A new year is supposed to be a chance to wipe away all of the old year’s ills. It’s a moment to start fresh – to make ambitious goals and resolutions, and to try some new things.
Except when it isn’t.
We had no grand ambitions for New Year’s Eve. It’s been years since we actually stayed up until midnight – most years we make it to the New York City ball drop (9 PM here on the West Coast), sip a flute of sparkling cider, and then head for bed.
This year, the weather gods came for us instead.
We were watching something on television on Saturday evening, while outside the wind was howling, knocking over trash cans and trying to pry its way through our front door. It was frightening in its single-minded intensity, and it lasted for hours.
When our cable signal and internet went out, it was almost expected.
So we switched to Plan B. We have a bunch of DVDs of shows that we love, and it had been a while since we watched Running Wilde, a laugh-out-loud sitcom about an eco warrior who falls in love with a rich oil baron. It’s funnier than it sounds.
So we figured out how to use the DVD player again, and made it halfway through when the power went out at just before 8 PM.
Not to be deterred from enjoying our evening, we switched gears again. I have an external DVD drive for my laptop – out in the garage, because when was the last time I had to load software via DVD? – so I dug it up and brought it inside.
We couldn’t finish Running Wilde because it was now stuck inside the inert DVD player. So we chose another favorite – Better Off Ted – a fricking hilarious takedown of corporate culture.
We made it through four episodes on my laptop screen, and then headed for bed, assured by the power utility’s outage map that we’d be up and running by seven in the morning.
It was already cold inside the house, but that’s what blankets were for. We slept right through the change of year, and even slept in a bit on January 1st. When we woke, we discovered that our power restoration time had been moved out to noon.
Not a problem. I was never a boy scout, but i pride myself on always being prepared. We would work off of our iphone hotspots, and for power, we’d use the external batteries we’d bought a few years before for just these kinds of emergencies.
Except that Apple, in their great corporate wisdom, had switched from using their magsafe charger connection to USB-C on my MacBook pro. And then a year later switched back to magsafe on Mark’s. But a DIFFERENT magsafe connector than they’d used before. So none of the connections we had for the external batteries would work, and I was down to 15% on my laptop battery.
Damn you, Better Off Ted.
A quick search at Amazon turned up the connectors I needed, and they were cheap! But they could not be delivered until 5 PM, meaning we’d lose a whole day’s work.
About this time, our power restoration time was moved back again, to 5:30 PM.
Luckily, a close friend invited us over to her place for warmth and internet access (and a little homemade soup for dinner later, as it turned out). So we packed up our laptops and headed over to her place. Remind your dear friends how much you love them, and do it often.
I should mention that, pre-pandemic, we would have just camped out at Peets or Starbucks for the day – free wifi, great drinks and a cornucopia of scones, muffins, loafs, rolls, sandwiches, and lunch boxes.
But now, with covid, RSV, the cold and the flu all at high levels in the depths of winter, it didn’t seem like the best time to hang around in a cafe.
We set things up at our friend’s house, and got some work done. And early in the afternoon, we got word that our power had been restored.
Unfortunately, when we tested our internet access remotely, it was still down. I don’t know if any of you use Comcast, but they have this neat new thing whenever there’s an outage.
While the outage is occurring, you are blocked from talking to an agent, because “an agent will not be able to do anything to help you,” and are repeatedly referred back to their chat bot and outage map. Unfortunately, neither will tell you what happened or give you any idea when the problem will be resolved.
So we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening at our friend’s house, had a wonderful, hearty meal with them, and then returned home.
I was finally able to bully my way past the Comcast chat bot and talked to a real person, who still couldn’t give me an ETA on the restoration of our TV and internet service, but was able to tell me the storm had knocked down a utility pole somewhere nearby, and that a crew would be fixing it. Some day.
Flash forward to today. This morning, the outage map showed service had been magically restored! Except, not for us. Both our TV and internet are still down.
I went outside to do a little exploring, and found that our cable line, which runs from a utility pole two houses over to our roof, had been downed by four fallen redwood tree branches.
So here we are, working off our Xfinity hot spot until we use too much data and get rate limited (on our unlimited plan – oh Comcast, how well you understand irony). So my thesis is that 2023 is an asshole.
Then again, the start of this new year was filled with some wonderful things – the kindness of friends, the return of warmth and light, and the ability to find a way around all of the troubles it put in our way. We still have a place to live, we didn’t freeze in the storm, and we don’t live somewhere that got flooded out by a rising river.
So maybe 2023 isn’t so much an asshole as it is a new challenge to be faced with the help of those we love, and a reminder of how lucky we really are. Maybe if we look past the manic winds and the outages and the ironies, we might be reminded of that.
To turn things around, maybe the last few days have been the story of the friends who reached out and took us in, or of our neighbor (and landlady) who moved heaven and earth to get the branches weighing down our cable line chopped up and carried away before the next storm hit. Or even the Comcast employees in Jamaica and India who, unlike their company at large, actually seemed to care and want to help.
Maybe this new year is about kindness and love, whether it’s the love we feel for one another, the love our families give us without judgment or reservation, or the love we receive from friends who step up to help us when we’re in need.
So, 2023, I’m withholding my judgment about you. For now. Play your cards right over the next months, and you just might redeem yourself in my eyes.
But in the meantime, I’m watching you.
To my friends, what’s your first impression of this sparkling new year?