We stood in a circle, nibbling on party food, laughing and swapping stories.
There was a small town banker, a county commission chairman, a UGA dean and yours truly.
Suddenly, strains of that hallowed tune, “Glory, glory to Old Georgia” wafted around us. Without thinking, each reached for his cell phone. Maybe it’s because we’re in Athens that the Bulldog fight song moved us to such quick response.
No, technology just has us trained. Like Pavlov’s dog, (was he a Bulldog?) we react to the stimulus. We laughed again when each realized none of our own phones actually had the Redcoat band as a ring tone. That didn’t stop us, though, from jumping at the thought of being beckoned by the high-tech tumor hanging on our hip.
Back in my hotel room, I logged in on my laptop, connected to the server sitting patiently in the back room at my office. A quick perusal of this week’s stories confirmed what I already knew: the staff had things well covered. I made a few last-minute editing changes in a couple of stories, turned out the light and attempted to get to sleep at a reasonable hour for a change.
I lay there in the darkness, thinking about the wonders of technology today that allow me to be here, hundreds of miles from my office, but lets me work much as if I was still there, sitting at my cluttered desk.
Though my body was tired from the four-plus hours spent getting here, my mind wouldn’t turn off. I looked around.
Like a camper staring out into the dark forest and seeing the glowing eyes of unseen animals shining back, I peered through the darkness of my hotel room and realized, though no one was present, I was far from being alone.
There, in the shadows, I counted the tiny glow of light-emitting diodes from a gaggle of high-tech gadgets, all there waiting patiently, silently, for me to beckon them.
Over my head shined a tiny red dot telling me the smoke alarm was working, being vigilant and protecting me from the first wisps of fire that might threaten.
On one bedside table there is the soft, green glow from one of those newfangled sleep machines. It will not only tell me the time, wake me up, play a CD or my favorite radio station, it will also spew forth a variety of sounds designed to help me drift away to dream land. Want to hear waves lapping the shore? Press a button. Prefer raindrops pattering through the leafy cover of a dense forest? Press another.
Across the room, another red dot tells me the television is eager for me to grab the remote and turn on 160-plus channels of nonsense in case my insomnia lasts too long.
A few feet away, a dim glow emanates from the coffee maker, telling me it is past midnight, but, with only the press of a button, it can awaken me hours from now with the aroma of fresh coffee.
On the desk, my cell phone flashes with a steady pace, telling me it is re-charging to be ready for another day’s calls and emails. Next to it, a faint white light pulsates on the front edge of my computer. It looks like the device is slowly breathing, the pace is so rhythmic.
My computer is asleep. But I’m not.
On the other bedside table, a bright orange light is blinking furiously. Somewhere in the distance, I hear a phone ringing ... ringing ... ringing.
Why won’t it stop?
I reach out and answer. A cheery young lady is purring in my ear, a real person. She tells me it’s 6:30 a.m. She is my morning wake-up call, far more pleasant than any clock.
High-tech can’t compare.
Robert M. Williams Jr. is an Effingham County native and publishes newspapers in Blackshear, Alma, Ocilla and McRae. His commentaries can also be heard on Georgia Public Radio.