I suppose, to the casual observer, it's either fairly comical or pathetic. There are four computers in three rooms on two floors in my house. One of them is an Avid Media Composer; it does nothing but cut film so it doesn't count.

Two months ago--about the time I really started to get serious about E2, my DSL line was shut down without notice by someone at InternetConnect (a loathesome operation here in Sourthern California) who had an...odd...sense of humor. I decided to change DSL providers, committed to the guys who give me phone service anyway, and then realized that the phone company had lied to me (duh): it was going to take over two months to obtain my new DSL line.

This would surely affect my XP.

Since my Linux box had no modem, and I wouldn't have the faintest about installing one, I started playing musical computers, moving between my 14-year-old's iMac (which is surrounded by skateboard posters and terminal malaise) and my wife's G3 Laptop (which was totally maintained by her last employer and about which she knows nothing).

Both machines have a single AOL account, and this is where the problem really starts: AOL Sucks, to use my son's vernacular. I don't even think about trying to log on when it's five or six PM in New York. I am dropped several times an hour, no matter what dialup number I use, and the bloody ads and offers are enough to drive a man to tears. I've turned off that moron who tells me I have mail, but my wife LIKES him, so....

This, however, is not the worst of it. I can't get on if HE's on. He can't get on if SHE's on. And if I am on I am reluctant to get OFF. You know how that is.

Now that I have actual WORK to perform here at Everything2, things have gone further downhill. (Is it actual WORK if you don't get paid? Ummm...whatever it is, I'm supposed to do it). My wife has begun to take an unhealthy interest in her e-mail, as though it has suddenly become the sole anchor of her sanity. I believe she begrudges me the use of her laptop at the pool. (I've never had a laptop. I didn't know you could node EVERYWHERE.) The boy knows I'm nuts, but now he has this skateboard video he wants to edit on the iMac. It's for school. What kind or school IS that, do you suppose?

I am persona non grata in my own home.

It was all put into crystalline perspective two days ago. I was nodeing/editing/nuking/wondering about the REAL Power Structure of E2, you know, all the usual stuff, when I heard an enormous CRASH! With an exclamation point. No brake sounds. No horn sounds.

I went calmly downstairs to see four teenagers stumbling out of a late-model Honda sedan, dazed, stoned, but essentially unhurt. The telephone pole in front of my house was totalled. Phone lines, cable TV, electrics. All hung grimly above the street, festooned on the ancient trees the car luckily missed. Dangerous-looking transformers creaked threateningly. I had never noticed how many strange devices they have on telephone poles these days. The car was bad news. A big-ticket crash. Airbags were deployed.

The driver was 18 (that makes him an adult); unlicensed (that makes him stupid); and he had stolen his mother's car (that makes him unwelcome around the house for quite a while).

My wife asked the leader of the platoon of policemen and firemen and paramedics and phone/cable/electric company specialists who came to spend the afternoon on our shady street:

"Do you have to put the handcuffs on him?"

The cop smiled and said "We call that a lesson."

"Watch, honey," I said. "They'll protect his head when they put him in the car."

"Why do they do that?" she asked.

"They always do that. On TV. It's a lesson."

I was offline for about 28 hours. I stood in LINE at the compu-coffee joint, finally, just to get a shot at their T-1. That night I went over to my friend's house and used HIS iMac to log on. I didn't have the nerve to node.

I'm tellin' ya. Everything is really something.