“The fly-around Internet is dead,” I yelled, needlessly. That’s what I call the magic that makes my computer work. Nothing would connect. I checked the little light up box and saw just two of eight tiny lights blinking back at me.
Our connection to the outside world, our very existence, had been snuffed out. I started messing with my handy unfolded paper clip, fumbling around in the back to hit things to reset. I do this blindly because I can’t see back there but I am ever hopeful.
“Stop messing with it, I’ve already called them,” said Ari. “It’s the actual modem and they can’t get someone here until Friday.”
I thought his face would break with sadness. There is nothing he can’t fix himself, except when our supplier needs to actually supply some equipment.
“Well, we can live for a couple of days. I can work somewhere else,” I shrugged. My son, on the other hand, looked ashen.
“I pushed hard to get an appointment sooner. I told them we have a working professional here who has deadlines.”
I looked around, wondering who this working professional could be. My sons think I play minesweeper and watch cat videos all day. I started laughing. I became a working professional because my son wanted his Internet connection back faster.
He talks with most of his friends through an open chat that means I can hear their conversations when he doesn’t have his headset on. When I walk in the room, I hear a chorus of “hi, Ari’s Mom” which I find kind of endearing and a little creepy. But every time I hear them talking, I can only think of one thing: the time my little sister had a convulsion.
I’ll begin at the beginning. It was probably 1968. We had a phone, but it was a party line which was cheaper. When I explain this to the kids they think party means party. I have to carefully describe what this meant back in 1968.
I don’t recall how many people shared the line, but I do remember you were supposed to keep calls short. These other voices were a mystery to me. They weren’t the Eichenbergs next door, and my world essentially consisted of my house and theirs.
You’d pick up the phone and a woman would be talking. All the time. Same woman. Talking, talking, talking. My mother would check in at intervals because nobody was supposed to hog the line and this woman hogged the line. She was like this ghostly member of the family. My mother would silently fume but her manners always won and she never said anything.
My older sister Roz used to shush me and we’d gently pick up the phone and listen, sometimes. I learned about gossip from this woman. She talked so much she never even heard the audible click it made when we picked up.
Having a phone back in 1968 mostly meant waiting to use the phone, until the day Gilly had a high fever and started convulsing. My mother needed to call the doctor. With a limp baby in her arms, she grabbed the phone and heard the usual babbling. She said she had an emergency but the woman told her to wait a few minutes.
Words came out of my mother’s mouth that I had never heard before and would never hear again. The doctor was there instantly and Gilly lived. We got a private line.
I smile now when I realize how much I pay every month so we can always have someone on the other line.