Friday, September 07, 2007

Katrina stories, 6

When the storm hit, pretty much all of the cellular towers were either damaged, or lost electrical power and couldn't carry a signal. And those towers that had working backup generators just eventually ran out of fuel because nobody was around, or capable, of getting to them in order to refuel them. The only provider that was still functional after the storm was Verizon.

By functional, I mean Verizon could carry text messages. Trying to get a call to get through was impossible. It was simply a waste of time. Your phone had 5 bars, but wouldn't be able to make a call. We resorted to text messaging. It was our only way of communication, and I must have personally sent several hundred text messages within a week. Half were sent to friends and family outside of New Orleans. The other half were sent to colleagues at other hospitals trying to figure out their situation and trying to explain ours. And because Nathalie and I were one of the few with a Verizon phone, everybody borrowed our phone to send text messages.

For those with teens, 100's of text messages probably doesn't sound like much, but between Nathalie and I, we send a combined total of maybe 20 text messages a month. Probably less. And because of that low volume, we just pay per message at the going rate of 10 cents. Needless to say, I was a bit frightened to see what the next month's phone bill was going to be.

But when Verizon got news that they were the only provider still functional in New Orleans during that time, in a move of jaw dropping generosity that has earned them my loyalty and business forever, they dropped all charges for text messages made in Louisiana during September 2005.

When we (finally) got a bill from Verizon, we had made/received over 2200 text messages that month.

What about land lines? That's another story.