Disconnected

Originally posted October 22, 2009

I arose a little later than usual yesterday, as I’ve been battling a stubborn cold, and came into the study to check a few blogs and prepare a post. As the computer booted, I picked up the phone to tell the Texas Gal – already at work – that I was breathing and upright.

No dial tone.

I went to the front rooms and tried that phone. No dial tone there. So I went back to the study, planning on sending an instant message or an email. We had no ’Net access, either. I clicked on the TV, got a picture and sound and assumed that was okay. (That was an error: It turned out that most of our cable channels were down, too.) Now I really needed to talk to the Texas Gal as well as the cable company.

We gave up our cell phones a while back, so I drove down to the neighborhood convenience store. There, hunching my shoulders against a light rain, I dropped a couple of quarters into the pay phone. The Texas Gal said she’d call the cable company and told me to go home and get in out of the rain. An hour or so later, she came home for a few moments and said that a service tech would stop by during the early afternoon.

And actually, two of them did, with the second of them bearing the unwelcome news that our services would not be restored until sometime around two in the morning. He said that we were one of nine customers affected by an equipment failure, but making the ten-minute repair would require disconnecting about three hundred customers. So his bosses, he said, had told him not to repair the fault; instead, a truck would come out sometime after midnight and take care of the problem.

It was a perfectly sound business decision, but it was still annoying and a little worrying. Missing the high end cable channels for a day was no big deal. Nor was being offline, I thought. But being without a phone in case of emergency? That wasn’t good, and I told the fellow that. He nodded. “I understand,” he said. “And I’ll pass the word on. But I can’t do anything about it.”

I nodded back, and after he left, I went and found my deactivated cell phone. I think – though I’m not certain – that even deactivated phones can call 911. So I charged the phone and put it on the dining room table just in case the worst occurred. It didn’t. We had a pleasant evening: some television, some reading and, for me, a little bit of tabletop baseball.

As pleasant as the evening turned out to be though, not having ’Net access was a major annoyance: Both of us missed our normal online activities. No email or Facebook, no new blog posts to read, no way to check my fantasy football teams or the Texas Gal’s quilting group. And that pointed out to us how large a part of our lives the online world has become. It’s amazing how, in a relatively brief bit of time, we’re living so much of our lives online.

Is that worrisome? Not so long as we can do without if we have to. The things that the ’Net brings to our lives are worthwhile, fun and maybe even important. But they’re not essential. (That holds true, too, for the high-end cable channels. The telephone is another story, I think.) Still, even though I was out of touch for only a day, it’s good to be back.

A Six-Pack of Communications
“Telephone Line” by the Electric Light Orchestra, United Artists 1000 [1976]
“57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)” by Bruce Springsteen from Human Touch [1992]
“(I’m A) TV Savage” by Bow Wow Wow from I Want Candy [1982]
“Race of the Computers” by Pete Carr from Not A Word On It [1976]
“TV Mama” by Big Joe Turner, Atlantic 1016 [1953]
“Pick Up The Phone” by Lesley Duncan from Moonbathing [1975]

The first two of these are pretty well-known, I think, and Bow Wow Wow is, too, though maybe this track is less well-known than some of that odd band’s other music. (Sorry for the low bitrate on that one, but it’s all I had.)

Pete Carr’s name is more familiar as a session guitarist at Muscle Shoals than as a solo artist, but Not A Word On It is a pretty good solo album. All-Music Guide has a date of 1975 for the record, but I’ve seen 1976 in other places I trust, so I’m going with that. (Thanks to walknthabass at Gooder’n Bad Vinyl.)

Big Joe Turner, one of the premier blues shouters, recorded from the 1930s into the 1980s, but seems almost forgotten today. “TV Mama,” recorded when television was still very new, is an example of using the most recent fad or craze as a framework for a salacious bit of music. (I ripped this from a library collection long before I ever thought about bitrates, so this track, too, is at a lower bitrate than I normally share.)

Lesley Duncan was a top session vocalist in England during the 1970s and released a few solo albums that were critically praised but didn’t sell all that well, from what I can tell. “Pick Up The Phone” is a nice piece of mid-1970s pop; if you like it, you’ll like the rest of Moonbathing as well as Duncan’s other work, I think.

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