A Minute with Mike. . .
Trying to regain simple living habits

This column submitted by Michael Jacobson on 11/3/99.

This column was inspired by Robert Shaw's Think Piece, which we published last week on this page. If you didn't read it, let me summarize. He wrote about the speed and aggressiveness of drivers on the Twin Cities freeways and about living without television for a week.

Those topics hit home with me. One of the great benefits of rural life, of living in Greater Minnesota, as we like to say, is the lack of rush hour traffic. We do have--to my consternation--drivers who tailgate and drivers who pass turning traffic on highway shoulders at high speeds. There also are drivers in town who fail to stop for pedestrian crossings.

I have one of the easiest commutes in town. Now that I live in the apartment above the Press office, I just have to scamper down the stairs to get to work. It takes all of 15 seconds.

What intrigued me about Shaw's article was his description of his household habits, specifically his television viewing habits. In the past months, I've developed a routine much like his. I sat down in the most comfortable chair at the lake cabin, which was conveniently located right in front of the television set. It became habit to flick on the switch, almost for background noise, and to be engrossed by some program or another. If I paged through the television guide I would tell you that nothing of interest was scheduled to be broadcast, but, once I turned it on, I'd get hooked.

So much of my time has been spent in front of the television screen lately that my mother couldn't believe that I wasn't going to hook up a TV in my apartment. No cable. No antenna. I actually have a television set, which is serving wonderfully as a stereo stand. I have no plans to plug it in. No phone either, though that may change.

To assuage her fears, I had to remind my dear mother that I did manage to live for 30 months in Papua New Guinea (PNG) without television. Well, Lumi High School did have a satellite dish and a television set, which worked in the evening when the generator provided electricity. We received CNN, MTV, public broadcasting from Australia, and a number of shows directed at Indonesia.

For my first six months in Lumi, I regularly watched Australian rugby matches with the other male teachers. After that station started charging for its broadcast, and we no longer received it, I might watch an hour of news in a month. Maybe.

I kept myself perfectly satisfied in Lumi by reading, playing sports with the students, writing, playing board games, and working at school, in the library, and at home. The only time I missed a television was when I was sick and wanted nothing more than a glass of orange juice, a soft couch, and a movie. I lacked all three in PNG.

Before I left Lumi, just over a year ago now, I promised myself that I would try to incorporate aspects of my lifestyle in Lumi to America. It is proving to be extremely difficult to emulate the simplicity of life in PNG here. So far, my attempts at melding lifestyles haven't been very successful.

I'm not cooking, not writing, not reading, not sleeping, not socializing like I did when I was in PNG. I've got an apartment full of boxes that need unpacking. The apartment itself needs some cleaning and painting and decorating. I've got pictures and letters from PNG that still need organizing. I've got boxes and boxes of unread books, which I just had the pleasure of moving.

Everyday I have to deal with the fast pace of American life from nine to five, but at least I've got my refuge now where I can relax on PNG time.

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