Miranda Carroll receives news of Arthur’s death in Malaysia, where she has been sent by her boss Leon to oversee their company’s shipping fleet, which is dormant due to the recession. She is notified by Clark Thompson, Arthur’s friend, whom she remembers meeting at a dinner party in Los Angeles when she was still married to Arthur. Clark informs her of the circumstances of Arthur’s death, and then hangs up the phone. The novel then hints at the damage the Georgia Flu will do by explaining that this was the last month when telephones were functional.
The dormant shipping fleet is a symbol of technological development and of the connectivity of the human race—a connectivity that allows for amazing success but also for the swift spread of something like the Flu. The phone call and the comment that phones will soon stop working then highlight this connectivity and also how it is taken for granted.