Last winter I blogged here about an experiment. It involved my plan to turn our newly acquired weekend place, a farm west of town, into a television-free haven of good old-fashioned family togetherness. As you might imagine, fighting back the onslaught of modern technology has been a challenge. Actually, challenge is too nice a word. It’s been an aggravating, tense and uncomfortable battle, at times leading to the very kind of separatism my beloved Unplugged Policy was meant to eliminate.
But I’m not giving up. In the face of mobile access to Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and all other manner of apparently irresistible content, I’m redoubling my efforts.
“If one more person tells me to look at something funny on their cell phone, I will hit them,” I announced to the family last week. It was an idle threat. As adults, the kids know it’s a little late for their father to embrace corporal punishment. But it did make an impact. They all began hiding in corners whenever the need arose to guffaw over a leg-humping ferret or some hapless daredevil’s latest painful fall. I couldn’t have been more pleased, at least temporarily.
I’ve been told I should be satisfied that there’s no TV room at the farm, that I should just be glad the couches won’t be overflowing with large, slack-jawed men watching football before, during and after the Thanksgiving meal (a longstanding family tradition). But I’m not happy, not yet. I know from experience that where there’s Wi-Fi, there’s a way. I know that every one of us, if able, will be consulting our gadgets approximately 500 times over the course of this special day, a behavior that will render the day not special, but altogether ordinary.
Owing to an agreement with a neighboring farm, the barns now teem with livestock large and small. There are shaggy Scottish highland cows, enormous Berkshire hogs and enough chickens to elicit a comment from a 4-year-old who lives a half mile away. “We sure do hear those roosters,” he noted, no doubt echoing less diplomatic observations made by his parents.
Amidst the noisy fowl roams a great big turkey, a springtime joke perpetrated by the locals, who wanted to see how long it took city folk to notice a chicken that gobbles. We’d thought it might be nice and old-timey to eat this bird at Thanksgiving. Now I’m not so sure.
It’s not the act of “harvesting” the animal that gives me pause. After a year on the farm, I’ve grown accustomed to that kind of thing. No, the problem is, I’ve started to see this outsized oddball as a kindred spirit. She lives among creatures of a whole different species. Day after day, she squawks her foreign language and gets not so much as an acknowledging cluck in response. I look at her and see me.
On the turkey’s behalf and mine, I feel an overwhelming need to assert that having a few unique attributes and requirements is not a capital crime. That’s why, come next week, I’ll be giving that old girl a full pardon and celebrating this holiday with a little strutting of my own.
To whit: I hereby decree that on Thanksgiving Day, our family and guests will observe a three-hour abstention from any technology more advanced than a hand-cranked eggbeater.
Let’s hope the screams aren’t loud enough to prompt another complaint from the neighbors.