Thursday, August 27, 2015

Katrina or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Technology

I'm a technophile though I'm not an early adapter.  I'll let others deal with the frustrations of Beta software and whatnot. I want the bugs worked out. A couple of months prior to Katrina my in-laws gave my husband, G, his grandmother's cell phone. Neither one of us had one yet. Many of our friends had them but we didn't want to feel like we could always be tracked down. We didn't blog. We weren't on any sort social media that was around at the time. It wasn't until 2009 I embraced social media. But Katrina introduced us to texting and blogging.

We had given G's cell phone number to our neighbors across the street. Several days after the storm his phone chirped and he received his first text message. It was from our neighbors, they were OK! But it took us a while to figure out how to reply to them. This was years before smart phones when it took forever to type anything out. I remember when G snuck back into New Orleans with his cousin, I was so nervous and scared. We had heard the stories. I was in Baton Rouge and tried to call G with no luck. The phone lines were still all screwed up. I ended up sending an email to a friend in Chicago and asked her to call him. It worked! She emailed back that she talked to him and they got in OK. When we got back to New Orleans in October, one of the first things I did was buy my first cell phone. The landline was out at my office and we had no idea when it would work. (Side note, our AT&T landline at home never went out.) Now I'm addicted to my iPhone.

After the storm, email was the only reliable way to communicate with people. Unless you were teaching at a college that was stupid enough to 1) have their server on the first floor on a campus that flooded and 2) not have a back up server in another location. I was teaching part-time at Delgado and I hated all the crap I got through my DCC email, so I had set up my own email address to communicate with my students. So glad I had that so I could check on my students and report to them what little I knew. I even heard from former students who were checking on me and their friends. The college boated in, rescued their soggy server and eventually was able to send emails out. So many emails wizzed back and forth between us, family, friends and clients. It got to be chore to respond to all our well meaning friends. We started sending out blanket emails. At some point we set up a blog. I knew G used to read blogs before the store but wasn't blogging himself. Blogging made communicating so much easier and was/is therapeutic. We read other New Orleanians blogs and the message boards on to figure out what was really going on back home. The message boards were also a life saver. Through blogging, we made new friends after Katrina, real friends we see face-to-face. I think the post-Katrina NOLA blog community was unique. We had each other backs and we were trying to get the truth out there to anyone who would listen.

Author Cynthia Joyce collected and published a bunch of blog posts "Please forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina." I don't know if I can read the book, and I guess it's not really for me as she says "I think I wanted this collection to exist not so much for people who lived through it, but for people who didn't but who wanted to better understand it." Interviews with her resonate with me. So it is now I return to my blog to rant and get relief.

I was a graphic designer at the time and I reached out to my clients to see how they were, where they were, and what could I do to help them. As a small biz owner, I understood the helplessness they felt, and the desire to get back to work. Updating my clients' web sites kept me busy after the storm. We posted their new cell phone numbers so their clients could get in touch with them. I posted status of them and their businesses. It made me very happy on the days I got to update their websites to say "Now Open."

My first foray into social media was MySpace. Remember that? A friend had a profile on MySpace and that was the best way for me to keep up with what was happening with her after Katrina. Of course I had to join to be able to see her posts. Is MySpace is still around? Yep. And you can log in with your Facebook or Twitter account. Ha! Now I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Nextdoor (and probably some other sites I'm forgetting). I have this blog, a blog about my cats, a retired gardening blog, and a blog for my pet sitting business. I also do social media for my business plus a couple of other businesses and organizations. I also have more email addresses than I can count on both hands.

For better or worse, this is how we communicate now. I rarely talk on the phone anymore. Faxes, remember those? But nothing beats good, old fashioned face to face interaction. And I still love getting a card or note in the snail mail.

Today, it's a beautiful, rare, cool, dry day and I have dogs to walk. So it's time to walk away from the computer and sign off.

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