Tuesday, February 28, 2017, will forever be remembered as the day that Amazon single-handedly made every millennial freeze in their tracks and wonder how to go on living.
The internet outage that struck the eastern side of the US like an alien invasion affected the lives of countless young adults for hours. Hours. For hours, Alexa fell silent. For hours, Amazon Fresh was unavailable. For hours, an entire generation questioned its ability to survive. Good thing the internet came back before anyone had even left work to try to make it on their own at home.
For hours, Alexa fell silent. What were we supposed to do, just sit in silence like Medieval serfs?Amazon.com was still running, but how were we supposed to buy things if we didn’t have Alexa to order it for us? The time of tribulation was nothing but questions: what about my music? What about my grocery list? How am I supposed to play Jeopardy or Hunt the Yeti? How am I supposed to get past the smart lock on my house door? How am I supposed to order my usual from Pizza Hut for delivery? What am I supposed to do if I leave work a little early to beat the traffic? Just sit in silence like a Medieval serf?
Tech departments across the Eastern seaboard sat restless, hopeful, shooting each other with Nerf guns while they waited for their jobs to become available again. Internet-dependent workers started actually talking to each other, imagining Employee Steve tripping over the Official Internet cord at Amazon Headquarters, pulling the plug from the wall and the router from its place on the Official Router Table, smashing it to pieces. They imagined Tech Guy Ted, the official Router Dude, being away on a late lunch break, which he always insists on being 100% work-free, enforced by closing his computer and turning off his phone.
“I can’t connect to my thermostat!” my deskmate exclaimed as he stared at his unresponsive phone. “Oh nooo,” I responded in mock sympathy (actually I was jealous he has a smart thermostat and I don’t), “you can’t make sure your empty house is at a comfortable temperature.” “I just like knowing I’m connected, that it’s there,” he said, but he was laughing at himself.
The Return of the World
At last the internet slipped quietly back into everyone’s Amazon devices, back into the unseen cables tying everyone to their stuff, back into the worldwide web, and the world lurched back into rotation like a caught VHS tape realigning.
What if it happened again, on a weekend??“Oh, my thermostat is back!” my deskmate announced as he refreshed the app for the tenth time. “Ooh look I’m in eco mode. I shall adjust the temperature by one degree.”
And so the world returned to normal, if uneasily. The questions continued: since when did Amazon control so much of the web? What if it happened again later after even more of our lives became dependent on the internet? What if it happened after work instead of at work? What if it happened on a weekend??
With a collective shudder to shake off such incomprehensible horrors, an entire generation moved boldly on with their lives, into the suddenly less confident future. And everyone hoped that Employee Steve had bought a backup router with his accrued Amazon credit points in case he tripped on the cord of the new Official Router again, and that Tech Guy Ted had hired an intern to come in over the lunch hours.