Saturday July 28th 2007, 11:01 am
Filed under: Life

I went to the computer this morning and found myself growling, “The Internet connection is down *again*?”

My husband’s first job out of grad school was with Digital Equipment Corp in New Hampshire. Merrimack was a boom town; when we wanted to buy a house, we had to pick a lot and wait for it to be built. One benefit of that is that everybody else in the neighborhood was as new as we were and curious about meeting everybody else.

One couple, a few doors down and across the street, had, it turned out, been friends with my sister Carolyn and her husband in Indiana when they were in grad school together in married student housing. Small world. The kids directly across the street, when they got locked out of their house, came over to mine and knew they’d be welcome. I used to walk several brisk miles every morning, waving hi at people on their way to work before I headed back in to take care of my little ones. We all knew each other, at least by face.

But after a few years, people became more settled into their own routines, and that initial openness kind of faded. Until the day: a construction crew with a backhoe accidentally sliced through the major phone cable servicing half the town. Thousands of wires gone. This was going to take awhile. We were all cut off from the outside world for a week unless we got in our cars and drove away.

And you know? The weather was beautiful. People started strolling around the neighborhood, taking in the day. Chatting with their neighbors. Actual face time and in person; it was delightful. A bit scary, on one level, knowing you couldn’t call for help if something happened, but for everyday life, it was wonderful.

And then after a week, the phone service finally came back, people disappeared back into their houses, and that was that. The difference was startling. One couldn’t help but wish for just a little service outage from time to time, just a little.

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My friend’s father was some kind of big wig at Digital. He used to travel to Japan (I believe) for business for them all the time.

Isn’t it funny how technology can help people reach out around the world, but we don’t know half our neighbors!

Comment by Amanda 07.28.07 @ 12:32 pm

We had the same thing happen in 1994 (I think it was) when that big power outage knocked out half of North America. Weird, eh?

Comment by Carol 07.28.07 @ 12:54 pm

we had no power last new year for 3-4 days and it was bliss:) We cooked on the wood burner, had lots of candles and nightlights around. We had all the neighbours round and we had an impromptu drumming session. BTW Alison looking to make my first shawl from the book now my Tour de France KAL is finished. What do you recommend for this newbie lace knitter?
amber in england

Comment by amber 07.29.07 @ 8:41 am

Amen! We are living in a sometimes very impersonal world. I do miss the times of my youth when we hung out “outside”, knew everyone, talked weekly with our neighbors etc. I am not sure if we are actually “staying connected” anymore.

Comment by Lisa 07.29.07 @ 8:58 am

First of all, I cannot ever keep up with you. Just trying to catch up with all your posts (gee that doctor was right about that hyperactive somethingorother!) 🙂 gets me all out of breath.
Second, two weeks ago, we had a huge storm come through that left a lot of neighborhoods without power for a night. I drove through them on the way home from a knitting night at one of my LYSs. And you know what? People were standing outside talking to each other! On their lawns! Imagine.

Comment by karin 07.29.07 @ 6:38 pm

It amazes me how whenever my kids go out to play, there are never any other kids out there. I know there are tons of kids in the neighborhood, yet on a perfect day, there are no kids out playing and very few moms walking with strollers. I’ll admit to being something of an indoor person, but I lived outside as a kid.

Comment by Alison 07.30.07 @ 8:34 am

I have a sister who just moved to Manhattan, and says that the amazing thing is that there are kids playing in Central Park and not a gameboy-type thing in sight: that people are so cramped in, inside, that when they get out they really go for the full effect of being outdoors. Curious. I’m like you, Alison, when I grew up all you had to do was walk outside and there was someone to play with, and now, there just isn’t.

But I’m still not moving to Manhattan.

Comment by AlisonH 07.30.07 @ 11:33 am

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