Commentary

Thanks, Sandy

It must be said upfront that any discussion about living the partly unconnected life pales in comparison to those who lost lives, houses, pets, friends, cars, electronics or irreplaceable family mementos, like pictures and film, in the recent storm. But with millions of us here in the Northeast without power, there has been a running debate about who misses what the most.

Some are miserable because along with the power lines, the trees also yanked down the cable lines, so no Internet (or TV). Others lost cell service. Nearly everybody lost their commutation to work, either by train, subway, or bus. Some still have power, but many others are are listening to their generators suck up $4 a gallon gasoline or propane at an astounding rate, camping out with relatives, or splitting time between the library and the YMCA's shower room.

There is nothing like a widespread natural catastrophe to remind us how reliant we have become on being connected. Our lives are thrown into chaos because the Internet is not just a boot up away or a swipe across a smartphone screen. With TV out, some even relied on radio for updates on the storm's progress and aftermath. How retro! Without power, charging up our phones rapidly became a problem, with families disbursing throughout the village to find out who had power -- and more important, open outlets. Some drove around and recharged with car adaptors.

As luck would have it, my local cell tower is still up, AND I traded in my BlackBerry (with great sadness in my heart) for a Galaxy III just a day before the storm hit, so I have a nice-sized screen to manage email, send photos of downed trees and blocked streets to local authorities, and watch video of the evening news. I also found out that my phone has a very cool voice recognition/dictation capability that has come in pretty handy, since nearly all of my communications now are by email and text, and it is a hard transition from the BB keyboard to a virtual one. When you are forced onto that third screen for all of your work-related activities, you come to REALLY appreciate having a desktop with broadband.

Since the kids don't have school and can't watch TV, they have reverted to DVDs. I have made magnificent progress with the dead-tree book that normally gets just 15 minutes of attention before I nod out. Miraculously, the newspapers resumed their early-morning appearance on my driveway, filled with hours of good reading. Except for the TV recommendations that simply remind us of what we will miss, since we can't even tape our favorite shows. Do you think the networks would mind running their prime-time schedules for the next few weeks from midnight to 6 a.m. in, say, December?

Looking at the pictures and stories of those who suffered REAL loss because of Sandy, the inconveniences of not being connected 24/7 don't seem all that arduous. But man, they are a pain in the ass.

Tags: technology
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