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BLOG: Early Morning Musings, This Man Was An Island

On losing Internet access.

I took my laptop to the miracle workers in my employer’s IT department because of a few issues with its performance, and 48 hours later they put me on notice that the poor thing was terminal. However, in appreciation of my faithful service and with some guarantee that I would continue to serve with a modicum of productivity, they offered me a “company computer” to use out of my home office.

I hustled myself to the workplace before they could change their minds, and they bestowed upon me a marvelous new machine that promised to fulfill my wildest expectations. I brought it home and plugged it in, and I was ready, friends, ready for a great leap into the future. Nothing happened.

Well, not exactly nothing. The machine powered up nicely. The home screen was attractive. But very quickly I got the message that no internet connections were available. I was a man unto himself, unable to connect with the great world beyond my desk. Powerless.

I am no fool. I marched up to the magic machine that provides me with internet access and executed a highly complex technological maneuver. I unplugged it. All of the cables. I waited two minutes. I plugged it in again. That usually does the trick.  Not this time.

Concentrating on keeping my calm and breathing slowly, I looked up the phone number for technical support at the conglomerate that grudgingly provides me with telephone service and internet access. (I will not name them here, lest I be sued, but if you say the words “Cemetery Rink” a number of times, you will get an idea of whom I speak.)  At this point I discovered that, in point of fact, they were not providing me with telephone service at that time either.

I was not down yet. I dusted off my trusty cell phone. Now understand that I am not a big cell phone person. I have an absolute minimal cell phone that I usually do not have with me. In contrast to the contemporary “smart phone” trend, it is a “dumb phone.” All it knows how to do is make and receive telephone calls. But at this point my dumb phone (which is not related to the Cemetery Rink people) did the job and I got through to technical support.

I don’t believe I had ever had a direct telephone conversation with someone in Mongolia before. I was okay as long as I was talking with one of the company’s machines, but once I actually got put through to a person, communication broke down. I could only understand about 10 percent of her words, and she probably would say the same thing about me. There was no point in trying to describe to her where I live, just in case this was a neighborhood problem; she knows as much about the geography of Eagan as I know about the geography of Venus.  But I did understand one thing: a service person would be at Chez McKinley to solve our problem by 8 o’clock that night. (It was then about 11 a.m.)  And there would be an additional charge if the service person actually had to set foot on our property.

The hours came and went. No land line telephone. No Internet. At 8:30 I called, and after punching a few buttons was informed that the service person would, in fact, be at our home by 7:30 p.m. the next night! I steeled my soul for another 24 hours of isolation. 24 hours without e-mail. Without being able to check on my fantasy baseball team. Without getting updates on what my friends eat for breakfast, or a link to a truly charming cat video, or a reminder of a perceptive column in the New York Times or on Fox News. (I have a diverse group of friends.) How could I survive?

But the news turned better with the morning light. For some reason I called the Cemetery Rink people again, and this time the report was that the person would be at our house between 9:03 and 10:13 a.m. The Cemetery Rink people apparently believe in precision. Not between 9 and 10:15 a.m., but between 9:03 and 10:13.

Encouraged by this development, I went off to a morning appointment, leaving the lovely Mrs. McKinley to deal with the service person. Who did come while I was gone. Between 9:03 and 10:13. And did come onto our property. And did charge us $85. To point out that back there a bunch of paragraphs ago when I was unplugging and replugging, I had plugged something into the wrong place and thus delivered a death blow to the whole system. For $85 he plugged things in correctly. And all has been well since then. This even provided the afore-mentioned lovely Mrs. McKinley a welcome opportunity to point out to me that I really shouldn’t try to repair things myself.

It was that whimsical poet John Donne who asserted that “no man is an island.”  You can bet that old John never lost Internet access for 24 hours, for a man without Internet access is, verily, an island. It felt good to be reconnected to the continent.

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