The multi-colored, swirled carpet, the pleather chairs set in rows, the neutral wall colors and stainless steel counters used to signal bliss to me – uninterrupted hours with nothing better to do than read. This was my airport experience five years ago.

Now, I sit here, my laptop perched on my lap. I’ve already written emails and checked Facebook and IMed with a couple friends. The airport just isn’t the same anymore. Day 2: Look whose wife is embarrassed for working during vacation, because photo © 2009 rg-fotos | more info (via: Wylio)

Of course, I’m grateful for this on many levels. I can get work done. I can check in with my friend who is to pick me up in a few hours in Denver. I can see the photos of myself from the party last night. All of these – okay, all but the last one (the photos were not the best I’ve ever seen) – make my life easier. But I’m not sure they make it better.

I used to not travel with my laptop, mostly because it didn’t matter if I had it – wireless didn’t work everywhere even two years ago. But even then, airports had lost their blissfulness to me. Cell phones – actually, more specifically, people who insist on having loud, private conversations in crowded public spaces had made reading quite difficult at airports.

Yet, if I’m honest, the problem isn’t really cell phones or wireless access or even the way that advancing technology seems to demand more of us more immediately. The problem is me. I just have a hard time unplugging. In fact, I even planned to get this very blog post done today while I was in the airport because I knew I could. I knowingly gave up my reading time to be on my computer. I have no one to blame but myself.

I’m not sure what to make of this in myself. Almost nothing in the world gives me more pleasure than reading a good book (Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale feels like it’s glowing in my bag even now), and yet, I often choose other things, specifically technology (in the 21st century definition, because of course, books are technology, too). I could argue that it’s about staying connected with my friends, which would be partially true. I could argue that it’s about work, and that, too, would be partially true. I could say it’s about staying in touch or informed or in sync or whatever other “in” might sound good. But none of those would tell the whole truth.

In fact, I’m not even sure what the whole truth is. It’s not that technology is easier; not much is easier than reading for me. It’s not that I enjoy what I read online more than what I read on the page; in fact, I hate reading online. It’s not that working online is more important than reading; I’m not sure that there’s much more a writer could do, besides write, that’s more important than reading. I’m just not sure why I don’t choose to read more when I get the chance.

But I should choose this. So now, I will. I’m powering off. I’m taking out Setterfield, and I’m reading. And it doesn’t even look like anyone is on a cell phone. Oh wait . . . I spoke too soon . . . and he’s right next to me. Sigh.

Meanwhile, if you have theories about why I (or you or many, many others) turn to technology instead of much else, I’d really love to hear them. . . send me articles, posit your own research or introspection, query your friends. What makes us feel the need to be plugged-in so much? Thanks.