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My condo for a paper clip: or the effect of Kindle freeze on one particular vacationer

I really tried. 

The goal was a tech-lite vacation.  And though I brought my laptop along on our family’s island vacation, my plan was not to use it for more than emergencies and an occasional mail check (and for the free wireless I knew I’d find during our Charlotte layovers.)

I was doing pretty well, even though the men in my life stayed surreptitiously connected on their own hidden Blackberries.  Alas, it’s a challenge to hide a 17-inch MacBook Pro.

The one technology I did plan to use on vacation was my brand new Kindle, which I lovingly loaded with five bestsellers, Newsweek, and a  few free newspaper trials.

All was going well at the beach.  I finished Jennifer Weiner’s Certain Girls (love the Philly Jewish setting) and was nearly halfway through Breaking Dawn.  At the moment I started ranting about the choice of the name Renesmee(!), my marvelous little toy froze. I didn’t even go bop when it stopped. (Apologies to Tom Paxton!)  Anyway, I could neither turn it off nor on.

I panicked. 

Picture it.  I packed no paperbacks.  Not a single magazine.  I faced a week of booklessness on a beach vacation after planning my bookfullness so responsibly.

I tried to hide my panic.  I didn’t want my family to observe (or mock) my growing anxiety and looming depression.  Like many families, when it comes to technology they are always on the ready to mock, in a kind-spirited way.

What to do? 

This situation required wireless!  I polled residents of the neighboring condos and discovered a partial solution.  The metal blinds on our borrowed condo unit blocked the building’s network.  When I sat in the screened patio area, I could access the network (for a minor fee). 


I went straight to Amazon support.  I completed an email form and got a response the next morning with a phone number to call for support.  When I reported this news to the family, my husband reminded me that roaming charges off the mainland, during one of those lengthy support experiences I often described, might be something I’d later regret.

While attempting to look relaxed in front of a family who was increasingly convinced I was breaking down, and nearly ready to mock my addiction, I came up with Plan B. 

Plan B:
I went back to the patio in search of a Kindle forum.  I soon discovered that I was not the only one to have her precious and marvelous little toy freeze.  The forum offered two possible solutions. 

  • One: a three-key command that I found challenging with my clumsy fingers. (As a matter of pride, I refused to involve extra family hands in this particular solution)  Anyway, it didn’t work.  
  • Two:  The forum noted that if you remove the battery door from your Kindle you will find a secret reboot button.  If you stick the end of a paper clip in that reboot hole, while the Kindle is plugged in, my forum heroes swore this would magically restart my Kindle.  Some in the forum also swore that they no longer traveled without a paper clip.

This seemed like an easy fix. 

I smiled until I realized that I didn’t have a paper clip. 

I searched the condo.  I searched all of my bags, my kids’ bags, my husband’s bags. I found them all paper clip-free.  You probably have no idea how hard it is to find a paper clip in paradise.  

It’s very hard.

What to do? 

In my wallet I found a little button that I picked up at a long-ago conference.  I was able to pull the wire part out of the button and unbend it into a paper-clip like device.

I plugged the Kindle in and inserted the end of the wire. Voila!  The  thing began to charge.  Next morning, my toy came back to life. Hooray!

I happily discovered even more implausible (for a vampire/werewolf world) Breaking Dawn action.

So you may be wondering about that little button, the low-tech device that sacrificed itself so that I might read again. 

It said blogger.

(Maintaining a brave face during the crisis)

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza



    What a fitting end to this story. Loud applause for maintaining your cool! I still vividly remember the first time I tried to do an online live event (it was the K12 Online Fireside Chat in 2006) and I nearly had a meltdown. I was in long enough to write my name on the elluminate wall and be invited By David Warlick to introduce myself, which I did—then the inevitable happened. I lost my connection –never to regain entrance to the Fireside Chat the rest of that evening. Sigh. My family thought I was having a mental breakdown i was so mad. I really think I scared them. Hey, I wish I had known you had been in Charlotte recently. My home (away from home here at Myrtle Beach) is just 15-20 minutes south of Charlotte. I would have loved to come up and hang around. Mybe some other time–like the upcoming AASL Conference. Hopefully I will C U there.

  2. joycevalenza says:

    Hey Cathy,
    I am so glad I am not the only one. We have BIG plans for you and the edtech-lib gang in Charlotte. Please help!

  3. Cheri Toledo says:

    Hi Joyce,

    Our summer plans included Charlotte this and we were pleasantly surprised with the in-room connectivity. Now I must confess that I have a spouse (no kids) who is likewise addicted to his connectivity – we both teach online so it’s not just a habit we have to set aside for vacations. One of the reasons we can take vacations is the fact that we both teach online.

    I so understand the stomach-dropping panic of lack of connection/frozen screens, especially when grades are due and we’re driving through the neighborhoods looking for an open wireless connection. Visualize me riding shotgun with my MacBookPro open in my lap, as my husband drives at a sub-speed limit pace (very out of character for two Southern Californians). ”

  4. Cheri Toledo says:

    My last post was cut off, so here’s the spine tingling end. Well, it’s not so spine-tingling … we found an open wireless connection after driving around and me saying “Pull over … never mind” several times. Thanks to the realtor who left his wireless open. I submitted my grades and we were off to the Keys.

  5. Barb Falkinburg says:

    I love my Kindle. So I know your panic the first time it freezes! Mine froze for the first time when I was sitting in a computer lab monitoring students taking the online modification of our state mandated tests. My sole reason for being there was to make sure no one exited out of the test. So I brought my kindle to help pass the time. I ahd to panic quietly! I was able to reboot without plugging it in and it remembered my spot of the last time I turned it on. It has happened one other time, but now I am prepared! (a finer point pen works too)

  6. joycevalenza says:

    Hmmm, Cathy, Cheri and Barb, there is some comfort in knowing that I am not the only one panicked by freezing and lack of connection. Now fill in the blank? “Freezing is the new . . . . “

  7. BeachSilkie says:

    Thank You! Thank You! One quick google search and I found your solution. Saved me much anguish. My mind is secure in the knowledge my books are safe, and my evening is complete.

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