Saturday, April 22, 2017


It was quiet. Too quiet. And while that's the way a thousand war movies and film noir stories begin, neither an attack nor a murder was imminent. Rather, the guys working on our lawn had finally come to begin their spring routine, and had unleashed their coring machine. They went back and forth, punching out little plugs of about half an inch across and two inches long in the turf. The resulting holes allow water and nutrients to get below the compacted surface. And our lawn was desperately in need of that kind of TLC.

The process was noisy, but if you cocked your head you could almost hear the remaining blades of grass taking a deep breath. The quiet? That was coming from inside the house. For as the guys went about their business, we started to realize that our internet connection was not working. Come to think of it, there was no dial tone on the phone. And darn it, the cable seemed to be out. It didn't take a PhD in electrical engineering to guess what happened: all that hole punching had made Swiss cheese of our fiber optic connection.

It wasn't really their fault. When the line was run from the house to the street, it was run across the lawn, and then buried by the installers. There is no real spec on how deep it has to be, as there is no danger: a fiber optic cable is just a strand of glass, and carries no power. In a perfect world they go down 6 inches or so. But where we live there are lots of rocks and roots, and sometimes that trench is a little closer to the surface. How close? Well, in this case, I'd say in some spots less than the two inch plugs they were punching out.

A call to Verizon (on a cell phone) confirmed that they weren't seeing our terminal box from their end. The only recourse was to send out a tech to take a look. But since it was about four in the afternoon, the soonest a guy could get there was the next morning. Not bad, considering. But still: that would mean we would be without phone, internet and cable for 16 hours.  


You don't realize how much you depend on all that until you don't have it. Sure, we had our cells, but we live in a fringe area. Texts sort of get through, searches take a long time, and calls work if you stand by the living room window and lean towards the west. And streaming something? Putting aside the fact that we don't have unlimited data, watching an episode of "Victoria" on PBS would reach well into the Elizabethan era.  

So we did without. But we couldn't pull up the recipes we had stored online. We couldn't listen to news or check the weather. We couldn't stream some music as background for dinner. Even our Amazon Alexa stood us up. With no connection, anything you asked her produced the reply (stored locally in her memory) "I'm sorry, I can't understand you right now." We actually had to resort to talking to each other. And that never ends well.

But somehow we made it through the night. And when at a little after 8AM, a shiny Verizon truck drove up with Jack in it, we greeted him like a savior. He took one look at all the little plugs on our lawn: "Yup. Seen it before. They cut the line." I asked him if he was sure, did he want to check the main box on the street, could it just be a coincidence. He gave me a look like a parent would give an errant two-year old, I'm sure calling to mind all they taught him in that customer service workshop. "Nah, it's cut. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong, but it's cut." He laughed. "No worries. Give me an hour, I'll have you up and running."

Sure enough, under 60 minutes later, Jack knocked on the door. "Give it a try," he said. I ran around the house. Cable? Check. Phone? Dial tone. Internet? Google, my Google. For now, the line ran across out lawn until the burying crew could get to us, but no matter: we were back. Sixteen hours of isolation. Well, sort of. And next time the lawn needs some air, I may just buy don a pair of golf spikes.


Marc Wollin of Bedford likes being connected. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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