Ballad Of A Wifi Hero
Like most people under fifty, I’ve found myself frequently called upon by family members to fix routers, modems, computers, etc. This piece struck a nerve and eventually got turned into a pretty great video by McSweeney’s and NY Mag with H. Jon Benjamin reading my words (swoon).
Originally published on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
Lo, in the twilight days of the second year of the second decade of the third millennium did a great darkness descend over the wireless internet connectivity of the people of 276 Ferndale Street in the North-Central lands of Iowa. For many years, the gentlefolk of these lands basked in a wireless network overflowing with speed and ample internet, flowing like a river into their Compaq Presario. Many happy days did the people spend checking Hotmail and reading USAToday.com.
But then one gray morning did Internet Explorer 6 no longer load The Google. Refresh was clicked, again and again, but still did Internet Explorer 6 not load The Google. Perhaps The Google was broken, the people thought, but then The Yahoo too did not load. Nor did Hotmail. Nor USAToday.com. The land was thrown into panic. Internet Explorer 6 was minimized then maximized. The Compaq Presario was unplugged then plugged back in. The old mouse was brought out and plugged in beside the new mouse. Still, The Google did not load.
Some in the kingdom thought the cause of the darkness must be the Router. Little was known of the Router, legend told it had been installed behind the recliner long ago by a shadowy organization known as Comcast. Others in the kingdom believed it was brought by a distant cousin many feasts ago. Concluding the trouble must lie deep within the microchips, the people of 276 Ferndale Street did despair and resign themselves to defeat.
But with the dawn of the feast of Christmas did a beacon of hope manifest itself upon the inky horizon. Riding in upon a teal Ford Focus came a great warrior, a suitor of the gentlefolks’ granddaughter. Word had spread through the kingdom that this warrior worked with computers and perhaps even knew the true nature of the Router.
The people did beseech the warrior to aid them. They were a simple people, capable only of rewarding him with gratitude and a larger-than-normal serving of Jell-O salad. The warrior considered the possible battles before him. While others may have shirked the duties, forcing the good people of Ferndale Street to prostrate themselves before the tyrants of Comcast, Linksys, and Geek Squad, the warrior could not chill his heart to these depths. He accepted the quest and strode bravely across the beige shag carpet of the living room.
Deep, deep behind the recliner did the warrior crawl, over great mountains of National Geographic magazines and deep chasms ofTV Guides. At last he reached a gnarled thicket of cords, a terrifying knot of gray and white and black and blue threatening to ensnare all who ventured further. The warrior charged ahead. Weaker men would have lost their minds in the madness: telephone cords plugged into Ethernet jacks, AC adapters plugged into phone jacks, a lone VGA cable wrapped in a firm knot around an Ethernet cord. But the warrior bested the thicket, ripping away the vestigial cords and swiftly untangling the deadly trap.
And at last the warrior arrived at the Router. It was a dusty black box with an array of shimmering green lights, blinking on and off, as if to taunt him to come any further. The warrior swiftly maneuvered to the rear of the router and verified what he had feared, what he had heard whispered in his ear from spirits beyond: all the cords were securely in place.
The warrior closed his eyes, summoning the power of his ancestors, long departed but watchful still. And then with the echoing beep of his digital watch, he moved with deadly speed, wrapping his battle-hardened hands around the power cord at the back of the Router.
Gripping it tightly, he pulled with all his force, dislodging the cord from the Router. The heavens roared. The earth wailed. The green lights turned off. Silently the warrior counted. One. Two. Three. And just as swiftly, the warrior plugged the cord back into the router. Great crashes of blood-red lightning boomed overhead. Murders of crows blackened the skies. The Power light came on solid green. The seas rolled. The WLAN light blinked on. The forests ignited. A dark fog rolled over the land and suddenly all was silent. The warrior stared at the Internet light, waiting, waiting. And then, as the world around him seemed all but dead, the Internet light began to blink.
The warrior darted out back over the mountains of National Geographic magazines and made haste to the Compaq Presario. He woke up Windows XP from sleep mode and deftly defeated twelve notifications to update Norton AntiVirus. With a resounding click he opened Internet Explorer 6 and gazed deep into its depths, past the Yahoo toolbar, the MSN toolbar, the Ask.com toolbar, and the AOL toolbar. And then did he see, at long last, that The Google did load.
And so the good people of the kingdom were delighted and did heap laurels and Jell-O salad at the warrior’s feet, for now again they could have their Hotmail as the wireless internet did flow freely to their Compaq Presario. The warrior ate his Jell-O salad, thanked the gentlefolk, and then went to the basement because the TiVo was doing something weird with the VCR.