I have some serious reservations about our (humans [myself included]) increased dependency on technology and our seeming inability to remove our faces from our various screens (TV, computer, phone) at all times of the day and in any situation.
That being said, these same technologies have been a god-send for those of us whose families are separated for extended periods of time. For example, three years ago when Zed was crabbing in Alaska in the Bering Sea, our options for communication were very limited. While in Dutch Harbor or St. Paul delivering crab Zed could wait in line with all the other fishermen and cannery workers to use one of the pay phones, and we could have a very brief, very public conversation while the rest of the line waited impatiently to call their own families. If this wasn’t bad enough, there was usually a five second delay as well. Needless to say, the quality and intimacy in our conversations was lacking, but this was our only way of speaking to each other for four months at a time.
Now, almost all of the fishing ports have wi-fi, and Zed and I both have iPhones. This means that even if we can’t make regular calls, we can still use Skype, or FaceTime, or video chat on Facebook, or one of the many other methods of video calling available for free! I can have a conversation face to face with my husband. Our kids can show their dad the artwork they made in school, or demonstrate how they are learning to write their names. Zed can walk around the harbor and show us what he’s working on, and then he gets to tag along with us as I get the kids ready for bed and tuck them in. Although a virtual kiss goodnight isn’t quite as good as the real thing, it’s a close second, and a hell of an improvement over static-y payphones.
Even in Central America and Mexico, where Zed has been for the last three weeks, the marinas and restaurants have had wi-fi, meaning that the kids and I got to take a virtual tour of the streets of Panama City, watch the big boats head up the canal, and check out the fancy yachts in Cabo San Lucas.
For families such as ours, spending much of the year separated, this upgrade in technology and communication is invaluable. This lifestyle is damn hard on everyone – the spouse at home with the kids and the spouse alone and away from their family – but these new technologies are constantly increasing the quality of our lives and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
(Although fishing families have it bad, military families have it worse. This post is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of military families out there who spend an entire year or more separated. For a peek into the military family lifestyle, check out this great blog by writer Jessie Knadler called Rurally Screwed, about raising her daughter and running a farm while her husband served a year in Afghanistan. By the way, during that year, Jessie and her husband communicated via Skype.)