This morning was supposed to be like Christmas in the holiday sense that I was supposed to get new stuff. Today was the day when our cable company moved some of their non-digital channels to digital and we could be happy little liberals and watch MSNBC on our all digital system.
I woke up and it was snowing outside! So very like the promise of Christmas with a fresh gloss of white covering the ground. As quickly as the ground was covered the weather turned and my hopes along with the snow quickly melted away. I started to suspect that I had been found out, that I was revealed as naughty, and for that there would be coal in my stocking. ‘My,’ I thought, ‘how the poor cold children would love some coal right about now. Is that why the poor misbehave so?’
It was with these fading Christmas thoughts that I attempted to log onto the internet to check my e-mail.
I clicked the little button again.
What sort of faux holiday is this when my day is begun with disappointment? When I checked the router I found the truth, only two green starlights shining on its face instead of the usual five. How sad it looked trying so hard to smile and only managing a pathetic glimmer.
No internet. No dopamine. Only stark solitude.
Surely the internet is down because we are now getting more channels, a temporary glitch in the process of happy change. I rush and grab the remote like a child ripping the bow off a present and find . . . an intermittent signal. As the snow faded outside, as the internet failed, now the snow has moved to the TV screen.
But that is all I do all day every day. I explore and socialize on the internet and I have the TV on in the background. Just me and my iPad on the couch playing games and trading messages with my wife Cathy doing the same on the other couch and life is one grand day-long frolic.
Someone turned the world off.
The background happiness is gone. I don’t want to eat or play or do chores. How can anything happen when there is no online reference for how to do it? Where is everyone to agree with me and make me feel valid?
I went to the other side. There was nothing on this side so I put on my coat and went on the other side of the door. No one was out and it was cold.
I decided to deliver the gift we bought for the little poor girl. Our credit union “adopted” two families who could not afford Christmas and we wrapped up a pink toy grand piano for the requested “musical gift.” It was heavy, but not too bad. I drove out and then carried the festively wrapped box and put it down by the tree and the bank teller looked up and smiled at me. I snarled, “Nothing for you, you were bad this year!” and with a shared little grin I was off back out into the lonely cold.
After I returned home it was all the same. The fun things wouldn’t work. I started learning a Mozart piano sonata, #11 in A Major; you know, the one that starts with the variations on that lovely theme and ends with the last movement that most people call “The Turkish March”. My student Julie decided to learn that march and I realized that I had never learned it so I decided to explore the whole thing from the beginning. So very pleasant, but how can you enjoy such a small pleasure when all the important things are broken?
I am sitting here writing this at the Barnes & Noble bookstore at the mall. They have free internet and we are at a table sipping coffee and nibbling treats. The odd thing is that we came here because of the free internet. We could have had coffee and treats at home. Cathy could have read her book and I could have written this article at home.
We drove one way 40 minutes to pay and sit and do the things we could have at home, never once accessing the internet the entire time we were there. And that’s the only reason we came.
What made us happy was that we could have if we had wanted to and at home we couldn’t. But we didn’t once we could. The point is that we could have if we wanted to and that knowledge made us content.
Knowing you have what you think you want and not using it is so different than not having what you think you want. But aren’t those the same?
I wish I had a cabin on the lake. I don’t like the smell of the water or the bugs from the forest but I would so like to have one, just to know I could go there if I wanted, even though I never would. Snow. It would be lovely with snow.