Internetless in Gunnison

Well, it’s official: whether I want to be there or not, I am definitely a participant in the 21st century. Two days without internet — at home; there was internet at work — and I become barely able to function. What has happened to me?

Treemaggeddon: This is how all of Gunnison looked Thursday. Get on a road anywhere and you’ll find a pick-up with a trailer hauling leavings to the tree dump.

We here in Colorado, who like to assume we have a handle on winter, got caught completely unprepared for a major winter storm in early September. Now, I don’t know that there was much of anything we could have done about about blasting wind and tree-snapping snow, but infrastructure suffered mightily, much more than ever seems to happen during big snowstorms that take place when they’re supposed to.

We don’t, for instance, cancel school for a six-inch snowstorm in December. If we did that, children might never get schooled. But the transportation director had serious concerns about getting kids to school safely on really bad roads. The roads did get plowed overnight, but so many people were without power, and/or cell service, and/or internet, and it turns out to be nigh on impossible to function in today’s world without that.

The outages were so random, that’s what made it all the more maddening. At home our power went out, came back on, went out, came back on — in my vast, year-long experience with the Gunnison County Electric Association, this seems to be how it works, or doesn’t, out here in the country.

Lynn has a co-worker who lives on the other side on the highway, more or less straight across from us. She went without any power at all for two days. How does that even work?

In town, we never lost power, or internet, at work. But the three-story building that wraps around ours had no electrical service Tuesday or Wednesday. That makes even less sense, that the buildings on either side of it had power, but the big one in the middle had none.

Cell service came and went too, winking in and out for the better part of two days. One minute someone’s phone would be working, the next, six-word texts couldn’t be received.

But the internet — how did we ever get along in life without an internet?

In the old days, the city days, Lynn and I gave up on CenturyLink after repeated failures that turned out to all be on their part and not on ours like they kept trying to insist. We went with a local company that came highly recommended by our friends who lived in the county. And it lived up to its reputation.

If the company, Xtream, had an outage, they sent cell messages out immediately (which might not have helped this week, but they don’t appear to have had any service delivery issues). We were very happy with their service. But then we moved to the country, where these same trees that did not hold up well in the teeth of this chomping storm block any attempt by Xtream to deliver service to Riverwalk.

Our choices came down to CenturyLink, which just is never going to happen, and Spectrum, currently polling a poor second in the Livermore-Schumann Opinion Survey on Crappiest Internet Providers.

Here is why I like shopping locally. Were we still Xtream customers, and we didn’t have service, we could dial a local number and a local person would answer the phone to explain what had happened and how long it might take to effect repairs.

With Spectrum one gets an endless phone tree, and when they give you a menu, “repairs” isn’t even an option. Our Spectrum service has been very hit and miss, now that our “introductory rate” has expired and it costs 30 percent more, and there isn’t a single person in the entire world to tell that to (other than you all, who I assume will all be deeply sympathetic but unable to help), let alone care.

We kept getting, when our phones were working and we could call, a robo voice telling us they knew we had multiple outages in our area and they would call when service had been restored.

Spectrum never called, of course, but we did get internet back yesterday, late afternoon. Good thing: I might not have made it a third day without internet. [Update: a full 12 hours after service was restored, Spectrum did call to let us know that service had been restored. That’s the sort of customer service we’ve come to expect.]

For two internetless days, I was forced to go without my bike race, without my chat room about the bike race, without my newspaper, without my solitaire games. No weather, short of sticking my head out into a damp, soggy world that is still with us. I would think of something I wanted to know, but no way to look it up, despite reference books abounding in this house.

I thought I was going to have to go without Skyping with my friends for our coast-to-coast Thursday lunch, but cell service returned in the nick of time and Lynn was able to use her phone to put the pictures on her iPad, although this entailed me using my phone as well to reset a password. But we got there, halfway through lunch.

I missed a webinar I had signed up for, the second of three in a series that I have missed thanks to Spectrum. Blogging became an extra challenge I wasn’t able to rise to.

In short, my routine was blown to smithereens. In two days. How could I have possibly become so dependent on technology?

I didn’t think I was this hooked into Electronica. I still barely know how to work my phone, even without the burden of dropping cell service. I have rooms full of books, made more accessible by the arrival yesterday of my magnifying reading glasses with LEDs in the corners. I have reams of paper and plenty of pens to spell my thoughts out.

But no. I have become my worst nightmare, a Child of the Modern World. I am as addicted to the internet as everyone else out there. And almost completely non-functional without it, as embarrassing as it is to admit that.

Or am I embarrassed? A good public shaming would lead to a review of my actions, perhaps an entirely new way of life. I would have woken up this morning, a new me, aware that life can go on without the internet, and that I could be a functioning, productive member of society.

Is that what I did? No. I reached for my computer, logged into my chat room, watched my bike race, played solitaire, read my newspaper and looked up things as they occurred to me. I told you: it’s official, me here in the 21st century. I feel so ashamed — and yet, somehow complete.

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