The day the Internet shut down

People returned to reading books, perusing newspapers, and, believe it or not, dating in person.

The Web Corporation announced yesterday that the Internet will be closed until further notice to allow for much-needed repairs and maintenance.

“This move was long overdue,” says WC spokesperson Robert Packet. “We’ve been up and running for over 20 years, and we just couldn’t wait any longer without risking possible catastrophic damage to the World Wide Web.”

System mechanics are stripping down the Web and replacing worn binary numbers. But given its size and the extent of the damage from long-term wear and tear, the work is expected to take at least a month.

The effect of the maintenance shutdown has been immediate and widespread. Internet users from all over the world have found themselves without shopping sites, banking services, airline schedules, and pop-up ads for the Nordic Roots Festival.

“I’m devastated,” says longtime Internet aficionado Fred “Bits” Jones. “I’m not sure what I’m going to do. My wife suggested reading a book or a magazine, but I don’t even know if we own one.”

Libraries and bookstores report being overwhelmed with consumer requests for reading material. Due to the unexpected increase in traffic, some outlets have even closed their doors.

Newsstands, too, have been inundated with new customers looking for something to read. To meet demand, daily newspapers in major cities have hired back legions of laid-off reporters, many of whom had been relegated to a life of chanting darkly, “Remember the Gutenberg.”

Desperate Internet users have gone so far as to attend movies, plays, and concerts. Some have even resorted to engaging in face-to-face conversations with friends and family members.
“I’m not thrilled about it,” says one user. “But when I lost my online capability, I figured I really had no other option. It’s not very satisfying to talk to someone in person and have to actually listen to what they’re saying. But what choice do I have?”

One online dater from New York City was forced to meet people in person rather than go out in cyberspace. Although she was initially reluctant to make face-to-face contact, she ultimately described the experience as “strangely connective and exciting.”

Facebook-reliant college students from coast to coast were also left to their own devices in choosing courses, professors, and social companions. Some even ended up picking courses based on subject matter rather than a stranger’s Web entry, an option described by one college senior as “very random, but, like, interesting.”

Politicians of all stripes have promised quick action to deal with the problem. Democrat Barack Obama was not able to provide a specific plan, although he assured voters that he would make a change.

John McCain, the GOP standard-bearer, admitted he wasn’t privy to the details of the repair effort, but he was confident that all of the Internet’s defective tubes would be replaced as soon as possible. And President Bush noted that if there had been several Internets, as he once suggested, this problem never would have occurred.

David Martin writes from Ottawa.

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