Well, it wasn’t because I hibernated like a bear (though I wish I could have in those subzero temps and nearly -30 wind chills we’ve had the past few days).
And … it wasn’t because I was hot and shucked off all my thermal layers and ran naked as a jaybird across the frozen tundra.
None of those things.
The truth is that I went nearly 2 ½ days without accessing the internet or any social media.
It wasn’t by choice.
My internet connection was down.
Social media is very addicting . We titter over Twitter, and who doesn’t love chuckling over jokes? It is great perusing pics from back in the day posted on friends’ Facebook walls for TBT. There is no better opportunity to stay in touch with friends or family, especially if we are lame letter writers or despise long-winded phone conversations.
On Ash Wednesday morning I was reading comments on the “Click on Detroit” Facebook site about what people would give up for Lent nowadays. The graphic that accompanied the story had a variety of suggestions – alot of different words actually, like junk food, soda, swearing, sweets and all types of social media. Could you abandon social media and give up Twitter, Facebook or e-mail for the whole Lenten season which stretches some 40 days? I moved on to the next item on Facebook since I could not abandon e-mail and need to have internet access because I have worked from home the past six years. But, even if I didn’t work from home, I confess, sure … I’d miss the internet.
I have thought for a long time that we are way too dependent on social media. I use Facebook for chats with friends, but now I use it primarily to connect to 175 fellow “Patchies” – a group of e-pals, who, like me, either write blogs, columns, or have editorial responsibilities at Patch.com. We connect in a group and share ideas and links to our latest posts.
Internet is a must-have for me to remote into work. And we’ve been busy the past few weeks as my boss was leaving Wednesday morning to go out of town for five days. After he landed at the airport, he called me and said he had revised a 30-page time-sensitive document and would go to Staples and send a PDF of the revisions to me. I joked that perhaps he should have taken a book on the plane instead. Dutifully, I turned the computer on after the phone call – no internet. Well, we have a Plan “B” for when my router malfunctions – I rely on Ethernet cables to hard wire the laptop to the modem. Well, that works … as long as the modem works and I have an internet connection. I knew it was going to be a long evening.
Last April I got a new modem from my internet service provider and a new state-of-the-art router. I figured I was good to go for at least three or four years. Last Wednesday, I lost my connection for three hours because my ISP was having “issues in the neighborhood”. It was annoying but I dealt with it. Then this past Wednesday when it happened again, I made a quick call and the company confirmed there were “issues in the neighborhood”. Wryly, I mumbled to myself “is this going to be like Prince Spaghetti Day – an every-Wednesday occurrence?” I shut down my computer and came back long after the expected time for restoration of service. That dreaded bright yellow shield was still displayed in the connection bars hours after the estimated completion of service time.
Stubbornly, I stayed at the computer, hoping to will the internet to spring back to life. I began writing my next blog post, yet all the while my right eye was trained to the task bar waiting for the yellow shield to disappear. Meanwhile, the clock kept ticking and the hours were sliding away, with that project to be done languishing somewhere in cyberspace.
Finally, I did a diagnostic and knew I had to re-connect.
I trudged downstairs to do the usual fix-its … pull out all the plugs, count to 10, replace them and wait for the line of colors on the router and modem to start up like a string of lights on a Christmas tree. I held my breath and tapped my foot. All systems were go on the router … but, not so much on the modem where green lights blinked and flickered. Green for everything else in the world usually signifies “go”, but I needed orange lights. Not good. This modem has no reset button. Clearly, the modem was down for the count. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
I raced back upstairs where a slew of phone calls then ensued – first to my boss to tell him the joyous news. The second call was to my ISP, where I, the angry customer, wanted to know why her new modem was no longer functioning now that “work in the neighborhood” was finished. I then semi-politely inquired if a ping might restore the modem so that its flashing orange lights would return and I’d know “all systems were go”.
Well, first we had to troubleshoot. Back-and-forth to the basement, where it was decided the ping to the modem did not resuscitate it and it was dead as a doornail. I sighed a few more times and headed back upstairs.
At midnight, we finished troubleshooting and I politely asked for the earliest appointment Thursday so that I could complete my deadline assignment, and, I again stressed the urgency of having my internet hook-up restored post-haste. “Ms. Linda” he began … “we can schedule you in between noon and two on Thursday and you will get a new modem. Now, can I interest you in a bundle?” “No” I barked, totally bypassing my manners and leaving any of the ladylike responses I was brought up to automatically mouth when asked a question, way behind in the dust. I replaced the receiver with a loud thud, thinking that the phone was the next thing to break, then I scurried off to bed.
