Technological Stress Relief

Our smoke-red sky

Our smoke-red sky

It’s been a tense day here. For those who don’t pay attention to the New Zealand news (I don’t blame you–one of the top stories today was that a police officer in Queenstown pulled a plastic cup off of a hedgehog who was stuck in it), there have been two bush fires burning in the Port Hills, just outside of Christchurch for the past two days. We’ve been able to see the flames from our house 30 km away–they’re serious fires. Yesterday I worked at a library not far from where the fires were burning, and watched as helicopters with monsoon buckets circled.

Today the wind shifted and is pushing the fire toward the city. As evacuation orders started coming in, my kids were somewhere on a bus, caught up in a snarl of traffic. People fleeing the flames, people trying to get back to their homes from work, people coming to see the spectacle of the hills above town on fire–it was pretty chaotic.

I was safely at home, watching the smoke plume burgeon, listening to the radio. It all felt so familiar–a natural disaster, and I was in one place, and the people I love were in another. We’ve been here before.

The difference was that this time, all four of us own cell phones. Last time, we didn’t know the status of our loved ones until we actually saw them. This time, I knew pretty well where everyone was all afternoon.

It didn’t stop me from worrying–my kids were still too close to the fire and too far from me for comfort–but it prevented me from envisioning the worst.

I admit, there are times when I want to say to at least one of my children (or to myself), “Put down the phone!” But the trade-off of being able to communicate with them on days like today is worth it.

I’ve been accused of being a Luddite, and the accusation has some merit–I don’t like technology for technology’s sake. New technology tends to stress me out. But I certainly appreciated it today–it relieved a great deal of stress.

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