and it's going to be a long wait. One lousy magazine and it's about hair styles. Everyone waiting, except for an older woman, is staring down at their smartphones and doing what I'd love to be doing. I watch their fingers move across the smooth screens and their eyes focused on what's before them. They text, email, read and listen and I can't.

9:30 a.m. - They call my name and I hop in the chair. For a few minutes, I am talking with a real human being and not even thinking about being unplugged. This is nice.

10:00 a.m. - Home Depot. I'm trying to find a mop for my wife, but I can't remember the name of it. I can't text or call. Whoa. I calm myself down and walk the aisles until I find it. Along the way, I notice I'm more observant of everyone else.

10:40 a.m. - Heading home. It's beautiful out and I notice all the runners and dog walkers. This must be what I'm supposed to be getting out of this little experiment.

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. - I have now caulked, put new numbers on the mailbox and finished off a list of little chores that I dreamed up. Now, it's time for lunch and watching the Yankees' spring training game from Florida.

2 p.m. - When did Manny hurt his arm last year? The Yankees pitcher is trying to make a comeback after a season-ending injury last year. I want desperately to look online for information on how he's doing. I'm now thinking the announcers are doing a terrible job of keeping me informed. I shouldn't have to be looking up this kind of information.

3:30 p.m. - Someone, I think my son. mentions a plane is missing. Thank God for WTOP. In a way, I feel like I'm cheating. But I quickly get over it.

4 p.m. - I really want to see "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" at the movies, but I'm not getting the feeling anyone else does. We plan to go out for dinner. Just two hours to go. I can't wait to wrap my hands around those iGizmos.

4:45 p.m. - One of my daughters asks how I'm doing. I'm really honest about the way that I'm feeling. She makes a great point: It's not only that I'm unplugged, it's that everyone else is plugged in, and I'm not liking the feeling of being on the outside looking in.

5:45 p.m. - We're driving to dinner and I admit that I've brought my iPhone with me because its almost 6 p.m. But everyone makes it clear there will be no iPhones at the table. Gee, where did they hear that?

6 p.m. - I did it. I'm having a beer and a great conversation. Feeling pretty good about myself. But I really want to whip out the phone. Control.

8 p.m. - I had a beer so I'm not driving home. I pull out the iPhone and check my email. Heard back from my friend. Looks like he's doing me that little favor. I reply to the email and decide that I will wait until tomorrow to do any more reading.

8 a.m. Sunday - A little coffee and some iPad time. But I don't want to jump back into the ocean of information. There's more to learn about this and I want some time to do just that.

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