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COLUMNIST: The snowy satellite dish caper

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The Internet hadn't been working for seven days. Our satellite Internet service had been interrupted for short periods in the past when cloudy skies and inclement weather were obvious culprits. Now the sky was clear as glass and blue-bright like only the cold can make it, and the Internet was still down.

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As a proud member of the Internet generation, a lack of Internet access makes me anxious and edgy, besides the fact that it is impractical. Because I couldn't connect to my email, Thursday found me driving 20 miles and back through a snowstorm to a meeting that had been cancelled over email hours before. More to the point, I was starting to unravel.

I knew something had to be done when I was visiting my inlaws and found myself at the computer behaving like a 5-year-old forced to share the toy she just got for Christmas. My mother-in-law called everyone to the table for dinner; I clung to the computer. "One more minute!" I called out. Then I looked at the table and saw that even my normally tardy 15-year-old nephew and 12-year-old niece had peeled themselves away from their Wii game and scrapbooking projects and sat waiting with the rest of the family at the dinner table. Generally eager to please my new family and always eager for food, I am usually one of the first at the table for mealtimes. Today, everyone was waiting for me. I reluctantly stopped what I was doing, and jumped into my seat at the table. I proceeded to scarf down my meal in record time and rush back to the computer, to find that my husband had beaten me there in order to check sports scores. I wasn't the only one in my family craving an Internet fix. I wheedled and whined and begged him to get off the computer. "I wasn't finished!" I heard my voice glissando down a couple of octaves in an imitation of those pesky kids in shopping malls whose whining makes me want to thump them. Out of all the children in the house, I was the worst behaved. My Internet addiction needed to be fed.

To prevent such embarrassing behavior at other people's homes--I had horrifying visions of myself doing running tackles at neighbor's front doors to get access their computer terminals--it was time to remedy our absentee Internet service. On our way home from dinner at the inlaws, I stepped out of the car to examine the satellite dish. Its basin was filled with three feet of snow like a massive bowl of vanilla ice cream, with the laser unit sticking out where the cherry should be.

My husband promised to do something about the snow covering the satellite dish. He still hadn't gotten to it on Saturday. On Sunday morning, when we heard the growl of the snow plow on our driveway, he devised a grand plan to remove the snow which involved convincing Justin Berg, our talented snow plower, to let us put our short painter's ladder on top of his pick-up truck so we could reach the dish with a broom. He went out to ask Justin for help and noticed that Justin's pick-up was full of equipment. My husband decided not to say anything.

It was up to me.

Ten degrees below zero. 30 mile-an-hour winds from the northwest. I stomped down the stairs and gathered my jacket, scarf, hat, and gloves. I wrestled my feet into my snow boots and braved the outdoor air. After wincing at the painful shock of the cold on my skin, I took a good look at the satellite dish.

The dish was 20 feet off the ground. My trusty painter's ladder gave my five feet six inches an additional four-foot boost, but that wasn't going to get me to twenty feet. I gathered up my new telescoping duster, (purchased with this alternative purpose in mind), a broomless broom handle, and my duct-tape and set to work. After taping the overlapping ends of each handle together, I had a 16-foot pole that danced in my hand with its length. I carefully threaded its span through the inner garage door, careful to avoid scratching my husband's baby of a car. I rested the far end on the ground, and teased the near end through the outer door far enough to close the inner door. I carried the ladder out to the frigid outdoors and set it up. I threaded the sixteen foot jury-rigged dusting contraption out the garage door and leaned it against the ladder. I steeled myself for the process of climbing a ladder perched on snow with snowy boots on a windy subzero day, and up I went. The duster just reached the dish. I got to work gently teasing clumps of snow off of the dish. Each clump I successfully removed showered down on top of me, some sliding down the back of my neck. I kept going. After removing a some of the snow, it was clear that the polyester duster was really made to remove spider webs, and not the cold sticky persistence of snow. I'd need something stronger and a bit longer.

Back I went into the blissfully warm house, and found a broom. I ducktaped the handle of the broom to the broomless broom handle that was attached to the duster, and now I had a two-sided snow-dusting contraption, the duster side for more delicate duties, the broom bristles for the more stubborn snow. I climbed back up the ladder, this time with my longer pole. I got the broom up the ladder, and found that the broom bristles were more effective at snow removal. This of course meant that I was showered with larger and heaver clumps of snow, with more of it making its way beneath my coat. By the end of this process, I was winded and shivering, and there was still snow on the dish which was stubbornly stuck on. I hoped that the remaining snow wouldn't be enough to hinder the mysterious stream of ones and zeros that translate into the world wide web, but I thought that my stronger husband might be able to make a bit more of a dent in the work. I left the ladder and snow-dusting contraption in place and went back inside.

"How'd it go?" called my husband, still toasty warm and cozy in his fleece pants and sweatshirt.

"Could you come out and help me?" I responded. I heard his footsteps scrambling away from me and up the stairs to the second floor.

"What are you doing?" I yelled.

"Checking the Internet to see if it works," he yelled back from the comfort of my office, while I dripped my melting glaze of snow onto the floor. He was clearly not about to come outside to help me.

"Is it working?" I yelled back. No response. "Honey?" Still no response. I couldn't tolerate not knowing.

I tore off my boots and ran up the stairs to give my husband a piece of my mind, and I found him sitting at the computer avidly checking ESPN.com for Gopher scores. I forgot my frustration. For a second. "Yippee!" I yelled, trying to push Chris out of my chair. He pushed me right back. "I'm not done yet," he said.

I didn't get on the Internet till Chris had checked every sports score and sports commentator in the known world, but when I did get access to my re-networked computer, I spent most of the rest of the day on it.

The snow-dusting contraption is still duct-taped together and waiting in our garage for the next Internet emergency.

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