Photo via fr.wikipedia.org
A photo of an eMac, the kind of computer we use at work. Apple discontinued them in 2006. IN 2006.
Our introductory offer up, my husband and I decided that $70 was really too much to be paying for the pleasure of email and hulu.com, especially as a kind neighbor was allowing access to his Internet provider for free. However, he turned ungracious (or as some might say, wised up) and this avenue to the world wide web also closed off.
So there we were. Without the Internet. (I’ll let the shock and horror of this moment sink in.)
At first, I put up a brave front: “Oh, we’ll be alright, we can use the computers at work and Bjorn has a smartphone!”
But my work computer is so old I think Methusaleh might have played “Pong” on it and if I breathed quietly I swear I could hear the creaks of the treadmill the mice were on. I soon tired of webpages telling me I needed to update my browser/flash player/entire operating system and waiting five minutes for pages to load (just try sitting there for five minutes watching a spinning beachball of death and see if you, too, don’t end up careening around the room emitting high-pitched shrieks while flailing your arms.)
I would wake up in the (what I loosely define as) morning and stare blankly at the ceiling: What ever was I going to do today? It was too hot to go outside and gas was too expensive to drive needlessly. True, I finally had time to read, but most of the books at our place are from Bjorn’s personal library and have titles like, “From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life” and “The 4-Hour Body.” My tastes run more to books commonly found under the heading “Summer Sizzlers” and “Pop-Up.”
I read through our magazines in about a day and more than once I turned on the computer and held my breath while the AirPort scanned for available networks. Sometimes I would see full bars on the wifi sensor thingy (a technical term, I’m sure) and excitedly open my browser, only to be thwarted by a network that was unlocked but still required a password (fie on you, “Baker House-guest”!).
Finally, I resorted to cleaning: I scrubbed the kitchen floor, cleaned the bath tub, polished the dining table, washed drapes. Things were straightened up, put away and organized so much that it didn’t even look like people lived here.
While the entertainment aspect of the Internet was surely a big part of my life, I was shocked at how many really useful things I could not do. Without the Internet, things just get so physical.
For example, I’m an almost-obsessive bank account checker. (It’s a quirk of mine— I like to know how much I have in there before I spend money.) With the Internet, my fingers would fly across the computer’s keys as I checked my account (at least once a day) and would take what, maybe a minute of my time? Without the Internet, that same act involved serious physical exertion: getting dressed to be fit for outside society, walking to and getting in my car and driving to my nearest bank branch for the information. I took for granted the ease with which I could do research on restaurants, celebrity trivia and dream symbols (it’s amazing how often these things come up).
It does flabbergast me that so many things I didn’t even know existed while growing up have almost complete control of my life now, like cellphones, computers and yes, the Internet. Back in my day, I walked 5 miles to school in the sun/snow/rain with no shoes and only a banana leaf to cover my head. (Actually no, that never happened, but putting that in there just felt right (although I did walk several blocks once in a while to get to a candy store; and once, when I was a teenager, I took a bus at night to the downtown library. True story)).
I used to to think that I would like to live in a cabin by a lake for the summer, but now I realize that’s crazy talk unless said cabin has cellphone reception and is situated in a WiFi hotspot. It boggles my mind to think there are actual people out there without access to the Internet.
But I bet they have some seriously clean houses.
Part II–Return of the Interweb!
Jammie Karlman is the entertainment editor for the Chico Enterprise-Record. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @JammieKarlman