Monday, September 12, 2016

Disconnection

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I have no internet this morning. There's a medical abbreviation d/c for discharge, discontinue, or disconnect, and that's me, disconnected, feeling discharged, a patient on life support of bits and bytes streaming into my life suddenly disconnected and discharged, a mental pauper left over for the state to inter without the net.

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I've always been fond of Time Warner Cable's Eye of Horus Logo.
They along with Bright House Networks have been
purchased by Charter Communications, and the
resulting conglomerate will be known as Spectrum.
Visions of a rainbow truck like a gay pride parade come to mind.

Fortunately I'm able to access the net through my phone, so I'm not totally in the dark. I can write this blog you're reading now, but I have many other chores that I cannot tend until Time Warner Cable rescues me. They're coming to my house at 4 pm, but they said there's a line down in the neighborhood that might be there cause of my problem.

Fully half my life—professional, business, social, and recreational—happens online. So this morning as I got up, still half asleep, I had to stop and think whether cooking eggs was an activity that required the net or not. But then I remembered how I'd boiled three eggs in the middle of the night, Fleetwood Mac in the background, so it was too soon for more eggs. I toasted some frozen waffles instead.

I dressed, raised the opaque black windows shades and clipped them in place with their plastic clips like clothes pins. I brought the trash and yard trimmings barrels in from the curb. I ate my waffles and stared at my TV, which depends upon a Roku set-top box for programming, and without internet, the Roku's apps can make only empty superficial promises. The menus are there, but there programs are not. The menus mockingly and hypothetically say, "You could watch Sherlock. Or you could watch Seinfeld. Or you could watch Dr Zhivago. But you have no internet. So you can't!"

So in the world of television cable the division of labor separates the crews from those that serve houses from those who take care of the lines that get the programming and internet to the houses. Since there is an outage here in my little cul de sac, nobody is getting service, but I'm probably the only person to notice it because nobody else seems to be home. Of the five other houses, the occupants, who seem to work at home, of one seem to be away on a trip; the retired guy on the other side might not get cable (pure intuition); the couple with kids—also a home worker in that house—are likely cable subscribers and daytime users and daytime users, but they didn't complain (perhaps they get their service from AT&T instead of Time Warner); the next house is workaholically busy, and if there were a cable outage, it wouldn't be high on her list of priorities (a campaign sign for some minor local office appeared in her yard today—I wonder if that's for her: having political ambitions would keep someone as busy as she appears to be); and finally my mother had one of her vivid dreams about the woman on the corner dying in a car crash—and the odd thing is that nobody has been at that house now for weeks. I hope it's nothing dire, but certainly something is going on.

A few weeks earlier my mother had the same dream about my cousin, who talked to her on the phone to convince her that she was still alive, but my mother thought I had somehow prepared recordings of my cousin's voice, so my mother was asking questions to try to trick me out. Finally my cousin came over and proved beyond any doubt that she was still alive. We've actually pinned down the name of the neighbor on the corner and googled the Web for news, but there is nothing there.

It was clear to the cable crew that came to serve my house that I had no internet service because of the outage, so lacking anything better to do, they ran a new wire from my house to the box on the telephone pole as a quality assurance. The problem wasn't hard to find: on the opposing side of the circle, the wire stretching between poles had been broken and was dangling. What had happened was also fairly obvious: this was garbage day, and a truck's robotic arm had snapped the cable line in the process of lifting a trash barrel.

The trucks have one person on board who is able to do everything from the comfort of the driver's seat. The trucks are equipped with an arm not unlike the arm used to launch satellites on board the Space Shuttle. And there is a camera so the driver can see what he's doing as he reaches out to a trash barrel, closes the arm's claw around the barrel, then swings it up high into the air, which inverts the barrel so that it empties, then he puts the barrel down. The process is amazing to watch. I remember the days when trash trucks had crews of half a dozen people who hung on to the outside of the truck, and at every house they hopped down, picked up heavy metal cans, and dumped them into the trash bin. Those guys, after spending a day lifting literally hundreds of full trash cans, must have felt terribly sore.

On this day, the rumbling of the truck through the circle had woken me, so I had picked up my phone to check what was happening on the social networks, but I had no internet service. On my router the three most important lights—the send, receive, and internet globe—were out. Fortunately it was easy to switch to 4G through my cell phone provider and access the internet that way. I'm one of these people who can't live without it because large chunks of my social life and my professional life, including both publishing and research, are bound to the net. I suppose a lot of people came home—or will come home, since two of the houses still lack occupants—and never know that they were without cable for a day.

I've considered getting by with only my phone for the road. But the step down from a desktop to a phone—or even from a laptop to a phone—is a big one that limits a lot of what I can do. For example, the blogging app allows let me post only one picture with a post, and I sometimes like to have half a dozen. Google's wonderful office suite would let me maintain spreadsheets and documents from my phone, but it's like trying to build a house with needle and thread. How I will do what I need to do once I take this show on the road remains to be seen.


This is a poor illustration of what I want to show you because the arm is on the other side of the truck, and the truck caught me unaware and unprepared to get a picture of the arm in action. On some days as many as three trucks swing through the little circle to collect trash, recyclables, and compostable organic matter. ©2015 MW.