I know storms. I know gales. Being born in Brittany, I have been used to strong winds, massive waves crashing inland, bad weather overall. I even celebrated a new year, when living in Scotland, stuck in my flat, seen waves the size of a two-storeys building crash inland, pushed by winds blowing at 170 km/hr.
This was nothing.
I had never faced a cyclone. I have found myself in one now with Marcia, the tropical cyclone hitting Queensland.
A cyclone is a traumatizing experience. And beyond that, puts things back into perspective.
With due respect to Macaulay (borrowing the title of this major piece of art), sitting home, waiting for and going through a cyclone involves little fun. From getting ready to following the forecasts before just sitting it and feeling the damage, the overall experience proves a long frustrating run more than anything.
Furthermore, with the power going down – and the internet – a window on the outside disappears. When the phone network falls as well, reaching friends and family becomes impossible.
I was listening, yesterday, to an interview made by Jason Roulston, at Just Digital People, and one point mentioned was that making (lots of) money does not matter much in the end if it means that it keeps you away from friends and family.
Call it the Scrooge principle for instance. Your gold can’t offer you a beer or give you a hug.
As true as it is, it also felt like so déjà-vu and common logic for me after more than 15 years of working and never really gunning for the money.
But it needs to be said. And repeated. Again and again. Reflecting on it now, I could say that again a thousands time. People are key. Not the money. And when your neighbourhood is being torn to pieces, regardless of origins or riches, comfort is only to be found in them, people.
Which, in the end, makes the experience more traumatizing when even phone lines are down and you can not reach people.
A digital desert. That is what happens when the Internet is down and so is the phone network.
Following on my previous point, this desert proves the worst as it makes it impossible to check on family and friends and prevents from reassuring them as well.
People end up waiting and wondering … .
This is the time when smartphones prove either dumber than dumb phones and the old fashion radio becomes the most wanted piece of tech around. Talk of a jump back in time by almost twenty years.
Beyond not being connected anymore, this sheds some light on how fragile digital jobs can be. No internet, no data, no way to work … . Just because of an outburst of wind and rain.
But this is only frustrating. The unsettling side of it is going from information overload to nothing.
With the internet running, I could see the forecasts, the tweets, the (scary) evolution of the cyclone up to category 5 as hours were passing. But once everything crashed and the cyclone was there, no information were to be found anymore apart from general radio reports.
All of a sudden, people find themselves in the dark.
This is an experience similar to looking at someone throw a punch, in slow motion, when the target is your face.
You know it is coming, you see it, can think of how bad it will hurt, take time to look at the ring on one finger which is going to butcher your cheek but you have no chance at all to avoid it, do not know what the exact outcome will be and how badly you will be hurt.
We could follow Marcia, define the course, the fact that it would hit hard but then … . Nothing more but a blank space and questions.
Make the call
Back to business, somehow, this also translates in everyday’s life. Be it on a personal side or at work.
I am often stunned (or pissed off) seeing people sticking to email and holding on to it like their life depends on it. For one major reason – which also helped texts and messaging apps grow that much – people fear speaking to people.
We live in a world where people would rather send a dozen emails, asking a dozen questions, rather than just place a call and sort things out in a matter of minutes.
Yet, in a crisis situation, with phone lines down, when being able to place a call becomes the only way to know about the safety of loved ones, priorities change. Calling turns into a necessity.
I place calls. And being stuck, not able to call when I am wondering whether my family is safe makes it even more unbearable.
This is a cry for all stupid spammers out there, grow some heart (…) and use your phones when that is so easy to do it.
To be continued. Shit happens – and is due to keep happening. Life is just a matter of keeping track of priorities and of what matters most.
Family is key and so are friends. Technology, if massive, finally weak and not necessary. Guts, lost for many in the workplace but maybe found by others.
That is one take of that experience. Some people suck, some are great but the best ones always shine in darkness and prove amazing when crisis strike.
I love digital but, hey, people, remember it is just a tool.