An unintentional 24-hour Internet break

[Tweet : nvALT]

I know, it sounds like one of those experiments that the productivity crowd subjects themselves to, just to see what happens. This was not intentional, premeditated or appreciated, though.

A Charter (my ISP) truck showed up outside of our house yesterday afternoon, ostensibly to work on a neighbors connection. Suddenly, the Internet was no more. As the truck drove away, a correlation was made, but it was too late. An immediate call to Charter, 10 minutes of “automated self-diagnosis” and a service rep in another State failed to bring the truck back. “Tomorrow, between one and three,” they said to my wife. I called back, irate, trying not to swear as it began to sink in that their customer service setup was simply a buffer to keep people like me from talking to anyone who could actually do anything. A fence to keep out the rabid dogs, I suppose.

What to do? I suppose we’ve tried to make the best of it. We went for a nice walk around our new neighborhood. We ate a home-cooked meal at the dinner table, which is a rarity. We retired to the living room and watched something my wife tells me is called a “DVD” on our sorely neglected XBox. I had forgotten we had either around.

That was all fine and good, but the next morning it really sunk in. I work from home which, as you can imagine (or well know), requires some connectivity to accomplish. Waking up without the Internet is neither convenient nor pleasant.

My wife, who has recently returned to college at our local University, was rear-ended last week (please, keep your mind out of the gutter). Her truck was totaled, and we let the insurance folks tow it away this weekend. So we have one car, and we live at the top of a very, very tall bluff. Biking to a coffee house is out of the question, and if she dropped me off in the morning before class, I wouldn’t be able to get back to the house during the much-anticipated service window.

Even my cell phone coverage is intermittent, usually boosted by a broadband-driven MicroCell. So I composed a brief explanation of the situation and waited for an Edge signal to show up so I could send it to my co-workers. Then, I had a cup of coffee on the porch and enjoyed the view.

I took a mid-morning nap, just because I could. Now, I’m writing a leisurely piece about the whole thing, but I still have three hours before the service window opens up, and potentially another two hours after that before anything is fixed. I will, obviously, survive. It’s been a stark reminder of how much my life really does revolve around the Internet, though.

Does it bother me that I’m so dependent on the “Cloud?” Not really. I’m a huge fan of the connectedness I feel online. I’m not very good at making and keeping friends in the real world. I don’t really want to be. For me, digital people are much easier to deal with. I’m also quite enamored with the conveniences of the Internet. Conveniences that as a child I never imagined would exist.

Out with my meat-world friends, I regularly use Shazam to identify a song. Then I use the web to learn more about the artist. Spotify instantly gives me a discography and we listen to our new-found artist on the way home. I smile the whole way, just because I never imagined this would be possible.

Debates at dinner are easily ended by my iPhone. Conclusive evidence is presented–complete with backup sources–in a matter of minutes. Information that may have taken a trip home–or even to the library (I think those are still around)–is easily garnered with a speed that would probably have resulted in burning at the stake not so long ago.

At home, my audio and visual entertainment depends upon online services. The catalogs of movies and songs at my fingertips is unfathomable, and I never take it for granted. I get a warm, fuzzy feeling when I think of a movie I want to see and am watching it five minutes later. A song pops into my head, often obscure, and without even being able to remember the title or the artist, I’m listening to it within seconds. Grin.

Now I’m here, without all of these things that I enjoy so much. I don’t like it, and would never claim that I find very much pleasure in being disconnected. Conversely, I do enjoy the unreachability sometimes. Do you remember when the web was a one-way conversation? The curmudgeon in me does occasionally long for that.

That doesn’t last long, though. Eventually, the urge to send a witty tweet and get a witty response arises, and it’s annoying to be unable to act on my impulses. It’s annoying to have to sit with a thought so long that I eventually realize it was neither witty nor worthy of sharing. I shudder to think how quiet the web would be if everyone had this much time to consider their actions.

Am I making the best of this situation? Yes. I’m thoroughly enjoying sitting on the back porch and watching the sky move from rain to sun, studying the traffic patterns of the cars in town–which look like Matchbox® cars from here–and breathing in real, honest-to-goodness clean air. Nothing beeping, buzzing or otherwise distracting me; it’s rather Zen. I know from camping trip experience that it takes at least 24 hours for me to really disconnect my brain. I’ll probably hit that point just as the Charter service tech shows up.

I could probably pontificate on this for another few hours, but I won’t. I’ll try to get some offline work done, then go back to the porch with another cup of coffee. I do apologize for the gap in my blogging schedule over the last few days. Work, Marked and nvALT all got in the way of doing the reviews I have planned. A WordPress/ experiment gone horribly wrong on Saturday and now a 24-hour Internet outage (which I may have mentioned already) all conspired to keep this blog quiet. This will be remedied shortly.

Thanks for your patience, and we hope you’ll choose to fly with us again soon.

(As evidenced by this post, I am back online. Yay!)