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Unplugged

by Jo Page on August 24, 2011

 

I spent a day without Wi-Fi today, working in someone else’s office. It was hard. I was writing a column and I kept having to actually pay attention to what I was doing rather than stopping, every eighth word or so, to check the weather in Paris, the status of the Garnet Hill sale and my Netflix queue, even though I happen to know that next in line is The Squid and the Whale.

I survived. It wasn’t much fun. I played a lot of solitaire. I wrote the column, though I couldn’t send it.

So what a relief it was when it was time to go home. I was totally jazzed at being able to go online and check out exactly what “Valhalla” is since I’d used the word in my column that day. I mean, I know what “Valhalla” is—in Norse mythology it’s the magical realm reached after death, comparable to heaven. But I wanted to know more about Valhalla. The etymology of the word, for example, how Wagner used Valhalla in his operas, the population of the little town in Westchester County known by the same name and noted for its cemetery in which are buried Billie Burke (Glinda, the Good Witch of the North), Danny Kaye, Fred Friendly, Ayn Rand and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

I was looking forward to checking out Valhalla and various weather locations and sending in my column and debating the wisdom of taking the time to read the blogs I sometimes do, to say nothing of catching up on Facebook. Then I figured I’d go make dinner. I like to find recipes on Epicurious, though sometimes a simple Google search will do—that’s how I learned what ‘fondant’ is since I’m not a member of the Cake Nation folks who watch all those TV shows where they have bakers putting the equivalent of a rubberized roof skin on top of moist and tender cakes.

I planned on finding a recipe to complement the arugula pesto I’d made last night while listening to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, which I much prefer to listen to online than on the radio in the car. Tonight I would force myself to listen to All Things Considered or Marketplace because I really want to sound passingly intelligent about the U. S. economy and I am not.

Relieved to be home at last, I turned on my laptop and tried to get online and nothing happened. So I simply shut it down and started it up again. It has little gremlins—I’d like to Google “gremlins” for that matter—which live inside it, and it sometimes appears to be possessed by them. Sometimes my cursor will go haywire, careening around my screen like a bat trapped in my living room. This will go on for a few days and then things are restored to normal. Maybe it’s cyclical. Maybe my laptop has PMS.

I tried to get online again. No good.

But it was still OK. I spent a month on the coast earlier this summer and we had to reboot the cable box on an almost daily basis. I think it was the sea air.

I rebooted the cable box.

Nada.

We checked the TV. No cable, either.

That’s when something akin to panic set in. My husband asked me for the number of the cable company. I tried to Google it, realizing, with a sinking feeling, that I would have to actually get up, go through the Paid Bills box and get the phone number off of a monthly statement. And that one of us would actually have to make a phone call, possibly even having to deal with a real person.

But in fact, there was no person to talk to. Also, there was no solution to pursue. Something much worse had happened. “In your area,” the pre-corded message informed us, “there has been a cable outage.” If we left our phone number, we would be contacted when the repair was successfully completed.

An outage? An outrage.

Now what would I do? If, as I was making dinner tonight, I wanted auditory stimulation, I would have to listen to the radio. And I don’t even have a radio. And after dinner, during which I can muster the energy for actual conversation, I would have to possibly continue to converse and interact with the three other humans with whom I live. Oh dear, whatever would we talk about? And how could we bear it?

Well, there was some comfort in the answer to those questions. We would talk about the misery of a day (and an evening!) without Wi-Fi. We would be more inconvenienced by not having Wi-Fi than we would be by having to talk to each other. We might actually branch off into talking about other subjects. Like the Garnet Hill sale. Or the weather in Paris. Or the how the deceased pass their time in Valhalla.