On Sunday, a violent spring thunderstorm hit Hamden and Hampshire counties in Western Massachusetts, knocking down trees, powerlines and a heck of a lot more. I'd been gone most of the day, so when I finally got back to my hovel in Chicopee, I discovered that my telephone and dsl were completely knocked out--zip, zero, no dialtone, nothing. (My tv was also kaput, but that's another story.)
After talking with my neighbor, I found out that lighning struck something across the street, there was a loud boom! and a flash. Her phones and tv were fine.
The neighborhood I live in is incredibly congested. There are multiple lines criss-crosing the backyard, hooking up to a pole that looks like it's part of the backyard fence. The junction box outside the house still says "Bell Atlantic" on it, so you know how old that thing is.
When I called Verizon, they "tested the line" and found no problems. So it must be me. I told them about the storm, and that it probably isn't me--which, 5 hours after my initial call, they confirmed. Something outside had been hit, and the ETA for restored service is Wednesday...
Well, maybe Tuesday....more like Thursday...
Which leaves me where I am now--sitting in a Panera Bread restaurant, freezing my ass off, using their wifi. I was at Starbucks again this a.m., where the wifi is thru T-Moble, and I have to pay for it via some kind of plan. It's also where conversation and thinking are well nigh impossible because what used to be background music is now loud enough to be foreground music.
Yesterday I was not only at Starbucks, but the Woodstar Cafe in Northampton (free wifi but no outlets in case your batt goes down) and Barnes and Noble (with another pay for play wifi plan courtesy of AT&T.)
While I was at Starbucks this a.m, I tried to find where the wifi hotspots are for this particular geographic area--hoping one would be Max's Tavern by the Basketball Hall of Fame (where it might be fun to also flirt during lunch.) No such luck on Max's, but I can say that every single McDonalds "restaurant" (and I use that term quite loosely) *is* wifi'd.
There are a couple of things bothering me about this--one is that wifi is ubiquitous in all the Mickey D's in the area. The second is that each and every place has a different service. The wifi in a Starbucks in Northampton has a different wifi provider than the one in Chicopee. The third is that no matter where you go, you have to eat there (as well as sometimes pay for the wifi.)
Which lead me to belive, for some oddball reason, that wifi should be in our public libraries! (I was convinced even more of this when I called the Chicopee Public Library and asked the Ciculation Desk if they had wifi--and the person at Circulation couldn't answer my question because she didn't know what I was talking about! Even when I got the Reference desk, and got the "no(what are you, crazy?)" answer, I wasn't all that confident that the Reference Librarian knew what I was talking about.)
When I think about it, municipal wifi located in the public libraries makes a great deal of sense. First, there are, esp. in the Pioneer Valley, many folks who work online and where the Intenet is their commerce lifeline. When we're knocked out, we're forced to be vagabonds, roaming the streets, wigged out on too much caffiene (who really feels comfortable *not* buying a coffee in lieu of using the wifi) and getting very little done--mainly because the working conditions in these places is hardly optimum. (I am so freezing at the moment that I've got goosebumps. Seriously. and I'm shivering. Seriously. The air conditioner is set for later in the week when it's supposed to be 80, not today when it's, like, 54.)
Yeah, I can hear y'all saying all kinds of stuff about bums coming in and spreading viruses and searching kiddie porn and hacking and that muni wifi would aid only online predators...
How about if there was a policy where a patron would have to show an active library card and get a code (that changed every day) before logging in to the wifi network? Wouldn't it be great for people looking for jobs, who may have lost their home dsl, or only have dial-up? Wouldn't it be great for businesspeople doing research, or kids working on papers?
And wouldn't it be a service to the community when the phones went out in another part of town??
Oh, what's with me....I'm surely smoking something. When people working in a library don't even know what wifi is, how could I possibly think that municipal officials could see the need for it.
For now, I'm stuck in Starbucks, or Panera, or any other place I can drive to in order to find wifi (and that's the other thing--I have to drive everywhere to find it.) But I won't go to McD's. No way. Not for all the free wifi in the world...
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