Though Tyler (age two) had already made his way into our bedroom, all three of us were still shaking off the night’s sleep when the house alarm began screaming.
A never-before-seen message flashed across the alarm keypad: “TELCO TAMPER.”
While the facts conveyed by this message were simply that the phone connection had been lost, the word “tamper” conjured up images of active foul play. I walked into the hallway, closed the bedroom door and crept downstairs. In the kitchen, my eyes located the knife block, from which I withdrew the butcher variety and continued the inspection — first throughout the house, then into the garage and, finally, around the entire structure.
As I moved through through dewy grass and bushes in the darkness — apparently inspired by TR during his charge up San Juan Hill (I had just completed absorbing tomes about his rise and presidency) — something occurred to me: the police were probably on their way and just might find my knife-wielding, half-dressed appearance somewhat alarming. Realizing my chances of getting shot had risen to an all-time high, I quickly made my way back inside.
After ruling out any active “tampering,” it was time to get on the horn to Verizon and find out why our entire FIOS package (phone, cable, Internet) had suddenly gone AWOL. At this point my ordeal was over, but my wife’s had just begun.
“What do you mean it will be 11 days until a tech can get out here?” she gasped, in the same tone Marlow must have uttered, “The horror, the horror.”
Yes, due to the strike, it would be a veritable eternity before someone could investigate the problem on site — 11 days with no phone (Who cares? We all have cell phones), no Internet (Who cares? We all have Web-enabled handhelds) and no TV (AAAAHAHHHAHAHAHAHH!!!).
While both of us reacted with some trepidation at having to raise our children for more than a week (Tyler & four-month-old Parker) without the benefit of Nick Jr. and Sprout, I seem to have reconciled myself to the situation better than my wife. You see, it’s not football season yet so I’m not missing any Giants games, but apparently “The Real Housewives of Someplace or Other” are always in season.
So Tuesday night I spent the first TV-less post-dinner hours with my sons that I can remember, and you know exactly what I’m going to say — they were great. Without us all focusing on the TV, we were able to focus on each other, and I’m sure the quality of our interaction went up exponentially. Now, I’m not becoming anti-TV — I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with the medium, only poor choices in content (see the aforementioned real housewives reference).
But thanks to a Verizon outage timed just right to coincide with a strike, my house will be quieter than it’s ever been, and our interactions will be more meaningful than they usually are. We never would have been, and never will be, strong enough to order that the noise be shut off, but you can be. I’m talking about embracing a practice that seems to have fallen out of favor — the team retreat. Before you go overboard and say, “I’m not taking 30 people camping for a weekend,” know that a retreat can be far more simple and far less Kumbaya.
Consider renting some space for a day or two where things are a bit more quiet. Get buy-in from all the key players, because missing even one will mean a much lower yield in value. Let everyone know that once in session — focused on identifying problems, suggesting improvements and forecasting the future — all communications with the outside world will be severed. Only with all the right people, ample time to focus, and no interruptions will this retreat reap its potential rewards. Of course, your team will become a whole lot closer in the process and, trust me, they’ll appreciate that you’ve invested in them, in eliciting their opinions on how to tackle the challenges at hand.
Though my wife is now actively following the Verizon strike and may yet demand a meeting with all concerned parties to force a resolution, I’m going to enjoy our somewhat isolated state. I’m going to play with my sons without the benefit of Team Umizoomi (worthwhile) and Peppa Pig (somewhat less so) and play 19th Century frontier dad. I suggest taking your team on a pioneer-style retreat to build cohesion while digging into the thorniest issues. And don’t worry, thanks to the magical DVR, all your reality TV will be ready and waiting when you return.