Sunday, February 13, 2005

COLUMN: Internet

It's been a very rough 48 hours.

I got home the other day to find a true emergency. I had no lifeline. My umbilical cord to the world had been severed. I was all alone in the universe, left with only my inner voice and sheer gut instinct to survive. I was Tom Hanks in "Cast Away."

That's right -- my internet service was down for two whole days. This can NEVER happen again.

Suddenly I had no news, no sports, no weather... no porn. My life was thrown into turmoil, and the fact that I lived through the ordeal to talk to you today is sheer testament to the human spirit and mankind's ability to overcome adversity.

After discovering the dilemma and having a good panicked cry, I set about attempting to piece my life together without cyberassistance. I had to re-learn every facet of existence as though I'd awoken from a ten-year coma.

First off, I needed to re-establish contact with my friends. But how would this be possible without being able to access Instant Messenger? I thought about it for a while, and then took action. Thankfully, just as I was on the roof of my apartment with a blanket, some lighter fluid, and a copy of "Smoke Signals for Dummies," I remembered that there was an easier way. It turns out that I possess an antiquated device by which -- get this -- you can push in the correct seven-digit code, and if your friend also owns one of these ancient creations, it will emit a ringing sound on their end. The user can then pick up the device and speak through it, hearing the party on the other end. I believe they call it a "tele-phone." It's just like Instant Messenger, except you have to go to the trouble of speaking, and with complete words, too! (This "speaking" thing became challenging as I didn't know how to pronounce "LOL!" or "ROFL!")

The rest of the weekend followed in the same manner. I had to watch that picture box thing in the living room to find out the news and sports. I had to walk all the way to the window to know the weather. I had to spend two entire days without receiving ANY e-mails alerting me to discount Viagra, cheating housewives, or Nigerian princesses who wanted to give me large sums of money. Worse yet, if I wanted to hear some music, I had to go a store and (gasp) PAY for it! Oh, the horror.

How on Earth did I exist before the internet? I must have functioned at least somewhat well, though I couldn't begin to tell you how. Surfing the net is the first thing I do in the morning, and it's the last thing I do at night. And it's not like I go to weird places -- just the usual news, sports, weather, etc. I mean, you've got to get your news from somewhere, right? I mean, sheesh, it's not like I work for a newspaper or something. Cough.

I suppose I could've had it worse. I remember when I was little and my mom would tell me about the days before television. This just seemed incomprehensible to me at the time. In my 8-year-old brain, my folks were older than dirt (though I'm now older than they were at the time!) And while I pictured them having to pedal their stone cars Flintstones-style while dodging the occasional predatory pterodactyl, even as an 8-year-old I had just assumed that they pedaled into their caves and sat down to some TV.

But no, my folks lived at least for a while in the pre-television age. My mom once told me that when her family complained about wanting a color television set, my grandfather went out and bought colored gels that you affixed to the front of your black and white set, thus turning it into a color TV -- you just had to pick what one color you wanted.

All of this sounds patentedly absurd to me now... but suddenly I had a revelation. Someday, I'm going to have kids and tell them about life before the Internet, and they're going to look at me like I'm 10,000 years old. And then I can tell them about the good ol' days before compact discs... and home computers... and then I'll challenge them to a wicked game of Pong. And I'll win.

So I suppose I shouldn't whine about being net-free for a day or two. My computer didn't mind the break, and I actually got some stuff done around the apartment. Specifically, the thing I got done was to call my cell phone provider and sign up for the internet on my cell phone. You know, for emergencies.

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