Over the last decade, I’ve come to rely heavily on my PC for basic things. I haven’t had batteries in my big scientific calculator for a long time, since I have Excel that does more than any hand-held calculator could ever manage. Check book register? I use Quicken. The few checks that I “write” a month, are actually printed out. And of course, the word processor and the scanner are two of my biggest friends in my job as teacher.
And then there’s email and the internet. The few errands that I ran yesterday reminded me why I avoid shopping with children in tow. Online I can find most things I need and have them delivered to my door at minimal additional cost. I use online banking to pay bills and see how much is left, as we approach the end of the month, in the “cash” account funded by my tenants. I’ve stopped getting a newspaper: weather and news are a few clicks away. I get directions to places I want to go, reviews on products I might want to try, alternative opinions on new and interesting topics discussed at an outdoor barbecue, and cut-rate prices, the best I’ve ever seen, on new or used books.
When we moved here, I guess we’ve been here about seven weeks, we were forced to put my desk in what should be the dining room, but is so small it won’t fit a table that would accommodate more than four people. The living room and dining room are combined. It’s a bit tight, but we’re managing. It’s only ten months, we keep reminding ourselves. And the desk is located well with a good vantage over most of the indoor and outdoor activity. Unfortunately, the cable guys could not, would not run the modem lines into that room. We had permission from housing, but they said they couldn’t do it within the scope of what housing deemed acceptable alterations.
No problem, they said. Here’s a wireless adaptor that plugs into your USB port. As long as you install it, you can have it for free. Wasn’t that nice of them?
I swear this thing had a mind of its own. And it was a twisted, malicious mind that derived pleasure from torturing this already harried woman.
It took us a week, and another visit from a different cable guy, to figure out how to get the thing to work in the first place. Even the cable guy sat and scratched his head for quite a while with a puzzled look on his face. After that, it has performed its job sporadically at best. It would tease me by saying, oh yes, I do see a signal…but it would refuse to connect to it. Or it would connect with limited connectivity, which really meant no connectivity. Or it would connect at a fraction of the available speed rendering its service more frustrating than helpful. And then, perhaps just as you were about to place an order on some books for your husband for his birthday, it would drop the connection. Oops, sorry, it would say, I’m just too tired to go on right now.
Every time we devised a new plan to get the thing to work, we would have a few days of trouble free connections, and then, like a child under a new discipline regimen, it would rebel and the magic tricks we used would suddenly no longer be of any use. Last Sunday, I woke up and tried to check the news and weather as usual with my morning coffee, but the adaptor had flat-lined. All efforts of resuscitation were futile.
Sunday wasn’t too bad, but Bill went off to school on Monday leaving me with the rotting corpse. And then I realized how much I use the internet as a linchpin for my sanity. There’s a world out there, beyond these sometimes confining walls, and my computer helps me to connect to it.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t live in the boonies. I have plenty of very nice neighbors with whom I am friendly. And my normally well-behaved children would love to help me escape our solitary confinement by going and visiting someone. And even without leaving the home, I have lots of people I could call and spend hours venting my frustration over these kids who seem to be taking turns coming up with new and unusual ways to push all my buttons. But I really didn’t want that. All I wanted to know was how hot it was going to be that afternoon, did anything in the world blow up, did my husband’s birthday presents ship, where should patches be sewn on an adult leader’s scout uniform, and what Herculean people was the furniture repair guy going to find who could lay my piano down flat without breaking it or this house.
Without an internet connection, I was frustratingly helpless to do these basic things, and it made me very cranky. I told myself that perhaps I should offer up this suffering for the souls in purgatory, but then another voice would shout that voice down. I shouldn’t be suffering, it said. I have an inalienable right to a functioning internet connection. And, actually, if I could have patiently suffered, I likely would not have been as motivated to fix the problem. I did try to not be grumpy with my family…I tried. But true calm did not descend until I had come up with a reasonable solution.
I considered putting my desk in the already crowded living room where the cable modem is. It’s only ten months, I reminded myself. But finally, I called a local computer shop and ordered a 46′ long ethernet cable which was surprisingly inexpensive. They promised it for Monday night, but didn’t have it ready, and I wasn’t able to get it until yesterday. But it was okay. I knew my problem would be fixed, and I could now offer up this waiting time. Naturally, sensing it was headed for the garbage pail, the wireless adaptor began to function again, in it’s taunting way, and I had a tenuous connection from Tuesday night through last night. Before dinner, my wonderful husband ran the newly purchased ethernet cable under the three rugs between the modem and the CPU – not a small feat considering the furniture that was on top of the rugs – and the wireless adaptor sits here in front of me on the desk, a worthless piece of junk. Who’s mocking who now, eh?
And now I can email the furniture repair guy about his insane idea for replacing the rusted wheels under my piano.
Life seems so much sunnier now.