For the past few days I’ve been engaged in a social experiment, not of my choosing, and possible only in the digital age. Hurricane Irene knocked out power, and, more importantly, most Internet service in my modest corner of Westchester County, New York — rendering one of the most affluent parts of the country a backwoods, digital have-not.
Until today even Metro North couldn’t brave these climes. Yet life and work must go on. Stitching together solutions to do what has become as natural as breathing is now a challenge.
Welcome to Basecamp Starbucks.
As I wrote on Sunday (and published only when I could, on Monday, when some Internet returned to these parts here), I actually am thriving in this partial return to the dark ages. The peace and quiet that cannot be artificially introduced is intoxicating — an adopted child of the Internet age whose formative years were (ahem) somewhat pre-digital.
Although my 17-year-old daughter can’t take it. She’s almost prioritizing friendships based on who has power (i.e., Wi-Fi) and begging me to let her tether my phone to her computer when she deigns to come home. I can put up with a lot, but you can’t pry my iPhone from my cold dead hands. I also can’t cotton to draining precious battery life on Facebook when my power sources are a) a running car and b) a Starbucks that won’t open until morning.
Starbucks is an oasis, but not a full service one. Even under normal circumstances these locations are a magnet for connectivity addicts who may or may not do the right thing by buying a coffee every now and then. My own local place was shut down Sunday, flooded in front and back. But they were back on the power grid Monday and became my satellite office, along with many others who just needed to quickly check their e-mail or needed a power source during the time they would be spending underwater at home.