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When all else fails, punt

Published November 05. 2011 09:01AM

Jokes were made about the Halloween snowstorm that was all trick and no treat.

But the storm did provide a treat of its own. It took away electronic communications and forced people to resort to conversation. Good things can result when people start communicating. If nothing else, the storm fostered togetherness.

Blackouts were widespread.

I know one family who went without electricity and much-needed heat, as did many others. Every member of the household focused on providing comfort and light. Some searched for candles. Others ran to Wally World where lamp oil was selling for $5 a gallon. People scurried for flashlights, batteries, heaters.

When all was done, the storm had helped families gather together for a common cause, which isn't such a bad thing.

If every cloud has a silver lining, then I was given a treat during the Halloween storm. My treat came in the form of renewed appreciation for things I take for granted. Plus, it was an education to see how fragile our communications systems can be.

For me, every avenue of communication was shut down not for hours, but days.

There was no television reception for three days. I no longer knew if Dr. Conrad Murray was making headway in defending his role in the death of Michael Jackson. Nor did I know the latest escapades of the Karadashians. But it didn't matter.

There's a war going on. Concern for our troops is a priority. But there was no way to hear news from the warfront, either.

For three days there was no Internet. No email. And no spam. I had no way to read messages from the King of Nigeria who wants to send me a million dollars, and no way to learn how I can look ten years younger in just five easy steps.

Worse still, there was no phone. The communications cell tower was either destroyed or damaged, which put an end to cell phone service. Don't ask me how that happened. I'm not sure how snowflakes can affect a communications tower made of steel. But it apparently happened. The last time I saw a tower destroyed, it was the work of Godzilla in a 1960s movie.

Whatever the case, the absence of phone service bothered me the most. What if someone around me took ill? What if I became ill? How does one call 911 without a phone?

It was then I realized that one pre-season snowstorm had knocked me out of the 21st Century and put me back into pioneer America. The calendar read 2011, but the communications system read 1776. When all else fails, punt.

In desperation, I tried to figure out how the early settlers managed to communicate. "The British are coming! The British are coming!" Communications by horseback worked just fine. But we've come a long way since then, and I don't own a horse.

The storm taught me to appreciate electronics because I saw how different our existence is when the system fails. Winter is still two months away but it's clear that we need to find alternatives. A back-up plan. Maybe some good can come out of this. Maybe the community college will offer a course in Indian smoke signals bring your own blanket. At times like this we could learn from Native Americans.

Smoke signals are spam-free and there's no need for a cell tower. Sign me up.

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