Sometime over the weekend Verizon cell service went from increasingly spotty to dark. I remain hopeful, even as I write, that it will be restored shortly, certainly a memory by the time this column is printed.
I have a landline, it is my fallback, my fail safe; it is the line to which my computer and an old phone are connected. A board colleague, a generation removed from me, said she had done business in the morning with a mainland company using her great-grandfather's rotary phone. And here I had thought mine had been the last in service.
There are these crazy things we hold onto, perhaps in part for sentimentality but also because we grew up here, on this island where “we might need it someday” is more than just a tagline justifying the keeping of something we may never use.
My own old rotary phone, installed in this house when we went to direct dial in 1958, when microwave transmission was the new technology, was disposed of several years ago. Had it not been cracked — those old phones were not easy to crack — slipping off the table on which it sat one time too many as its long cord was stretched to capacity, had the original dial not been replaced by one of clear plastic, I might have held onto it longer. Oh, all that, and had the cord not been beginning to fray to the point the connection became filled with static if I moved it at all, I might still have it.
Three years ago on the fourth Saturday in June there was a fire at the power plant; it had a greater island-wide impact, as rolling blackouts were put in place to keep the power running in the commercial district.
Still, I later wrote, it “had been one of our days of weirdly parallel universes. Day-trippers poured off the boats, escaping the worst of the mainland heat, and many remained blissfully unaware of the we-are-an-island drama playing out just beneath the surface.”
And for all the disruption of this phone outage it was surprising, on Monday at least, that so many of the visitors I saw took it so well. Many had other carriers and hadn't even noticed, yet. Some even welcomed the respite. It was good to learn that cell service is not perfect everywhere, as I was often reminded by people with stories of where they live and all the dead zones they have learned exist.
But I have a landline, the gallery at which I work has a landline. It was a bit of a shock to realize the person — me — who so long resisted anymore than a flip phone didn't even realize her phone service was out, the texting and email and social media to which I have seamlessly shifted, were all working!
Earlier, before I hit a wrong series of keys and sent into oblivion the text I had written, it felt so much hotter than it was by the numbers. I could see my neighbor's flag fluttering, hear the leaves of the trees rusting, feel the air from the windows behind me on the back of my neck, but none of those made me feel any better. I knew by every rational measure it was just not that hot and wondered if I had spent too much broken up time in a few air-conditioned places, making outside seem more leaden than it was. Or perhaps seeing the temperature showing on my car's thermometer, my poor dark-colored-left-in-the-blazing-hot-sun car, at 101, made it seem worse, much as I knew the reading to be an absurdity.
It was beautiful here in the late afternoon, all green, despite the time of the season, although the swales in the north pasture and front lot are finally down to damp earth; the standing water is gone and there is no forecast of rain in the near future. The trees in the yard cast shade, there is a soft coolness in the color of the grass. My neglected flowers, the black-eyed Susans I transplanted from the field years ago, are tall, brightly yellow and brown, competing with Queen Anne's lace, spilling into the walk. They are all wild, and belong outside on their long, rangy stems, I would have to cut half of them down to fill even a narrow-mouthed vase.
Tonight there are beetles, small brown things I cannot be bothered to identify, all around me, another reminder we never experienced the full onslaught of June bugs, which I dare say now that it is almost August.
The screen I was last week putting in the window to keep out the impertinent wren was a short-lived experiment; the breeze, more welcome than the bird was annoying, knocked it inside twice before I gave up and left it, leaning against the wall. The makings of the nest I twice removed may have been a deciding factor in the wren not returning and so far other birds have not had so good a navigational system and have bumped into the glass and been deterred as well.
The last couple of days, though, I have been finding single brown leaves in the kitchen, hugely overgrown moths at first glance. I had noticed them on the maple outside the screen-free windows over the sink, a handful of autumn-colored dots in the summer green foliage.
At 11:33 p.m. I got up and walked over to my cell phone, sitting, charging, hopeful. The signal was weak but it was steady and when I called the only number I could at that time, my own landline, I was rewarded by a solid ring. It is late, demand should be lessening, and it may be no more than a tear in this non-connectivity we have been experiencing, but I am choosing to consider it a good omen and a sign it is time to go to bed.
The temperature has even dropped a few more degrees.