ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Snow wasn’t the only thing that came down in my neck of the woods this week.
So did the internet.
For the better part of Thursday, we were isolated, ensconced in our own silent bubbles devoid of social media, Google, news, hashtags, contact with the outside world if that outside world is reached via iPad, cellphone, laptop, computer, Alexa.
We could not check the internet to find out why we could not check the internet. We did not know that the outage was widespread across much of the country and that it was affecting banks, businesses, courts, 911 callers and police.
In short, we were cut off, isolated, disconnected, alone.
Ah, First World problems.
Verizon users, too, we learned later, were also affected by the outage – which, as I write this, has yet to be explained, aside from the company blaming a “network element.”
Although we are not Verizon users, we felt their pain. Our landlines crackled and sputtered, likely because of the snow here in the East Mountains. And because our cellphones rely on WiFi to work since there’s no cell coverage here, they were no longer smartphones but dumb, useless, expensive paperweights.
But we survived. And we learned things, like how we couldn’t do things.
We could not look up how long the snow was supposed to last, that a blizzard was in the forecast, how to spell Dom Perignon (I spelled it correctly, but my iPad disagreed) or whether a murder of crows is also a murder of ravens.
We could not ask Alexa to play music, order more printer ink or turn on a light.
We could not check NMroads.com to decide whether traveling to the city was worth the risk.
We could not post cool snow pictures or whine about the snow.
We could not whine publicly in general.
We could not research recipes, check on prescriptions or package deliveries.
We could not Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime.
We could not YouTube or Wikipedia or Pinterest.
We could not Pandora or Spotify.
We could not check in with Facebook friends – the Messenger-coordinated search for a missing dog named Luna, the well-being of a young niece who just announced her divorce, the progress of a neighbor trying to get home from Christmas in Texas, the health of a friend in the hospital.
We could not become outraged at the latest political debacle, the government shutdown, the swampier swamp, the bizarre rumor of a nude selfie, the stock market seesaw, the Trumpian tweets.
I could not see whether my column had run in the Journal and thus couldn’t send out links for you to read it. I couldn’t read the Journal online – or any newspaper.
And I realized I don’t know where we keep the dictionary or phone books in my house.
That day, we were reminded how much – too much – we depend on our techie gadgets and the invisible threads that connect them and us to everything imaginable.
And so we talked. To one another. No screens, no FaceTime, no texts. We read books, watched the snow falling, the fire flickering in the wood stove, the dogs lolling on the floor.
I wrote a letter to an old friend, and it wasn’t email.
We learned to be present, in the now, not transported to someplace or some time via our tablets.
We survived quite nicely.
Around 4 p.m. Thursday, the rings and dings and beeps of online notifications signaled the return of the internet. It was like waking up from a long nap and realizing that everybody around us had been asleep, too.
I’d like to say we kept on talking and doing non-wired things, that we realized that day we can do just fine without the internet.
But this is the real world – virtually, at least. Off we all went to share our experiences of what turned out to be a widely shared experience. We went back into the internet to see what we had missed.
But maybe, just maybe, we appreciated what we missed a little more. And maybe, I hope, we appreciated what we have when the outside world is a world away.
UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg.