N'Internet Pas

It rains and rains and rains. Yesterday it rained so hard the Internet broke. While it seems to me that a decentralized global network should still work while soggy, the IT dude told us there would be no packets before supper.

One of the most rapidly apparent effects this had on my colleagues and I was that we suddenly became ignorami -- answers to even the most seemingly basic questions baffled us and left us feeling sad and stupid.

"Who's that guy who was in that movie, you know, with the fireball -- with that girl?" asks someone.

Everyone turns confidently to their machines and then, a moment later, swears. Our favourite repositories of off-site cinema knowledge are not accessible.

Later on a producer asks: "How much would a new two hundred gig FireWire drive cost?"

And the multimedia guy is forced to offer a surprised and morose reply: "I...don't know."

We feel like Superman bitch-slapped by Kryptonite. None of our magical Cyber Age powers are working. We can't know the weather report or see through traffic cameras; we cannot settle arguments; we can't buy anything or even compare prices for future purchasing; we cannot retrieve client files uploaded to our off-site FTP server; we cannot drill down through trivia or follow trails of curiosity; we can't read the news or steal photographs, download television programming or albums of pop music; we can't videoconference with our babies or wives; we can't browse stock art or commercial music libraries or step through on-line tutorials; we can't ogle the Page Three girls from Britain.

Around midday the following sage advice trickles through the various departments: Don't work too hard today or they'll clue into how much more productive we are when the Internet's off.

We're bored between being busy. We wonder if we should photocopy our bums or have stapler fights. Everybody answers every question with, "Dunno -- Internet's down."

"Is Gothenburg in Sweden?"

"Dunno -- Internet's down."

"Did somebody put on a new pot of coffee?"

"Dunno -- Internet's down."

We are helpless. Bludgeoned at the yoke of HR to carry out important and/or sensitive conversations via e-mail, we cannot resolve issues. Face to face we are chicken. "Okay, I'll talk to you about this now if you insist, but I insist we CC our conversation to your boss."


"Maybe we should yell."

"Is he in his office?"

"Dunno -- Internet's down."

Everything is so bloody local. We miss the voices of many. We are Hugh. We might as well be working in an Afghani cave. We might as well be a bazillion miles from Earth. We're cut adrift -- vapid, disempowered, disconnected, alone.

"The IT dude says something happened to a fibre line in Brampton. Do you think it's true?"

"Look it up."

"Yeah, good idea -- hey wait: fuck you. That's not funny."

"It is, actually."

"Do I seem amused?"

"Dunno, Internet's d --"

"Shut up!"

People talk more. The telephone rings a lot. We get up from our desks and walk around to other departments to see people. It's weird. It's like an indoor field trip. If foley of clacking typewriters could be added for ambiance we would have a reasonable approximation of what it may have been like to work in an office in the nineteen-seventies or -eighties. A history class come to life!

Our connection comes back up around tea time. All work stops while we cram to catch up on our e-mail and instant messages, to get up to speed on who's been blown up by terrorists and whether or not any of Hollywood's summer blockbusters are reviewed as worth paying to see. Even deleting spam is a charmed chore when bolstered by a span of deprivation.

We are used to the Internet. Yesterday's science-fiction is today's hum-drum. I wonder what grand magicks will we take for granted tomorrow.


Simon said...

I've made similar (less eloquent) observations when we lose power in our office for an hour or half a day at a time. People bereft of the ability to work or engage in idyll.

Thankfully that hasn't happened in a long while now, which is why I'm able to post this comment from my desk at work.

Moksha Gren said...

Thanks to the wonder of instant access to data, I?ve had the privilege of discovering, forgetting, rediscovering, and reforgetting more information than my ancestors were ever exposed to. Why remember it when you can just look it up again? Such logic obviously lead to a problem when it rains.

PS ? If you?d like, I would happily forward you my spam so you can enjoy it while it?s still a treat to receive.

mandrill said...

Oh how I laughed. Not at your situation but your eloquent description of it.

Someone (can't remember who) said that humanity is only three meals and a powercut away from barbarism. Just goes to show that if anyone had the inclination to bring the world to its knees would they would only have to disable the internet.

I can sympathise completely with your situation though. Any time I've been deprived of my connection I've found myself feeling... well, disconnected.

Teddy said...

The wireless internet at my place sometimes goes bad, and I am cut loose of my umbilical for a short time. It's an uncomfortable feeling, but more so than that, I don't like the feeling of helplessness that comes from watching the internet flicker in and out and knowing I can do nothing I haven't already tried.

It is interesting, those times when we aren't tied into a shell of information. Fuel refills in the information superhighway.

I like the sense of humor in the conversation, too.


Derek said...

For those kinds of days, I have my Treo. Internet in a box, not requiring any working landline nearby.

Actually, in northern arizona, apparently the entire half a state is wired through one fiber--which occasionally gets dug up by a backhoe.

No internet, no phone service outside of the local town, no bank services (credit cards/atm), nada. It was like the 1940s. I wrote a check for lunch, and then we went back to the office and sat around starring at our monitors. Every few minutes we would pick up the phone to see if we could call California yet.

Mr Bates said...

Even though I am 150 miles from where Katrina made landfall, we lost power in my village for 4 days. There were still pockets of powerlessness 7 days later. During this time, we walked around the neighborhoods, sat on people's porches and drank warm drinks (as we had no ice). I would not have been surprised to see Andy, Aunt Bee and Barney Fife wandering about. We discussed things like how lucky the people with generators were. The people with generators were pissed because their broadband was still useless (since the cable company was powerless AND missing several miles of cable).

On the 3rd day, we got limited www access at work (before a/c and full power, mind you) and I felt like my waiting 5 hours in a petrol queue had been worth it.

I have no idea how I managed to survive childhood, much less being a young adult.

Mark said...

Well put. I'm anxious to see how much teaching has changed due to the Internet, once my boy's in school.

I often have wondered how much different my college days would have been with ubiquitous Internet connections. I never would have heard of it in school had I not returned for a couple more years after graduating. Even then, it was just a novelty, and e-mail was something I did using my dial-up BBS connection.

The Girl in Black said...

I wonder what grand magicks will we take for granted tomorrow.

I don't know...internet's down.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Your post made me laugh, especially since we could relate. In my advancing age, I welcome more electronic disruption.. so I can have more time to myself and my family.

Thanks for sharing.

Jim McKee said...

I absolutely LOVED this post... especially the line "We feel like Superman bitch-slapped by Kryptonite". That was worth the price of admission in and of itself!

I actually had a similar incident at home about a month ago... the people in the apt. above me hijacked my cable service, which included my cable internet connection. For 2 days, I was reduced to dial-up internet (via AOL ~ UGH!!!) and broadcast TV. It was a good time to catch up on DVD's.

lukas said...

the only way to get you blogging again is to turn _off_ the internets? wow.

my doctor said i wasn't getting enough irony in my diet.