Communications: Unplugged

By Toby Reed

There I was, back in an airport.

I was intermingled among the various travelers, phone conversations, and blinking lights that punctuate the craziness of the Holiday Season. And I felt like the Grinch. I was stressed and anxious as I paced the terminal trying to get a decent cell phone signal.

But amid the frenetic pace of the terminal my attention quickly focused on one female traveler. She was alone, reading a book and smiling. Unlike anyone else at my end of the terminal she was calm, content, and seemingly “in the zone”.

I, was officially jealous.

Finding Your Content

You see at that moment I was NOT content. My phone was *dinging*, my email was flooded with messages anxiously awaiting a reply, and I had to scope out an available power outlet before my laptop ran out of battery life. It’s the plight of the digital traveler in 2016 I suppose. Yet this one woman, who unlike most of the terminal, seemed relaxed and blissfully unaware of the chaos that surrounded her.

While I marveled at this woman’s apparent “Calgon Moment” I noticed an available power outlet on the row of seats behind her. I scurried to the outlet and desperately plugged my laptop into its much-needed life support.

While I rearranged my sea of cords this woman casually flipped a page in her book. I simply had to know, could she possibly be travelling for business?  What I learned was enlightening.

Not only was she travelling for business, but she was an IT consultant for a large Fortune 500 company. She was the site project manager for a communications integration project that will last almost 3 years. She and her team are tasked with completely connecting a large multi-building commercial customer campus for their wireless, LAN, WAN, Phone, A/V and emergency communications systems.

Paper Connection

And here she was, reading a book. Not a Kindle or Ipad. But a paper book. Her cell phones (yes plural) neatly tucked into her purse and turned off. Her laptop packed in her carry on and her head void of any blue tooth communication device that could be discretely making use of the aforementioned phones.

Almost jokingly I asked her how it was possible, that in her position, she wasn’t completely immersed in text, email, and phone conversations. Her reply was poignant.

She said, “Sometimes you need to unplug.”


The digital space and its devices have become such a part of our lives that we forget exactly that. That they are a part of our lives and not the other way around. They are meant to be tools of our convenience not the masters of our domain (pun intended).

I think that is where print shines (and likely why this woman had a smile on her face). Print is a media channel that has been truly recipient-oriented since Gutenberg invented movable type in 1447. A form of media that informs and entertains its recipient at a pace the recipient chooses. That may be one major reason why nearly 570 years later print still thrives. The recipient has control.

Inspired by my new friend’s courage to unplug, and to regain some of my lost holiday cheer, I closed my laptop and headed over to the airport concession store. Maybe there was something on the shelf that could get me into the holiday spirit? You know, something in paperback.

Happy Holidays! #printwins.


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