By Catherine Breese
A lot of pouting has been seen around here lately. There has even been a temper tantrum or two, the kind that would make a pre-teen girl jealous. The source of this anguished unhappiness has been the Internet, or rather lack thereof.
The cottage where we are currently staying is not wired for the Internet. Well to be fair, it barely has indoor plumbing. The word rustic is appropriate: outdoor shower, indoor toilet. We do have an AM/FM radio that receives a variety of classic rock stations—lots of Neal Young, Rush, Bare Naked Ladies, Brian Adams, etc. And Canadian broadcast television, based on what I can tell from our 1.5 and sometimes 2 channels, is quite horrible. But, I digress.
Using our super-cool 4G smart phones in a foreign county is fiscally irresponsible, thus we have turned off our data. When we crossed into Canada, Verizon was kind enough to send us a text message telling us that if we used data on our phones we would need to cash in some savings bonds and take out a second mortgage.
This puts us on a never-ending quest for FREE Wi-Fi. The closest is the public library in Wiarton, about a 25-minute drive. However, after consecutive visits in which the connectivity was sketchy, we sought out some restaurants or cafes. We found one in Sauble Beach, Macbeth’s Café, which makes a fantastic veggie sandwich and serves delicious Brazilian coffee. Unfortunately they do not have the big-dog, badass Internet bandwidth to accommodate the twenty or so digitally-inclined tourists. No need to belabor the question of whether or not we all spend too much time online rather than engaged with real life. The answer to that is an unequivocal yes. Sauble is the beach vacation destination on the Bruce Peninsula. During the summer months, everyone in town is on vacation. And everyone seems to be on a phone. Not talking, of course. Just staring at it longingly or sliding their index fingers around on the screen.
We have quickly discovered that no matter where we go there are hoards of people who are, according to Bryan, “hogging up bandwidth and keeping me from doing what I want on the Internet!” When we can’t get on in one place, we try another. We drive around peering from window to window looking for the FREE Wi-Fi sign. Then we rush inside, order twenty dollars’ worth of food and beverages, and attempt to log on. Now I usually hope only to check email, look at job listings in the US, and maybe take a peek at Facebook to see what all my friends at home with unlimited Internet access are cooking for dinner, praying for, celebrating the anniversary of, or rallying against. More often than not, we get booted from the Internet before I can read six or seven statuses.
We have also been told on more than one occasion, after our purchase, that “the Internet is down.” Yesterday we paid three dollars to park and bought thirteen dollars’ worth of coffee and snacks. The tie-dyed dreadlocked blonde gentleman behind the counter at Two Chicks Café let us attempt to logon on for about twenty minutes before he decided to let us on the secret that the Bell Canada technician was on his way. Then we found a lovely coffee house location in Wiarton called Coco Vanilla, whose interior is cozy and Mediterranean pizza is excellent. Washroom score: an impress 3.75. But connectivity? not-so-awesome.
Of course I remember life before the Internet. Most of my life was before the Internet.
But now all of my life is actually on the Internet. I pay my bills, conduct my business and personal correspondence, balance my checkbook, contact my friends, borrow books from the library, shop, listen to music and watch movies…all on the Internet. Subtract those activities and it makes for a huge hole in one’s day.
Now I have replaced some of those Internet activities with others such as cooking from scratch, cutting down trees, moving brush, cleaning out the shed, trying to solve logic puzzles, and waxing scratches off Bryan’s car. I have volunteered at a church yard sale and ridden my bicycle to Red Bay. Walking doggies is a big time consumer, as well as doing dishes by hand three times a day. We swim or kayak almost every day. But there are still a couple hours each day that I can’t seem to kill without the Internet. Thanks goodness we spend so much time driving around looking for it. It just feels productive, although in hindsight, clearly it is not.
My mother’s childhood friend Carolyn has the good fortune of having the Internet at her cottage. So, Bryan straps the laptop on his back and we ride our bikes over to her place where we gratefully sit on her side porch and pilfer her Wi-Fi. And we have since located another Bruce County Public Library branch that has free Wi-Fi and smaller number of patrons than the Wiarton branch. I will absolutely not name it here because we want to keep other bandwidth hounds at bay.
Ultimately, we can manage to find the Internet about every other day. And on those occasions when the gigabytes are flowing freely and we can accomplish wildly zany digital feats such as download a book or upload a picture, it feels really victorious, glorious, magnificent.