After an 18-hour Internet and Cable TV outage, all I can say is, “You can never be too wired!”
You know how they’re always saying, “We’re too wired.” “We spend too much time looking at our screens.” “Things would be a lot less stressful if we would simply ‘unplug’ and begin to live in an unconnected world.”
Too all that, I say “hooey!”
And why, do you ask, do I say “hooey?”
Because for the last 18 hours or so, I did unplug – not by choice, but by circumstance – the circumstance created by my great “frenemies,” Xfinity (aka Comcast) and Verizon Wireless.
You see yesterday at around 1:00 in the afternoon, after doing some chores around the house, I went into my office, put the TV on and was greeted by this:
Now, mind you, nothing had been touched, no wires, no connections, not a thing. But being the Boy Scout I am (Boy Scout, did he say, “Boy Scout?” Can you actually say that now?), I followed Comcast’s directions and dutifully, and with much difficulty (have you actually attempted to plug and unplug the connections of a wall mounted big screen TV? No easy task, that!) did what they directed. And after successfully unplugging and re-plugging the connections, I rebooted the set-top box (Don’t you think they should come up with a new name for “set-top box”…I mean have you ever tried to balance that box on top of a TV that’s 2” deep?).
I first got this:
And then I got this:
Don’t you love it when something goes wrong with electronics and the first thing the provider does is blame it on you. I mean why does “We seem to have a problem” mean “You moron, you must have loosened all your connections…we can’t help it if you can’t keep you cables tight!”
In any event, clearly Xfinity’s TV service was down. And, by the way, so was their internet. So no Netflix or Amazon Prime or Disney+, etc. since you need an internet connection to stream those services.
OK, I can live without TV, but worry not, I thought. My brand-spanking new iPhone 12 Pro still works. I’ll still be able to get emails and go on the internet through my incredibly fast new “5G” extra-cost connection. And, I can use the phone as a “hot spot” for my computer connection as well.
But guess what? My Verizon Wireless signal in the house was only 1-2 bars, strong enough to use the phone (with dropped calls only about 50% of the time) but not enough to get on the internet!
I felt like I was in 1947, when most homes didn’t have a TV and the only connections to the outside world were a bakelite AT&T dial-phone and a radio. (Speaking about radio…have you ever tried to find a station in South Florida that you can actually listen to. I mean I love salsa and I can abide by soft-rock but…No entiendo tan bien el español.)
Ok, you say, but you can still get your news from all the newspapers you subscribe to, right? Not so fast, Sparky. I only subscribe digitally; I stopped getting paper newspapers after too many out-of-town trips in which, after dutifully alerting the subscription departments of my delivery stop requests, I’d return home to a driveway strewn with out-of-date newspapers!
As of this writing, the outage has been going on for about 18 hours; I’m close to a “news-deprived,” “streaming-distressed” nervous breakdown. And I can’t even ease the pain by posting this screed because, well, you know, I NEED THE INTERNET TO DO THAT!
I did hear however, through the grapevine, that our community HOA Board is very upset about all this as well, as they were supposed to have a virtual Board meeting with homeowners participating via Zoom. As you can imagine, that virtual meeting was cancelled because, well, you know YOU NEED THE INTERNET TO DO THAT!
But I also heard, through the grapevine, that in a face-to-face, socially distanced, emergency Board meeting, the Board did discuss contingency plans in the event that an outage like this occurs again, or if the current outage lasts until the pandemic is over.
The plans, to be voted on at the next meeting, whenever that is, include the establishment of one of the following three proposed Communication Sub-Committees:
- The Smoke Signal Committee
- The Drum Beating Committee
- The Welch’s Grape Juice Can + String Committee
While all three proposed committees show promise, as I understand it, each was met with some skepticism by several Board members.
Regarding the Smoke Signal idea, it was argued that with all the rain we get in the area, would it really be feasible to keep a fire lit to produce enough smoke to make readable signals. Another problem, according to one member, is that while we have a lot of Jewish and Italian residents, he didn’t think there were any Native Americans living in the community to actually clearly communicate signals by smoke.
Drum Beating was also problematic since the lack of Native Americans would also be an issue. That is, not until one Board member suggested there are many other population groups who are proficient in beating drums, including Japanese people, Zulus and descendants of Gene Krupa. After much discussion however, Drum Beating was voted down as well as it was determined that no one in those categories lives in the community either.
So, the discussion turned to the last alternative, the Welch’s grape juice can solution. Recognizing that to implement this idea would require the entire community to mobilize, looping string from house-to-house to a create chain communication system, the Board agreed that if we all pitch in, this might really work. But then one member said, “But where are we going to get the Welch’s grape juice cans? No one uses frozen canned Welch’s grape juice anymore. Not to mention the fact that Robert W. Welch himself was the founder of the John Birch society, not a good look for this community…but I digress. And I remember,” he went on, “when I was a kid, we tried Campbell soup cans and Heinz beans cans as substitutes and they just didn’t work. The system only worked with Welch’s grape juice cans. So, I don’t know what we’ll do.”
After a few brief moments of silent reflection, with no obvious solution to the problem, wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, Comcast repaired their cut cables, the internet came back on, the TV came back on, Netflix and Amazon Prime came back on…and the world was a better place.
I kid you not…the world was really a better place!