The Disadvantage of Digital

9 Aug

I’m an unapologetic convert when it comes to reading digitally. I adore my nook and take it with me everywhere. But I recently discovered a major downside: those 20 or 30 minutes on the airplane at take-off and landing when you have to turn off all of your electronics.

I travel a lot, and since I live in Alaska, getting anywhere takes a long time. (Just to give you an idea, it takes me about 15 hours to get to the east coast, usually with 2 or 3 stops on the way. Coming back is worse, 24 to 36 hours with an overnight at the airport.) Anyway, I have the whole travel thing down to a science. I get a window seat, put on my slippers, stick in my earplugs, and start reading.

Since I’m an introvert, curling up in the corner with a book sends a clear message: I am busy and do not want to hear about your gout / how small the seats are / your most recent grandchild. I just want to read, so leave me alone. The earplugs, of course, dull the noise of wailing babies. And my nook lets me read all sorts of non-child-approved fiction without revealing my secret inner vixen.

But what about those 20 minutes during takeoff and landing? OMG! No e-reader! I can’t even pretend to be reading because the flight attendant will ask me to put it away even if it’s not turned on. So I sit and count the minutes until I can turn on my approved electronic device and not cause the plane to crash. Or whatever awful thing will happen if a cell phone rings or someone listens to an iPod.

I am grumpy because I was just getting to the good part in the book when I had to turn it off. Of course, with erotic romance, there are a lot of good parts. But that’s not the point.

The gentleman sitting next to me asks me where I’m going. I smile, mumble something, and look out the window. To my mind, this is a very clear leave-me-alone message. The gentleman persists and asks me what I do for a living. I lie. Sort of. Then, because I know I should try to be nice, I ask him what he does. He tells me. In excruciating detail. I smile as I dig around in the back-seat pocket for something to read.

Damn, someone’s already done the crossword in the in-flight magazine. In pen. Badly. I stuff it back in the pocket and pull out the latest edition of “Sky Mall.” No, I still don’t need a kitty playpen, a marshmallow shooter, or a clock shaped like Darth Vadar. I stuff the Sky Mall catalog back into the pocket.

The gentleman seems to be running out of things to say. Maybe he will ask me for my name or my card, both possibilities to be avoided at all costs. I consider pulling out the air-sick bag and pretending to use it, but discard this idea as a bit extreme. I gaze hopefully at the “fasten seat belt” sign and attempt to force it to go off with the power of my brain waves. I am unsuccessful.

The gentleman is now smiling at me in a mildly creepy way. I wonder if I am just over-reacting. But then he asks me why my husband isn’t traveling with me. Alarm bells now begin going off in my head. Is this man actually hitting on me? I glance around, certain that he must be talking to someone else. He’s not.

I consider possible answers. Lying sounds like a good idea. “My husband is a heavyweight boxing champion and he has a big fight coming up.”

Alternatively: “I buried my last husband in the back yard and haven’t remarried yet.”

Or: “My ninja co-husbands will be waiting for me when the plane lands.”

I discard all of these responses and instead smile–but not in a happy way–as though the gentleman has made a joke in poor taste. I don’t say anything.

He is just about to rephrase the question when the flight attendant’s voice breaks through like a ray of sunlight during a thunderstorm. “It’s now safe to use approved electronic devices,” she says.

Faster than a striking cobra, I yank my reader out of my purse and turn it on. The gentleman is momentarily distracted by the small child attempting to crawl over the back of his seat. I take the opportunity to turn toward the window and start reading. I try to look very interested in my book (this is not difficult). After a few moments, my neighbor gives up and pulls out “Sky Mall.”

I give a sigh of relief and lean my chair back. Somewhere a small child is shrieking, but I can’t hear it. I’m reading. Finally.

7 Responses to “The Disadvantage of Digital”

  1. Cassandra Hernandez-Ruiz August 9, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    That guy sure was persistent. The magic of books. Great post.

    Cassandra @ Book & Movie Dimension

  2. Marilyn Campbell August 9, 2011 at 8:50 am #

    Very entertaining AND way too familiar! Thanks for sharing Erica.

  3. JenB. August 9, 2011 at 8:51 am #

    I was on a flight recently. I too had my reading. Knowing about the electronics blackout, I had brought a paper book (the Kindle was in my carryon). My book was, shall we say, not appropriate for the young, those with weak hearts and those with sticks up their butts. So, I had covered the book with a nice stretch bookcover (see reasons above) and I made sure not to hold it too far from my body so that prying eyes could not read over my should. I wouldn’t want to offend the intruder! Of course, I ended up with chatty Cathy sitting next to me. I was polite. I engaged as needed but repeatedly looked back at my book to signal my desire to read. That’s when she did it. That’s when I knew that she had peeked. I sighed and closed my book. What did she do, you ask? She told me that she normally carries her pocket Bible on board to read but decided to pull her teaching Bible out of her carryon to read on this flight. Then she told me all about how she had converted to Christianity and taught all over the world and how the Word would make anyone feel more complete. Sigh! Needless to say. I got no reading done on that flight. Some days are just like that. And my daughter sat next to me the whole time with her headphones in “listening” to whatever—because she had forgotten to charge her DSi and iPod!

  4. anny cook August 9, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    So, I’m sorry but I don’t understand why you couldn’t share what you do for a living. I tell anyone who asks that I’m an author. If they persist, I mention I write romances. If they still persist I admit I write erotic romances with a lot of sex involved. At that point, they usually back off.

    If a man is persistent, I also brag about how my husband is an enthusiastic research assistant…

    Since I’m nearly 62, that usually does the trick.

    • Erica August 9, 2011 at 11:26 am #

      Let’s just say that discussing sex was not where I wanted to go with this man! Also, I’m a pretty private person, and I don’t choose to share that part of my life with strangers.

  5. naramalone August 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    I love my Nook too. You can’t read them in airplane mode?

  6. Crystal Kauffman August 12, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    I love it! “I buried my last husband in the back yard and haven’t remarried yet.” Too funny.

    I have a kindle and love it dearly, but what I’ve found is it’s hard to flip back in pages to figure out a fact or a ‘who was that character again?’ and the ‘go to last reading page’ doesn’t seem to work on all books.

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