Dateline: 23 August 2014
My mail-order home business, Planet Whizbang, is 100% internet dependent. All the information about my products is on the internet, almost all product orders come through the internet, almost all payments are made through the internet, all customer correspondence is through the internet, and all shipping labels are bought & printed via the internet. If the internet stops working, my business is akin to Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff.
That said, it was a crisis here last Wednesday morning when, first thing, I sat in front of my computer screen and discovered that my internet was no longer working. At first, I wasn't concerned because it has a tendency to go off for short periods of time. But it was off like never before.
I did nothing for the first day of outage, except check every few minutes to see if the internet was finally working. I assumed Verizon was having some kind of widespread internet issue and they were fixing it.
The next morning, still without an internet connection, Marlene went to a friend's house to use their internet. She was there for several hours getting orders and printing postage. I put in a call to Verizon.
After communicating with a robot and answering a series of questions, I got through to a real person. He spoke English well enough for me to understand (barely) and was very polite. The man spent a long time with me asking about how my router/modem was hooked up and he had me do a variety of things, unhooking and re-hooking cords, while he ran some tests from his end. It was all to no avail and he said they would have to send a technician out to fix the problem. That was good news. The problem was going to get fixed!
Then he informed me that the earliest time a technician could get to my house would be in eight days. That was not good news. Not at all.
I explained to the Verizon man that my business is 100% dependent on the internet and the prospect of waiting eight days to get it fixed was a nightmare. I told him that it was critically important that someone got here much faster. I was emphatic about this (without being an angry customer).
The man sympathized with me and said he would do what he could to get a technician here sooner. He said he would call me back when he had arranged the appointment.
Fifteen minutes later, the guy called back with good news. He had done everything he could to get a technician here sooner, and the absolute earliest appointment he could get was in six days. I thanked him for his help and hung up the phone, wondering what I could possibly do to work around this problem. Our friends were being very gracious with their internet, but using someone else's internet, computer, and printer for several hours a day to run our business was not something we felt right about.
Then someone told me that for around $80 I could buy a device at WalMart that would give me a temporary internet connection, using cell tower connections, and no contract was required. I could buy the thing and have internet until Verizon got here to fix my connection. Perfect solution, I decided that I would go to WalMart the next morning.
Then my oldest son stopped by. He started fiddling with the wires and the modem. A few minutes later, the internet was working. Problem totally solved.
It turns out that when he was in the Army, stationed in Korea for a year, he had gathered quite a bit of internet connection experience. When I asked what he did to fix my internet, he said he pushed the reset button on the router. I told him I did that twice. He informed me that the reset button needs to be pushed in for 30 seconds. That's what did it.
Next time the internet goes out, I won't call Verizon. I'll call my son.
My internet now works better than it has in years. The problem I had with the internet connection shutting off every time the phone rings is now fixed.
As I've noted here in the past, vulnerability comes with complexity. We live in a technologically complex, interconnected world. I fully expect the electrical grid to go down for an extended period of time someday and, of course, the internet with it. When that happens, I will mourn briefly and turn my attention to the post-grid realities of life, which I am mentally and physically (to a great degree) prepared to deal with.
But when I lose my electricity (with internet) and the rest of the world is still chugging along like normal, that's a real bummer.