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“I never go on vacation,” said a Manhattan real estate agent. “And when I do, I have my computer, my Palm, my e-mail and my cell phone with me at all times.”
It seems that our tech toys have become the adult equivalent of an umbilical cord. So how can we live without them?
And what about now, when, as a good citizen, who also doesn’t want to get arrested, you at least have to endure your plane trip without their nourishment and comfort? Let’s do a checklist of tech tonics that can cause us to experience separation anxiety.
Your laptop. No more making the flight a window to catch up with your work or idle the time away with a video game. Even if you’re reunited with the high-tech marvel after the flight, what if you’re on a tropical island, marooned on the coconut garden without a high-speed Internet connection?
Your cell phone. No more last minute chats before takeoff or immediate reconnection on landing. How bereft can life get?
Your Palm or Blackberry. Can’t take either of those on board either, and, as you know, out of phone numbers and email addresses, out of business, worse yet, cut off from your entire social life, at least, for the seemingly eternal length of the flight.
Your MP3 player. No, no, anything but that! How will your soul survive the deafening silence?
And the reluctance to separate from our tech tools isn’t the only reason many Americans are reluctant to take the vacations they once flew out of their office chairs for. Most Americans also fret, in these days when what used to be called workaholic hours now seem more like half days, that the employer will use the occasion to replace you with somebody who has shown promise of never needing something as irresponsible as a vacation, at least, not one that goes on and on for that long ago and faraway interlude of two weeks.
What’s an exhausted and tense person to do? Here’s our humble but functional answer. Most years we take long weekends, with only an occasional year in which we indulge in a flagrant week or two away from our day-to-day entanglements. We find the possibility of frequent breaks inviting, and we don’t get taken out of our lives the way the extended vacations of yore used to separate us from our usual doings. We also find that most of the world is within reach during these three-day to five-day intervals.
Of course, if you’re thinking of heading to Australia or the Far East, you may be doing little more than making a U-turn, so better reserve those destinations for the rare times when you dare a week or – dare we even mention the words? – two or even three weeks?
Then again, you can always decide to move to a vacation destination forever, especially when you compare the length of the idylls in other parts of what we loosely refer to as the civilized world.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as of 2004, in the US full-time employees have 3.9 holiday and vacation weeks off a year, while in the UK they have 6.6 weeks, in France 7, and in Italy 7.9.
But do you really want to part with the good, young USA for an extended or everlasting break? For most of us the thought remains an occasion for separation anxiety that we simply can’t endure.