Friday, February 12, 2010

The Week of Living "Unplugged"

"Be careful of what you criticize or make jokes of. You might one day have to eat your words."

I am eating a lot of humble pie over the past couple of days -- particularly regarding personal critiques of cell phones.

I have stubbornly refused to "get with the program" of walking around city streets or parks with a hand and arm seemingly glued to one side of my head or typing away "text messages" while stumbling in the middle of oncoming traffic. -- In other words, I don't have a cell phone.

It has been said that cell phones give us a greater sense of personal freedom.

But, judging by the number of people walking Manhattan streets seemingly chained to their cell phones, I've had my doubts.

Only a couple of weeks ago, someone was ice skating at Wollman rink in Central Park while engulfed in his cell phone! (How come we don't see that trick in the Olympics?)

Last Saturday ("date") night, a young couple walked down a street; the man busily engaged on a cell phone and the woman staring off into space as if seeking an alien to suddenly sweep down and take her away.

And there is no way to tally the number of people observed nightly chatting away on cell phones in the wee hours of the morning.

Sometimes when walking my dogs at 1 or 2 AM, I wonder to myself, "Who are they calling or who is calling them at 2 AM? Do they sleep with cell phones attached to their heads? What if they miss a call while in the middle of a dream?"

The real question to ask is: Do cell phones truly give us a greater sense of personal freedom or do they in fact, take all sense of freedom away? When and where can one really get away from the cell phone?

Soon they will make waterproof cell phones -- so one can be called when taking a shower.

Nevertheless, despite all the questions and reservations about cell phones, this past week I have perhaps learned (the hard way) the importance of having, at the very least, an "emergency" cell phone.

Last Thursday, when picking up my land-line phone to return an adoption inquiry message, I discovered the phone line was dead.

"OK, no big deal," I thought. "Check connections and if everything seems normal, call telephone repair from the corner (public) telephone. They will fix the problem in the morning."

After checking out the phone as well as house connections, I had to call telephone repair.

Only, it turned out to be a much bigger "deal" than one could ever imagine.

How ironic in these days of millions of people out of work, there seems to be a dramatic shortage of workers in virtually all the service industries:

"Your call is important to us. Please hold the line and we will be with you in a moment."

The recorded phone message doesn't tell you that the so-called "moment" is more likely to be an hour.

It is not fun standing on a street corner in 25-degree temperatures waiting for a live human voice to finally come on the phone line. One imagines memorials placed at various public phone sites: "In memory of all those who died on 'hold' for 'moments' that never came."

Nor was it consoling to be informed I could leave a number and they would call me back. "If my phone was working, why would I be calling Telephone Repair?" I wanted to scream!

For the first time in years, I realized just how noisy and chaotic New York City really is.

I was suddenly captured audience to the blaring sounds of fire engines, ambulance and police car sirens as they sped by a seeming prisoner to a public phone. Perhaps my problems were minor compared to the rest in the city, I tried to reassure myself.

When the live human voice finally came on the phone line, I was told to "hold on a sec" while the operator called in the report to repair services.

The "second" turned out to be another fifteen minutes!

I was ultimately told a service technician would be to my home the next day (Friday) somewhere between "9 AM and 7 PM."

"You can't be more specific than that?" I asked.

"No. They have other jobs to do."

Aggravated, but grateful to get back to my warm apartment, I suddenly realized I had a whole evening of total freedom before me! No phone calls to make or take. No 200 emails to go through as my (then downed) Internet service is hooked up to the phone line.

I decided to go swimming!

The next two hours are best described as total bliss. Suddenly unencumbered by any responsibilities, the water felt great to me, as even the subway ride getting to the indoor pool. There is something very strangely liberating when suddenly finding one's self "unplugged" from the universe. I relished the new found feeling of total freedom.

But, come the next day, the feeling wasn't quite so "liberating."

On the contrary, I was prisoner in my own home. Waiting in the entire day for a telephone repair person who never showed up.

I was furious, when, that evening waiting "on hold" almost another hour in the cold and blaring city sirens to talk to telephone repair.

"The phone isn't a luxury. It's a necessity!" I screamed. "This is my work line! Its also the line that connects me to the Internet!"

None of the protests did any good.

I was coldly and emphatically told the repair person would not come until Monday.

Now, I had a real problem. An entire weekend without any connection or communication access.

During the previous week, I had sent two rescued dogs to foster homes and did one adoption. I had an additional 8 dogs in boarding.

What if there were any problems with any of our dogs? No one had any way to get in contact with me!

From the public phone, I called a friend of mine, Elizabeth, who lives in the neighborhood.

Words cannot express the importance of having at least one trusted and reliable friend to call in these kinds of emergencies.

I have had to call on Elizabeth more than once during those times the unforeseen occurs.

