Operating Without the Net: It Bites, Then It Sucks

There's a cruel jester under the cool cap

This looks like a quart of ordinary ice cream. (Ignore the fact that Haagen-Daz and its European provenance is an illusion from the get-go). No, no ice cream this. This is the price of human folly, the crucible that shows the hollow core of the soul, the stuff that dreams are made of. But how can this glop of eggs, cream and sugar be any of that?

The concept comes from the spirit of Magritte, who painted under his famous image of a pipe, “This is not a pipe.” No, this alleged ice cream is a symbol of my boiling frustration over losing control of my situation. That situation is that Alice and I are house-sitting in the Bahamas, on a 3 ½-acre compound that was a former wilderness school. There’s a main house, some cottages, and a number of dorm buildings, just a long fly ball from the shoreline.

It’s the Bahamas, right? Beautiful beaches, lovely people, umbrella drinks at mid-day. Sure, that Bahamas is here. But Alice and I came here to work and play, and work daily, since we aren’t island jet-setters, and can’t afford not to work. But our work is all Internet-based. Gotta be online, all the time. Only the Internet hasn’t worked properly here since Hurricane Irene. It might be on for 10 minutes, off for 3 hours, on for one minute, off for an hour, off for an entire day. Yesterday, I was supposed to be on a Skype call to my main clients. I was knocked offline at least 10 times, and finally knocked off for good that day. Our homeowners didn’t quite elaborate on just how squirrely the connectivity is.

The Gorge Also Rises
We are both so accustomed to the Net just working that when it doesn’t—and doesn’t in an arbitrary way, the gorge rises. My gorge. We’ve both missed some deadlines and there’s no end in sight. The Bahamian Net providers have been here 5 times in 7 days, and are supposed to be here again today. They can’t figure it out. Better yet, they had a big layoff at their office yesterday—the main tech who comes out here was laid off. Zing!

So, we can’t work. But we can scratch. The no-see-ums and mosquitoes here are murderous. Below is a picture of Alice’s thigh from a couple of days ago. When the dogs that we are taking care of here escape the compound (they have multiple devious ways), we must chase them to retrieve them, but we must chase them through a boggy zone where the mosquito is the dominant species. No applications of Off, Skin-So-Soft or rum can deter them. Speaking of rum, I was so frustrated at all this business the other day that I slapped a nice cool drink of pineapple and rum right off my chair into the bushes, followed by a fusillade of curses. Those who know me know that the day I throw good liquor into the bushes is the day The Beast has risen.

You should see the other leg

Get Back to the Ice Cream Already
What this all says to me is that I’m so used to controlling certain things that when that control is wrested from me, my inadequate coping skills don’t provide much backup. And what does this all have to do with a quart of Haagen-Daz? This: I bought this quart of ice cream out of spite. One factor is that I could control the purchase of this ice cream. The spite part is that this ice cream cost me $14.50. Yes, when I heard the price, I just laughed. These are the only bites on the island I’ve truly enjoyed.

Postscript, Minus the Sting
Last night, when I was washing the dishes, I lifted this little platform above the sink that the dish-scrubbers sit on. Underneath was a little scorpion, tail-flag waving in greeting. He didn’t actually alarm me—he was a beautiful little creature. I didn’t have the hysterical reaction I’ve developed when I roam the mosquito-zones around the house, slapping madly at the air, my face and legs. Instead, I got to study my little friend, and then was able to capture him in a wine glass and put him outside. He was a bit angry at that, stabbing his laden tail against sides of the glass. I’m hoping I made him angry enough to go sting a squadron of mosquitoes or two.

PPS By the way, I do realize that I am a large crybaby. But hey, it passes the time.

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15 thoughts on “Operating Without the Net: It Bites, Then It Sucks

  1. Jodi, yes, it does have Deet, but these buzzing buzzards are relentless. Deet’s pretty durn toxic too, and you are supposed to keep re-applying it frequently, so Alice doesn’t want to put too much of that on. I’m bitten aplenty, but she really reacts to the bites, as you can see.

    No electricity indefinitely. Sheesh. Well, I hope they have a telegraph to get their Twitter messages out.

    Hey, I’ve been online for two hours straight! Best in a week!

