Internet Blackout

High winds kept the SSA ferries in their slips last Friday and Saturday. Some people freaked out. Not me. Didn’t I once go two and a half years without going off-island? I started to wallow in my own smugness — then it dawned on me that I get antsy when my internet connection goes down, and if “down” lasts more than a couple of hours my anxiety skyrockets. I’m like a telepath who suddenly can’t communicate mind-to-mind. I’m locked inside my own head! Help!

So when an internet boycott was called to register opposition to SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act) and PIPA (the Protect Intellectual Property Act), two misbegotten, scarily vague bills currently being considered by the U.S. Congress, I had two reasons for participating. One was that these bills suck and I oppose them. The other was that I wanted to know if I could stay offline for 12 hours without freaking out. Here’s how my day went, transcribed and slightly edited from the journal I kept in fountain-pen longhand.

7:48 a.m. Decide to forgo internet access from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Last night I blacked out my blogsite for the appointed hours and 3/4 decided to stay off Facebook. This a.m. I decide to go the whole hog. I will make one exception: last night a production editor (PE) I’ve never worked with contacted me about a rush job. I consulted my (mental) schedule and said I could do it. Not all details were available, so the PE may be contacting me today. I will check e-mail occasionally and respond if she does. (Note to self: This does not require logging on every five minutes.)

8:00 a.m. The blackout starts. I have washed my hair, on the theory that withdrawal symptoms, if they appear, are easier to manage with clean hair and clean clothes. Aha! My underwear drawer is nearly empty, and it’s a perfect laundry day: bright, breezy, and at least 10 degrees above freezing. By 8:15 I am heading for the laundromat, bellowing “O Mary Don’t You Weep” along with Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band. On the way home it’s “Erie Canal.”

9:30 a.m. Hang laundry feeling somewhat smug because I managed all this without checking Weather Underground to make sure no blizzard was forecast to arrive before my clothes dried.

10:24 a.m. Laundry hung, tea made, waiting for oatmeal to finish cooking. No, I do not need to e-mail Michelle of Gemini Dogs a photo of Trav and his new ribbon. I didn’t do it yesterday, and it can certainly wait till tomorrow. I map out my day. There are only 2 bottles of beer in the fridge. Ordinarily this is enough but if withdrawal symptoms get bad I might need a third. Resolve to make a run to Oak Bluffs later today.

11:21 a.m. Log on for the first time today. This might be a record. Responded to update from PE, who is offering rush rate for rush job and asking for a 10-day turnaround. I can do it, say I. Responded to e-mail from another client, and queried yet another to ask if the edited files I sent yesterday arrived safely and looked OK. Took screenshots of blackout Wikipedia and my blacked-out blog. Cool. So far no sweats, shakes, or other signs of serious withdrawal. No craving for beer or chocolate either.

12:53 p.m. Underwear blowing across the deck. One pair of cords blew right off the line. Good drying day. Started reading Jeanne Córdova’s When We Were Outlaws, which I’m supposed to be reviewing for the Women’s Review of Books. I’m already arguing with it. This is a good sign.

2:00 p.m. Don’t need to research dog harnesses right now either. Well, yeah, eventually I do — Trav’s walking harness has a broken snap and his biking harness is showing signs of wear, and I’d love to find a single harness that can serve both functions. But I don’t have to find it right now.

Nearly all the laundry is dry and put away. Underwear drawer is so stuffed it barely shuts. Even the jeans are almost dry. No blizzard in sight.

4:55 p.m. Still some light in the sky at almost five. Trav is snarfing his dinner — we went for a bike ride after running errands down-island: Shirley’s, Our Market, and Reliable. Probably won’t need the extra beer but maybe I’ll have one anyway. Set a generous cup of dried beans, white and black, out to soak overnight — have all the fixin’s to make sausage chili tomorrow (my favorite). Now off to see if the virtual world has any messages for me that I can’t live without.

5:08 p.m. Nope. Responded to 2 work-related e-mails and that was it.

8:15 p.m. MADE IT!!

About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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4 Responses to Internet Blackout

  1. Susan says:

    Well done, you. Like your previous commentor, I too try to keep internet Sabbath on the weekend. But during the week…no internet…brave.


  2. Sara Piazza says:

    The next big business opp will be tech detox farms. We’re all hooked, even those of us who know better and said we never would be.


  3. This was so much fun to read, Susanna. It reminded me of how very funny you are – you could always make me laugh.


  4. Hal Davis says:

    “I wanted to know if I could stay offline for 12 hours without freaking out.”

    I usually engage in a weekend blackout. My form of Sabbath. Otherwise, I’m pretty wired. And my employer is encouraging more.


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