Chris Johnson

Twenty minutes without electricity

As I was coming back from lunch one day this past week, I noticed that the traffic lights weren't working. I also noticed that some of the stores along the way did not seem to have any lights on.

Oh no, I thought. What if the power is out at the office? Whatever will I do?

If I worked totally alone, this wouldn't be an issue. Whatever would I do? Well, I'd prop my feet up on the desk and snooze until the power returned. But I work with other humans, several other humans. That means, gasp, I might actually have to talk.

Indeed, it was out for about 20 minutes, and I had to verbally catch up on what folks had been up to. They didn't post to my Facebook Timeline or ask me for a Linked In reference or Tweet at me. We simply talked.

I must admit that I'm not a fan of casual conversation. I cringe when someone starts a conversation with something like, "Nice weather we've been having, ain't it?" If someone wants to talk about the weather and get my attention, their opening statement should be, "Hey! Check out that funnel cloud!" Then I'll be interested.

Nevertheless, you can go too far the other way in completely avoiding all conversation, casual or otherwise. Our idea of socialization has been reduced to Tweets, pokes, emails and invites to play Scramble My Angry Zombie Farm.

So, we talked. For several minutes. In today's fast-paced electronic world, that's an eternity of talking. That's like a filibuster. Several minutes of talking 30 years ago would have been considered a moment.

It turned out to be a good thing. Who'd have thought you could settle an issue in 60 seconds face-to-face that might have taken a half-hour of emails back and forth from computers 50 feet from each other. Maybe we're not as efficient as we think we are sometimes.

Though the power was out for only about 20 minutes, that's enough to strike fear into me. I worry that our society has become a little too dependent on technology, while at the same time being one of those who contributes to that very worry.

Now, I'm not one of those who used to walk to school in the snow, uphill both ways. That's ridiculous. It hardly ever snowed in Possum Holler where I grew up. But I did once have to warm up Spaghetti-Os in pot instead of a minute in the microwave. I used to have to rewind a

cassette to get to my favorite song instead of hitting a button on Spotify. I used to have to open a map (and try in vain to fold it back) to figure out where I was going before we each had a GPS to get snotty about "recalculating." And heaven forbid I ever have to use a typewriter instead of a computer. Or a pencil.

What would we do without electricity? The electricity that allows us to Tweet, email, listen to Spotify, microwave Spaghetti-Os and get our GPS recharged? I can't imagine. I'd like to thank Benjamin Franklin for being crazy enough to fly a kite in a thunderstorm and discover electricity. Although, if he knew we'd become so dependent on it, he might just have gone back to bed and called it good sleeping weather.

Twenty minutes of casual conversation is about all I can stand for 2012. Although, it is nice weather we've been having, ain't it?

Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. He can be reached at