Stuff happens every day. Some really big things can knock us off our feet in an instant. A mere cable meltdown should be a blip on the radar, right? While it might certainly be true most days, being snowbound in a blizzard without tv, phone and internet qualifies as solitary confinement.
Having no other sound in the house but yours is awkward enough most days but come on, no cable in a blizzard? Really? That pushes the envelope . . . off the table.
I was actually kind of looking forward to a nice, February snow day. I penciled in phone calls and emails I badly needed to return, as well as tv shows that begged a bit of binge watching. My lazy day schedule was taking shape nicely, thank you. That is of course until I realized, well before even one flake fell, that my internet disappeared. Probably just a brownout, I thought. No worries, I said to myself. I’ll just check to see if my neighbor’s cable was down as well but no sooner had I opened my door when I spied a cable truck already parked in our shared driveway. Huh? That was quick. Before I could process the speedy response, I saw said repairman already leaving my neighbor’s door. Hmm, I thought, fast fix! But no, things are NEVER that easy. Oh, he did repair my neighbor’s faulty phone alright, but he detonated my entire system in the process! Brilliant.
As I made my first call to the cable company, I was agitated, especially when they advised me that, yes, there was an outage in my neighborhood. Newsflash: Of course, there’s an outage – MINE! They assured me that they were repairing it on their end which was mystifying since the outage happened on MY end. “Ma’am” they said “we’ll be there first thing in the morning to get you up and running.” I reminded them, of course, that 10″ of snow was expected ‘in the morning’. “We’ll be there”, they promised. Their 6am call the next morning advising me that we were having a snow storm (duh) and couldn’t make it, was no surprise. (By now, you are catching the ‘drift’ of this story, right?) They asked IF I would like to reschedule for the following day. (Seriously, they really asked that question) I mentally counted to ten and told them “Sure, it would be lovely if their trusty ‘cable guy’ in his bright colored truck could finally make an appearance”! (or something to that effect.)
When a (thankfully) knowledgeable repairman did arrive late the following day, I almost kissed him! After nearly 3 days without a connection to the outside world (only a slight exaggeration since my iPhone and iPad were at the ready, but so was Verizon who has a particular obsession with upcharging your data.) I was this close to being sprung from my isolation. I could feel it. Stuffed into my fur boots, I trustingly clomped after my repair savior through the backyard. We headed straight to the cable box, stationed at the end of my 4-unit townhouse section. Imagine our expressions when we spotted that box, cover buried in the snow, below boldly exposed cables hung with icicles – my own cable wire insolently pointing freely in our direction. You can’t make this stuff up. That errant cable just waiting to be plugged back in, made me giddy with relief. ‘Connection’ was now within my grasp. Bring it, repair guy!
Back in my house, tv cable boxes booted up, my computer came alive, and dial tones buzzed on my phones. All was right in the digital world again. But my foray into solitary gave me valuable food for thought and during my interminable hours waiting for a return to normalcy, I began to process my reactions. (Hey, what else do you do when your only entertainment is watching snow pile up outside your window?) It was then I realized that, in all my preparation as blizzard survivor, I never envisioned a cable outage. I had my shovel, battery operated lantern (in case) and plenty of rock salt at the ready. I was confident that I could handle anything the snow gods sent my way; everything, that is except a wiring breakdown that left me feeling helpless and alone. After everything I’ve survived, how could something as minor as a failure of cable wires, make feel so small? Lucy, you have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.
As I sat in my more than normally still house free of TV programs and Facebook postings, I had a few light bulb moments. First, it was obvious, once again, that not everything is in our control. Shocker. Even so, we still hate to be reminded of that. We might imagine ourselves as Davids to Goliath, but in truth there will always be things we can never control. The fact that my husband died in a nano second, should be billboard reminder #1.Not being able to change your situation can be stomp-your feet frustrating and humbling at the same time. It begs for another option, another way out, another solution even when there doesn’t seem to be any.
One insight that popped up in those very quiet moments was that there will always be things that don’t go the way you plan them. Those are the times God has the last laugh. I went through enough chin deep, medical crises with my husband where I could do nothing not to remember that well. There are plenty of platitudes that say “don’t let anything take away your power’. On its face, it seems true but the real truth is that many times ‘something’ can take away power, just not the real, soul-deep kind. The power to watch watch shows I wanted, surf the net and have long chats with my friends can disappear for a time, but not the power I’ve learned is in me. Albert Camus once said “In the midst of winter, I found in me an invincible summer”. Your true power is found in times when you decide to pick your battles and when you make some damn lemonade from the lemons you’ve been handed.
So why would I want lemonade on a snow day? I didn’t. I just knew that I could either seethe all day, pacing like a caged tiger, or change the agenda. Knowing the hours would stretch ahead of me, as snow blew relentlessly outside my windows, I channeled Pollyanna to create a new menu of things that didn’t involve the cable monster.
First steps was to make my version of cold day lemonade —a decadent cup of marshmallow-stuffed hot chocolate. Mmmm. That warm comfort went well with a blazing fire, well the kind of gas fired flame you click on with a remote. (I KNEW there was a reason I treated myself to a fireplace redo!) I dragged out a few stacks of magazines I complained that I never had time to read – and did. Then there was the issue of not watching tv that I solved in part with a stealthily unearthed dvd on Ellis Island I somehow had never seen. Jazzed by the realization that cable had no control over my blu-ray, I popped in an after supper movie that sat happily in its signature red Netflix envelope waiting to be noticed. Voila!
So what did this day teach me? We all do less reading and more watching. Wifi is king; long live the king. Even as a book I was in the midst of reading rested on my nightable, I wrung my hands about missing TV, even the news. (Note to self: Buy a radio) But the most profound realization came from Helen Keller, who had a heck of a lot more to legitimately complain about. “I cried because I had no shoes,” she said “until I met a man who had no feet”. Whoa . That certainly is enough to silence anyone’s whining about a lack of cable, while safely nested in a cozy home, with yes, plenty of milk, bread and eggs.
Getting through long, long snowy days, with none of the accouterments of connected modern life, is a sentence – but not a permanent one. Considering the things we’ve already survived, it’s certainly nothing we can’t handle. Eventually snow recedes; cable comes back, which is more than we can say about the people we’ve lost. Except for illness and death, the most important takeaway from my AWOL stint from cable is that there are people in this world who would love to have my bad days.