Dropping A Line

We’re upgrading our internet service, and to do this, a crew had to come out to drop a line. 

When I told my sister that she looked dubious and said, “What does that mean, ‘drop a line'?“ (I get it; that’s phrase sounds like something that might happen in a bathroom, a bed, or a party.)

Reflections and reality. Not a February photo.

I was excited to describe it. It was so interesting to watch!

The crew had a literal cable—the “line,” I’m guessing—that they had to physically connect in the real world.

The line runs from the outside of our house to “our” hydro pole (we can see it from the front porch so that makes it “ours”?) and connects to other things on the pole. Then the line then runs to the next pole, and another one or two, and eventually the line connects to the poles along the street at the end of our driveway.

Those poles and their lines somewhere connect to towers, which connect to other stuff. Somewhere, there’s an electrical source, a telephone connection, light, and other things that are all vaguely magic to me.

As you can see, I know very little about some important things. Which is why it’s so interesting!

And I guess, but I am only guessing, that the “drop” refers to one of two things: a conceptual map, on which the cable “drops” a level on the map, from the line at the street to the line to our house, OR the fact that the line is at a lower physical altitude where it connects to the house than it is at the top of the pole.

Again: don’t know!

And while I’m at it: Why is the line “dropped,” when the phrase “run a line” is also available and is altitude-neutral? Don’t know!

Two vans of guys and equipment spent all afternoon at the tops and bottoms of poles in our vicinity and down at the street. They stomped various paths in snow.

I watched and did other stuff (updating spreadsheets and shuffling papers) and watched some more. 

All the while, I thought about the people whose work is with tangible things in the world. They stock grocery shelves, they treat sick and broken bodies, they drive machines that move bricks, they hammer and build. 

I remembered the first book I ever worked on, back on a now-defunct publishing company—how exciting to see it, after months of trying out the best presentation of the concepts and seeing words on the screen. A book! Paper and glue and soy ink, and I got to hold it in my hands. 

That "holding of the book" never got old. Every time the first box of a new title came in, the editorial staff gathered in the break room to look at them and applaud each other. One of the biggest moments in my life was holding a book with my name on its spine and my mother's photo on the cover. 

But mostly, now, my "work" is at a screen, moving pixels that look like words. Sometimes I shuffle papers and make phone calls.

And maybe that’s why I find this other type of activity so interesting. It’s more tangible. Not necessarily more honourable or “better”—or “worse” or “beneath me.” Just different.

Upgrading our internet is more complicated than somebody in an office somewhere turning a dial or flipping a switch.

Dropping a line is not an idea. It’s not sharing information to change a mind. It’s not telling a story to entertain someone. It's a thing that requires movement through space.

Like much of the work in the pandemic. For which I remain grateful.

That’s pretty cool. All of it.