Thursday night, I left my happy home to spend a weekend in Oak Brook, Illinois, at the Illinois Speech and Theatre Association annual convention. ISTA is a tremendous opportunity for speech and theatre teachers like myself to connect, share resources, find new ideas, and even just have a good time. In addition to packing the usual stuff like, oh, clothes and shampoo, I also made sure to pack up my trusty ol' laptop. I figured that there would surely be some downtime during the convention (I remembered that being the case when I had gone before) when I could deal with e-mail and get some work done in terms of lesson planning, for which I would need the Internet. Surely the hotel would have WiFi, I thought, remembering the lovely hotel I visited for State last February and the hours I spent on Facebook one evening. We reached the very lovely Oak Brook Marriott (located conveniently right across the street from the Oak Brook Place mall) a little bit before 8:00, so I checked in and headed upstairs to get settled in. The first thing I did was sit down at the desk and plug in my laptop.
And that's when my world fell apart.
At first, my computer quickly located a network connection and I began my attempt to navigate my way to Hotmail, thinking I might spend a little time working on my farm in Facebook after checking my e-mail. Suddenly, my browser took me away from Hotmail and off to a site asking me to select my payment method. I found out that, if I wanted to use the Internet at this hotel, I would have to pony up $15 a night for the honor. Ummmmmmm, nooooo. $30 seemed a bit excessive, particularly since a large part of what I wanted to do on the Internet involved work. I was not going to PAY to do my JOB.
And so began the longest 48 hours of my life. While I managed to function without the Internet for those two days in Oak Brook (and it probably helped that Friday was so busy that I was utterly exhausted that evening and fell asleep within seconds of stating my intention to do so), the first thing I did when I walked through the door of my house was get the laptop out and get online. In that moment, I realized how integral the Internet has become in my life. It's how I communicate, get information, entertain myself, and even do my job. Fifteen years ago, I didn't even know it existed, and now, I have a hard time existing without it. Addiction may be a bit strong of a word to use, but it may be the closest to describing how I felt in that moment last night when I finally let out a huge sigh of relief as I checked email, harvested my crops, and downloaded a couple Phish shows. While I recognize the addiction, the problem is that I'm more than happy to wallow in that addiction because I also realized this weekend that life can get a little boring without the beautiful distraction of the Internet.