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The Public Wi-Fi Experience

It wasn't so long ago that "AT&T" charged $20 per month for wi-fi at Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, McDonalds, and various hotel chains. Now all the wireless telecoms are delighted to give you free wi-fi at such places. Off-loading data to wi-fi hotspots to lessen the data traffic jam at cell towers is a huge trend these days. In theory this should be a nice help to travelers.

Having failed to win any looks of envy (or even respect) at Starbucks with my new $200 netbook, it seemed like McDonalds might promise more success: surely some toothless old man would be impressed with my spiffy new machine; you know, the old boys who find section D of yesterday's newspaper and read it in slow motion while drinking bottomless refills of senior coffee.

Old habits die hard: walking into the store my eyes scanned the walls for an electrical outlet. First, they seem to design public wi-fi places without a single electrical outlet. That must be deliberate; they're not running a public library for internet-savvy elderly vagabonds. (Also, just imagine the first multi-million dollar lawsuit against McDonalds when an oldster falls and breaks her hip after tripping on another customer's power cord.) Secondly, my netbook is low power and can actually operate a few hours without juice, unlike the patio-brick-style laptops of old.

Then I scanned the store for another laptop user. In his area there was something emitting a high-pitched scream; maybe it was coming from the soft drink feeding pens. How could he think over that noise? Maybe it's his hearing.

So I abandoned that section of the store and went to the center, where a huge boob toob was playing CNN news. Carrier IQ has probably worked out a system for correlating clicks on the customers' smartphones and laptops with the TV channel and what the customers order at the counter. But at least the volume was turned up so I didn't have to listen to "music" over the ceiling speakers. And I was so hoping to enjoy a black female vocalist doing a screeching and lewd version of Rudolf, followed by a pseudo-rap version of the Little Drummer Boy (which admittedly is a rather good choice for rap-ification).

Soon I gave up on the center area, ruled as it was by the TV hegemon. That left only the back of the McDonalds. After I got the sticky food debris cleaned off the table, it started to seem like I had finally beaten the system. But every time the door opened I could feel Santa Anna-like wind rushing in to fill the vacuum of a flushing toilet. Also, it was distracting to think of the signs (in Spanish) that McDonalds considers necessary to remind customers to put the toilet paper in the toilet instead of the waste basket.

But at least I was finally getting some work done. Then suddenly I practically catapulted off my bench in the booth. A huge fat guy had sat down behind me in the adjacent booth. His bench was mechanically linked to mine so that the whole structure seesawed. Oh well, you don't go into fast food outlets and expect to see willowy supermodels. I tried to not let it bother me, but I could feel every movement of his. Did I say "movement"? Oh dear, what happens when he gets up and walks toward the restroom door! I fled back to my RV and used my Verizon mi-fi.


Anonymous said…
It sounds to me like you found the McDonalds from Hell.

I have yet to find one where at least two Senior Gentlemen weren't gabbing over their cups of senior coffee. We call them ROMEO's, Retired Old Men Eating Out.

Tom in Orlando
Al Bossence said…
That's funn ! Although |I am guilty of the "free" senior refill.... I know someone that used the same cup all the way to TN.

Tom, ROMEO's eh? I tried to come up with JOOLIET: jabbering old ladies in eating "T". Got stuck on the "T". Maybe "Table".

Kelly, did you mean that they kept going into McDonalds in different towns, all the way across the country?! Aarrgh.
Anonymous said…
That's great !!!

We call them ROMEO's, Retired Old Men Eating Out.