It is 7:30 p.m. and it is dark and as much as I have known they were coming, these sudden sunsets, this one, two weeks before the summer actually, technically, ends, catches me by surprise.
The weather has been cold and wet, as though summer is truly, irreversibly departed and were I a betting person I’d say the forecasters will be saying, before the Equinox, that we are enjoying an Indian Summer. It drove my mother crazy — I come by it genetically — their rampant misuse of the term. Today, the vernacular has slipped, and by some definitions Indian Summer is what they call any beautiful warm day after Labor Day, not, as my mother and those before her said, a beautiful warm day after a frost.”
The media is filled with talk of the approaching anniversary of September 11, and that terrible, beautiful week following, when the bluest sky was cut by a plume of dark smoke. It was the last day I got up and wandered about without ever turning on the radio or checking the news. It stopped forever being so easy, so natural, especially on a summer’s day, to be up and out, to so easily hold the world at bay.
I blame technology, the ease, now, of connecting not only by the radio but by the internet to the ever-changing front pages of international newspapers, better than having to wait for the news to come round in between the advertisements.
The accessibility has changed so over this past decade and now I wonder more than ever where is that line between reporting and creating, how often it is crossed, are we any better off having this immediate admission to so many venues and how many of them offer anything truly resembling “news” amidst the entertainment.
Ten years is both a lifetime and yesterday. So much has changed but the memories are so clear. It was the second Tuesday in September; things were slowing down after the summer, it was a day off after a few difficult weeks and I walked in the Town Hall in mid-morning — I know even that I was wearing a denim skirt, not which one of the many I have owned, but it is so odd to realize that is a part of my memory of that day. I heard related in an everything-is-so-important manner I had learned to ignore that a plane — planes? — had hit the Trade Tower — Towers? — and immediately dismissed the fuss, visualizing that well known photograph of a plane wedged in the Empire State Building so many years ago. When I stepped into the next room I saw on the television someone had already set up the report of the attack on the Pentagon and realized something beyond a wayward pilot was going on.
Ten years later we all know where we were, where family and friends were, on that morning. In this part of the country it seems impossible not to have known — or be no more than one person removed from — someone who died, or survived, or by some quirk of fate was not in their office. The forecast, still a few days out, is for partly cloudy skies, here and over New York City. Apt, some will say, but I want that perfect sky, so clear we could stand outside and see the big planes turning in the sky, heading back to the nearest airport.
Then, I stayed by the television as much as I could, transfixed, as we all were by that blue, blue sky. Now, I rely upon the internet.
My internet was going in and out and in and out again, then the phone went, and, always, comes the annoyance of calling Verizon — have I mentioned lately that I am not fond of the company? There was a warning that the usual delays in reaching a person would be even greater due to the heavy call volume caused by the storms, followed by the mind-numbing direction to Verizondotcom which infuriates me because, of course, if the phone line isn’t working there is no accessibility to any dotcom. Just when it seems there will be a voice, a human being, comes an assurance, delivered as though it were a rare shell on a velvet cushion that from this point on upcoming questions will come from yet another automated voice as though it were a gift. I wish I knew what I said in my mumbling because I was redirected to an agent.
Foolishly, I mentioned how annoying it was to hear that “go to dotcom” recording advice when not being able to go to dotcom was the problem in the first place and was told I could contact the company a variety of other ways, including by cell phone. It was the day that company’s cell service was down. Generally, I tough it out but just couldn’t and hung up, going back to my fallback position on all things technological: left alone they will work again. I did not make that up; my first word processor had a number in Massachusetts I could call when things went wrong. A techie responded to my panicked call after a minor spill with a story of someone else’s whole cup of coffee dumped on a keyboard in a police station in a familiar Commonwealth town. “Left it alone for a day, it was fine” he assured me. Mine was as well.
As proved to be the case with my internet and phone connection, at least this time.
This time, I wasn’t infuriated beyond my usual “I hate Verizon” off-handed comment. In these days of unspeakable sadness there is something both unseemly and reassuring in the normalcy of the phones not working and the automated response of the big faceless company. It is a reminder that hard as it is to imagine, the world truly has not been shaken off its axis, that out there across the water that either protects or isolates us, sudden sunsets are a part of a natural cycle, expected if not welcome. They have not come too soon ending a life too short.