When my tech arrived at the door on Thursday, the temperature and wind chills were dangerously low. I ushered him into the house and we discussed the weather as we went downstairs to the basement. He did his usual techy checks and turned to me and said “your upstream/downstream isn’t looking good here” … well, I wanted to quip that could be bad if I were a salmon, but kept that comment to myself.
Next he unpackaged a new modem. I spied that large, jet black modem, thinking it was the perfect fit for my over-sized Netgear Nighthawk router I had installed last Spring and it looked like a big brother to my spindly current modem which always tips over. He moved the new modem and cord near the register where the heat was pouring out after saying “it was so cold in the truck that the modem needs to heat up and I can’t get the cord to straighten out” … I started to say “well, we don’t want to have a kinky modem” but that sounded like some shady line out of the movie or book “50 Shades of Grey” so I cancelled that comment though it was on the tip of my tongue.
I watched his cold fingers as they fumbled with gizmos and gadgets and he tested this and that. He made notes on a tiny device, thumbs tapping furiously on the keyboard. Not being a texter myself, I marveled at the dexterity when surely his hands must’ve been very cold.
He explained as he went along, that he went through a process of elimination and then said “gotta check your wiring in the backyard – back in a bit”; he returned some twenty minutes later, with snow-encrusted pant legs and a beet red face, and announced “well, I rewired everything out back because those wires were in pretty bad shape, so I don’t know how you ever got a signal before at all” to which I nodded sagely, thinking to myself, this surely will be the fix.
After more diagnostics, he shook his head, however, and said “still not good – gotta go to the pole, back in 20 minutes” … I stayed downstairs, while 20 minutes turned into an hour. I saw his shadow in the window well and could hear his cleats going back and forth on the sidewalk. Finally, he emerged, redder in the face and through numb lips said “I couldn’t find anything wrong, but there is an outage – I’ll call it in as soon as my phone is unfrozen” whereupon he pointed to his personal phone and a work phone, similar in size, which were clapped together, their rubber edges frozen seemingly forever. He tried to pry them apart with all his might, and couldn’t, so I told him to stand under the ceiling heat register where his fingers and the phones could get unfrozen quickly.
He reported the outage and promised the problem would be repaired within two hours and I’d be back in business.
Well, that was good news and I shot back a wan smile, which was the best I could muster after the first day of “going bare”.
By Thursday night, there was still no internet. Another late-night call to the ISP who said to go unplug everything and she’d send a modem signal. Despite my protestations that I’d been there and done that already, I was told to “go back and do it again” … nothing.
She scheduled me for first thing Friday morning.
I parked myself, like a potted plant, near the phone at 7:45 a.m. My 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. window passed and no tech. I called – nothing had ever been scheduled. My blood began to boil, and it wasn’t just the furnace that was running non-stop as it was so cold outside.
At that point, I abandoned all ladylike mannerisms I’d every possessed and told my ISP that I had an assignment to get done and could wait no longer.
I was told Saturday morning was the next availability for a service call and that infuriated me. I called around, garnering alot of chatter and promises and the runaround for the next few hours. I made and received at least 20 calls over the course of the day Friday. I documented each person’s name that I spoke to and was mentally categorizing them into “very helpful”, “helpful” and “not so helpful” and I was starting to feel like Jack Lemmon’s character, George Kellerman, in “The Out of Towners”.
My second tech arrived at 5:30 p.m. He had to scramble underneath the dropped ceiling to find the wires, went back outside and examined the outside wires, then popped his head in the door and announced “going out to the pole – don’t know when I’ll be back”, so this time I headed back upstairs. Before the ordeal was over, he discovered there was a software glitch on the pole. He summoned a computer tech who turned on a floodlight as darkness had settled in. He was hoisted up in the bucket and fixed the problem in a matter of minutes.
Finally … I was back online, but only to be overwhelmed with a slew of work e-mails from my boss that had accrued while I was whiling away the hours in the pre-World Wide Web days. Can we live without the internet? I dunno, but on those days when there are big-time computer hiccups, I know I am willing to go back to the quill pen.