Life in the twenty-first century is, for most of us living in the Western World, pretty amazing. Unlike our predecessors we have a plethora of technology at our disposal with modern day wonders such as mobile phones and the internet have major impacts on our daily lives. Science fiction made science fact one might say, and this is all fantastic. Except, of course, when they go wrong. Then we realise just how dependant we are on complicated boxes of electronica and can flounder without them. The stress this caused can be immense, as most of us can appreciate.

I recently had the unfortunate displeasure of losing my home internet access just before the so-called ‘festive season’. Although I had officially finished work, as in I did not need to have a presence in the office or on the shop floor. I do not have the sort of work that finishes at 5 pm, and invariably always have to do some work at home. I accept this as being the way it is, although sometimes would love to have more free time. Sigh.

But I digress. So, I come home after work and find, that the internet was no more, it had ceased to be, it had departed this mortal coil, in other words it stopped working. Being a resourceful type, I know what to do: buttons were pressed, boxes were unplugged, turned off and on again, left to cool down, warm up and much more but all to no avail. Eventually I rang the so-called helpline, the computerised voice asked various questions and did its thing and assured me that all would be up and running within two days.

All as expected. Well, perhaps unsurprisingly I can assure the reader that things were most definitely not up and running after two days. Moreover, the promised text confirmation to my mobile phone did not materialise (thankfully this device was working ok and was my lifeline to the outside world). We were most definitely not amused, and so once more I contacted the helpline, a different one this time, that had a real human at the end, in some distant land. This charming person who at least initially mostly read in a monotone from a script (until I spoke to him in his language – the benefits of an eclectic education!), offered bland admonishments and a “most sincere apology” and promised to look into this personally. Sure enough, the next day someone appeared at my front door (at the time quoted – very impressive) and some time later (two hours) order was restored to chaos, entropy was averted and my network was re-born.

During this slightly fraught time it was most heartening that lovely colleagues, friends and partners (well, only one of the latter) offered help and support, and at least I had several options to fall back on were network disruptions to continue. I can’t help but think that the Beatles got it right (and not for the first time) when one of them, the one whose name begins with the letter ‘R’ sang. “I get by with a little help from my friends”.

This got me thinking about many things, good and bad and not necessarily about amazingly brilliant sixties popular beat combos. While technological marvels such as mobile phones and the internet are wonderful when they work, when they don’t problems arise of a nature and degree unimaginable in the good old days when such things were firmly in the realm of fantasy. I consider myself a groovy, chilled hip kind of guy, but I have to admit that even I was starting to get concerned as the mountain of stuff I needed the internet for (including writing blogs, funnily enough) was far from getting done and the clock was ticking. Obviously the world has to stop during the ‘festive season’ and my deadlines for various things were fixed in stone, immutable, unchangeable and if not done before the world stopped for a certain special day then the fate of the Western World would be sealed. I exaggerate, obviously, but I did have lots of things to do, and not being able to do them while I had a modicum of that most precious resource of free time, was rather frustrating.

I rather suspect that when things go wrong, as they often do in life, we often react without thinking, and may say and do things we regret. This leads to stress, more problems and often unwanted consequences, and invariably it is better to wait, think, reflect and cogitate before saying or doing something we regret. For once said and done it cannot be retracted and sorting out a bigger mess is far harder than dealing with a smaller, solvable one. I know that in my clinical work, as a doctor, my role was often more that of a diplomat than a doctor. Being called to resolve difficult situations necessitated using conflict resolution techniques early, applying reflective practice techniques (basically thinking carefully before reacting), keeping calm, and maintaining one’s cool so that things got sorted, peace could break out and life could go on. Conflicts of various sorts arise frequently in hospitals, and addressing these before they could fester and worsen was something I had to deal with a lot of the time, and certainly made the routine clinical work seem simple in comparison – well, almost.

Anyway, my own holiday saga was finally resolved without the need for violence or bloodshed, the relief of being able to get on with things and access emails and the internet was wonderful (really) and I even managed to get all my work done without too much angst – only one late night was needed and the festive season turned out to be just that. Oddly, the delay had no major consequences and frankly none were the wiser. So all was well that ended well. The moral of the story is that things can and will go wrong and when they do, try not to lose your head, and that all is not lost. – really. If you find that you somehow say or do the wrong thing and are facing seemingly insurmountable odds, there are ways of resolving such disputes. Either consult a doctor (err, perhaps not as your first option and please not this particular doctor) or better yet, a highly skilled mediator from #AlbertSquareMediation.