It’s the second day of a crisis, and I am not happy: my internet access has been fading in and out like the sun between the clouds. I can’t communicate with my family, I can’t “Skype” my clients, and I can only work when the little blue envelope icon appears on my laptop screen and tells me I’m connected to email. I remember this situation from last year, I think to myself.
Eventually, I call Cable Bahamas. Now that’s not easy either: I don’t have a phone book, there’s no internet access, and if the telephone company has an information service it is kept as secret as a CIA document. I trudge over to Bert’s For the Best Grocery and they give me the number. I head back home to call, knowing that I’ll need to be near the little modem box which only has two out of five lights blinking. Why do I need to be there? Because the support person will say, “Unplug everything and plug all the chords back in.”
I call the Nassau office, a couple of islands away.
“Cable Bahamas. How may I help you?”
I explain that my internet service is totally out, and has been on and off for two days.
“Ah. How many lights are blinking on your modem?”
I tell him: two.
“Could you perform a task for me? Could you unplug all three chords going into the modem and then plug them back in?”
I do so. All five lights come on.
“Hey!” I say. “It worked! All the lights are on! How come that didn’t work all the other times I tried that before I called you?”
“Um. Well. I did a few things on my end too. Glad it worked. Have a nice day.”
The solution lasts less than an hour. “Oh,” said the same rich Bahamian voice. “Let me check something.” Long pause. “Hello? There’s an outage in your area. They are working on it. No, I don’t know when. Goodbye.”
Oh sure, I think, this sounds a lot like home in Traverse City. After some searching, I discover another accessible wireless network—weak but working–which I later learned is a DSL connection from the church across the street, and I reconfigure my laptop so I can get my email. Eventually, I call Nassau cable service once again. This time, nobody at Bahamas Cable answers, so I leave a harsh voice mail message designed to attract the support person’s attention when he wakes up from his 3 PM nap, or whatever he’s doing.
There’s no return phone call.
It isn’t until the next morning when I wander outside that I see a rusty bucket truck, diesel engine running, parked across the street from the Hi-Way Dep’t Store. Three large men are standing in the street, staring up at a junction box perched high up on a utility pole. They are motionless and silent, gaze fixed on the metal box. Finally, one man climbs into the bucket and is lifted up to within a few feet of the box. He doesn’t touch anything, he simply continues to stare at the object. After a few moments he is lowered to the ground.
One of the other men walks across the street to Bert’s, and comes back with three cans of Goombay Punch. They continue to stare at the junction box as they sip the sweet pineapple drink, apparently waiting for their sugar highs to kick in. I can’t stand the suspense, so I go to Bert’s myself and buy a few supplies.
When I come back out, a two more citizens of Tarpum Bay have joined the vigil: a young school girl in a starched white blouse and plaid skirt on her way home from school, and Miss Rose, the proprietress of the Hi-Way Dep’t Store, stand craning their necks, looking up at the top of the pole.
“Any progress?” I ask.
“Don’t look like it,” Rose says.
We all watch silently for a while, until the soda cans are empty. Then the three men climb into the cab of the truck and drive away.
The excitement is over. I go back to my house, store my bread and peanut butter in the fridge, and sit down at my computer. All the modem lights are on. The internet connection works.