All Systems Down

courthousetowerIf you've ever had a power outage at home, you know the feeling. Even if it's daylight, your mind starts running through the Plan B you once thought about - and have since forgotten. Don't use the hot water, don't open the freezer door, no way to make coffee, no TV, no radio (do they even make battery operated transistor radios anymore?), and, heaven forbid, no Internet! Whatever will you do now? And the thoughts roll around, on and on, until the power comes back on. The dilemma is over.

Sure, losing the electricity is tough to deal with. We use it constantly and take it for granted. When you flip the switch, the light comes on. That’s just the way it is.

It wasn’t the electricity that went out in the office yesterday, but it was an even greater neutering. Statewide, our whole system went down. And it stayed down, rendering our computers and phones still and useless. That meant that we were rendered still and just about powerless to do anything resembling work.

What could we do without the computer system? Open the mail. Too bad that chore was already taken care of for the day.

At first, the office was quiet. We all sat staring at our screens as if our collective will would bring the system back alive.

The office manager sat back in her chair, crossed her legs and rested her arms on her chair’s armrests. You had to look hard for the slight up and down motion of her toe, her sudden bursts of finger tapping on the armrests and the slight twitches around the corner of her mouth.

“Well, it’s down. There’s nothing we can do.”

She stood up like a shot and disappeared out of my awareness. In a storm, the area manager burst out of her front office, beseeching anyone for the use of an operational cell phone. One in hand, she punched in the numbers to the central office.

“The whole state is down. There’s nothing we can do.”

That was the flipped switch. Suddenly, the whole office burst into conversation.

“I need to get this done.”

“When will the system be back up?”

“They wouldn’t say when it’ll be back.” (Safe response, right?)

“Do what you can without it.”

“Can I do anything without the computer?”


Interviewing without the computer system is like trying to teach a 3 year old how to tie his shoes when he is barefoot. Sure, you can talk about it, point things out in the book, but there’s nothing tying the concepts to the person. I saw 5 people that way, and I felt like I was setting them down in the middle of a desert without a compass.  No, it’s not that bad, but it felt like it at the time.

There is no Plan B when the computers and phones go down.

People began wandering around, gathering at each others’ desks. It’s not a usual thing to do, and it was awkward. The office is always incredibly busy and there’s never time to chit-chat, so the conversations stumbled around awhile.

“How’s your baby dog? Do you have a photo of him now? I want to see how he's doing.”

“You make the soup by adding brown sugar to tomato soup…”

“I guess I’ll go to physical therapy now…”

“My 14 day old grandson was exposed to H1N1 at daycare…”

“Sure, if I can’t wear it my daughter can…”

“Looks like you need new shoes!”

Two hours of down time, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I asked to leave for the day. There’s only so much sitting-around-doing-nothing that I can handle. With my mind disengaged, my body said it was time to nap. There’s no going back when that happens. If the systems came back up, I would’ve been worthless.

For me, all systems were down until the evening. I hope my snoring didn’t bother anyone.


  1. Isn't funny the way we depend on electricity...even when you know it's off...you continue turning on lights...using the microwave. Trying the TV to see if its back yet..so annoying...we could never live without it. (laughing0

  2. And now computer systems too! Though I take comfort in having my iPhone as a backup, I don't think I could handle it if my computer went kaflooey! The last time my home computer died, I scraped up everything I had together and bought another within 24 hours! Unwired is not possible for me.