Accidentally Off the Grid

By Edwards L. Blach, DVM, MS, MBA
August, 2017
Are you prepared if your mobile device goes offline?

During a recent trip, I left home to catch a plane for a weeklong business trip. Flying from Colorado to Washington, DC, isn’t that complicated these days, or at least that is what I woke up believing.

We all hear of people who voluntarily go on vacations where they can get ‘off the grid’ for some extended time to be de-tethered from their computers and mobile devices. On this day, I was de-tethered – but not on purpose.

I dropped my device, and the screen cracked, but it still appeared to work. On the trip to the airport, I attempted to connect via my mobile device to a conference call using an app called GoToMeeting. When I attempted to use my device, it asked me for the digital code to enter into the device. I touched the screen, and nothing happened. I couldn’t use the fingerprint access or voice control without first entering my code. And the screen treated me as if I wasn’t there.

I wanted to call or have my wife send a text to those on the conference call letting them know of my difficulties, but I couldn’t access the call information that was housed on my calendar on my device. Their phone and email details were also in my contact database on my device. It, too, was inaccessible.

At that same time, traffic slowed suddenly, and I thought that there might be an accident. I thought to ‘check traffic’ on the mapping application to see if I need to take an alternative route, but again, my device was not working properly.

I was truly ‘off the grid,’ involuntarily. I began to think of what I was going to do when I landed in Washington, DC, as I had an address to my hotel, but I did not have a map or detailed directions. I planned to use the mapping function after I arrived and rented a car. My next thought was to call my son, who I was meeting for dinner that night. Except again, I could not access my phone.

When we arrived at the airport, I joked to my wife that I’d talk to her in a week, as again I realized I wouldn’t be able to text, email, or call her to let her know that I had arrived. I advanced towards security, and realized that I no longer had access to my boarding pass, because it was on my phone, not in printed form. I back-tracked to the check-in kiosk to print a boarding pass.

My entire week had been disrupted due to the loss of access to my device. I thought of the bills I needed to pay and of the two people I had scheduled calls with while I was awaiting my plane. I had a four-hour drive later that week, through country I’d never traveled and for which I had no map. I was supposed to be communicating with a group of 20 as we prepared for a weeklong meeting.

I utilize my device as a wifi connection to the internet for my computer when I travel. It contains my calculator, flashlight, clock, and camera. I was going to Washington, DC for the first time and I wouldn’t have my camera! It contained my hotel reservations, my airline reservations, and my rental car information. It is the concierge for finding a restaurant and the source of access to the books I read on the airplane. It contains movies and entertainment for many, and will be my access to check in for my return flight.

Normally, I land at an airport, and order an Uber car using my device. I rarely rent cars at airports any more. Without access to my device, my ability to order an Uber car was lost. I would have been stranded. I needed to sign and send a document to my colleague later, and I use my device and an app called Genius Scan to scan the document, convert it to a PDF file, and email it to the recipient.

Many people use the digital ‘pay’ services on their device and no longer carry cash or credit cards. Luckily, I had cards and cash, so that wasn’t a worry for me on this trip.

Within one hour of a seemingly innocuous moment when I dropped my phone, I realized that much of my daily interface to the world, and the people I connect with, is dependent upon my mobile device. I never expected it to be inaccessible.

Off-the-grid takeaways

What are the lessons?

  1. Have a back-up plan. 
  1. Always have your information backed up so that you can easily get access to it from another device and restore yours quickly if it becomes damaged. Use a cloud-based service that allows you access from many devices and that backs up data in real time.
  1. Teach your kids and grandkids how to survive if they lose access to their device. How would they communicate? How would they find directions? How would they get access to funds? 
  1. Purchase the accidental damage policy offered when you buy your phone. It is inexpensive and the fastest way to get access restored.
  1. Carry a second device that provides you access to your important information, such as an iPad or laptop, and if possible, sync them with your mobile device.
  1. Know where to go to get help to restore your connection.
  1. Take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy being off the grid.

What was the outcome of this adventure? At the airport in Denver, I connected to the internet with my laptop and via search, I found an Apple store that was 5 minutes from the Dulles Airport. I made an appointment at the Genius Bar at the Apple Store online for one hour after I landed in DC. When I landed, I rented a car and drove to the Apple store for my appointment. The customer service person assessed my device and concluded that I needed to have a new face applied to my device. It cost $149 and would take about three hours. Not knowing if they could complete it that evening, he said to me, “you’re in a tough spot travelling, and you’ve had a long day. I’m going to replace your device with the same model device for the same price it would cost to repair yours, so we can get you to where you need to go.”

They made a fan for life! I walked out of that store with my device fully functional and restored at 6:41 pm eastern time. I thought, “What would I have done if I didn’t have an Apple device?” I still don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know that I had planned for this in the decisions I made, when I chose the iPhone, and the back-ups that were in place.

Get a plan to help you when you accidentally go off the grid.

Dr. Ed Blach works as a business and market specialist in veterinary medicine. He has a unique background that combines veterinary medicine, market research, business development, and management. Dr. Blach is also an inventor whose professional passion is innovation and improvement. He is Co-Founder of two current startups: Ask.Vet and

Topics: Sales, Technology


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