Yesterday afternoon we lost all internet, cell phone, and long-distance phone service in our region (the northern part of the Northwest Territories). Apparently a helicopter accidentally severed the fibre optic cable while refueling the tower near Whitehorse, and as a result, those communities up here in the Arctic were completely cut off from the outside world. It would have been exciting, except for the fact that there was no way to let people know why you couldn't send or receive emails, phone calls, or facebook messages! If you had a conference call scheduled, you couldn't even let the person know by email or phone why you never called in.
Luckly it lasted less than 24 hours, but the fear was that it could go on for days, as has happened in the past. You don't realize how reliant you are on the internet and phone until you can't use them.
This was a familiar sight yesterday:
It's only when things like this happen do I realize how truly far away we are from everything! Normally I feel we're just slightly north of Edmonton, as it's so easy to reach everyone with modern technology. But when you have no way of communicating out, it drives home that we are waaaaay up there (that red dot is Inuvik!).
What makes it worse is that you need to pay cash for everything, as debit and credit cards don't work. AND the ATMs don't work! So unless you have a good stockpile of cash handy (which most smart people do... I was not among them, and had to reserve my $30 for real emergencies), you are reliant on eating leftovers or borrowing from friends!
These are all the things you can't do when the line goes down:
* Send or receive emails
* Make or receive long-distance phone calls (local phones work, but there is no way to communicate down south - if you had a call scheduled, you just didn't make it!)
* Check the internet (which I do for everything from research, to checking the weather, to getting map directions, to confirming recipes... I had to make something from memory last night because I couldn't check the recipe online)
* Check facebook or update your status (so you can't even tell people why you're ignoring them)
* Send or receive instant messages or text messages
* Use credit or debit cards to shop (I saw a friend in the grocery store who just got back to town and who hadn't had time to groceries or go to the ATM yet -- she was wandering the aisles with a $5 bill, trying to figure out what she could afford!)
* Use the ATM or get cash from the bank (CIBC is the only bank in town), as they can't access your account (although I heard that they will give customers $100 cash as a courtesy and just make a note of your name and account number for when the system is back up)
* Do online banking or pay bills (luckily I paid my power bill yesterday before the line went down, as it was due today, and would have been overdue!)
* And a million other things that we do online...
I have to admit it was kind of refreshing to have a complete break from phones and internet last night. I did some baking and had a relaxing time! I heard a lot of families had a games night for the first time in a long time. TV was still working, but with the internet down, a lot of the usual entertainment sources were gone, forcing people to spend time together... which is a good thing!
As a joke, I sent the following postcard to my parents yesterday, just in case the mail reached them before our line was restored!