The amount of news we’ve all consumed over the last 6 days is no doubt enough to rival any other interval in our lives. From the minute the two explosions rocked Boston, we’ve been glued to our TVs, computers and smartphones, digesting an onslaught of constant breaking news, first-hand accounts and observations. The experience was and is immensely anxiety-producing – ceaseless speculation, lingering, unanswered questions, up-to-the-minute coverage of events, some terrible, others worthy of communal celebration.
On Friday night, right around the time Gov. Patrick gave the sort-of OK to leave home after the lockdown, I got a call from my dad, who asked if I’d join him to go see a movie and maybe grab some ice cream. He wanted to hang out, and, like me, I think he was ready to take a break from news overload. I turned off my TV, pocketed my iPhone, and drove to the fifteen minutes to the theater to meet him there. I flipped on NPR for the ride, and about halfway there, the news came flowing in – “shots fired in Watertown,” I heard. Boston police closing in on a boat in a backyard. It was all happening very quickly. And there I was in the parking lot of Regal Cinemas – my car still running, my heart racing. I was two minutes late for the movie’s start time, and my dad and sister were waiting on me inside.
I pulled the keys from the ignition, opened my door, closed it, and headed for the entrance. My phone was just about out of juice, so I stuffed it back in my pocket. I can wait, I thought.
We bought our tickets, walked inside the theater, and navigated in the dark to a row of cushioned seats. We were seeing “Oblivion,” a movie about post-apocalypse Earth, starring Tom Cruise as an astronaut who lives in an iPad, or something (I have no idea, because despite my best efforts to stay awake after another all-nighter at The Gatepost office, after being up for almost 36 hours straight with a CNN livestream always within earshot, I passed out, exhausted, just shortly after Tom lasered his first droid. Snoring audibly, I’m told.).
I woke up just in time for a plot twist involving Morgan Freeman, and soon we were out the door, our sights on some frozen yogurt down the road. In the car, I heard Mayor Menino and company taking turns congratulating the cops on capturing suspect #2 alive, and felt the flood of emotions we all did, breathed the sigh of relief after the week from Hell.
After we got there, still smartphone-free, my dad and I sat on a bench outside, scooping fruit-topped soft serve, talking about what it all might mean. After hours and hours of tracking the manhunt so closely online and in our living rooms, we’d missed the dramatic conclusion as it was happening. Pictures and videos, live tweets and graphics were changing hands all around us, updates being posted by the minute, and here we were, completely disconnected. But that was OK, we decided. For three hours or so, we could enjoy our lives, appreciate just how lucky we are to be living them, eat some ice cream. For just a short time, we could stay out of the loop. The night was mild, although maybe a little windy, a bunch of kids and families were eating their frozen treats inside the shop behind the window at our backs, my 13-year-old sister and the friend she’d brought along were laughing about something or other, dancing on the sidewalk with plastic spoons in their hands.
Lots was happening, sure, and there was so much we didn’t know, but at least for a little while, we could wait.