Throughout this coronavirus experience, I have, like everyone, been worried about death.
I do believe that, should I contract the virus, I am of decent enough health to persevere; however, I am worried about spiking a fever, having my brain scrambled such that my senses are lost, and, most of all, having to deal with my active toddlers while unwell (probably while my wife is also ill). In other words, religiously wearing a facemask is a small sacrifice.
On Wednesday afternoon, though, my real nightmare scenario happened:
The internet died.
* * *
There are many things that we took for granted before this pandemic: the freedom to go outside; the ability to see friends; the right to travel beyond borders; spontaneous shopping trips for non-perishable goods. All of those have been curtailed in the name of public health. And rightfully so.
But, during a lockdown, the internet becomes a lifeline. Suddenly, the world is radically different — or, more accurately, the world shrinks to the confines of the walls of your home.
The internet had gone out a half-dozen times during the yearlong home office period. Usually a simple computer reboot was enough.
Then, earlier this week, as I was, ironically, reading an academic paper about Excessive Internet Use among children, everything stopped again. Restarting everything didn’t work. The internet provider helped, in both English and Czech, and even voluntarily called back 10 minutes later to check that everything rebooted correctly. And everything was fine.
Then it died again.
Another call to the internet provider determined that the modem, which was more than a decade old, needed to be replaced. The next available slot for a technician was in 40 hours.
The finish line had been established. Getting there was the tough part.
* * *
Daily life is just not the same without a connection to the outside world.
– How am I supposed to check the newspaper?
– How am I to listen to the news — “Hey Google! Play NPR hourly news” — when I make my morning coffee?
– How am I supposed to run on the treadmill without watching the next episode of Game of Thrones through Google Drive on my phone?
– How am I supposed to gamble on sports? (Actually, this one goes into the plus column because I would have lost on HC Kometa in Game 4 of their quarterfinal series.)
– How am I supposed to sign up for a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the week, lest I lose my place in line?
– How am I supposed to complete my taxes (in two countries)?
The biggest hardship concerned my main job. I had some mobile data on my smart phone, but not much. When I sent out the I’m-dead-in-the-water messages, with many typos, the most common response was some version of: take the day off and relax. Unfortunately, I could not.
Writing can be done without the internet (although without research and quick word-searches) and recent activity had made a mess of my organization of thousands of documents, graphic files and images. No internet meant time to catch up and clean without interruption.
But I also had deadline writing and fast-approaching deadlines for projects that involved multiple people, multiple languages and multiple continents.
Instant messaging worked all day through my phone and I had just enough juice to send Word documents. Good old-fashioned phone calls saved the day.
Of course, circumstances complicated everything. My wife was able to go to her office to get internet access, which meant I was left with the kids for meal-making, snack-delivering, fight-breaking-upping, ass-wiping, and craft-project-assisting.
Oh, and, randomly, we had made an appointment for the annual check of our chimney. When the chimney sweep came, I couldn’t remember the tradition and I couldn’t look it up on the internet, so I lost out on the luck it should have brought.
For the record: touch a button (an old-fashioned one on your clothes, not a keyboard one) when you see a chimney sweep.