Blame This One on the Cosmos?

During the past eleven years, occasionally readers email asking about my “writing process.” Frankly, there wasn’t a process. I just had a lot of what I hoped were humorous tales I wanted to share, many about life in Santa Monica. (Decidedly unfunny, in 2010, I wrote about a heart attack I suffered and didn’t even miss my “deadline,” no pun intended.)

After hundreds of columns, I finally developed a writing process or a reasonable facsimile. One rule is that by Monday I must have an idea of what I’m going to write about or I force myself to sit at the computer rather than waiting for inspiration. The truth is, for most writers, facing a blank page is terrifying. As Hemingway said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Ouch.

This past Monday I didn’t have a subject for this week’s “edition.” So I turned on the computer and went online searching. After a fruitless fifteen minutes, I made coffee. When I returned, to my horror, I’d lost my Internet connection. Being “technologically challenged,” this was a bad omen.

I glanced nervously at my router. Of the two white lights indicating an Internet connection, one was red, or as I call it, “code red.” I quickly rebooted and began praying. (I save chanting for later in the panic process.)

When nothing worked (including chanting) I made the dreaded phone call to Frontier Communications, repair division. To be blunt, I’ve had so many problems with Frontier that I have the number memorized.

Just getting to speak to a human is tedious. One must go through various prompts only to hear that the “wait time,” in this case, was twenty-five minutes. As the recording said it was, “Due to an unusually high volume of calls.”(It’s Frontier, duh.)

I decided to take a shower while I waited. So I pushed “speaker” and placed the phone on top of the toilet tank. And no, it didn’t fall into the toilet. Unfortunately, I learned that lesson years ago. (Phones and water, however brief the interaction, means buying a new phone.)

Finally, an actual Frontier “human” came on over the speakerphone. The problem was I had creme rinse in my hair. I’d waited twenty-three minutes and he got grouchy when I asked him to wait one. And what always steams me, despite all the prompts I’d given about my Frontier account, he started over completely. (Why don’t they ever have the info you just spent minutes entering?)

He told me the “issue” was a “data breach,” which he said was good news. Naively I asked, “Do you have any idea how long before I can get back on the Internet? (I bet they had a good laugh at that in the office.)

He ended the call by reassuring me I’d be getting computer-generated phone updates. Sure enough, fifteen minutes later, my caller I.D. read, “Frontier.” With hope in my heart, I answered and heard a computer voice, “Hello, it’s come to our attention you’re having problems getting on the Internet.” (Like that was breaking news.)

The robot voice continued, “You will be getting further updates.” How exciting…not. Then the robot closed with, “If you aren’t having problems, please disregard this message.” Good grief! I decided to take a nap.

When I woke up, I immediately glanced at my router and…two white lights! I was back in business! I hurriedly started research for my column but that lasted a total of fifteen minutes. Grr.

As proof “Laughing Matters” (or in this case “No Laughing Matter”) was doomed, suddenly the electrical power went out. Actually, the outage covered much of Ocean Park. So I did what I always do in stressful situations, I took another nap.

Frankly, the power goes out so often here I often think I should buy a generator. (Though it would play havoc with the decor, I must admit.) Given my luck, the generator would probably go on the fritz and I’d be calling their tech support and speaking to another robot.

The height of frustration is when I give information to the robot in a clear voice and it responds, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that.” More than once I’ve wound up shouting at a robot as though I’ve lost my mind. (Which at that point, I have.)

When the power came back, my computer wouldn’t reboot! Unsettling me no end, it automatically went into “repair mode.” Thankfully it worked, though it was seven minutes of agony wondering if I’d lost files.

I finally came to realize that the cosmos was telling me what to write about this week. That said, if I get an email asking about my “writing process” and it’s signed “The Cosmos,” if past is prologue, I’ll likely take another nap.

Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth, and jackdailypress@aol.com

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