I was riding the ferry early Saturday morning and it was just rounding the bend to the dock when I noticed a young woman sitting on the beach alone. I wouldn’t have paid that much attention to her except I knew she was on a section of the beach that was closed for bird and turtle hatchery. No one was allowed on that beach. I knew this because it was my whole reason for getting up at an ungodly hour on the weekend and driving an hour just to spend another 45 minutes riding this ferry. I was working on the beach talking with people about the shorebirds and the sea turtles.
I leaned on the railing of the ferry as I watched her.
She was doing the oddest dance. She was sitting down on the sand with her hair in a ponytail and every few minutes she would hold her arm straight out in front of her, be very still and then bring her arm in close and stare at something in her hand. She did this several times. When she pulled down her ponytail and mussed her hair and did the dance all over again, I realized she was taking pictures of herself. Most likely with her cell phone. Those of you with cell phones that take pictures probably would have gotten that right away.
On Ocracoke, I soon found, that your cell phone might as well be a tiny camera. If you had service here you were very lucky. I didn’t have service here at all. Neither did my colleague Elizabeth. This didn’t bother me too much, until we got stuck on the beach in our car. Then calling someone, perhaps a tow truck, would have been handy.
Elizabeth was staying on the island this past weekend. Not only was she missing her cell phone, but there was no Internet at her hotel either. In fact, her first room didn’t even have a television. When she noticed this omission she had marched right back down the stairs (no elevator) to the front desk and demanded some cable tv.
Ocracoke had successfully cut her off from civilization.
She was on an island and she couldn’t even brag to her friends about it.
Sunday night as we finished up work for the weekend, I drove hurriedly to the ferry dock to catch the last ferry leaving the island that night. I was tired and wearing about four coats of sunscreen lightly dusted with sand. My hair was reminiscent of an oak tree in winter…all sticking up like bare tree limbs, and I wanted to do nothing but shower and sleep.
I decided to sit in my car for the ride to Hatteras so I engaged the parking brake and leaned back.
The water was a bit choppy so we rolled from one side of the waves to the other. It felt like being in a crib. I was just dreamily drifting off to sleep when the loud wolf whistle that is my own cell phone alert for a text message went off and literally made me jump.
My friend Angie had sent a message “what’re u doin?”.
I was happy to hear from her and happy to have an outside connection so I hit Reply and slowly typed in my answer. I hit Send and was just about to put the phone back in the console when I heard a beep and saw the nasty little message it had been giving all day, No Service!
Just when you think you make a connection with someone, just when you reach out and try to touch them, just when you worry that perhaps on some days you do a bit too much social networking, or you’ve exposed more than you needed to on the Internet somewhere, just when that happens you find out that there’s no service in some places in the world and in other parts of the world they’re probably not reading what you write anyways.
After replaying all of Elizabeth’s and my complaints about Ocracoke to my husband Sunday morning he reminded me of something that I had forgotten. As I grabbed my keys to drive back out to the ferry dock and go to work he said “Hey, isn’t that why people go to a place like Ocracoke? To get away from it all?”
…what a wise old man he’s becoming.