Steerforth, at Age of Uncertainty, reports his son's words when they were snowed-in in Sussex, England, "This is Heaven. No traffic. I wish it was always like this."
When I came in to work Monday morning, after a week off, several librarians told me that the Internet had gone down last Wednesday afternoon from about 2:30 until closing, which had been early, at 6:00 p.m., on account of Thanksgiving the next day. They all had the same joyful reaction, "It was like a library again!"
It's painful, and kind of heartbreaking, to get back for 3½ hours something that's gone forever. When the Internet goes down, the library clears out quickly. Only readers of printed books remain. We try our best to regret the inconvenience to our users. Public-access computing is a good thing, and people depend upon it. But inwardly, we can't help feeling deeply relieved and grateful for the gift of a little while off the grid, an eclipse of the noise.
By "noise", I don't necessarily mean actual noise. 80 or 90 people working online generate "noise" even when quiet. And then there is the actual noise: people doubling up on a PC, people taking calls while online, people watching music videos with cheap headphones or earbuds that leak sound, people with unhappy babies and small children who wait and wait while their parents try to focus on their online tasks.
Steerforth's son, and my forlorn librarians, are on to something true. Our souls are starved for silence.