I lost my internet connection last Wednesday afternoon. I wasn’t all that concerned, at first, because this happens, well, if not “all the time” then certainly with some regularity. Usually, all I have to do is go upstairs and unplug stuff, wait a bit, plug it all back in and it works again. This is the full extent of my savvy when it comes to tech repairs.
Only this time, it didn’t work. In fact, it failed to work several times on Wednesday. And a few more times Thursday morning.
Granted, I have an old modem. Connected to an even older wireless router that I’m pretty sure was a prototype left over from when the internet was first invented. Yes, I’ve been meaning to upgrade and replace and bundle and whatnot. But that would involve making a phone call. And being put on hold forever. And talking to some stranger. On. The. Phone.
Yeah, so guess what I ended up having to do anyway. Three people and a few terse words and several hours later, I was told (for the third time) that someone could come replace my modem on Monday. Yes, it was unanimous, that was absolutely the soonest. I’d be without an internet connection for FIVE DAYS. This seemed unreasonable. Actually, it seemed unimaginable. High-speed, my ass.
The alternative was to take the old modem to the cable company office and exchange it. Sounds simple, right? But this would involve leaving the house. Meaning I had to get dressed. And brush my hair. And find my shoes. And then talk to some stranger. In. Person. *sigh* But the alternative was hideous. Besides, how tough could it be?
Then I realized I had an address and no idea how to get there and no way to look it up. So I called my daughter and had her google it and she gave me directions and off I went. I know, I’m so adventurous. Intrepid, even. I found the place without incident, since driving past it and making an illegal U-turn doesn’t qualify as an incident if no one stops you, and went inside and there were 500 people in line, waiting. Okay, maybe not that many. Maybe there were 30. Might as well have been 500. Or 5000. That line was not moving. Not in the 20 minutes I stood there, anyway. Yes, that was the limit of my patience.
I’m telling you, that waiting area was oozing negativity, drenched in boredom and anger and frustration. Nothing moved. No one even glanced up when I walked in. Not the customers in line and not the two surly service reps behind the distant counter. It was like an existential tableau of graceless futile endeavour, frozen in time. I suspected I wouldn’t survive it. Didn’t want to even try. Monday started to seem not so far away. Except by the time I called back to admit defeat and schedule that Monday appointment, the next available time was on Tuesday.
Whatever. Tuesday was FINE. It’s not like they were depriving me of food and shelter. Or books. It was just the fucking internet. I could handle it. It’s not like I’m addicted to it or anything. Nope. Not me. That would be pathetic. Might even be cause for concern. I could give it up for a few days, no problem. I’d be fine.
I told myself this would be good for me. I’d get a lot of writing done. The internet was a giant distraction I didn’t need in my life. I could get news and weather from television. Or the radio. Yep, I’d almost convinced myself this would be awesome. And then I got home and saw my laptop sitting there, unconnected and lifeless, forlorn and pitiful and good only for one thing. Typing.
Oh hell. I am SO addicted to the internet. I was not fine. Not at all.
That’s when I briefly considered just buying a new modem. But while I was on the phone with the cable company for HOURS, I decided to go ahead and upgrade my service and they were all set to do that next Friday. Because why take care of things in one service call when you can do it in two. Conveniently, the new faster speed requires a different kind of modem. So if I bought one now that was compatible with my slower speed, I’d only be able to use it for a week. That would have been . . . foolish. I almost did it anyway.
But my practical side prevailed. The stubborn side trudged upstairs and plugged everything back in with a sort of sullen hopeless defiance and stoically settled in to wait it out. I watched television news and felt impatient when I couldn’t skip over the stories that didn’t interest me. I felt deprived when the local weather report didn’t include the entire world. I tried to watch the noon news and caught the last ten minutes of some daytime game show and felt despair for humanity. I watched Jeopardy as an antidote.
And I hated every single impatient minute of it. Both the lack of internet and my lack of control over the situation.
It’s one thing to shut down the internet by choice. I do that for hours at a time when I’m writing. It’s not a big deal when it’s my decision. It’s a really big deal when I can’t turn it back on again.
The absence of it felt like a presence. Like some dark silent threatening void, waiting there on the edge of awareness to absorb me into its opaque yawning nothingness. It was a huge distraction, this knowing I couldn’t connect. Not even to check email. I couldn’t stop thinking about it NOT being there.
Yes, I tend to obsess. Dramatically.
Things were . . . quiet. Not in terms of actual sound. But inside my head. The internet isn’t just a distraction, it’s a massive source of input. I hadn’t quite realized the extent of it. There are times that input is good and useful and challenging and necessary. That input informs me and satisfies my intellect and curiosity. I like to believe it stimulates my creativity. But lately, it has taken over and left me with not enough quiet time. Inside my head.
Okay, to be brutally precise, “it” hasn’t done anything. I have allowed this to happen. That’s not good.
This was quite the learning experience and I’m not exactly happy with what I learned. Especially since I’ve learned it before. Not well, apparently.
It’s tough for me to find a balance. It’s difficult to admit that. I need both– the noisy chaotic diverse input and the quiet time to reverse the flow and create output. Obviously, one of those things is passive and easy and seductive. The other is where all the hard work takes place. This inability to connect for several days was inconvenient and frustrating, but it was also a valuable demonstration of how far out of balance I’d gotten.
And right about the time I realized all this, my modem started working again. I was sitting here, resigned, minding my own business, reading over some pages I’d written, and all of a sudden I heard the faint little chime signaling the arrival of new email. Given the ensuing avalanche, it should have been a deafening claxon. Stupid modem. I swear, the damned thing is possessed. Don’t tell the cable company, they’ll charge me more.
So I cancelled the Tuesday appointment, kept the one on Friday and waded back into the internet. Slowly. Carefully. Even a bit reluctantly. Because as much as I missed it and was going a wee bit insane without it — and I’m not even kidding about that — I also missed the quiet in my own head.
I need to find a way to remember this lesson, a way to exert some control and maintain a balance between the extremes. I suspect it will be an ongoing struggle for me. And I’m certainly open to suggestions. But that fancy new upgraded equipment they’re bringing at the end of the week had damn well better still have cords that can be unplugged from time to time. Because sometimes the low-tech solution is simply the only one that works.