Kevin Courtney, Napa Journal: A car accident wipes out the Internet


Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Our late-day neighborhood strolls are usually the quiet things. We love flowers, cats, quirky house paint jobs.

But not this Tuesday. As we turned from Partrick Road into Morningside Drive, the shattering sound of metal crashing into metal engulfed us. If this were Ukraine, you would assume a drone strike.

Something terrible had just happened, but what?

A hundred yards ahead of Partrick, a male driver got out of his pick-up truck and stopped in the roadway as a man on a bicycle twisted and turned.

Neither of them were in a screaming panic.

Cheryl wanted to run and investigate. I hesitated. What looked like an emergency didn’t look like one.

Several minutes passed and nothing happened to Partrick. No smoke, no sirens, no hair on fire. He returned to the stillness of a spring evening in Browns Valley.

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We continued our walk up Morningside. In another 20 minutes our return route would take us from the mysterious scene of success. If it was necessary to gape, then we could do it.

These 20 minutes were full of suspense. Still no sound of police, fire or medics coming to the rescue. It was like we hallucinated the whole thing.

But we hadn’t. Cheryl fought the nausea. Her body told her something bad had happened.

When we got back to Partrick, the man in the pickup was chatting on the roadway with the occupants of another vehicle. Fifteen feet away was a tall AT&T locker that had been wrenched from its curbside mooring and pushed onto the sidewalk.

The locker looked like a collapsed paper bag. The pickup looked worse. The metal along the right side had been stripped away, exposing the vehicle’s engine and frame.

A dozen questions came to mind, but I decided not to ask any of them.

As we squeezed by the debris field, one of the men offered advice. Watch your steps, he said.

Why had the pickup pulled off a straight in broad daylight? Driver’s inattention on his cell phone, maybe? Had he tried to avoid the cyclist?

Then the other big question: What were the implications of the incident for the Courtneys getting their internet service from AT&T.

The house scene was not pretty. The crash had killed our Wi-Fi. Our PCs and Roku were essentially useless.

No streaming movies for Courtneys that Tuesday night. We went to bed early.

The next morning we received an upbeat text: Hi, it’s AT&T. The company estimated that repairs would take seven to eight hours.

Did I believe this? Not for a minute.

Six AT&T trucks drove down to the crash site that morning. Their task seemed as easy as putting Humpty Dumpty back together.

I reported to Cheryl. We’re in this for the long haul, I said.

Our internet connection was not restored on Wednesday. Nor Thursday. Nor Friday.

I communicated with an AT&T robot on Saturday. Expect repairs in 24 hours, the robot said.

Liar liar pants on fire.

Four hours later the internet service is back! We canceled plans to go out to dinner and outshine BottleRock. We ate at home with our restored Pandora, then looked for a movie.

But first we approached to inspect the crash site. It was still a mess, but AT&T had introduced a buzz generator. Two AT&T employees were about to close for the day.

We thanked them for their service. The boys smiled, but said the generator was only a temporary fix. When the gas tank ran out, we’d lose the internet again. A permanent fix may not be possible until after Memorial Day weekend.

As for the cause of the accident? They’d heard the driver had swerved to avoid a deer.

Seriously? Their eyes rolled. We rolled ours too.

Our internet connection went down two hours later. No Saturday night movies for us. But he returned Sunday morning and stayed for the final episode of Succession. Yes!

A good thing has come of all this. We were forced to revive the old tradition of reading at the end of the day in bed. Cute. Very nice.

Cheryl still bears traces of trauma from the accident. If vehicles can suddenly leave the roadway to avoid cyclists or deer or whatever, are any of us really safe on our evening walks?

Kevin can be reached at

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