. . . is a strange experience. Television, annoying a companion as it is, is what mediates collective experience to us, especially in crises, keeps us “in the know” (or provides a comforting, deceptive illusion thereof), and makes us feel a part of something larger—a community and an event. For us who live alone, for all its drawbacks it is perhaps particularly important—a voice in the house—as a divorced friend has been exhorting me in vain.
The computer, normally welcome because it doesn’t harangue you with overhyped drama, incessant repetition, and noisy sales pitches, is eerily silent now. I usually prefer to get my information by reading—certainly not by watching video snippets, which you have to activate voluntarily and which are the worst of television, rendered-down, semiliterate, breathless, frustrating in what they fail to tell you. But reading is a cold experience when you are facing a mass-scale event paradoxically alone. I’ll turn on live streaming AM news radio and will no doubt quickly get annoyed by the repetition, the trivia, the jocular commercials (there it goes: “You may be a candidate for dental implants!”), the attempt to drum up drama where as yet there is none (“What’s it like where you are?” “Rain is still pouring down . . .”). The winds are supposed to intensify overnight and the worst to come between 5 A.M. and 5 P.M. tomorrow. Irene is a slow-moving beast.
Of course, if and when there is the nearly inevitable power outage, TV and the Internet will both be gone and only a battery-operated radio (which I failed to buy in time, but which some neighbor probably has) will provide vital information. The result will probably be renewed bonding with neighbors, a taste of the unwired world we would revert to if there were a massive grid crash or sabotage. It will be a novel experience for the young, who will keep reflexively checking their blank iPhones, and a nostalgic one for older generations.