My oldest friend and I have a ritual. I write her an email every night before I go to bed and she writes me every morning when she gets up. If we’re too tired or busy or preoccupied, a simple, “I am alive” suffices. We’ve both lived long enough to know that anything can happen overnight.
So, I ground my day by looking at the mail on my phone when I get up. Friday morning, it just keeps saying “Checking for Mail,” all the way through teeth brushing and bed making. I reboot my phone. Still, “Checking for Mail.” The New York Times crossword icon can’t open Spelling Bee, the second piece of my morning ritual.
I go into the living room and click the news icon on the iPad. Yesterday’s news. I go into my office and turn on the computer. When I try to log into Gmail, it informs me that the computer is offline and I should do something about it.
My building is hardwired by CenturyLink. There is nothing I can do about it except try to reach them. “For faster service,” the electronic voice tells me, “go to our website.” I would if I could. Navigating the CenturyLink voice labyrinth is seriously unpleasant. And time-consuming.
The next part of my morning practice is to listen to Tom Petty’s Buried Treasure on SiriusXM. The fact that Tom Petty is no longer among the living doesn’t get in the way. He talks and plays music while I shower. Friday morning, the only music that plays is in my head, where “Everybody Is a Star” is on a loop.
As the hours go by, I find myself increasingly off-balance and very much out of sorts. I’m also really grateful that I can still text and use the phone as a phone.
CenturyLink says someone will be out on Saturday to do the repair. I stay home all day to wait for them. By 7 PM, it is clear that they are not coming.
By Sunday morning, Day 3, I am going slightly nuts. I’ve been wanting to get a portable just-in-case radio for some time. I am now highly motivated. I go to Target. A friendly young man leads me to where the radios are supposed to be. “But there aren’t any,” he says. “Not here or in any Target within a ten-mile radius.” He shrugs. “I don’t know what’s going on. Why don’t you try Micro Center?”
Micro Center turns out to be a very large electronics store. I am hopeful. But all they have is a single emergency weather radio for $69.99. I’m not that desperate. Instead, I take advantage of their WiFi and wander the aisles as I search Amazon. I order a $20 retro radio. For an extra $2.99, they’ll deliver it before 10 PM that night. I am desperate enough for that. It feels like a worthwhile price to pay for a lifeline.
I turn it on first thing Monday morning to make sure the world is still doing all its regular things. By evening, Day 4 slowly grinding itself into the past, I’m still grateful for the radio and am acutely aware that It’s Not The Same. It’s not that I listen or watch a lot of the time, but, boy, do I long to plop myself down and turn on PBS. But I don’t have cable, so I can’t.
I can’t look anything up on Google. I finish my e-book and can’t take another out from the library. Nor can I download the one I took out last week. I can’t print anything out. I can’t pick up my email. I can’t work on the monthly e-bulletin for my job. I can’t check the headlines. I can’t wish anyone a Happy Birthday on Facebook. I can’t play my word games. I’m getting tired of listening to the internal loop of “Everybody Is a Star.” I am, as another friend said, destabilized.
By this morning, Day 5, I’m so hungry for the sound of voices other than my own that I listen to a rebroadcast of a long segment on NPR’s 1A on the Coastal Grandmother trend. The thought of having any style at all at this point in my transitional life seems laughable, much less that of “an elegant older woman who leads a slow and relaxed life on the coast.” But there’s a lot less programming selection on regular FM radio than on satellite.
You can’t reach CenturyLink over the weekend. I will spare you the saga of what it took to get to a human being both yesterday and today. Finally, this afternoon, a tech shows up. He scratches his head and looks puzzled a lot, but after several trips to the basement utility closet, gets my modem up and running. At 1:39 PM, I am reconnected. It’s amazing how much better I feel.
It’s good to be back.