As the passengers boarded the flight, the scene was typical of any flights I have taken in the past several years. As people stood in line, slowly walking onto the jetway, heads were down as people were focusing their attention on their phones.
This caught my attention only because it wasn’t just a few, it was almost everyone. It may seem natural these days because that is how we consume information, communicate, or entertain ourselves. It’s like parking your white car and seeing that most of the cars in the lot that day are white. Or stopping into your local pub and everyone is drinking the same beer. For my friends at Bart & Yeti’s up in Vail, Colorado, they know this all too well, they refer to Budweiser as the house red, and you can see just how many people are drinking the house red as you walk in.
The flight I was boarding was a four-and-a-half-hour flight. We all boarded, and I was scanning the plane seeing almost everyone with their faces buried in their phone. Again, no issue with this as the productivity is awesome allowing us to connect with family, friends, coworkers and customers.
There was a period of time where the internet connection is lost. It’s not until we are about 10-15 minutes in the air when we can usually connect to the Wi-Fi. What happened next could be upsetting to some of you, so please continue reading with caution.
Many of the travelers were trying to connect a phone or a laptop to the Wi-Fi. Heads started to pop up as passengers craned their neck to look around to see if others were also having difficulties connecting. And I was right there with them, looking around for the flight attendant, hoping someone could save the day. Passengers were pressing the call button in a panic. I mean can you imagine the horror, being trapped on a four-and-a-half-hour flight with no access to the outside world? What will happen? What will we do? Yikes.
With the exception of a couple passengers who continued to try and get the flight attendants to try and reset the system — one passenger almost begging as she “had a lot of work to do” — everyone else did something else, they said “No Wi-Fi, no problem.” I heard more conversations taking place than I had in a long time. I saw people reading on an e-reader or they had an actual book. One gentleman sitting near me took out a notebook and was capturing his thoughts and I can see him creating a to-do list.
Couples held hands or leaned into each other in conversation. Business travelers were connecting and sharing their stories and experiences. Parents played games with their kids. And some fell peacefully to sleep, probably catching up on some much-needed rest. All with the exception of the one passenger who felt compelled to try and plead with the flight attendants hoping they could pull off a miracle in the final 30 minutes. It was not to be.
However, there was a miracle that did occur, people connected, maybe even reconnected with priorities and family as we all lived through a four-and-a-half-hour flight without access to the outside world, and we survived. Many of us, as we stood up waiting to deplane, knowingly acknowledged each other with a smile, recognizing that it wasn’t just OK, it was actually better than OK as we traded our Wi-Fi connections for real connections.
How about you, could use a four-and-a-half-hour break from connecting with the outside world, or maybe even technology? For me, it was an awesome respite as I dug out a book from my backpack and settled in for a few hours of quality reading time. As always I would love to hear your story at firstname.lastname@example.org, and when we can remember that when we cannot connect because there is no Wi-Fi, it’s OK because we can connect with so much more of the important things in life, and that really make it a better than good life.
Michael Norton is an author, a personal and professional coach, consultant, trainer, encourager and motivator of individuals and businesses, working with organizations and associations across multiple industries.