Define ‘Temporary’

Dearest Rachel –

At least it had nothing to do with the construction team.

Shortly after noon on Friday, I had brought home lunch for Daniel and myself (well, since mine was a chorizo-and-egg burrito, it might been better characterized as ‘brunch’). We were hanging around in the dining/family room, surfing our various corners of the ’net, when suddenly, everything ground to a halt. All at once, we were completely disconnected from the internet, leaving us rather puzzled as to what happened, and what we do with ourselves now.

I’ve said it before, it’s astonishing to realize how much of our lives (at least, from an entertainment and amusement perspective) depend on that broadband lifeline these days. At least since replacing my cell phone we have an unlimited data plan, so we aren’t completely untethered. But it’s still rather less than convenient with regard to our various other devices.

This was especially inconvenient considering that Logan was going to be coming over that afternoon; how were the boys going to watch anything when the computer can’t get online? While the phone might be able to access the ’net, it wouldn’t be able to use anything like, say, Chromecast to display anything on the television screen, as that would require the same internet we don’t have.

I tried calling our service provider; it turns out that they had been just recently been bought out by a larger company (named, ironically, Astound – and no mistake, they were astounding us at this point, yes, but not in a good way) and were making the transition from the former company to the new owners. On the phone, they offered to transfer me to the next available representative to resolve our problem, only to give me a busy signal. I actually waited long enough for the busy signal to stop, at which point the recording offered me a chance to ‘hear the message again,’ said ‘message’ being that same busy signal. It was at this point that I concluded that this was a wider problem than just our house.

Daniel then tried to look up the company itself, and upon googling them, found outages throughout the entire Chicagoland area. Moreover, there were also outages in Springfield, Urbana, and various municipalities in other states, such as Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the Washington DC area. In short, this was a huge problem for this company – and they were quite aware of it, and were presumably working on it. So we were assured that it was a temporary situation, that they would strive to resolve quickly, lest they be dealing with a literal nation of disgruntled customers.

The trouble is, when you boil it all down, everything is temporary. Nothing in life, whether good or bad, lasts forever. But when you’re in the middle of a situation, it certainly seems otherwise.

And why shouldn’t it? For whatever reason, the human tendency is to assume that whatever your current situation is, that is how things will remain. Intellectually, we know better, but we can’t envision what would happen that would cause the change from our current situation – and what that future state might look like.

So while everything is temporary, some things are not temporary enough.

Meanwhile, every situation is measured in discrete increments. We are going to get a bill for our internet service by the end of the month; it had better be running by then, or what reason have they for billing us, when there have been no services rendered to speak of? From what I can tell, the larger company is trying to transfer all of its new customers to a fiber optic network – which, if successful, would be considerably faster than what we had as of last week (the operative phrase, however, being ‘if’). For now, though, we are dealing with nothing, which is considerably worse than what we had; the comments from other customers that Daniel has dug up from his research suggest that they had better get a move on, or they will be losing them hand over fist soon enough – especially with the resumption of the work week tomorrow. The internet is the lifeblood of business, after all; a homeowner’s entertainment is one thing, but sales are essential to the life of a business. If that gets disrupted, they will begin to lose corporate customers, and that will put them in a world of hurt.

So in this case, the concept of what one calls ‘temporary’ is a particularly short period of time. Basically, it had better be a matter of hours, seeing that Monday is just around the corner.

On a slightly longer scale, I might touch on the concept of inflation at this point. You would probably be aghast at the amount I spend these days for a half gallon of milk and a box of cereal: “Where are you shopping these days, sweetheart, Whole Foods?” Sorry, honey, but this is just how things are these days. We were assured that these price increases would be a temporary thing, and I’m sure they will be in the long run. The economy runs in cycles of expansion and contraction, with such periods usually described in terms of months, quarters or even years.

The trouble is, when one unit of temporal measure changes to another, it stops looking like the situation is truly ‘temporary’ at all, and more like a full-length version of the painful part of the economic cycle. Worse for the current administration, people have begun to notice when it started, and what started it. And no, it wasn’t a war halfway around the world; it began almost from the moment certain policies were disposed of and replaced a year previously. People tend toward looking for a pattern of cause-and-effect; they will put the puzzle pieces together, and unless certain policies are reversed and restored, this ‘temporary’ situation will likely remain until a new administration takes over – to which the large portion of the electorate will say couldn’t happen soon enough.

And then, there are the much longer-term things that we have to remind ourselves that they, too, are temporary. Only, we don’t see them as such, because they last for the rest of our lives. As far as we humans are concerned, that qualifies as ‘permanent.’ But they aren’t, any more than we are. Our separation, for example, will most likely last for less time than we managed to spend together; one day, I will see you again. Leading up to that, my health probably won’t last even that long, so I’d best enjoy what I’ve been granted for as long as possible (a contrary example of a good thing that won’t last, which is a reminder that the ‘temporary’ nature of things cut both ways). And of course, one day all the worries of the world will be as nothing to me, just as they are for you. While I wouldn’t necessarily say I can’t wait for that day to come, I also look forward to it with great anticipation.

So, when you come down to it, everything is temporary. But of course, I’m not waiting on the rest of my life for the wi-fi to come back on. Heck, Daniel’s already researching other providers, just in case. I’ve told him to give it a day or two yet, but I’m certainly not about to prevent him from his research.

Until next time, honey, keep an eye out for us, and wish us luck – we’re going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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