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Playing Hookie In The Snow

January 25, 2018

I didn’t intend to play hookie. I intended to do what I’d always done. I was going to do it all. I was going to go camping with the boys and still monitor my phone. It wasn’t anything new. I had taken calls on mountain bike rides, hikes, even whitewater rafting. This was nothing new. It was a simple winter camp overnight Friday and on Saturday the boys would push a sled around to various events. . .hopefully in the snow.

The camp was up American Fork Canyon in American Fork. It’s been to that campsite multiple times. Apparently I had forgetten that I didn’t have cell coverage there. I often find myself camping in places that don’t have cell coverage. But, if I know I’m going to be out of range, I arrange for someone to cover for me.

I didn’t have cover for this weekend. And I couldn’t leave. We arrived at camp with just enough time to set up camp. There were just two leaders for the six boys who came to the campout. I stared at my phone as if I could force a coverage bar to light up. It quickly became clear that I had no power to conjure up a cell tower out of tree. And there were miles of granite mountains between me and the coverage in the city.

A couple months ago, I ended up on a flight without first arranging a backup. One of my sites had an outage while I was on the plane. It didn’t go well. In fact, the issue was still going on when I landed. A few phone calls and I quickly resolved the issue. But, I was reminded that dispite a well run team, and other teams who were fantastic, my job really needed someone to be available 24 hours per day.

That really wasn’t a new idea. My job’s been like that for years. There are lots of drawbacks to being on call 24×7. Calls can interrupt family events, vacations, dinners, movies, and of course camping trips. There are also some advantages. Honestly, a big benefit is the constant validation that my job is important. And by extenstion, I am important. Also, it’s a lot easier to justify taking time for my kids, especially time during the day. But, mostly, I just hope the phone won’t ring after hours.

But, last Friday, my phone wasn’t going to ring. It couldn’t. Sure, I was worried, but, what choice did I have? I turned off the phone and focused on camping. If there’s nothing you can do about a problem, don’t worry about not doing anything.

When we arrived the camp was clear of snow. It started snowing about 7:00PM and snowed through the night. We awoke to about three inches of new snow. The boys had a great time. We headed back out of the mountains around noon. The drive from the camp is only about 15 minutes, but it is down a winding two lane road.

We came out of the canyon and turned South to head toward Pleasant Grove. I turned on my phone and notifications started popping up. Work email, personal email, texts from one of my kids, Marco Polo, a video sharing program. But, no missed cell phone calls and no voice mail. Apparently there had not been an outage during my 18 hours out of touch.

I felt strangly like I had gotten away with something. Like I had played hookie and not gotten caught. And yet, all I did was go camping for a night in the mountains.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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