January 26th, 2009

Our Three Greatest Fears

I've heard it said that a study was done to catalogue our greatest fears, and that the second greatest fear we have is death, while the greatest fear we have is speaking in public.

Let my experience this past weekend add a little colour to that.  I'd suggest that our modern three greatest fears may well be:

  1. Speaking in public
  2. Death
  3. Loss of connectivity to the internet
This weekend we went down to Pasadena for a memorial for my Mother, who passed away last month.  (While it's imperative for a funeral to occur within a few days of the death, a memorial like this can occur later, to give family and friends a better chance to get together.)

The memorial was held in a church, and the opening words were provided by an Associate Minister.  I was responsible for the opening of the Community Eulogy.  (I write it in caps because that's how it felt.  Imposing.)

I'm not a public speaker.  I'm a typically introverted software developer.  So this wasn't to be an easy thing for me.  While I was wrestling with the way funerals and memorials manage to combine these two all-time favorite pastimes, death and public speaking, Charter Communication suffered an internet blackout for nearly the entire weekend.

Oh.  My.  God.

We were right in the middle of review cycles of my Mom's memorial program and music arrangements.  Staff from the church had been sending email back and forth with us, and they had the wrong phone number for dad.  We sent a correction just before we lost connectivity.  We weren't sure our outgoing email got through.

I was freaking out, thinking I'd broken my dad's computer, and I had precious little time to restore it.  I kept calling Charter every two hours the entire weekend, and the reply I always got was, "We can't help you until the outage that we are aware of in your area has been cleared."  So I really didn't know if the Charter blackout was the only problem, or if there was a problem local to dad's computer.

And how was I going to provide remote tech support to my dad if he can't get online before I go home?  I can't VNC in.  I'd have to walk him through everything blind, on the phone.  "The cable modem is the box with hopefully some green LEDs on it.  See a box like that?  Feel around behind it for a power swich, and if you don't feel that, try to determine which cable is the power cable.  Ready?..."  The prospect of having to do that was terrifying.

Sunday was to be a make-it-or-break-it day.  We were flying back on the last flight that night, after the memorial.

Everything came together.  The flower arrangements arrived where they were supposed to, when they were supposed to.  So did the food and wine.  The music was beautiful.  The memorial would have made Mom proud.  When we got back to Dad's apartment, the internet connection was back up.  Icing on the cake was that I even discovered how to open a safe that Mom had locked, and to which nobody knew the combination.

And the next day was Chinese New Year's.   We'd gotten all that accomplished before the end of the previous year.

Gung Hay Fot Choy!