Do I Really Exist Outside of the Virtual World?

I haven’t had access to a high-speed internet connection since I arrived a week ago. (That is, unless you count the couple hours I spent at the public library trying to catch up on email. But though it was definitely faster than my mother-in-law’s Juno dial-up account, it was still pretty slow compared to the DSL or cable I’m used to.) This has left me in limbo as far as getting anything real done. I’ve been checking Gmail every few hours for the last few days, but that leaves me worried that anyone trying to call can’t get through, since I’m tying up the phone line, and my in-laws don’t have voice mail. There may actually be people trying to call me and getting a busy signal. The horror!

Yesterday, I even went so far as to throw my laptop in my backpack and hike the mile-or-so down the road to the local Barnes & Noble to use their café wifi connection. Unfortunately I found that their connection is an AT&T wireless hot spot, which means that they charge to use it. I could either pay $20 for the month, or $4 for 2 hours. Neither was going to work for me since I was completely broke, so I packed up and hiked back to my in-laws. My mother-in-law later made a call and found out there was a Holiday Inn Express who would let me sit in the lobby and use their connection, but that was 2 miles away from my new “residence,” and I didn’t have it in me for another hike that day.

I let my mobile phone account expire, so no one can reach me that way. (Well, technically I just haven’t been able to pay the last bill, which means that they turned the service off.) I also didn’t leave a forwarding number when I disconnected my home phone, first because I don’t have a new number of my own to redirect callers to, and second because I didn’t want all of my creditors to now start calling my in-laws house looking for me. Other than email, which I now only check sporadically, almost nobody I know knows how to contact me. This has really heightened my sense of starting over from scratch. That and the fact that I’m back in the same area where I grew up and living with my in-laws. Again.

Yesterday, after my unsuccessful attempt to get online, I got myself all psyched up to “do what I could.” “It’s only been a few years since I worked without a constant internet connection!” I told myself. “There are still things I can do! Figure out what they are and do them!” So I tried to work on a design for a banner ad for one of my clients, but I found that I don’t keep stock photos locally any more—I buy them from iStock. Hence, I need to be online to browse them. I have another client whose web site is having some problems, but of course I couldn’t do anything about it while offline. Nor could I work on the new front page I promised to create for them. I found I couldn’t even work on the new newsletter sign-up modules for Drupal I need to write, because I can’t test the connection to iContact without a real-time internet connection. I felt completely helpless and totally useless! I had clients who needed my help, and I couldn’t find a way to do anything for them.

Well, that’s enough whining and moping. I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party. It’s just interesting for me to note some of the things I’ve been taking for granted. I’m now so dependent on Google that I struggle to write a blog entry without being online at the time (which is what I’m doing now). I can only insert placeholders for every link that I want to add, because I will still need to look up the addresses when I get my connection up. And of course I can’t actually post my entry to my blog unless I’m online…

I think when I get settled in, I may have to seriously consider getting redundant internet connections. Maybe DSL and cable, especially if I’m running any of my businesses out of my home. This week has shown me that an interruption in internet service grinds my world to a halt. Okay, not my whole world—I’ve had a great time getting reacquainted with extended family and playing with my kids—but as far as getting work done or producing income, I am totally dependent on my connection to the net.

  1. Lessons for Today:
  2. The nature of what I do requires near constant connection. Consider redundant internet connections at home and/or office, or at least come up with a backup plan for connection failure.
  3. People, especially family, friends, and clients, need to be able to reach me. Get a new mobile phone account—prepaid for now, iPhone later (when I can justify the monthly charges).