24/6 ... ?

Is it possible? Has the popularity and thrill of proving to everyone that you always operate around the clock, every day of the week, begun to wear thin?

There are reports coming out from researchers who have studied the impacts on health, creativity and effectiveness from the 24/7 experiences. Their data suggests that there is a high negative price to pay. And 10 days at a foreign spa, with your cellphone and laptop engaged, will not cure your ills.

The threat of cellphone use being allowed on airline flights after takeoff has provoked nightmares for many who travel. In many ways, airlines are the last bastion of cellphone-free areas. Those of us who use the bus system have all encountered the annoyance of the incessant, inane chatter ("I'm on the bus now!"). And even in planes, after they have landed and "docked," out come the phones and the same words up and down the crowded aisles: "The plane just landed...."

Surprisingly, in a recent New York Times travel article, businessmen were quoted, by name, about their newfound pleasures in not being able to be in touch while in flight. They treasured the few hours of quiet. They spoke about their delights, from working on a crossword puzzle, reading a book or even just daydreaming into a quiet sleep. (That must have been the flight that did not have the screaming, nervous baby-mother duo.)

Very early in the morning the other day, near the University of Washington, I saw a strikingly beautiful woman walking briskly to class in the brilliant autumn sunshine. Unencumbered by a phone or earphones, she seemed to be such an integral part to the crisp morning air. Striding confidently, with her head held high, she appeared to be "with" the morning. Surrounding her were many other students, their bodies hunched over, talking on their cellphones or shuffling along with earphones in place and blank expressions. They looked like a nameless horde. Whatever was happening with the sunshine, the autumn leaf color, the play of shadows appeared to be completely outside their morning reality.

With the current culture implying that you are a slacker if you do not immediately respond to an e-mail, stay in touch by cellphone and have a playlist longer than anyone else's, it is tough sledding to go against this norm. Yet I am finding, though it is a small group, people who want their time back. Selfish? Yes. Healthful? Definitely. Rewarding? Most definitely, but in ways that you can only come to know once the incessant chatter has been silenced.

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