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August 25, 2008
OK, So It’s the End of the World
Not too long ago the Sci Fi Channel produced a TV special, called
Countdown To Doomsday in which experts consider 10 really crappy
ways human civilization might come to an end. Possibilities include
invasion by aliens (I think they mean the kind that likes to abduct and
conduct experiments on the residents of trailer parks in Alabama, rather
than the housekeeping staff from the Red Roof Inn), getting into a
cosmic fender-bender with an uninsured giant meteorite or becoming
slaves to a generation of ruthless futuristic killer robots – not
including the one who is currently the Governator of California.
Despite the Sci Fi Channel’s credentials as an unimpeachable scholarly
institution, and even though the possibilities they present are pretty
darned scary, I think they’ve overlooked one of the most significant
dangers facing our world today. I refer, of course, to Sudden
Catastrophic Loss of Cellular, or SCLOC (pronounced, “SCLOC”).
OK, granted, SCLOC might not seem as unpleasant as being
proctologically probed by a seven-foot-tall carnivorous avocado from
Rigel 9, but appearances can be deceiving. Just picture the following
You’re driving down the street, using your cell phone to make sure that
your sister is current on all the critical details of your last dental
check-up. Everything seems perfectly normal – birds are singing, traffic
is flowing, and pedestrians are leaping to relative safety as you weave
past, shouting, “Not lost – I said ‘flossed!’”
that moment, somewhere near Encino, California, a cellular technician is
taking an unauthorized lunch break at his workstation. Distracted
because he is also downloading the latest Dungeon Master Centerfold
screen saver for his PC, he accidentally knocks his cup of gazpacho into
the main control terminal, causing a cascading power failure that takes
down the entire North American Cellular Grid.
Back in your car, your phone connection suddenly goes dead. Steering
with your knees, you redial. Nothing. You check all your phone’s
indicators, looking for any way to explain the malfunction – the battery
shows more than half-charged; the little antenna-picture thingy shows
four bars; you paid the bill last Tuesday, and you’re really sure the
check should have cleared before the 15th.
You look up to see a motorist coming from the opposite direction,
shaking his phone and banging it on the steering wheel. He sees you,
swerves, and then plunges into a ravine, his car in flames. And as he
disappears from view he shouts into his Bluetooth headset, “Can you hear
me? Bill? Hello? HELLOOOOOOOOOooooooo?”
You try rebooting your phone, and your car veers off the road and into
the crowded main hallway of a high school. Kids shrieking the names of
friends into their own inert iPhones, frantically trying to retrieve the
pictures they took at Caitlin’s party last weekend, flash past your
windows. The assistant principal disappears beneath your onrushing car,
typing his frantic last words into his Blackberry – a message that will,
tragically, never be delivered.
Abandoning your vehicle in the lunch room under a pile of Salisbury
steaks and tater tots, you stagger back out into the street, tenderly
cradling your lifeless cell phone. Distant explosions and screams of,
“You’re breaking up! Hello?” assault your ears. At that moment you
realize that the unthinkable has happened – the entire world around you
is mobile no more!
Falling to your knees you look skyward, seeking some answer or shred of
comfort in the heavens, overcome by the stark realization that your
sister may not find out what the dentist said about your abscessed molar
until you get home and call her on the land line.
May Verizon help us all!
© 2008 Michael Ball.
Distributed by North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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