There are many news items from an island town in Alaska that are not typically heard down south. Each spring residents are reminded to bring in bird feeders to reduce bear trouble. Citizens are asked to dispose of animal carcasses properly so as to not interfere with airport traffic. And this week, there have been reports on how to handle the latest issue: limited internet connection. I imagine Silicon Valley has never had a week where the ability to draw up Google or retrieve email messages has taken ten minutes or not happened at all.
Down south, strong water currents and rugged terrain are not usually on the list of reasons for connectivity problems. And, while the repair truck with an impressive ladder may pull up in most neighborhoods, here the Wave Venture ship sailed off to find and fix the problem 1,400 feet below the ocean surface.
Reports streamed in…well, not streamed so much…on how locals handled the inconveniences. The radio reported service working at a Banana Slug pace which caused frustration for many. Some local spots went back to cash only service including the local McDonald’s where if you forgot your greenbacks, the Wimpy approach might work: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday….” As for the local station, KCAW, many hosts pulled out vinyl for their radio shows.
While the loss of something that has become second nature to our lives is problematic and even compromises work productivity, something else happened. People connected…connected without the internet. True, the library reported a swift business of movie rentals and one patron said she had read seven chapters in a book in one night, but others connected at the coffee shop and TALKED. Still others took this unscheduled time away from the world wide web to hike in the woods, go up a mountain and snowboard, or start in on their spring gardens. One friend reported that while she missed the latest installment of her favorite TV show, she and her partner talked for two hours one evening. She laughed, “I don’t think we’ve done that since our first date!”
The true gift of the week may have been the opportunity to experience life on unreliable terms to remind us what is reliable. We depend on the great satellites and fiber optics to get us from one place to another with a few clicks and seconds of transition. With that technology compromised, we relinquish expectations and embrace more fully that which does not go offline.
So much remains, including the news garnered from the local paper, the conversation with a neighbor, or the banter at the local coffee shop. With or with out the internet, the link that really matters is there for us—the connections we have with one another, face to face.