Cutting the Cord

September 1, 2017

When a radiologist loses power.

A bit over a week ago, we had a bit of weather in my neck of the woods. (Though subsequent events in Texas do put things in a bit of perspective.) Heavy, heavy rain, and a bit of lightning-including a bolt that struck a tree half a block away. A lovely bit of noise, that.

All of which resulted in my cable service being kaput for a couple of days. For me, that’s everything: I have a “triple-play” service, which means the cable company supplies not just my TV, but also my high-speed internet and even my landline phone. Icing on the cake is that I also depend on internet service for my cellphone’s signal booster; without that, the reception at my house is such that my smartphone has all the connectivity of a brick.

For the three-ring circus of what it took to get reconnected in time for my next week of work, I refer you to my next column. This time around, I’m focused on my experience of going “off the grid.”

Some people do this eagerly. I, myself, have been known to relish the opportunity to go on vacay or simply to the beach for a day without any ability to be contacted. Nor to have the ability to contact others, should the temptation strike me. Especially for us doctor-types, it can be a rare treat to be out of reach.

Depending on one’s individual circumstances in our field, it can be rarer still. It wasn’t all that many years ago that, as a resident or salaried employee, I would be all smiles when the scanner, PACS, internet service, or indeed electricity went down in whatever facility that was employing me. It meant an unexpected break: I was freed of most or all of my responsibilities for an indefinite period of time.

Things change when you’re a few steps up the food chain…or if a meaningful portion (in my case, 100%) of your compensation is tied to how productive you’re being. Now, you have “skin in the game.” (Actually, even as an employee you did, but it was indirect and more easily disregarded.) Every moment you’re out of action is hurting your enterprise.

Which means, far from smiling when struck by an outage, you’re sighing, scowling, and/or snarling. Maybe you’re thinking of ways that you could have protected yourself better against such circumstances, like having a generator to provide power when the grid does not. Or having a secondary internet service provider as a backup for your first.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"63027","attributes":{"alt":"No power","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_2650123169807","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"8024","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 170px; width: 170px; float: right;","title":"©shadowalice/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

Maybe you’re beating yourself up because you thought you had all bases covered, and are now finding out that you don’t (the generator wasn’t serviced in a timely fashion, and now that you need it, the thing doesn’t work; the backup internet is slow as molasses and won’t really keep you in action, etc.).

Or maybe you honestly can’t think of anything more you could have done, there’s nothing you can do now, and it’s painfully evident that there’s no safeguarding yourself against similar outages in the future. Unless you’ve got the patience and equilibrium of a Zen Master, sometimes your only remaining move is to rail against the unfairness of it all.

It should come as no surprise that I was more than a little annoyed and anxious about the state of affairs, once I learned that my outage was to be measured in days, not hours. My next week of work was being threatened, and I couldn’t even do simple things like phoning family, playing the silly little games on my cellphone that fill my idle moments, or watching TV. God forbid, I might not see the week’s episode of “Game of Thrones” before everyone around me started babbling about what had happened in it.

Happily, service got restored before I missed any work, or even CGI-dragons. It was even in time for me to be able to use my wireless speakers to stream some music for visitors on the last day of the weekend (and to email last week’s blog entry to the editor so you folks could see it on schedule).