We are traveling on summer vacation right now. It’s hard. It used to be a lot easier before we had all this technology.
We have three main issues that are taking up most of our time and energy: charging cords, cell signals, and WiFi.
Our three-week vacation apparently required a bag of charging cords the size of a basketball, conveniently tangled and knotted into the shape of an actual basketball. We somehow managed to get them all loose as the miles clicked off, which was a mistake. After two weeks on the road, the boys have managed to get us down to two cords between the five of us. I have confiscated mine. The rest of the family is on their own. It’s like four dogs scrapping for a single pork chop.
Our trip centered around going to Yellowstone National Park, which the government inconveniently placed in the middle of the wilderness. And in order to get there, you have to drive through miles and miles of wilderness that isn’t even associated with the park. It’s a lot of wilderness.
The end result of all that wilderness is a distinct lack of cell coverage. And on top of all that, we just added Son Number One to the cell plan, so ninety-five percent of our data is immediately sucked into the teenager data void. I already upgraded our plan to unlimited texts, because my wife knows more than two people, but I can’t bring myself to go to unlimited data. We have Verizon, and they want what amounts to a monthly mortgage payment on a large house for the privilege of having unlimited data.
On the plan we can afford without moving into a refrigerator box, we are allowed 8 GB of data between all of us. A GB of data is a mysterious unit of measure that fluctuates wildly in size depending on many factors, all of which are controlled by Verizon. It can equal as much as five full days of web browsing some months, and as little as five seconds of a video the next month. We never know which it will be, so consequently, WiFi is our best friend.
Before the advent of WiFi, when traveling, you checked into a new place, unpacked a little, then went to explore the area. Now, we check in and everyone explores their immediate area for the little sheet of paper that tells us the WiFi name and password. Then comes the gathering of the devices – phones, Kindles, iPads, laptops. Then I spend the next two hours either putting all the devices on the WiFi, or repeating the WiFi password (proudweasel264) about a million times to those trying to do it themselves, while they complain that it’s not working, which it doesn’t, when you spell it “weezal.”
The closer we got to Yellowstone, the sparser the cell signals became, and the more rare the WiFi became, until we found ourselves in a hellish three-day period in a house in the woods near West Yellowstone with absolutely no WiFi, and one single fluctuating bar of cell service, which was just enough to make your phone think it might be able to do something, then eventually give up.
We have worked our way back westward toward civilization and are now spending the Fourth of July holiday week with more extended family in a very big, very modern house in Sunriver, Oregon. It had great WiFi… on Monday.
Yesterday, it left a little to be desired. By ten in the morning I was on the phone with the rental agency to let them know that the WiFi had quit and my attempts to reset the cable modem had failed. They patched me into a call with Bend Broadband, who promptly led me through the very same troubleshooting steps I had taken myself, then shrugged on the other end of the phone and said they would need to send out a technician. On Friday. Between one and five o’ clock.
I guess wilderness is not the only obstacle to a reliable connection.
But I can’t complain. Not having WiFi has been very freeing. It has freed me from the confines of the house and the vacation activities.
The folks at this Starbucks all say hello.
Have a great Independence Day enjoying your freedom. Happy Birthday, America!
See you soon,
Copyright © 2019 Marc Schmatjen
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