My family visited a town where cell phones are not allowed. Not having service made me a more present father.

My family visited a town where cell phones are not allowed.  Not having service made me a more present father.
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Anna Rollins' children riding a boat

Anna Rollins

  • My family visited Watoga State Park in West Virginia, where cell phones are not allowed.

  • When trying to text a friend, I discovered there was no signal.

  • The park is near a large telescope, so the area is considered a quiet zone for devices.

We started the summer by taking a trip to the “Quiet Zone”. After a month of shift work, runaway fevers in young children, and canine diarrhea, my husband rented a cabin in Watoga State Park, West Virginia, for a getaway. We would boat, fish and swim in the lake. Afterward, we would hike trails through the Allegheny Mountains with our two young children.

When we got to the park, I saw a message on my phone: A friend had just given birth to a baby girl. I wrote my congratulations. When I pressed “send”, I received a notification: “Message could not be delivered.”

“Oh,” my husband mentioned casually as he turned onto the tree-covered main road. “There’s no cell service here. In fact, it’s illegal.”

Although the area around Watoga is a secluded area, it is far from backward. Quite the opposite: Cellular service has been banned due to the area’s proximity to the Green Bank Observatory, home to the world’s largest fully steerable telescope.

no signal at all

The telescope can detect radio emissions light years away. To prevent our ground-based devices from interfering with scientific research, the government has declared the 13,000-square-mile area, most of Pocahontas County, West Virginia, surrounding the telescope as the National Radio Quiet Zone.

My first impulse, of course, was to pull out my phone to Google for more information. Instead, I found myself with a strange desire to talk to other people in the park about it.

One person who grew up in the area described the particular teen pastime of driving to specific mountaintops to gain access to cell phone towers in neighboring counties. Another about how nice it was to live at a slower pace and without distractions.

Like many people who live outside of the Quiet Zone, I struggled with my relationship with my devices. I tried various tricks to reduce my consumption: usage alerts, deliberately “missing” them, and self-censorship.

While I wasn’t about to wallow in embarrassment at relying on technology that, in fact, made the already difficult job of being a parent that much easier, I fantasized about earlier times.

Our trip to the Quiet Zone reminded me of what life would be like with a longer attention span.

improved my upbringing

When we entered our cabin, clean and rustic with the luxury of modern conveniences, it was dinner time. As I started unpacking and boiling water on the stove simultaneously, my toddler who was potty training had an accident on the kitchen table.

“Mommy, I peed myself,” she cried.

Immediately, I took my phone out of my back pocket. I realized that I was conditioned to do a quick scroll, for a dopamine hit, before facing the chaos of life. But my phone couldn’t give me that convenience, so I had to deal with the clutter entirely.

After dinner, we went for a short walk. We randomly picked a trail that my son requested. His justification: “We go this way because it is more beautiful.” I realized that this review was better than anything I could have found in an internet search.

When we woke up in the morning, my son was lying next to me in bed. Instead of reaching for my device on the nightstand, I turned to him. He was still asleep. I heard the sound of rhythmic breathing from him. I looked deeply into his face, the hills of his cheeks, the valleys under his eyes, and studied the way the light from the slatted blinds outlined his complexion.

In this silence, I returned to the experience of being fully present. For me to be fully here on Earth, others had to look up to the stars.

Read the original article at well-informed person

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