Armageddon Week


Day six of Armageddon week begins with the sound of a cat scratching his morning poop into a pile – the furnace kicks on with a thrumming base line – the house creaks under its burden of ice.

Beside my cold fireplace the red dot on the modem continues its endless blink, blink, blink. It is the sixth day without Internet, without television, my “service provider” not providing anything in the way of service. The sixth day periodically without telephone or electricity. I am living in the fifteenth century. And I have ceased to care all that much.

That is the revelation that accompanies my morning cup of tea. I am no longer railing against the world. I have decided there is no world.

From somewhere beyond these walls come the sounds of distant planes and cars. But the sounds could be an illusion bred of expectation and the habit of hearing.

I have no notion what is happening Out There – no knowledge of the weather forecast, or current events, or the Facebook status of friends Out There. I am ignorant of my bank balance and current net worth. It is possible those things no longer exist. It is equally possible they no longer matter.

For all I know the Chinese, the Russians, and the KKK have already taken over America. How would I know until they come marching up my snow-covered path chanting incomprehensible slogans?

My plunge back in time started with trying to save a few dollars (What mean “dollars”?) by switching from Comcast to Century Link. I now realize I should have asked to which century they intended to link me, exactly.

The first day or two of “silent running”, Paul and I called Century Link tech support at hourly intervals. The answers to our questions varied with each person we were transferred to. It’s a limited outage. It’s system-wide. 2000 people in the Burien area affected. 20 households affected. Anytime now. Have you tried rebooting? Have you tried unplugging, then re-plugging? What did you say your problem was, again? We’re working on it. We’re waiting for a part. We’ll send you a status email (How will you do that, seein’ as how I have no frikin’ internet service?!)

Then this answer, “The D Slam is down but we’re working on it. Sorry about this .We’ll issue you a credit on the bill. Never have seen such a long outage.” The “D Slam”? Surely they made that one up for my benefit. ETA? Open ended. Either within the hour – or never.

The red modem light blinks, blinks, blinks. I am thinking of putting a Sticky note over it so that it doesn’t continue to draw my eye, reminding me of the communications infrastructure I once took for granted but to which I no longer have access.

Finally 2016 ended – certainly the most wretched year in recent memory. Dorli, Paul, and I had intended to stay up to see the Time’s Square ball drop New Years Eve, watch the televised fireworks over the Space Needle, rejoice in seeing this horrific year DIE, DIE, DIE – but the television was a mute black rectangle on the wall.

Instead, we drank prodigious amounts of wine and binge-watched last season’s Game of Thrones by patching it to the TV from my computer where it was saved. It seemed uniquely appropriate to the mood. “Winter is coming!” Neighbors set off fireworks at midnight. We drank Proseco outside on the deck until two a.m. as tiny snowflakes spun under the porch light.

The first day of 2017 we awoke to four inches of clingy snow stuck to branches, power lines, shrubbery, houses and cars, stacked deck chairs, and hummingbird feeder. Had snow been forecast? We couldn’t know, but here it was, a magical surprise. I sprinted out in slippers and robe to take pictures.

Three hours later the power went out just as we were beginning to think of lunch. (At least with the electricity out that blasted red modem light no longer blinked.) I started a cheery fire in the fireplace, comforted by the fact that there was plenty of firewood beside the garage. We ate leftover cheese and veggie nibbles from the previous evening. Roughing it wasn’t so bad. We could do this thing.

My first Monday in the fifteenth century was a mini ice age. The snow of the previous day had slumped into glacial ski slopes and black ice. I assumed the Highline School district was giving the kiddies an extended vacation, as I observed no vehicles of any kind braving our street, much less school buses. But of course since I had no TV news coverage to consult . . .

Mr. Sanchez across the street made a valiant attempt to get his truck up his driveway, slid backwards into the middle of the street while I watched, white knuckled, praying he didn’t take out my front fence for the second time in a year. I must thank whatever deity heard my plea. He stopped short by two feet.

At least the power hadn’t stayed off long. (It popped back on as soon as I got the fire blazing – blinking modem light and all.) Paul called Century Link – D Slam still slammed. “We’ll call you when we get it up.” Don’t call us, we’ll call you. Assuming the telephone continues to work (it’s provided by Century Link also). I no longer have a cell phone so it’s either the landline or smoke signals these days. Still, we do have firewood if need be.

After the first three days of electronics withdrawal I felt my brain reboot. I quit staring at that damned red light. I washed the dishes, put in a load of laundry, and tidied the house. After which I worked on my 2017 budget and shredded a monster stack of last year’s bills and correspondence. That sucked me into completely tearing apart my office, cleaning and rearranging every last item – actually filing folders in their proper places in the file cabinet! Who knew they even had proper places? Next I tossed a huge pile of old drafts and hardcopies of novels into the recycle bin.

I wrote seven haiku and a very short story that involved an aging woman named Marigold Juliana Hill-Smith (AKA Mary Smith) who supplements her Social Security by taking care of tropical plants in office settings part-time – as well as taking on the occasional industrial espionage assignment. In her further adventures perhaps she will be hired to sabotage a fiber optic network, who knows?

Following that train of thought, remember when the Evil Orange called for someone to shut down the Internet? “Shut it down!” he screamed, his face even more orange than usual. (How he imagined he could continue to tweet with it shut down, I haven’t a clue. He also thought that Bill Gates runs the net. Apparently E. O. doesn’t know Gates is a semi-retired software developer and has no control over the Internet. Figures. E.O. isn’t the brightest star in the firmament.)

As I sit here in the fifteenth century I can see how very affective such an act would be in totally shutting down this country. Putin pulls the plug and we sit staring at the walls of our silent houses, isolated and helpless. It wouldn’t take much, it wouldn’t take very long.

It hasn’t yet been a week and already I’m beginning to panic at the thought that bills are coming due and I have no access to my checking account! I’ve managed my money on line for a decade. Yes, I realize I could probably call my bank (if the phone is functioning that day), find out my balance, and write a paper check. Problem is I believe the envelopes went out with the recycle last week – and I have zero notion where my checkbook is anyway. I haven’t written a check in years. I’m sure I’m only one of millions who have become dependent on electronic bill pay. Were the net to go down for a few months nationwide our entire economy would undoubtedly fall right off a fiscal cliff.

This little side trip into a Twilight Zone episode has taught me a few valuable lessons though: I need to move toward cash when I can, auto-pay where it can be arranged, and pay off any credit cards that still have balances. Not sure how to handle the utilities since I never know what’s due until I see a bill – will think about it. Maybe get on an automatic monthly plan. That way if this happens again I won’t be collecting late charges. Or have my electricity shut off. Or my Century Link server disconnected. Oh wait . . .

Blink, blink, blink.

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