A Week Without the Internet

by wjw on November 20, 2011

Well, not literally a week.   About five days without, and another three with a spotty connection that seems to work fine until I actually try to send some data back and forth, at which point it usually crashes in a fairly comprehensive manner.

Comcast has, I’m surprised to report, been quite good re customer support.  Perhaps it has dawned on America’s Cable Monopoly that they do, in fact, have competition.  (As for why I chose Comcast to begin with, it’s because out here in the sticks, there is no high-speed alternative unless I want to spend major bucks for a slower satellite connection.)

They sent a repair guy on Wednesday.  When the problem was narrowed to the junction box I share with several neighbors, the repairman indicated that he wasn’t competent to fix it, but called the junction box specialist who arrived within hours and apparently fixed the problem.

So I had trouble-free Internet for maybe 18 hours, at which point it began to deteriorate again.  So another repair guy is scheduled for tomorrow morning, which is Sunday.  (The old Comcast, I’m reasonably certain, wouldn’t even answer the phone on Sunday, let alone send a repairman.)

In the meantime, what was it like to be without lightspeed communication for a week?

Surprisingly pleasant.

Oh, there was a certain amount of anxiety over whether I was missing any important messages, which swiftly faded when I managed to access the SMTP server on my smartphone and get a look at the messages which actually awaited me.  (The Android’s Internet connection also went down for 24 hours or so, I guess on a sympathy strike.)

But for someone like me, whose experience on viewing email is akin to being jabbed in the gum by a dental pick every few seconds, I found that I experience more anxiety when I can get my email than when I can’t.

Over the week, I was sent something like 500 email.  Of these, maybe 60% were spam.  Three were messages that actually mattered to me, and one was a message that mattered to someone else.  (There was a certain amount of anxiety in trying to reply to that one in a timely fashion.)

Of the messages that actually mattered, all but one could have been settled with that 19th Century standby, the telephone.  And the last could have been dealt with by mail.

For the most part the rest were messages from a number of listserves to which I belong.  These are of a professional or semi-professional character, and were set up by writers who wanted to communicate urgent news of interest in our field.

Of course it didn’t take long for these listserves to turn into social networking sites, featuring people sending each other cute cat videos and neeping about how cute their new gadgets are and generally acting like desperately overworked, desperately lonely people trapped all day in their home office with only a slender silicon cable to connect them to the outside world.   While sometimes these listserves are very useful indeed, there was nothing this week of any real interest.

All listserves, I suspect, inevitably degenerate into something like Facebook, except more exclusive.

There was yet more anxiety about the fact that I had a story deadline this week, and was unable to send my finished story until after the deadline had passed.  (There were repeated attempts to send the story, but finally one worked.)  A phone call told my editor that the story would be in the Inbox as soon as Comcast permitted.

(Editors, incidentally, start experiencing anxiety when stories are late and there is no explanation forthcoming from the author.  I always explain why my stuff is late, assuming of course that it is.  It’s only the polite thing to do.)

Apropos the story, it was annoying not having the instant access to information to which I’ve grown accustomed.  Rather than being able to look stuff up immediately, I had to put little placeholders in the text to be filled in when I actually had Internet access.

The searches I ran for this story would provide a lot of interesting memos for NSA and Homeland Security: I was looking up recipes for rocket fuel, igniters and explosives, forensic pathology, human anatomy, law enforcement, and— of course— Wild Plants of New Jersey, so that my hero could hide behind a hackberry bush instead of some other damn kind of bush.    But eventually I got my current limited access and all placeholders were duly filled.

But other than that, I found my week peaceful and pleasant.  I read a book and several stories.  I did a lot of martial arts.  I lunched with friends.  I proofread Angel Station, which is the next book to be available for your e-readers.  I took lots of naps.  I was unable to post to this blog, and I didn’t look at Facebook, and I didn’t see any news sites.

What a pleasure!  I didn’t much miss the 21st Century at all.

I would like to say that during this period I learned some profound lesson about myself, or about life in general, or maybe about life in Mayberry,  but the fact is I didn’t.  It was an involuntary vacation, and pleasant in the way that vacations often are; but I will be voluntarily returning to the 21st Century once I get my connection fixed.

So hello, everybody!  How was your week?

UPDATE:  It only took me three tries to upload this post.  We’ll see how long it takes to upload this update!

Foxessa November 20, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Our list serve hasn’t degenerated into that because nobody can post on it except us. You subscribe to it if you want (evidently a lot of people do, considering the numbers. But subscribers don’t get to say anything, unless as a response directly to us in a private e-mail message. Or in the special New Year editions, when all the subscribers are encouraged to have their say, about the three books they most engaged with in their reading over the past year. Subscribers look forward to that too, begin reminding us, encouraging us to run it again this year.

They send us their titles and what they want to say about them. Then we format them, add links to where they can be obtained, and all that. Yeah, that’s a lot of work since there are over —- subscribers, though not everyone sends in books.

Love, C.

Foxessa November 20, 2011 at 9:07 pm

We couldn’t load any of the big sites like the newspapers, television networks etc. most of last week.

Until it came back toward the middle of Friday I couldn’t figure out what had happened. We’d messed with our stuff, and decided the problem wasn’t with us, because 1) could get overseas newspapers; 2) social sites, 3) google, with ease.

It was Time-Warner Cable, outages all over the country starting earlier this month, due to a bug in the Phyber routing hardware. They still haven’t told anybody. But yesterday I was able to dig up a techie watchdog site that wrote about it.

Blackberries and Androids were out too in many places, particularly in this region.

Love, C.
Love, C.

Ken Houghton November 21, 2011 at 5:06 pm

“Wild Plants of New Jersey”

I believe that will have to be the name of my daughter’s first band. Like Unicorns, hippogriffs, and sane Republican governors, it’s a mythical set.

Urban November 21, 2011 at 6:21 pm

Happened to me last month. My “fibre converter” had gone more and more bad the past 6 or so months, without me noticing because the PC was getting worn out so I thought it was that. Then the PC broke and the new one couldn’t get any Internet connection for a bit more than a week.
Used an iPad with the Android phone as its wifi hotspot. And not a whole lot of data transfer /month available.

What happened was that I finally watched videos I’d stored on the iPad, after having had them on my PC for several years. Read a couple of e-books, at least one I downloaded in 2001. Found out there were some web forums I really didn’t miss, some webcomics I couldn’t live without and when time wasn’t the only constraint that some TV series aren’t really worth bothering with. Spent more time cooking food.

I like having a choice, but otherwise it was quite OK.

But last week was like usual.

ComcastMark November 21, 2011 at 9:40 pm

I am sorry for the trouble. I work for Comcast. If you need more help, please feel free to contact me. I can reach out to my local colleagues to look into the problem.


Mark Casem
Comcast Corp.
National Customer Operations

Keke November 29, 2011 at 4:17 am

What’s this “reach out” stuff? Sounds like the trash we get from head office at Home Depot.

Lee November 30, 2011 at 7:15 am

I’ve been there with Comcast. Do you have any other internet service providers you can try? I hope you can get back online soon.

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