Sorry, folks, I'm afraid I might have had something to do with that major meltdown of the phone system last Sunday. I know the official word is that the interruption in land-line and cellphone service and Internet access was caused by damage to a Hawaiian Telcom fiberoptic cable, but I can't help feeling a little responsible. You know the old saying: Be careful what you wish for. Well, I may have been a bit reckless with my Sunday musings.
I was at one of my very favorite gigs - hosting the fabulous Christmas party thrown annually by the Grand Wailea for its employees' children. It's way more fun than the typical MC gig because I get to assume a character that fits the party theme and mingle with the kids when I'm not on stage. I love interactive theater and I love playing dress-up - and I should publicly thank Kathleen Schultz and MAPA for always making sure I look the part. This year the role was Ringmistress.
Imagine, if you will, the Grand Wailea ballroom transformed into circus grounds, the center ring flanked by towering balloon sculptures and two massive projection screens continuously showing 1960s Barnum & Bailey footage. Popcorn machines and punch dispensers flow freely, candies and toys are strewn across banquet tables a foot off the floor. Clowns and acrobats roam through the crowd while magicians and dancers hold court. The indoor arcade even has a jumping castle and, of course, Santa is taking requests and dispensing goodie bags from his throne. Add vast quantities of cookies and pretzels and ice cream, and you have enough youthful energy to power a full-size Ferris wheel. You can actually feel glee in the air.
Bigger than life, the daring young man on the flying trapeze beckoned to me from the giant screens, and I leapt, without a net, into a long forgotten childhood fantasy. I was 5 years old again, dreaming of running off to join the circus with Toby Tyler. That was my first occupational goal, to float through the air with the greatest of ease. Sunday afternoon, surrounded by carefree children and all the trappings of The Greatest Show on Earth, I wanted the circus to stay in town a little longer. Just for a moment, I wished I could stay 5 forever, in my own little world of wonder and bliss, with no obligations other than to explore that world. No phone calls to answer, no emails to send, no appointments or meetings to attend.
Careful what you wish for, indeed. Waiting for the parking valet to bring my car around, I discovered I had no cellphone service. Still enjoying the circus afterglow, I wasn't the least bit annoyed. And it didn't bother me when the gas station attendant said he couldn't take credit cards, because I had enough cash for half a tank of gas. But when I got home and discovered that my land-line was also messed up and I had no Internet access, that's when I slipped over the edge. The smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd had faded away and I needed to resume real life. I had phone calls to make, emails to send, a radio station to keep on the air. As the hours ticked by, irritation evolved into something approaching panic.
At first, my natural optimism kept me in check. The problem was sure to be fixed soon, and in the meantime, what's so bad about being incommunicado? Think of it as a mini-staycation, a brief retreat.
Then I got philosophical and introspective. Started using big words, I guess because I was no longer in email and text mode. I hypothesized that perhaps this breakdown in communication was some sort of cosmic lesson thrown down by the gods of reason and common sense. After all, 25 years ago, the idea of being instantly accessible 24/7, regardless of where I was or what I happened to be doing, was completely foreign to me. A decade before that, as a teenager, I relished the privacy afforded by simply leaving the house. When did I start to value convenience over solitude and simplicity?
After seven hours of solitude, I abandoned philosophy in favor of fixation. I checked for bars on my BlackBerry every five minutes and filled my outbox with messages that never got sent. When I discovered I had texting capabilities, I actually felt physical relief as my thumbs tapped me back into contact with the outside world. I know why they call it the CrackBerry. My name is Kathy and I am an addict. Send.
They say what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I survived the Great Outage of 2011 and emerged with a lesson taken to heart: Be careful what you wish for.
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.