On the Grid

Berkeley is one of the most stressful places to live. First off, you take your life in your hands driving along side the road-rageful. Then, if you actually make it intact to your destination, good luck finding a parking space.

Once out of the car, you’ll contend with con artists demanding money for a faux cause; transients begging for spare change; and street thugs eyeing your wallet. If you survive the day and end up in bed, expect to be blasted out of a deep sleep at 1 am and 3 am by the thunderous, blaring horns of freight trains.

So, given the steady assault of noise and creepy people, I spend a bit of time each day in fantasyland. Sometimes I imagine myself living in a sane place, with clean, well-paved streets and polite people. And I even wonder about what life would be like off the grid.

I imagine myself living on the land, 100 acres or so, in an incredibly quiet environment. There would be gentle animals like deer and birds, and the harmonious sounds of crickets.

When I travel to town, I’d meet up with nice and polite neighbors, and we all would make chitter- chatter about small town-like things. (I don’t know what that may be because I’ve never actually lived in a small town but I’m sure that it would all be very pleasant.)

So, the other day, when I encountered a newsletter about living off the grid, I was quite excited. The publication was written by people living in these quiet locales, far from the maddening crowd. They would take moments out from their relaxing day to blog about their thoughts. The newsletter even listed ads for places to live -— with some people selling acreage, and others leasing small plots of land on their property.

I started wondering: could my dream become a reality? Maybe I could afford to buy or rent one of these places! I thought with delight: I could live a peaceful and safe existence in the country!

And then reality hit me.

I thought: wait a minute, what in the world would I actually do all day? I recalled that a couple of weeks before, I was stuck home for a week with a bad virus. At first, too sick to notice time, the days sped by quickly. But by day five, I was starting to lose my mind.

Cabin fever hit me like a ton of bricks. By then, I had watched every DVD more than once, boring myself to tears. Desperate for something to do, I weeded out my files. I roamed around my place, reading whatever books my poor sickly body could absorb. Finally, I had had it.

Although I wasn’t quite ready, I took my ill bod to Target. There I walked around cheerfully, picking up sick-person supplies. When I got home, I was exhausted but relieved to have been out of the house.

So reality hit me, and I wondered: what in the world would I actually do in my happy, quiet, isolated little cocoon, off the grid? After I had cereal for breakfast and read a book, then what?

And, more scarily, I realized that I wouldn’t be anywhere near a Target — or a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. My being out in the boonies may force me to — horrors — cook! The very thought of this chilled me to my bones.

I also started wondering: do these places actually have running water — that is, safe and clean water? And what about electricity? Heat? And are there any — bugs!! Or snakes and spiders and other creepy crawly things?? UGH!

Suddenly, all of this reality totally burst my bubble. I realized that not only would I be stuck out in the woods, but that I don’t like the woods.

The truth is that I am not a country girl, but a city slicker. I like to drive 5 minutes for a hot meal or Chinese take out. When the girlie spirit moves me, I’m compelled to get a manicure or go to Macy’s for some new lipstick.

While Berkeley is still looking like a most unappealing place, I realize that fantasies can be deceiving. Yes, I’d like to make a move out of here sometime — God willing, since it’s all in His hands, and I am His faithful and compliant servant.

But one thing is for sure. Wherever that place may be, north, south, east, or west, it will be absolutely and decidedly on the grid.

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