Yesterday was a perfect example of if something can go wrong, it will. I was happily sitting at my desk, doing research on the current work in progress. In this day and age of the internet, that meant I was online, browsing maps, looking at building floor plans and checking the headlines for a certain ay in history. So imagine my surprise when, after taking yet another sip of coffee, I input a new search term and. . . nothing. I tried reloading the page. Nope. nothing. In fact, I got the notice that Safari couldn’t connect with the server. I was suddenly thrust into the First Circle of Writer Hell–I had no connectivity.
Well, I’m an intrepid writer. I know that Safari, and any other web browser for that matter, can sometimes be wonky. So I switched over to Opera. Same problem. On all sites I tried to open.
Okay, not to worry. We’ve been in an interminable rain cycle here in DFW. That sometimes plays havoc with wifi reception throughout the house. So I grabbed my iPad and wandered in closer to the modem.
And saw something as frustrating as getting a 404 error. My modem had red lights for both internet and phone signals. I gritted my teeth and counted to ten. Then I said a quick prayer of thanks because I’d switched Mom from Uverse TV to DirectTV about six weeks ago. At least she could watch TV. Being two weeks post-op from shoulder replacement, keeping her from being bored is very important right now.
Now, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Usually, I reboot the modem and everything is better. Except this time, something told me not to. So I picked up the phone and called tech support. Imagine my surprise when, calling the phone company, I got a message saying that my call couldn’t be completed. It was almost as if they hadn’t paid their phone bill. When I kept getting the same message over and over and over again, I knew something was seriously wrong.
Long story short, lightning is being blamed for hitting the AT&T tech center in Richardson, causing a fire that took out not only primary but back up systems. Landlines, internet and Uverse services were taken down in an area covering Fort Worth to Rockwall–and that is a pretty good sized chunk of North Texas. Bad as that was, worse was the fact AT&T was telling us nothing. No explanation for why there was no built-in redundancy of systems. No explanation for how long it would be before we had service back (we were getting everywhere from “any minute” to up to 48 to 72 hours). And that was when you could get through to an agent.
Yes, we do finally have internet and phones back. They came on late last night. AT&T is still being very quiet about it all. The papers aren’t helping. Both main local papers here talk about how a mere 1,300 or so folks were impacted. What the Dallas paper didn’t make clear–at least the Fort Worth paper was a bit better–was that this number came not from AT&T but from the number of people who posted to downdetector.com that they were having trouble with the site.
So, Amanda, you’ve spent 500 words telling us about how you lost internet. What is the purpose of all this?
Simple. First, it gave me a good insight into just how dependent I’ve become on the internet to do things I used to do the hard way–by going to primary sources and actually visiting places I was going to write about. I had to pull out actual photographs of places to refresh my memory about how something looked. I used my phone, which still had internet but that speed was slowing as more and more people started relying on the 4G network, to get what information I needed but there is a big difference between looking at something on my 25 in. monitor and on my Galaxy S8.
It also reminded me of how frustrating it can be not to have an actual user manual for software any more. I ran into an issue with GIMP trying to build the cover flat for Tracked. I had the images. They should have been the right size. But GIMP, when I tried importing them onto the cover template for KDP Print kept borking. I finally gave up trying to work between phone and laptop. I tried tethering but with the slowdown on the network, it reminded me of dial-up speeds and I finally just set it all aside and decided to return to the project AFTER AT&T got its act together.
The second lesson it taught me was how dependent so many of us, myself included, have become on being able to go online at the drop of a hat. Even though I’ve been limiting my time on social media during the “work day”, I’d still drop in on FB or check certain blogs and news sites during the day. The social aspect of the internet has become an important part of the day for me, just as it has for so many others.
As a writer, it had me thinking more and more about how my characters in a story I’ve been trying not to write would react if they woke up in a world that suddenly didn’t have some of the modern conveniences we enjoy right now. It doesn’t have to be a complete break with technology. Something as simple as the internet going down can seriously disrupt how we do things. My day was made more frustrating because I couldn’t simply enter a quick search term and find information I was looking for. That can be easily dealt with. But what about the businesses that rely on the internet or phones for their livelihoods. Restaurants couldn’t take online orders. Merchants couldn’t process credit card or check payments because they couldn’t be verified. Many of those same merchants will have to go back and do a manual inventory check because they weren’t able to track inventory during the course of the day if they have multiple locations. Day traders lost their connection with the markets. Those people who only have landlines–yes, there are still folks like that–were cut off from 911 services.
We were lucky. We were without internet and phones (and for some TV) for little more than 12 hours. But looking at the online chatter, you’d have thought the world was coming to an end. Pat of it was understandable. This outage wasn’t because of Mother Nature trying to reclaim this part of the world.. It was a random lightning strike that pointed out how poorly thought out AT&T’s contingency plans happened to be. For the love of little green frogs, who puts their primary and backup systems in the same basic area?
Even so, it did make me think and, yes, it has tried to revive a story idea I don’t need to be worrying about right now.
So here’s my question to you. How well could your area (I’m not saying you because I know most of you are even better prepared than I am for the ZA and I’m pretty damned well prepared) adapt to a sudden loss of communication services or electricity/power? How well would your kids respond to the loss of their phones or social media because they no longer had the ability to log into services they know are still there? It’s a fun thought exercise and a good jumping off point for a story.
In the meantime, I have research to finish today. Not to mention the cover flat for Tracked. In the meantime, check out Hunted, the first book in the series. The new edition, done for the relaunch of the series, contains approximately 10,000 additional words, including new scenes/chapters.
Meg Finley knew her parents didn’t kill themselves, no matter what the police said. Alone and with no one to protect her, her life became a nightmare. Her clan’s Alpha, Michael Jennings, didn’t care she was grieving any more than he cared that she was only fifteen. Knowing she had only one option if she wanted to live, she ran and she’s been running ever since.
But now, years later, her luck’s run out. Meg, now known as Finn, finds herself in a game of cat and mouse with Jennings’ trackers. She’s learned a lot over the years but, without help, it might not be enough to escape a fate she knows will be worse than death.
What she doesn’t expect is for help to come from the local Alpha. But will Matt Kincade turn out to be her savior or something else, something even more dangerous than Jennings?