It has happened. Just when I thought there was nothing more I could lose, nothing more I could possibly give up or change in this do-over life I am leading, it happened: Earthlink broke up with me. Yes, I was dumped by my DSL provider.
I met Earthlink fourteen years ago when I was young and just starting out as a freelance writer. He called himself Mindspring then and he was cool and hip and fast and easy. I was naive and impressionable and I had needs. And there was Mindspring, so strong and capable and full of all the bandwidth I required. We hit it off immediately. I turned him on and we went at it 24/7. I fell in love with my Internet connection, and I thought he loved me. Sure he had others, but I knew I was special because I was one of his firsts. When I chose a personal email address, I didn't even have to add numbers. I took his last name and became firstname.lastname@example.org. We were so, so very good together.
Mindspring was there when I started my first business. He helped me every step of the way. Truly, I could not have done it without him. He was my lifeline. My connection to the world. My everything. I would rise each day, so happy to see him. The honeymoon lasted for years. I turned him on each morning, and I would end each day, gently turning him off. He delivered my mail and important information. He was my confidante, my friend. I trusted him with the darkest secrets of my hard drive. And he seemed so happy with me! I believed he would always be there.
When Mindspring changed his name to Earthlink, I didn't mind. I was committed to him. Names didn't matter. It was all about what he did for me, and how he made me feel. But, looking back now, I know that's when the problems began. He started becoming cold and indifferent to my desires. As he grew more successful, he became too busy to give me personal attention. But I was patient, and went right on using him, ignoring the problems and the tension that was building between us. Now, I see so clearly how we were growing apart, but at the time, I didn't want to believe it. I thought as long as I was loyal to him, we would be okay. We had a contract that was sacred—and besides, it renewed automatically each year.
But as the years went by, our relationship continued to change. He became fickle and distant. He never answered his phone. When I had problems and needed to talk, he told me he preferred that I fill out a form online. I knew something was wrong, but I ignored it. I threw myself into my work and tried to tell myself that things would get better. It was just a phase. All relationships go through difficult times, right? We would get through it and be stronger.
Around this time, I admit I was tempted by others who said they were faster or more reliable. Yes, I had eyes. And yes, I more than once I daydreamed about dumping Earthlink and running off with Yahoo or Verizon or AT&T, but something held me back. Maybe I was just in denial, but I tamped down my feelings of uncertainty and dissatisfaction, and remained faithful.
When I moved to Birmingham, he moved with me. There was no question about it. By then I felt I needed him to sustain my very identity. I was email@example.com. How would anyone find me if I left him and went off with another? No, I couldn't think of it. We had so much history together! And I thought, I hoped, we had a future.
We rocked along for another six years, but we barely spoke to each other. We shared no intimacy. We were just going through the motions. He provided perfunctory service and I just got used to it—yes, I settled. When I moved into my apartment two months ago, he reluctantly came with me. I asked for assistance with the move, and he acted as though he hardly knew me. I hoped my new place and my new life would reignite our passion for each other, but it was too late and our connection grew weaker each day. For two more months, we existed like this, barely getting through the day, me frustrated, bewildered, hurting, and him totally indifferent to my needs. I felt trapped, but what could I do?
Then last week, when I returned from a business trip, I discovered he was gone. He left without even writing me a note. I called to find out what had happened and got the run-around from his minions, who were—no doubt—covering for him. I found myself on the phone at 11 PM sobbing, Can someone please just tell me what the problem is? My connection is gone! We've been together for so long! Doesn't that mean anything to you?
Finally, Earthlink sent his repair man, and that's when I learned the cold, hard truth. I was at the end of the line. Earthlink just didn't have the capacity to connect with me anymore. It wasn't me, it was him. Still I didn't want to believe it, and for the next week I lived on the hope that somehow, someway, our connection would be restored, and Earthlink and I would again enjoy the love we once shared. But, alas, it was not meant to be. Tonight, Earthlink had his representative call me and let me know that our relationship was over.
"We can no longer provide you with DSL service at your present address," he said.
"Are you breaking up with me?" I asked. "Is that what you're doing after all these years? Just come out and say it!"
"I am very sorry, Mam," he said. "But you are at the end of the line, and we are just not able to provide you service."
"So this is it? It's over?" I asked, incredulous.
"I guess so, Mam," he said.
"I'll miss you," I said. "You know, I really enjoyed being with you over the years."
"Okay, Mam," he said. "You will have to find a new provider for DSL service."
"Aren't you going to miss me, just a little?" I asked. "Aren't you just a little sorry to see me go?"
"Yes, Earthlink is sorry that we can no longer support you as a customer, Mam," he replied.
"Okay then," I said. "Well, it's been nice knowing you. And...I'll never forget you."
"Yes, Mam," he said. "Earthlink appreciates your business and good night."
"Good night," I said. "Good-bye."*
So, it's time to move on. The writing is on the wall. But it's not easy leaving my old email address behind. I'll keep it for a while, to ensure I get messages. I know that somewhere in this great, big, wide world, there's another provider out there waiting for me—a better, faster, kinder provider who will surely love me and fulfill all my needs. And I will fall in love again, someday, although it's too soon to think of that now. But one day in the very near future, I'll find myself with a brand new email address and a blazing fast DSL connection, and he'll be everything I ever dreamed of and more—and maybe, if we are very lucky, we'll even grow old together.
*This conversation actually happened. To that dear customer service representative in India, please forgive my warped sense of humor. I meant you no disrespect. I don't think you really understood my analogy, and I hope that you are not still scratching your head as to why a woman in Birmingham, AL seemed so strangely emotional about being dumped by her DSL provider.