Kage Baker never trusted the Internet.
Not really. She adored the conductivity and the vast scope of its content – other worlds, right there at one’s fingertips! She felt it was the best device for the convenience of writers ever developed, at least until the fabled “thoughtwriter” could be invented by some kid at MIT or CalTech. Maybe even then the Internet would still take the crown, unless they found a way to let her surf with just her mind …
Kage would have loved to connect herself up to the Internet. But she still didn’t trust it. She was convinced it had no concept or programming for common sense, and she did not trust it to perform sensibly. There were too many things that induced it to go catatonic – too many tiny errors, glitches and eccentricities (many of them self-inflicted) that would induce the magical gates to slam shut on a user’s fingers. Usually just as that access had grown indispensable, too.
Back when everything was dial-up, the mere use of your own phone could choke off the Internet; there was only so much bandwidth available. So Kage just dispensed with the phone for hours on end. I’m sure a lot of our friends and relations suspected this, and I will now admit it was true – to maintain her Internet connection, Kage simply unplugged the phone. I told her it would make no difference – incoming calls when she was in the Aether would get a busy signal – but she didn’t believe it. The risk was not worth it. The phone had to go.
Eventually, I had a second line installed.Then when the landline was re-installed, Kage refused to believe our cells could work as well – so we ended up with three phones, all with different numbers, and none of which she’d answer anyway when she was deep in research or writing. Nowadays, lots of people have indeed let their landlines go, expecting their cell phones and wireless modems to keep them connected to both the Internet and the sizzling unmapped territories of Ma Bell et al … Not Kage, she never trusted either of ’em. Neither does Kimberly. They’ve got backups in place.
They may have had more to their caution than I originally expected …
This morning I awoke, and as usual turned on the Buke while I made coffee. I opened my current story; I went to check my email; I opened a tab for Pandora so I’d have music. I figure I got maybe 20 words written, 1 email read (but not answered) and heard the entirety of Mattie Groves before my system dissolved. You couldn’t really call it a crash; everything sort of slowed, and melted, and sort of dribbled away on a slow tide of defaulting electrons …
There I was, three projects in the air at once, and the gravity fails. All the priceless eggs I was juggling promptly hit me in the head.
For nearly an hour, nothing I did would restore the Internet connection. I searched through all the hidden files and programs, looking for glitches; I ran diagnostics, I scanned for fiendish malware. All I could find was the oft-repeated statements that my modem had been removed and a network cable was down.
Now, I don’t have any network cables; the Buke is wireless. And surely I’d have noticed if someone had managed to remove the modem literally before my staring eyes? The thing is contained within the scant body of the Buke! Occasionally, apparently for variety, the screen informed me it could not find the Yahoo address. That didn’t surprise me – it could not, at that time, have found its symbolic ass with both symbolic hands – but it bugged me. Because I don’t have a Yahoo account.
So there I was, lost in deepest, darkest NO SERVICE Land … low on ammo, the drinking water polluted, the sipping whiskey low, and my faithless bearers slipping away through the underbrush. I began planning a desperate drive out to Best Buys again.
Luckily, my dear friend Neassa turned up for a visit just then. She is a calm and brilliant person, and suggested many other channels for me to search. She also called up the Customer Service number for Verizon, my provider, so I could call and wail in despair.
My Buke is not a phone. Nonetheless, it has a phone number, because otherwise Verizon cannot convince its billing system that the Buke exists. Sadly, I could not find the phone number, because it is with all the copies of the Verizon bills in my email archives. And it was amazing how long it took to make the Customer Rep understand that.
While she hunted for some other way to identify me to Verizon’s system so a fix could be suggested by their technicians (my freaking name didn’t work), I found an interesting note in one of the files. Neassa had suggested I check in Properties. It referenced an “Internet button”. No, not the slavish Windows icon on the keyboard: a tiny LED button that should be blue – but was currently orange. I pressed it. It turned blue. My internet connection resumed.
I hung up on the Wait music at Verizon.
And thus I was saved from the haunted horrors of NO SERVICE LAND, by Neassa’s calm, sensible suggestions. I suspect I’ll never figure out how I turned the Internet button off – though. clearly, that is what I somehow did. And I had a lot of time to realize how deeply addicted I am to all my techno-toys. Indeed, how thoroughly attached most people are. Until we found that button, both Neassa and I thought it was perfectly reasonable to run out and spend a couple hundred dollars on a new notebook.. At least, once we got a map and an inventory list to display on one of our cell phones … little tiny screens, you know?
Man, Kage would have laughed. And reminded me triumphantly I told you so!