The Day the Earth Stood Still

InternetTwo weeks ago, all internet and a lot of telephone service along the Mendocino Coast was interrupted when an auto accident on Comptche-Ukiah Road resulted in a pole struck and slammed to the ground. Apparently that pole supported a bunch of microwave ovens—or whatever it is that allows us to electronically connect with the greater world.

Twenty miles away on that Sunday evening, the scene in this house was reminiscent of clips from the 1971 movie “The Panic in Needle Park.”

I hate to admit it, but my husband Gary and I feel we have a God-given right to trouble-free internet access. (I was once told you’re only as sick as your secrets—so there you have it.) In fits of rage, we unplugged the modem, plugged it in, cursed the red light, and called friends to ask if they had service. Oddly, everyone’s phone was busy.

A radio broadcast revealed what had happened and sparked some very serious questions: Who was the driver of the car? Was he drunk? He must have been drunk. I’ll bet he was drunk.

Why are the various contraptions that provide internet, cell phone and bundled services (internet/television/cell and landline phones) on one measly pole? I suggest three poles: one for this, one for that, and one for this and that. Doesn’t this make far more sense than having everything attached to something that can be toppled and freak out an entire community of internet addicts?

After I learned that the services that connect us to the outside world are actually provided through a fancy cable, I had more questions: Why can’t the cable be buried like in civilized communities? Why must it hang from a series of polls that subject it to the perils of wind, storms and careless drivers? Why does AT&T hate us?

AT&T's ugly building in Fort Bragg

AT&T’s ugly building in Fort Bragg

Each time I pay my landline phone bill, I grumble at forking out money for something I rarely use. Now I’m grateful. Unlike many who were knocked out of all communication, my landline continued to function. But it was useless for calling my bundled-service friends and it couldn’t access Facebook.

Without use of the internet, my business came to a grinding halt. (Despite the millions I make from writing this blog, it is not enough to support my lavish lifestyle.) On Monday morning, I was unable to follow the financial markets and check on the latest charitable works of the Kardashians. I was forced to file stacks of paperwork, clear off my desk, and vacuum my office. I plucked my eyebrows, waxed my mustache, and painted a spare bedroom.

It was only ten o’clock.

sweetaffairI went downtown to soothe myself with a treat from the fabulous French bakery, A Sweet Affair. Thank goodness her ovens had not been affected. I went to Feet First to buy a pair of running shoes. I’d once read that runners should refresh their shoes every so many miles. I figured I’d finally fallen into the so many miles category. I put them on and ran home to eat my pastries.

By Tuesday, I wished I’d purchased more than one cupcake (okay, I’d bought two) to sustain me through the bleak hours ahead. (A Sweet Affair is closed on Tuesdays.)

I went downtown, stood on the corner of Laurel and Franklin Streets, and hollered that I had a working landline at my house for rent at $50 per call. Before I even closed one deal, I was arrested. The cop let me go after I allowed him to use the phone for free.

cuteThat afternoon, I studied Lucy and wondered what she would look like with eyebrows. Despite my efforts to conceal the eyebrow pencil, she spotted it and ran into my office. I noticed the red light on the modem was gone. After 48 hours it must have burned out.

I turned on my computer and clicked the icon thingy that gets me on the internet and—thank the powers that be—I was one with the world once again. I spent hours checking email, Facebook, and—believe it or not—even Twitter.

And the Kardashians? After each was fitted with a designer wardrobe, they flew to Israel to negotiate a successful peace agreement with Palestine. Afterwards, they were spotted at Fashion Week in Tel Aviv.

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Seven Things Smarter Than Me

DSC025891. My Honda Civic. It has a warning light that looks like a like a horseshoe with an exclamation point in the center. The first time it came on, I panicked. Over the years, I’ve driven my share of crap cars that did odd things like overheat, not start, or get flat tires without warning.

Turns out this light is my car’s way of communicating that one or more of my tires is under pressurized.

Wow.

(I’ll spare you my issues with the car’s Bluetooth—just know that it mocked me to the point of wanting to beat it with a hammer.)

square2. The Square. As a board member for the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, I recently (make that a year ago) volunteered to set the organization up with the Square for processing credit card transactions. With a week to spare, I ordered it and attempted to download the app on my iPad2.

The app would not download because my crazy old iPad2 had an outdated operating system. It needed iOS6.0 or better. I tried several times and was denied. I Googled it and followed some lying blogger’s instructions.

It seems the outdated iPad2 cannot be updated and the Square is useless on my machine. I hate them both.

iTunes3. iTunes. On those rare occasions when I download music, it adds songs I didn’t request.

There are a few delightful surprises like “Sugar” by Imperial Teen. I love that song. I also adore “One Moment to Another” by Jon Dee Graham and “San Francisco” by Secondhand Jive. Who are these artists who help me push through the barfing sensation when I jog? I must meet them all.

On the flip side, there’s a song that I do not like—a country-rock tune about “sweet Mary Lou was left standing at the altar.” I don’t want it, but don’t know the title so can’t get rid of it. Fortunately, I know how to skip it on my iNano (or whatever it’s called).

twitter4. Twitter. I Tweet and Follow, but I don’t often go to the site because I’m busy! I believe the point of Twitter is to allow busy people access to short messages and decide whether to spend their precious time reading links.

I wonder how it makes sense to follow 100 Twitterer’s when I don’t have time to even glance at their daily Tweets? I’ve got the shakes right now—I truly do.

iPhone5. iPhone. I had a non-smart phone for years before recently getting an iPhone. This prompted iPhone cultists to ask if I loved it, if I didn’t think it was the coolest thing ever, and so forth.

I guess.

I didn’t use it much until I discovered that I could download games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles.

Okay, so I’ll admit I like being able to access Facebook and the ability to take pictures. I recently discovered Instagram, which is fun. Early on I was able to get emails until one day I couldn’t. The phone asked for my password and after I typed it, told me I was stupid. I tried again and again.

I asked my kids for assistance. They gave me instructions in what sounded like Norwegian, and when I started to cry, they advised: “Google it.”

I followed Google’s step-by-step instructions. They didn’t work. On a trip to San Francisco, I stopped by an Apple Store. A friendly employee tapped about the screen, handed it back, and looked away while I typed in my supposed email password which—yes, you are correct—did not work. I tried again and again before starting to cry. He offered a goofy smile and shrugged his shoulders. (My only consolation is that my iPhone is smarter than him, too.)

As I left the store, I stared down my phone and hissed, “I don’t care if I can’t access email on you. I’ve lived a reasonably happy existence for decades without it and will carry on just fine you smarty pants bastard.”

selfcheckoutjpg6. Self-checkout Counters. The screen asks, “Do you have a bag?” I only have two items and don’t need a bag. But if I answer No, will I be charged for one? So I answer Yes and the woman inside the machine tells me to place my bag in the loading area. But I don’t have a bag and there’s no place on the screen to change my mind.

What to do? What to do?

Mumble curse words as I leave and wait in the Express Lane while playing a crossword puzzle on my smarty pants phone.

One afternoon I went into our very busy Safeway and heard an alarm blaring at the self-checkout stand. A man who looked like Jerry Garcia yelled, “Help me! Help me!” as he shook his arms over his head. I felt a deep connection.

roku7. Smart TV/Roku. If my husband ever leaves me before switching the Smart TV from the Roku to television mode, I’ll never be able to watch television again.

I’m certain I’ll add more to this list as I continue through life. My hope is that it will force me to become a better person by learning humility—and maybe discover the title of that song about how sweet Mary Lou was left standing at the altar.help