Never Alone: Getting 'off the grid' isn't easy to do
2009 09 08

By Leonard Pitts Jr. | McClatchy


Back in May, I flew to Los Angeles. My cellphone did not.

I left it in the car, a fact I only discovered as I was lining up at security.

Had I found myself standing there in my underdrawers, I don't think I'd have felt more naked. There was this panicky sense of isolation, this disconcerting feeling of being cut off. Whenever I confessed my plight, I got looks of stark pity like you'd give someone with a terminal disease.

It was a very long five days.

So I read with great interest an article in the September issue of Wired magazine. Gone by Evan Ratliff is about people who, for various reasons, tried to go off the grid, to disappear without a trace. Ratliff's piece suggests that, in a world where we are ever more interconnected, where your whereabouts can be traced by everything from the GPS in your cellphone to the magnetic stripe on your grocery card, to the camera mounted over the ATM, a world where you can be ratted out by your e-mail account, your favorite e-merchant, your social networking site, your subway card or the sticker on your car that lets you zip through the toll plaza, it has become nearly impossible to simply vanish.

To test the thesis, Wired has embarked on an inspired stunt. Ratliff himself disappeared on Aug. 15. He's trying to stay lost for 30 days. If some reader, using clues provided by Wired, can find him within that time, he or she wins $5,000. Me, I'm rooting for the writer, not the readers.

That's not just professional solidarity speaking. Rather, it's a desire to know that what he seeks to do can still be done, that, short of moving into a cave and living off the land, it is still possible to disconnect from the world.

Those of us of a certain age will remember how The Fugitive, Dr. Richard Kimble, would arrive in some town seeking menial work to sustain him in his search for the one-armed man. He'd adopt a fake name and live in safe, albeit paranoid, anonymity for weeks until some malicious snoop or suspicious sheriff happened upon his wanted poster. Even when he was arrested and fingerprinted, it would be long hours before he could be positively ID'd, giving him time to make his escape.

All of which feels as primitive as kerosene lamps. Kimble wouldn't last a week in 2009. If they can't find you these days, you're either a genius, a hermit or they aren't looking very hard.

The world is so much with us now, an intrusive presence anonymity cannot abide. Our predilections are catalogued, our travel monitored, our faces watched, our purchases logged.

In exchange for convenience, we lose the ability to simply pull the plug and be.

Worse, if my experience with the cell phone is any indication (I suspect it is) we have been re-socialized in such a way that pulling the plug and simply being has come to feel distinctly unnatural. Cellphones have been ubiquitous for . . . what? Ten years? We've been living online maybe five years more.

In an amazingly short time, then, technology has utterly rewired our sense of what it means to be in touch.

Or am I the only one who feels as if he's in a sensory deprivation tank when he's trapped somewhere without Net access? Am I the only one who finds it hard to remember the days when you'd follow a road just to see where it went and nobody knew where you were, nobody could reach you and that was fine?

I'd love to be able to tell you I spent those cell-less days rediscovering the joys of disconnection and that when I got it back, I found I no longer needed the thing quite as much. But that would be a lie. When I got it back, my hands fairly trembled in relief.

Obviously, I am a lost cause. So yes, I am rooting for the writer. Assuming — and hoping — he hasn't been busted by the time you read this, I leave him the same sage advice Jenny once gave Forrest.

Run, Evan, run!

Article from: McClatchyDC.com



Related Articles
The man who beat Big Brother Britain: Police told they can't keep pictures of arms trade activist
'Big Brother' DNA database plan will place innocent people under suspicion for 12 years
Big Brother row as police force starts using Google camera cars to fine wayward drivers
Pubs ordered to install Big Brother CCTV cameras - or risk losing licences
Big Brother police to get 'war-time' power to demand ID in the street - on pain of sending you to jail
Big Brother only wants to help you
This project is sponsored by George Orwell and his Big Brother
Bluetooth is watching: secret study gives Bath a flavour of Big Brother
Big Brother Is Watching as He's Never Watched Before
Petcam - Strange Kitty Surveillance
UK Government To Install Surveillance Cameras In Private Homes
Pointing the US Surveillance Apparatus at the American People
Park surveillance camera can zoom in and read what you’re reading
Confronting the Surveillance Society (Video)
David Icke's Media Conference In 'Big Brother' By-Election Update (Video)
'Sin Bins' For the Worst Families
Kent Daniel Bentkowski - 'Big Sister' Hillary Clinton


Latest News from our Front Page

Chess-playing computers may cause the robot apocalypse
2014 04 23
Sore-loser chess programs might be the end of us all... In the movie The Terminator, we heard the human side of the story of Judgment Day, with the machines getting smart and seeing us as a threat. It wasn’t until the sequel that we heard the tale from the machine’s point of view, as it chose to start World War III ...
Archeologists’ findings may prove Rome a century older than thought
2014 04 23
It is already known as the eternal city, and if new archeological findings prove correct Rome may turn out to be even more so than believed until now. Next week, the city will celebrate its official, 2,767th birthday. According to a tradition going back to classic times, the brothers Romulus and Remus founded the city on 21 April in the year ...
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
2014 04 23
A Swedish MP who launched an official government investigation into the existence of chemtrails tells The Local why he thinks Swedes deserve the truth, even if it may leave some conspiracy theorists unsatisfied. "I can’t speak for other MPs, but I’ve had many, many calls over the past eight years about chemtrails. And these questions are not so easy to answer," ...
Mystery of Bizarre Duck-Like Ocean Sound
2014 04 23
If it quacks like a duck... it’s not always a duck. Scientists have reportedly gotten to the bottom of the mysterious ’Bio-Duck’ sound in the Antarctic. Here’s a recording of the strange sound (it’s kind of a stretch to say it sounds like a duck, but who are we to second guess the biologists?). --- Mystery of Bizarre Duck-Like Ocean Sound Solved By Tanya Lewis ...
’Extreme’ Carbon Dioxide Reduction will be a Death Sentence for Humanity & Planet Earth
2014 04 23
If we allow a fraudulent pseudo-environmentalist cult to control every aspect of our lives then our children are doomed to a totalitarian existence which Stalin could only have dreamed of. “The common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine ...
More News »