Fridays Unplugged

Katy BurkeUncategorized

Many cutout snowflakes hanging from the ceiling

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On a typical morning drive to work, I pulled into the local gas station, still holding a conversation on my bluetooth. I turned off the car, transferred the call to speakerphone, and rolled down the window. 

“Fill ‘er up, please.”  

Next, purse.  But, no…no, no, no, noooo.

“I can’t find my purse.”

“Cash or card ma’am?”

“Are you serious? Do you have money in the car?” my phone echoed.

“Ughhhh, hold on.” 

“Me?” it replied.

“No, mmm, yes. Hold on.”


“I gotta go. I’ll call you later.”

“Alright, bye. Good luck.”

“I’m sorry. I’ll just have two dollars annnnnnnnd, hold on, twenty-five cents. Please.”

“You shouldn’t be on your phone.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your phone. If you weren’t on your phone, you wouldn’t have forgotten your bag.”

Well this was a first. I’d never been rebuked by a gas station attendant before (or since, by the way). Part of me wanted to say, “Listen buddy, mind your beeswax and pump my half gallon of gas.”  But, he was, to my dismay, right. I was on my phone as I left the house as well, and undoubtedly that caused the oversight. 

“You’re right. Thanks for pointing that out.”

“Yes, listen, listen. These things are ruining us. Put it down.”

“I will, thank you sir. Are you gonna give me the gas?”

“Yes, today you get gas and good advice.”

I pulled out of the lot feeling like a scolded little girl, embarrassed and humbled. More than that, however, I felt warned because I knew that I had become too attached to my phone, and though I’m no Luddite (clearly), I thought he had a fair point about the rest of us too.

I am old enough to remember childhood and adulthood without a cell phone, and for all its conveniences, I miss being free from the digital appendage. Put it this way, I’d rather lose my phone indefinitely than one of my fingers. Not sure many kids today would say the same.

Or maybe I’m wrong.  

A couple months ago, at Collection, Princeton Learning Cooperative’s community meeting, I proposed having an “unplugged hour” on Fridays. Gauging interest, I asked for a raise of hands, and nearly every hand went straight up. I would have had less interest if I offered free donuts. Wow, alright then, let’s make this happen.

Even more surprising than the high interest was how easy the “challenge” was when we were all doing it together. Friday at 1pm, we simply dumped our phones in a plastic bin and shut it away in a closet. The analog clock on the wall told us how much time we had to go. 

Kids crowded around the ping pong table for a boisterous tournament. Others took out board games. And some just enjoyed good ole conversation‒with eye contact! We decided to keep it going every week. Since then, we’ve found our favorite games (Code Names!), knitted, crocheted, read, made paper snowflakes, and did some spontaneous caroling for the kids in the next room. Unplugged Fridays have become something to look forward to as they’re both fun and restorative. It feels to the mind what home-cooking is to the body, perhaps not as tantalizing as take-out but deeply gratifying. Just a taste isn’t enough.