On Friday at work, I was looking at some stuff on the Web, and having an IM conversation with someone who works for an ILS vendor. Suddenly, without warning, I was logged out, and I got the “Firefox cannot find this page” message. I asked around a bit, and it turns out that the Internet was down all over the office.
As you know, I work in a library. This is a college library in the summer, which means it’s already dead as a doornail in terms of activity, and now there is no access to any useful applications.
Frantic, I logged onto IM from my phone, and let some key folks know that my Internet was down. I knew I might have to resort to—hold on to yourselves—using the phone for a CONVERSATION.
I wandered out to the circulation desk, to visit with one of our staff. “I can’t do ANYTHING”, she lamented. “I can’t even check out a BOOK.”
I decided that I would go over to the gym at lunchtime. On my way back to my office, I ran into one of our university IT guys. “Is the Internet back yet?” I asked him.
“Nope. It’s a problem on the other campus. The connection comes through there, and the link from there to here is broken. It’s a huge outage though—not just us.”
I asked him how this was affecting his work. “It’s great”, he said. “I can’t do anything. I decided to go for a walk. It’s nice out.”
I returned to my office, where staff were wandering around like lost souls. I ran into our AV person. He looked at me and threw his arms up.
“What am I supposed to do without the Internet? I can’t do anything.”
After a brief discussion of the merits of smartphones, he said, “I think I’m going to go outside, take my shoes off, and see what it feels like to walk around barefoot on the grass.”
One of our assistant directors was grumbling. “I logged out of my computer when I went to lunch, and now I can’t even log into my desktop. Why the heck did I even shut it off?”
I went back to my desk, where I searched around for something, anything, I could work on that didn’t involve the Internet. There were a few things, but not enough to really fill my time. Our assistant came back from her lunch. “I fell asleep downstairs,” she confessed.
I finally asked my boss if I could just leave early, which I was allowed to do. While driving home, I reflected that there was a time when we had no Internet. I was actually alive during that time. What did we do then?
I thought about it—this is what I used to do in the 1980s and early 1990s at my first library job, when I had nothing else to do at work, and there was no Internet:
Read books or magazines
Visit with other staff under the pretext of doing work
See if I could still turn cartwheels down the aisles
Photocopy random stuff
Check the Village Voice for cool concerts
Gossip about other staff members (I don’t know that this has ever stopped, even among the “professional librarians”)
Visit the vending machine in the break room
Have singalongs with the Reference staff (or at least the really cool members of the Reference staff)
Tell campfire-type stories about strange patrons
Do homework (I was in high school/college then)
I would also add “play baseball”, although I didn’t really participate in this. I used to work with 4 guys, and they frequently entertained themselves by taking the magnet off of the photocopier door, and using one of those plastic “lollipop” thingees that were used to identify popular periodicals, would try to hit the magnet as far into the stacks as they could. If you only made it into the 400s, it was a single, the 600s was a double, and if you made it past the 800s, it was a home run. It just goes to show where boredom will take you—and probably would have been fun if you didn’t run the risk of hitting a patron in the head. But some of our patrons probably could have used that.
Back to the present—I was really missing my Facebook and MySpace status updates. It made me think of this article:
Anyway—as soon as I got home I logged on immediately, to avoid social networking withdrawal. Like a lot of things—you can’t imagine what you would use it for before you have it, and once you have it, you can’t live without it. Weird, isn’t it?