Labor Day vacation is filled with unsuccessful attempts to avoid labor

The Rat's Labor Day vacation rules were simple: no pager, no cell phone, no notebook,
no Internet access.


He wanted his offspring to experience nature in the wild, just as the Unabomber
intended. When the Rat family was all set to head for the mountains of Vermont,
information technology wasn't going along.


Unfortunately, no one else wanted to play by the cyberrodent's rules. At the insistence
of his department head, a pager and notebook computer had to go into the suitcase--in case
it became necessary to dial in remotely to fix something the staff couldn't handle.


Then, Mrs. Rat wanted to pack the cell phone for emergencies.


The last taboo was broken without the Rat's cooperation. As the family conveyance
rolled into Stowe, Vt., the ratlings spotted the town's latest addition--a cybercafe.


There seems to be no place in the continental United States that is now unwired. If
there aren't actual wires, there's always cellular, and now digital satellite Internet
access. Everywhere.


The American vacation used to be about getting away from it all. Now everyone takes it
all along.


The Rat spotted several Winnebagos on the road that resembled Soviet fishing trawlers
on wheels. Their roofs bristled with full suites of communications antennae, satellite
dishes, Global Positioning System units, radar and laser detectors, and full-blown
entertainment centers.


Some looked like they needed their own nuclear reactors for propulsion.


And wherever there was a computer or a communications appliance, there was a tech
support question for the Rat. Even the old guy who ran the maple syrup stand at the
Vermont border questioned the cyberrodent about World Wide Web home page design.


Then, Ben and Jerry grabbed the Rat off the ice cream factory tour to discuss the finer
points of TCP/IP network design.


The wired one made a mental note: Scrape that Cyber Jock bumper sticker off the family
roadster.


But when he did manage to disconnect from the electronic world for four successive
days--a new personal best--the Rat, too, began to suffer the withdrawal symptoms of the
information-obsessed.


He found himself trying to double-click on the menu at the Dutch Pancake Kitchen,
checking the toilet paper dispenser for
faxes and highlighting hot links in the local newspaper.


Why were there so many messages in his mailbox?


The furry one had righteously sent a "whereabouts" message to all his
correspondents and co-workers, notifying them he would be on vacation.


The answer was simple.


The 550 e-mails were all replies to his whereabouts message. And they all said, more or
less, "Hope you're enjoying yourself. Don't spend too much time on the computer up
there."


The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets
in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.


inside gcn

  • cyber hygiene (Lucky Business/Shutterstock.com)

    Cleaning up cyber hygiene

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