Tuesday, August 30, 2011

On Technology and Convenience...

I had a weird weekend. Not as bizarre as those in the path of Irene, but strange enough that it gave me pause to think how dependant we are on technology and the convenience it brings.

The plan Saturday was to drive up to Clarksville to see our daughter, Nicole. She’s one of three drum majors this year in the Austin Peay State University Governor’s Own Marching Band. No small feat considering she’s the only one of the three who didn’t have this position in high school marching band. The band does a premier show each year at the conclusion of band camp. My husband I planned to stay overnight in Clarksville so we could spend some time with Nicole after the show, and wouldn’t have to make the ninety-mile drive back home at night.

Late Saturday morning, about an hour before we were due to leave for Clarksville, we noticed the upstairs AC was frozen. Again. Turn off AC, put fan on to keep running (and hopefully thaw the ice), and call AC dude for an appointment Sunday morning. We've been through this before with the upstairs AC unit.

My car was packed with our overnight bags and a few things Nicole wanted, including her bicycle. We get in, hubby turns the key, and CLICK! CLICK! Car won’t start. Yes, it’s in "park." CLICK! CLICK! Battery? Alternator? Something else? Who knows? He gets out the jumper cables, tries to jump it with his car, nothing. Not even a spark of life.

We decide to make the trip anyway. We haven’t seen Nicole since she left for pre-band camp nearly two weeks earlier, she’s having a rough time with the whole drum major thing, she hates her new dorm, and we both know she needs to see us as much as we need to see her.

Hubby’s car is a twelve-year-old Saturn that all three of us have now driven. It’s running on borrowed time, but it’s come through for us in a pinch before. We make the trip, get checked in at the hotel after asking for another, non-connecting room, and make it over to the stadium in plenty of time to see the show.

The band sounds great, Nicole looks exhausted but happy to see us. After the show we take her Zaxby’s (her choice), and deliver her bike in the new dorm room. It’s a quad – two girls to a bedroom, one bath, one kitchen, and one living room/dining room combo. Not terrible, but Nicole already misses having her own room. Three of them (all in band) have been there for two weeks. The fourth roommate isn’t in band so she’s just moved in, and seems very nice. The other three don't know her, so there was some trepidation.

After a million hugs from Nicole we return to the hotel room. On the second floor, above the bar, where they’re having a class reunion. Undaunted that I’ve already asked once to switch rooms, we ask again for a higher floor, or at least one away from the THUMP! THUMP of disco music. Disco music??? Really??? No empty rooms - not one. And, they inform us in a cheery voice that makes me want to punch something, they’re booked for fun events like this every Saturday for the rest of the year except Christmas Eve! Oh joy!

So we leave. Screw it. It’s only a ninety-mile drive and we’re both so damn exhausted and frustrated by then we don’t even care. They were kind enough not to charge us for the room and apologized all over the place. Whatever.

It’s close to midnight when we get home, still hot and sticky from the near-100 degree day. The upstairs is, of course, an oven, but luckily our bedroom is on the first floor. Neither one of us sleeps well because we still have the whole car-won’t-start and AC things on our minds, not to mention Nicole just looked miserable when we left her, so we’re up at six thirty in the morning.

Internet, phone and cable are out. NO!!! I call Comcast and am informed via automated message that they’re having technical difficulties and our service should be restored by 9:54 AM. 9:54 AM? How can they be so precise?

Hubby takes the battery out of my car, runs it up to Auto Zone, buys a new one for a lot of money, drives home, puts it in, drives to Auto Zone to see if it’s drawing a charge. It is. Hooray! Not the alternator or some other pain-in-the-ass electrical issue!

AC dude comes and recharges the upstairs AC. Good news! Uh-oh... the bad news? It has a coil leak and will cost more money than I care to spend in order to fix it. *SIGH*

Three hours after the Internet, phone and cable return to life, they go out AGAIN. Call Comcast. As usual, they know nothing. Oh and it seems I was the first one to report the outage. Right... An hour later I call again, and this time the automated message says my service will be restored by 2:23 PM. At 2:35 PM I call, again, and now there is no specific time at which my service will be restored, but they do apologize for any inconvenience. Approximately two hours after that Comcast tells me my service will be restored by 8:23 PM. At 4:00 PM they CALL me on my land line (their line) to tell me the service is restored. I laughed. The Internet was slow but it was on. By that time I don't even care anymore, so hubby and I sat down to watch The Weather Channel coverage of Irene for the first time all weekend.

WOW. That's all I can say is WOW. What a storm. Over thirty people dead, per TWC. Flooding in several states. Millions without power. And here I am bitching about an AC unit that's probably had a leak for close to two years, and the freaking Internet being out one day out of 365. Oh, and let's not forget a dead six year old car battery (which is pretty good for a battery) and a noisy hotel room that we didn't really need in the first place. Would I care for a little cheese with my whine???

The trouble with having everything at your fingertips is that you come to expect everything at your fingertips 24/7. I mean let's get real... even with the cable, phone and Internet out, I was still able to post to Facebook and tweet on my iPhone. I was able to check and respond to emails. I was still able to write. Hubby and I watched movies. We have a perfectly fine downstairs AC unit. Minor inconveniences, at most. Granted they all came during the same weekend, but they were MINOR compared to say... a hurricane, flooding and power outages that might last up to a week. Oh and let's not forget a tree coming down on your house or car and killing you or a loved one. Last night I slept in a cool room, in a house with electricity. Millions did not.

Humbled and ashamed, I sit here to tell you I'm amazed at how much I take for granted in my life. I'm old enough to remember our house without AC. Okay, I lived in Cleveland Ohio where 90 degree days were quite rare, but a home still gets plenty hot inside when it's 70 or 80 degrees outside. Yet we survived. Without Internet, without cable even, and without cell phones. Car trouble? Call a neighbor or family member - on that rotary dial phone - and they come to assist. Cars were easier to fix back then. No computers running everything in them.

So the next time Comcast is... well... Comcast, or one of the AC units decides to act like a machine and break, or my car acts like a car and something goes haywire on it, I'll try to remember this weekend and those images on The Weather Channel, and I'll be thankful for all I have.


  1. Fantastic post! You have captured the aggravation of daily things not working very well. Especially compared to the devastation of storms. I felt the same way this weekend-sitting outside in a perfect summer day drinking lemonade and reading---while the whole East Coast was in chaos. Made me realize again that I shouldn't take anything for granted-and no whining!

  2. IMO, the machines talk to each other and plan these mass breakdowns months in advance.

  3. Thanks, Janell! :)

    Jody, I totally agree!! There's not other explanation for the way they all break at the same time. :)


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