  2. I’ve developed a reputation for my sang froid; my total calm during frustrating situations.

    Apparently, this stuff is all about appearance, because when the internet here gets wobbly, I think words I’d never say out loud, and think fondly of a pint of tequila, all at once.

    Give yourself a time limit for wallowing, and then enjoy it. Wallow. Rage against that good, um, badness. Then nudge yerself toward practical steps, whatever they might be.

    Crybabies United. Together We Whine.

  3. hmmm…. chocolate haagen-Dazs……… oh, sorry, did you say something?

    Wickedly your friend as always – G

    (see what happens when you guys leave without us?)

  4. Joel, I’m with you. I’m often pretty collected in many situations that are stressful. But these challenges have sent me into a stomach-clenching state, and even a “everyone must die at my hands!” escalation. Dear me.

    Oh well, there’s a lesson here somewhere. (Like get a bazooka for the mosquitoes.) But hey, maybe my complaining is working: the telecom guys didn’t show up—two days in a row now—but the connection has held all afternoon. Don’t tell anybody…

  5. Gail, you sweet thing, you. I am sending you a gallon of Haagen-Daz immediately. (Approximate street value: $36,000.) Of course, you might want to be outside when you open it, since it will be filled with mosquitoes.

  6. As for the mosquito problem. What about a bug zapper? Even if doesn’t cure the problem, there is a satisfaction each time one of those buggers gets the chair.

    Is there an equipment rental company near by? If this is a huge problem there, they must have industrial strength capital punishment devices.

  7. In Texas, the mosquitos ignored the bug-zapper. Or flew right through. But we did have beetles big enough to almost short it out. It smelled like barbecuing a Volkswagen with the people still in it; tires, metal, plastic, all scorching.

    Not to get too serious, Tom, but I’ve been nudged a bit lately to stop expecting and try to experience. Maybe consider, out loud, what you were expecting that didn’t happen, and what you weren’t expecting that did, and see how you can reset your expectations to what is, instead of what wasn’t.

    Man, I’m glad I’m not within arm’s reach when I get all psychobabbly on you. I don’t like getting walloped by The Face of Mark Twain.

  8. What this all says to me is that I too am so used to controlling certain things that it makes me ever-so-slightly hysterical-by-proxy here, just reading about you not being able to control things there.

    But I do appreciate you telling the story, colorfully and candidly.

    Indeed, your unfolding tale has triggered lengthy conversations in our household about how well Phil and I imagine we would fare on a small island, without reliable internet access, for a few months. It’s an idea that both entices and rattles us. We’d probably pick one of the Orkney Islands off the coast of Scotland, thereby sidestepping the mosquito problem. Then again, we’d probably freeze our spizzerinktums off.

  9. Try Valentia Island, off the coast of Ireland. On the coldest winter night it doesn’t snow, and the warmest summer day hits about 77F. Oh, and the slight breeze and gentle rain every day means no flying bugs.

    Sorry I can’t promise spotty internet access, but even when we were there in ’05, most folks had pretty good access.

  10. Hey Steven. We did stay online for a while they day before yesterday, though yesterday was a tragedy. A tech is supposed to come out (again) today, so we’ll see. But I will check into the MIFI deal. I do understand that getting stuff shipped here can take a LONG time, even if it’s only a hour away from Florida by plane (and a smuggler’s haven).

    As for the industrial-strength punishment, we’d have to carpet-bomb the place—there are plenty of the buggers in the house, but it’s outside that’s the real problem. And we do like to venture out now and then, because the beach is truly lovely. Much nicer than my ankles at the moment, which appear have been mined with a pickax.

  11. Joel, absolutely love the psychobabble. It resonates now, because I’m experiencing a form of psychosis, and I am babbling. My expectations certainly have been reset: call me Prometheus: but it’s not my liver that’s being eaten every day, but my arms and legs. (The liver I’ll take care of—that’s what gin is for.)

  12. Annie and Joel, no, islands are no longer for me. I’m thinking a tidy little planet, á la The Little Prince, with just one plant to take care of. I’m fond of bonsai, so perhaps something gnarled, like my consciousness.

    I will visit the Orkneys and Valentia on a map, when I remember how to read a map. I have yet to figure out north and south on this island, though I’m certain most of my thoughts have gone south.

    But the beach really is beautiful today…

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