Off the Grid

Three weeks in Abu Dhabi and the novelty of living life “off the grid” is wearing off.   Having no internet connection, no postal address and no clue of where I’m going or coming from whilst driving around did hold certain attraction for me at first.   That first few days living in glorious isolation cut off from the rest of the world, with nothing, apart from TV and a mobile phone and a built-in sat nav in Arabic, were sheer bliss.  Without access to my email and my trusty accomplice, Google, I was excited that my new state, would prove liberating and I had planned using the time to develop other communicative and informative resources, like reading maps, conversation and telephoning friends.

Having been accused by my family several times of being addicted to my baby, sorry laptop, I was as eager to prove them wrong, as I was to prove to myself that I could live without internet connection (for a limited period ).  I would like to point out that no-one in my family has ever accused me of being addicted to the hoover, the iron or the dishwasher, despite me spending an equivalent amount of time using these. 

Not naïve to the invaluable attributes possessed by the internet, I lodged my application with Etisalat, Abu Dhabi’s telecom company, the efficient sounding assistant, guaranteed connection within five to seven days,  I felt satisfied that my experimental isolation period would be complete by then and that normal communication would resume.  

By the end of week one, I was proud of my achievement to have survived without internet. I learned that map reading was not my forte. I also learned that I had forgotten how to just sit and read a book, I kept glancing the right of the page expecting “Living Social deals in your area” to pop up, or “take a personality test in just 3 mins”.  However, I was most surprised when I realised that this was the first time in years, I had knocked on a neighbours door.   While internet connection was keeping up to the date with my online life, I wondered was it in fact isolating me from real life? With no Wi-Fi available in any of the cafes or malls that I hadn’t missed the turn for, I now felt cleansed of any previous addiction and was keen to start fresh, wean myself slowly back online. I had gone cold turkey and was ready to come back. Telephoning Etisalat, the polite assistant confirmed that they had my application and it will be five to seven days.  

By the end of week two, I was showing acute signs of withdrawal I had taken to bringing my iphone around the compound at night to pick up on any unlocked broadband signals.  I felt tetchy if I couldn’t get out and irritable with poor or low connectivity alerts.    Then I found it, in Zone 6 “Ahmed  Jufeiri – Unsecured Wireless Network – Connectivity excellent”.  Like heroin to an addict, I felt the euphoria as I clicked on my inbox and saw, “downloading message 1 of 57”.  What a high, back online.  Reading the two messages that weren’t spam, I felt satisfied that my online life was in order. Telephoning Etisalat, the annoying assistant confirmed that they had my application and it will be five to seven days.

Week three wasn’t pretty, two residents in Zone 6 complained about a woman lurking around suspiciously at night and one day there was 14 litres of milk in the fridge, each litre an excuse to leave the house and log on.  With my shaking hand, telephoning Etisalat, the absolutely useless assistant confirmed that they had my application and it will be five to seven days.

Now entering week four, numbness has set in.  I check my email every day outside the house in Zone 6 and the people on that street, now bring their children inside when they see me coming.  Curtains are pulled and blinds are drawn. My inbox is up-to-date with nothing significant and yet I yearn to be back in the fold.  Hollow, I phone Etisalat, the voice confirms that they had my application, I will have connection tomorrow.  What is left of me, whispers – Hurray!



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