In this case, I needed to let at least a few people know what the situation was and also check on recent placements. And I needed something more than a noisy corner public phone in the middle of Manhattan to do it.

I asked Elizabeth if I could make a few calls from her apartment. She was more than gracious in offering me temporary use of her cell phone.

"I don't really use it except for emergencies or when traveling," Elizabeth told me. "You can also use my computer tonight to check emails."

It was a good thing Elizabeth allowed me access to the Internet. One of the emails was from Adam, one of our foster people who had just taken in a new foster dog.

It seemed "Brownie" was barking when left alone (separation anxiety) and Adam was getting complaints from neighbors and landlord.

When getting home that evening, I immediately called Adam on (El.izabeth's borrowed cell phone) as well as recent adopters and new fosters. Adam and I discussed Brownie's barking problem and various, possible solutions. If nothing worked, then Brownie would have to go to boarding. But, hopefully, that would not be necessary -- or at least not before my earthly connections came back.

The news on "Morris," however, (the recently rescued Chow) was good. His foster people want to adopt Morris.

Since my phone and Internet services went down, I have been trying to adjust to life in the big city, "unplugged."

And while parts of it have been really nice and truly "liberating" (like going to the park or pool without worrying over what messages or phone calls I might be missing or watching an entire TV program without interruption) other things make me realize just how important "connection" is in modern life -- even those of the dreaded cell phone.

I will never know how many adoptions or possible rescues or fosters we might have missed during this time of being "unplugged."

I will never know how many people tried to call or email the organization without getting any response.

I will never know what friends (or even my daughter) might have tried to call.

Unfortunately, all of it has been out of my direct control. -- right down to Monday morning.

I started this blog entry (offline) on Monday morning, thinking I would be soon be online and plugged into "normal" life again.

But, when the Verizon guy showed up, it was discovered that the door to the building's basement (where the main phone line box is) was locked.

And as Murphy's Law would have it, the building's Super was "out of town" for the day and the telephone repair guy didn't even carry a working cell phone on him! (Ain't it good to know one is not the only person in New York without a cell phone? -- Telephone Repair apparently doesn't carry them!)

Calls to the landlord's office (on Elizabeth's cell phone) quickly determined that no one else has a key to the basement. The question, "What if there was a flood here?" went unanswered. I guess its a good thing to know how to swim.

I began to feel like Sandy Dennis from the 60's movie, "The Out of Towners." -- Only I am a native New Yorker.

So, it was back to square one -- and another call to telephone repair. And still another hour of listening to elevator music and the cheery voice repeatedly announcing, "Thank you for your patience. We will be with you in a moment!"

The 21st century has a new definition of the word, "moment."

As for "patience?" Do we really have a choice? What is the alternative? Going without vital services forever? Truth is, I have no patience -- especially for crap like this.

I don't know, but certainly hope to get back online and plugged in Tuesday (barring any other "Out-Of-Towner" mishaps).

I do know that I am going to have to, however, soon make some very reluctant changes.

One of them is to finally break down and get an (emergency) cell phone.

But, please shoot me someone, if ever I am observed walking around town with a cell phone embedded in my brain or ignoring a friend to talk to a little black machine.

It has been sweet and liberating to be "unplugged" for almost a week. (I recommend everyone should be able to do this every once in a while. Disconnect from the entire universe. -- Or, at least as long as you have a working public telephone on the corner.)

But, it doesn't help those animals so desperately needing "connection" to find homes in this modern world.

Nor does it help the one who is supposed to be one of their advocates and protectors.

Most of all, it doesn't make responsibilities go away.

As liberating as this feeling of being unplugged, I realize now the "feeling" was mere illusion.

Responsibilities are not tied to satellites in the skies or wires in a locked basement. -- They just are.

Just before 11 PM on Monday night, I went to the basement to check if the Super had unlocked the door, as promised earlier in the day.

It was still locked.

A call to his cell phone resulted in a frustrated message left somewhere in cyber voice mail.

"I need to get my phone and Internet service back! Telephone repair isn't going to show up everyday. -- We are lucky if they show up AT ALL!"

It is already Tuesday morning -- almost a full week since my phone and Internet services went down.

The couple of days of fun and " total freedom" first experienced have quickly been replaced by scenes from the "Out of Towners" and uncertainty with regard to the question if and when I am ever getting basic phone and Internet services back.

Only I don't have Jack Lemon as partner in worry and aggravation.

Perhaps I am now more like that lady on the "date" last Saturday night -- waiting for an alien to suddenly sweep down from the sky and take her away from all this. -- PCA


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not sure where to post this but I wanted to ask if anyone has heard of National Clicks?

Can someone help me find it?

Overheard some co-workers talking about it all week but didn't have time to ask so I thought I would post it here to see if someone could help me out.

Seems to be getting alot of buzz right now.