Humor by Chason Gordon. See below.
There is something especially pathetic about the man at the beach with the metal detector. It’s not his desperate search for treasure, or his lack of proper beach attire, but something simpler. Look at the way he moves, taking careful baby steps, sidestepping, and proceeding in odd increments which he has determined will smoke out a valuable find. There is another character who moves like this, and that is the new tenant, who starts up his laptop for the first time in his new apartment, trying to find the vaunted unsecured wireless network.
There have been times, I will admit, when I was looking at an apartment, nodding my head at the landlord’s talking points, when I stopped, took out my laptop, and quickly checked for a free wireless network. It has became as important an attribute as the garbage disposal, or heating. Recently I found a new place and during the first night there, I started my laptop and began the wondering dance of finding free internet. You can’t expect it to show up right away. The chance that someone hasn’t secured their wireless network is slim, but sometimes there are those whose ignorance is behind the times, and they are the unheralded angels of connectivity. The initial scan showed only little digital pictures of locks, and I was discouraged, but still hopeful, when I began the spiral-like rotation of clicking “refresh” and trying desperately to find a reason not to go to an internet café.
Nine secured networks appeared at first. What often puzzles me is many of the networks have cute stupid names. One is called “What is Jelly,” another one “hehehehehehe,” and I wonder if these names are meant as taunts, if the owners know that there is someone who is trying to find free internet, and cannot connect to theirs. And so I see “What is Jelly,” and think, “Jelly is something that is also not free, like your internet.” I see “hehehehehehe” and think, “What an asshole. He knows how to set up a password. Good for him.” Here is a strange sublevel of communication, and it only makes me admire the person who has remained with “Netgear.” Probably an old married couple.
I walked into the washroom. I didn’t have to go as I was holding my computer and looking for internet. You must start at the extreme ends of the apartment, and work your way towards the center in concentric circles. I thought if a wireless network shows up, then this will be my fate, I will have to check email, read celebrity gossip, and chat with my friends online while on the toilet. But that’s ok. It’s still better than the café with its forced purposefulness and open textbooks and coffee/not coffee coffee. But there was no free wireless, leaving me both disappointed and relieved. I walked to the window on the other side of the apartment. Nothing. I walked out onto the balcony. “This would be nice,” I thought, wireless on the balcony. I could tell people online I’m on my balcony, even though it has no view and looks like a place where the previous tenants thought you left your garbage for flying garbage men. But there was no wireless. For a minute, out of a desperation whose depths I’m afraid to explore, I held my laptop about a foot over the edge of the railing. There might be something there, and I could live with it, so long as I don’t drop the computer. What if a network showed up? Would I type with hand while holding the shivering laptop with the other? Yes. Still better than a café, or worse, paying for it. I clicked “refresh.” I clicked again. It looked like I was threatening the laptop’s life. But there was no internet, and I talked myself off the balcony and into the apartment.
I looked around for some fertile area like a fly fisherman. There, above the sink in the kitchen. Nothing. Perhaps if I stood in the closet. Everyone should be in a closet when they access the internet.
This search may seem ridiculous to you, but you must understand, I haven’t had an apartment without access to free wireless. It could be all the dense areas I’ve lived in, with a higher proximity of trusting or ignorant fools, or perhaps it’s just my luck. I always seem to find good parking spots as well, and sometimes I think these are my only gifts, which I’m fine with, if that’s God’s will.
Whenever I find these innocent networks I treat them delicately. Their owners are uncorrupted and not so cynical as to set up a password, so I use very little bandwidth. One time I found a wireless network and treated it carelessly. I downloaded, I streamed, I played games, and the next day it was locked. I learned to ration from that day forward.
Continuing the search, I stood on my welcome mat, “Nookie_Nookie_Nookie” came up, “Music for my Mother,” “Hurly,” “weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” All closed. I walked back to the washroom and stepped into the bathtub. What? You never know, and if it affords me the luxury of taking a bath while playing with an online soundboard, then that’s just my good fortune.
I stepped out of the tub frustrated, near giving up, when I realized I missed a corner of the room. I approached it and clicked “refresh,” at which point I saw the most hopeful of words pop up in a little bubble on my screen, “Acquiring Network Address.” “Think pure thoughts, apologize for your sins, think of your loved ones, forgive your enemies, and stand completely still.” I did all of these things, and it connected, sort of. “Incomplete connection.” I waited. This is the limbo, the place between worlds in the realm of connectivity. I am neither connected nor unconnected. Some people spend their whole lives searching for this feeling. The wait was killing me, and then it happened. My computer flooded with megabits. I double clicked Firefox and all was well in the virtual world. I checked my email, read some headlines, and glanced at that blog I like. Then I didn’t know what to do. So I went outside.