We had a major crisis in our home the other day. Hysteria erupted, followed by outrage and panic. We were on the verge of societal collapse and anarchy. The Internet was down.
No email, no FaceTime, no New York Times, no Instagram, no Fox News, no Weather Channel, no Pandora, no Amazon Prime, no nothing.
I wish I could say I felt liberated, but that would be a lie. Life as we know it in 21st-Century America came to a screeching halt, and I ran from device to device, trying to solve the problem with my limited knowledge of routers and technological voodoo. Where’s Harry Potter and Mark Zuckerberg when you need them?
How the heck did we ever live back in the days before Al Gore invented the Internet? Where would we be without our daily Facebook fix, the nonstop text messages, the countless insults on social media, the selfies, the instant access to information, the fake news and the endless assault from advertisers?
What, you young’uns ask, was life like in the Dark Ages? It was hard. We struggled. We had to do real research in libraries, we had to read real books with real pages, we had to talk to real people. Lordy, those horrible memories are seared in my brain, but I never want to forget them for the sake of future generations.
It reminded me of the PBS production of Little Women, where they cut firewood, used outhouses and entertained themselves sitting by the fire, telling tales of derring-do. (That’s a pre-Internet word that won’t come up on your spellcheck. I don’t have permission to use it, so I could be fined or punished with electronic implements of torture.)
Back in my youth, we stayed outside from morning till night, doing things that kids did — building tree forts, playing cops and robbers, baseball and football, fishing, shooting BB guns, and hanging out.
We had three channels on our black-and-white TV — four if my father jiggled the rabbit ears just right — and we sat glued to the set as if it were a Delphic oracle, showing us the path to eternal happiness, which usually involved spending money on things like Brylcreem, Marlboros, Coca-Cola and Hostess Cupcakes.
And we talked a lot, face to face. No Twitter or text-messaging for us. There was no World Wide Web or Pine Rock Park Web, either. Every Friday, we rode the horse and buggy to Plumb Memorial Library and took out as many books as they allowed and then went home and read. When we weren’t reading, we were in school or church or outside playing.
On a really exciting day, my friend Carolyn would make fudge as all the kids sat around, waiting for it to get hard so we could stuff our mouths and rot our teeth. We had no Internet and no dental floss.
In the evening, for fun she would pick ticks off my dog Blackie. Now, that’s something you don’t do in the Internet age! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a tick, not to mention a flea, on a dog with black fur?
Even a dog’s life was different. They didn’t have Internet either, or leashes for that matter. My mother would let the dog out in the morning, and when it was time for dinner, she’d open the door and yell, “Blackie! Get your butt back home!” And voila, she’d come scrambling out of the woods because she knew supper was waiting. I don’t know what she did all day. She probably visited her dog pals, and they picked ticks off one another.
But back to the future. After three hours without Internet, I checked my wife’s pulse to make sure she was OK. Her heart rate was elevated and her breathing was rapid. She was going through withdrawal. She can’t live without online Scrabble, the news, videos from our grandkids, and the Weather Channel, which she checks every 35 minutes to see if it’s going to rain, even though the forecasts are usually wrong.
Without Internet, neither of us knew what to do. I never learned how to make fudge. Then it came to me … I started looking for ticks on the dog.
Joe Pisani can be reached at [email protected]