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Isolation

April 27, 2012

Last Monday’s telephone outage should have been a disaster, but it wasn’t.

Not up here, not in Mammoth.

It seems that many of us revel in our enigmatic adversities. Sometimes it’s a natural event, like a big windstorm, a huge snowstorm or a wildfire on the horizon.

This time, it was a man-made phenomenon, created when a big rig near Round Valley crashed into four utility poles and severed 96 strands of Verizon’s fiber optic line.

The phones went dead. Many transactional devices, such as debit card readers, also went on the blink, and we were told right away that service might be out until the late afternoon on Tuesday.

Anywhere else, the masses would be howling.

But here, (and this is based purely on anecdotal evidence), we didn’t hear a lot of complaining.

We got to wondering about that. When you’re in a newspaper office without working phones, it gives you a bit of time for reflection.

Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that the phone outage was exactly what we asked for when we moved up to this place to begin with.

Generally, we are in love with Mammoth’s isolation and its particular challenges.

There are three übergroups among the non-native species up here.

The first übergroup that comes up here are made up of people who are running away from something, whether it’s a love gone bad, a career gone bad or other big trouble, like the law.

These people can more or less hide out here, collect their thoughts and put their lives back together. What they need is some isolation to make it work.

The second übergroup of people who come up here are the athletes. The runners, skiers, snowboarders, cyclists and climbers seem to love the isolation as much as they love the altitude.

Not long ago we were chatting with a running coach from Down South. He said he likes to bring his university track team here because the runners have plenty of time to concentrate on their sports, without the distractions of a campus or a city.

 It’s about the isolation.

The third übergroup, we figure, are the artists and the dreamers, the aesthetes who affect a highly developed appreciation of beauty, especially in poetry and the visual arts.

It is here where the veil dividing the heavens and the earth is at its thinnest. Consider the night sky, or the cobalt blue of the daytime skies above the mountains.

It reminded us of a conversation we had earlier this winter with a new pal. “I think I’m in at least two out of three of those groups,” our friend said.

So yes, we have a four-lane highway, a commercial airport, a supermarket and a behemoth ski hill, with its engines whirring and chairlifts rising.

We also have phone service and Internet service, more or less, and a remarkably resilient power source in Southern California Edison.

And yet, when one of those parts stop working for a day or so, we don’t mind so much.

The wounded and broken among us don’t even notice. The athletes are busy running, skiing, riding and cycling.

The artists and dreamers had their phones turned off anyway.

There were problems, yes. If it had lasted more than the one working day, the volume of complaints would have grown and grown.

As it was, we all got through it just fine.

By Tuesday the phones were ringing again and Web pages once more reappeared.

But it was kind of nice for a day, all that silence, save for the wind in the trees. 

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