Archived Story

A day without communication

Published 8:33pm Thursday, October 17, 2013

I don’t really believe in time travel. But yesterday, I could have sworn I stepped back in time.
I woke up and went through my usual routine, checking my emails while I get ready. I barely had service and had to move around the house a few times to complete my usual iPhone tasks, but I didn’t think anything of it. I had sent a few text messages to coworkers that hadn’t been returned, but again, I figured nothing was out of the ordinary.
As I drove into work, however, my phone lost all service. When I walked in the door at the office, a sort of panic had set in.
Internet was down. Landline phones weren’t working. And all of our cell phones had been reduced to glorified personal digital assistants.
Sure, I have been through bad storms. I have had phone service go out, and endured power outages for quite some time.
But the sky was clear. It was baffling.
I couldn’t begin to make the calls needed to know why I couldn’t call anyone. I literally had no idea what to do.
I began thinking of all the elements of my job that relied on the Internet. While advances in technology have made putting out a daily newspaper easier, my daily workflow pivots on my ability to tap into cyberspace.
The newsroom and I did the only thing we could do – go out in search of Internet.
Luckily, Charter Communications was not affected by the mass communications blackout. So the apartment of Ed Bailey and Robert Hudson became our own rogue newspaper office.
Laptops lined the table. Our police scanner was set up, and a fan was placed in the small laundry room to keep the temperature under control. We began scrambling to get the story, with our small line to the Internet restored. Facebook, surprisingly, became a more efficient way to communicate than cell phones.
The whole thing really put in perspective how reliant we are as a society on technology. For a moment Wednesday, I feared the blackout would extend into the night. Under coverage of darkness and cloaked by a widespread communications breakdown, chaos could have broken out. How would we have called the police, unless we were fortunate enough to have a SouthernLinc? What if a loved one would have had a medical emergency? Save for putting them in your own vehicle, there were few ways to get them the help they needed.
It’s scary to know that in a blink of an eye, a cut in a line somewhere caused an entire region to lose communication.
Here’s to hoping that doesn’t happen again anytime soon.
Nelson is managing editor of The Outlook.