For years I’ve have had a bad habit of not paying bills on time. Last week, just as I was finally getting around to thinking about opening the basket of mail I’ve collected for the past two weeks (OK, maybe two months), the Internet went down. This could only mean one thing: I forgot to pay the critical part of the phone bill – the Internet part of the phone bill.

The phone part of the phone bill doesn’t matter because no one in my house cares about the landline. We keep it around for nostalgia’s sake. My daughter has grown up not answering the phone. The opposite of Pavlov’s dog theory: Ring a bell enough times with no reward, and the bell is ignored.

It rings, but we don’t answer it. We barely even hear it, and haven’t for years. The teen keeps looking at the iPad that Gov. LePage gave to her to enhance her “Weeds” watching experience, and my husband and I just let it ring.

For me, the sound of the landline ring is a reminder that I once had a landline-life. A life with clever answering machine messages; a life of trusting that someone would call me back; a life of patience.

Now I have a life of calling cellphones and hanging up if he or she doesn’t answer on the first try; texting to see if I can connect faster; being interrupted by a call back from the same person I am now texting, who asks, “Did you call me?”

“Yeah, I did,” I say. “You didn’t pick up, so I was texting to say that I’ve made other plans.”

There are only two people in my life who I can count on reaching by phone: my mother and my friend Mary Anne, neither of whom owns a cellphone. Mary Anne, however, has discovered that she can text from her computer, which isn’t fair because her texts are so long she might as well put a stamp on them. It’s not texting, it’s laptopsing.

The point is, I can call either of them on their landline, and they will answer or not. Not means that they are not available, but will be later. It’s a simple concept.

Today we lost the Internet, and it wasn’t a quick fix. It wasn’t an “Oops, sorry family, we are down for 24 hours.” This time, the phone company called my bluff.

“No, we will not expedite your request. No, you can’t pay extra to have it connected faster, even if you whine and act like we’ve repoed your car. Yes, it will take five to seven business days before you are online again.”

In a panic I searched for an open network on my computer. I found no open network, but I did find one prospect called SlimToNone, a network handle with a strong connection and a pretty clear message: Don’t even try guessing my password. I sat on the couch wondering which neighbor could possibly have the handle “SlimToNone” and wondering if I had the courage to call around.

Most embarrassing question of the millennium age: Can I use your password?

My second idea was to stand on the median near the University of Southern Maine library with a sign that reads: “Need wireless for 5-7 days. Will Pay. WIRELESS NOT HOPELESS.”

I finally swallowed my pride and called my pal Dave, who lives on the other side of us, and asked (for the third time) to borrow his password. Dave and his wife, Nancy, moved here in 2007 from Boston just as we were building our house directly in front of theirs. We have each other’s house keys, and they continue to be generous with their password but don’t really ever need ours.

Dave and my husband, Tom, and all the other man pals in our hood have a pact to always check with each other before heading to Home Depot or Maine Hardware to make sure that one of them doesn’t already possess what the other is headed out to buy. I figure asking to borrow a password for five to seven business days fits into this category of resourceful generosity.

In return, I will offer up my password to anyone who needs it in five to seven business days.

Jolene McGowan lives and works in Portland with her husband, daughter and dog and has no plans to leave, ever. She can be contacted at:

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