Neighbors and wireless networks

13 May

You know you’re getting older when you remember things or technological advancements that are now considered obsolete. The prepaid internet card is one such. While the 2k+ generation was only being weaned or learning to crawl, walk and talk, we ’90s (and older) babies were taking baby steps in cyberspace. What made this leap possible for me were the ISP Bonanza/Blast internet cards.

When I started out, the cards were at P100 for 8-hour internet access. By the time I moved on to DSL, they were sold for the same price with 20 hours of internet goodness. I was in grade school at the time and I remember being envious of grown-ups who could avail of the free unlimited access at off-peak hours (we’re talking 2 to 6 a.m., if memory serves me right).

Fast forward to 2011. Wi-fi has been elevated from a term that sounds like it came from Star Wars to a basic necessity of urban life.  Wi-fi is like the air we breathe — you don’t see it but it’s everywhere, from your school cafeteria to malls to public utility buses in the metro.

The best kind, of course, is the kind that comes at no cost. But like other commodities in this world, not everyone who has bountiful amounts of it are willing to share. The more people connected to a network, after all, the slower and more BV-inducing it becomes. Hence the invention of password protection. Passwords are to your wi-fi connection like rubbers are to STDs: it allows you to enjoy while at the same time ensuring that it doesn’t get around.

Suffice it to say, I set up a password for my wireless network when we got ourselves a router. But before I actually setting up a password, I put some thought into what I would name my wireless network. Neighboring networks were dubbed “David,” “Brgy. 2 –  Register for FREE WiFi,” “Brgy. 3 –  Register for FREE WiFi,” and “pamelaian.” I finally settled for something pa-mysterious: Somewhere you wouldn’t wanna be.

It’s been almost a month and since my connection’s been mostly stable, I didn’t encounter anything out of the ordinary. Until yesterday, when I had to shut off the wi-fi adapter and manually reconnect to my network,  key in the password, etc. I refreshed the the list of available wireless networks, and beheld a new entry — “Somewhere you want to go.”

I live in a condominium, so I don’t personally know my neighbors. Most of them are but strangers I sometimes see in the elevator. Sometimes I hear their departures and arrivals thanks to the jangling of keys, the  ruckus of their chain locks and door bolts — but what happens in between their comings and goings, I have no way (and until further notice, no intention) of knowing. But I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that new network. Besides being amusing, I found its presence oddly reassuring: that in a world both shrunk and expanded by technology, simpler things like a shared sense of humor can — and still do — connect strangers beyond borders and closed doors.

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