LAST Friday, the 13th, redefined deadlines even for the most jaded.
At 4 p.m., the newsroom texted to remind columnists to submit their pieces early. It wasn’t just the Sinulog weekend but also the paper’s new, compact template that pushed deadlines.
Then, in the VHire queue, an SMS in my phone at past 7 p.m. announced that, as “part of security measures during the Sinulog Festival,” signals will be blocked during the weekend, making call, text, and mobile data unavailable in metro Cebu.
When I arrived home near 9 p.m., phone and wifi services were already suspended. I didn’t have to tax my imagination, visualizing the panic this weekend: no ATM withdrawals, no mobile connections, no surfing, no ranting except to those physically nearby.
The impact of last Friday the 13th sank in when I sat down to write near midnight. Beside the computer were writing companions from way back: a dictionary, a thesaurus, and newspapers—all in paper form, not digital.
Going unplugged is anomalous even though I impose this on myself as a ritual purging, a psychic detoxification, an airing of the rooms inside my head.
In my 18 years or so of deadline writing, the Internet is the abiding presence that transforms solitude into a claustrophobic company of three: writer, Muse, and World Wide Web.
Eighteen years ago, this threesome already bemused me. I’m still uncertain whether being in this crowd is boon or bane.
In the company of the new media, I feel like I’m parading around in the emperor’s new clothes. When my editor instructed me to have my photo taken for the redesign, I posed for the camera self-consciously, wondering how the way I looked influenced how readers of the digital age would read what I wrote.
The insecurities mounted when the paper’s new template came out last Monday. The reduced news hole means tighter writing. Can I choose the words? Can I go for depth with the minimum of text?
Last Friday the 13th clinched it. Not being able to email means I will have to save this piece in a USB, commute to the newsroom before the Sinulog chokes the streets, and pray that there is no policy against downloading a file using a gadget that may infiltrate the newsroom system with malware.
Eighteen years ago, when I first wrote for a newspaper, beating the deadline meant hauling husband, toddler son and floppy diskette to turn over the column to my editor.
Who could have predicted that the threat of terrorism would bring back the good old pre-digital age? If you’re reading this piece today, it means I’ve found my way in the darkness of the cave to read the writing on the wall.
(firstname.lastname@example.org/ mayettetabada.blogspot.com/ 09173226131)
*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s January 15, 2017 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”