So here I am sitting in front of Caribou Coffee in the big city's main shopping center--so ginormous that it is known, far and wide, as The Mall, relegating all other shopping centers to non-person status--almost directly under a sign that brags "This Spot Is Hot!" and boasting that, thanks to the local cable conglomeroid, this is "my" WiFi hot spot.
Well. If it were indeed "my" hot spot, it would work better.
The first thing I note upon parking myself and two coffees du jour (Fireside, if you must know, "a fragrant brew that starts with a silky, syrupy taste and ends with smoky berry notes") is that gaining access to said hot spot isn't so hot. But I don't know whether to blame it on the local cable conglomeroid or the Dell Latitude D810 laptop that I have on loan from the post-secondary institute where I'm teaching this semester. Eventually (15 minutes, give or take) I convince the latter that I do indeed wish to speak to the former, and after only one restart of Firefox I'm on the L.C.C.'s "welcome" page.
And it goes downhill from there.
I seek first of all to check my e-mail. My cousin e-mails me all the time from his favorite Starbucks--indeed, I question seriously his claim of having an office, for he seems only to work from Bucky's--and this seems a not-useless way to spend a couple of hours. (I am here because the younger child is hobnobbing with fellow middle-schoolers, and The Mall seems to venue for that. Rather than dump him, drive home for 20 minutes, then return for him, I have elected to sit in a comfy Caribou chair (located a little too close to the door, alas, which emits an 11-degree blast of air every time someone comes or goes, which is happening a lot) and pretend to be productive.)
Unfortunately, I cannot log into my Yahoo! Mail account. Every attempt simply brings me back 'round to the "Please verify your password" screen, over and again, and no amount of retyping makes a difference.
And this I do blame on the L.C.C.: I suspect I am behind some kind of firewall that objects to my communicating with my account. For I encounter similar results with my Mac mail (that one just brings me back to the front-page log-in over and over) and my Google mail (which at least makes a game attempt: it takes an eternity to load the log-in page, after which, and another eternity (no kidding: five minutes at least, which is an online eternity), I get a 400 error: "Bad Request" and "Your client has issued a malformed or illegal request."
Not sure who my "client" is, I forge ahead.
I decide to check on some news. The Google News page loads okay--in fact, it loads pretty quickly--and I skim the front-page headlines. An item catches my attention: "Huckabee spins himself in circles on AIDS quarantine, an article from The Carpetbagger Report. Always enjoying a good political rhubarb, I click on the link. And get this for my trouble:
Web Page Blocked
Category: Advocacy Organizations
To have the rating of this web page re-evaluated please click here.
Always nice to know that Big Brother is alive and well and making sure I don't read any political news or opinion while enjoying my Fireside coffees and listening to crying children. No doubt Midcontinent "Communications" (for can they really be said to be in the communications business when they are so obviously in the business of preventing me from communicating?) thinks a better use of my time would be to join the half-dozen gentlemen to my left, all of whom are gazing slack-jawed at a Packers game on the big-screen TV that Midcontinent also provides and which, I presume, works better than their internet access does.
If I have time before I go to meet the younger child, I shall see if Big Brother is equally conscientious about making sure I don't visit web sites with a right-wingnut slant. Just a thought...
In any event, the experience makes me extremely dubious of signing up for Midcontinent internet service in my home. Its speed claims notwithstanding, my encounter here today--in which I've spent the better part of an hour not doing what I set out to do--makes me think we would be a poor fit.
And speaking of poor fits: I assume that Midcontinent provides this wi-fi "service" as a way to advertise its product. They might want to re-think the plan.
1. I was easily able to access Newsmax, the notoriously right-wingnut propaganda web site. Evidently Newsmax, with its robust blend of slander, smear, and outright lies, ending with smoky berry notes--oh, wait, that was the coffee--is not considered an "advocacy organization" by those who would do my thinking for me.
2. "My" doorway seems to be the one at which young mothers with too many children--moments ago I observed a woman who could not yet be thirty years of age with five children, none of whom could have been above the age of eight and two of whom must still have been in diapers--pause to wrestle everybody out of oversized strollers and into winter coats. It is not a pleasant undertaking for anyone involved, including innocent bystanders. My own children long past the whining and fussing stage--and having never been very good at whining and fussing even in their pre-adolescence--I have an extraordinarily low tolerance for w. and f.
3. The Huffington Post is not blocked.
4. Traffic even on this far end of The Mall has increased exponentially. I suppose people did church, did lunch, and are now doing The Mall.
5. Someone has mistaken this area by Caribou Coffee for a daycare, having dumped half a dozen kids here. Of course, if they were my kids, I would dump them too...but closer to the outskirts of town.
6. I like my kids. Everyone else's I merely tolerate. Some less than others.
7. My inability to sign in to Gmail would imply that I cannot access Blogger, either. (I am writing this offline.) Interestingly, when I go to the Blogger Dashboard, it acts as if I'm signed in. But the "new post" link has produced an overly long "loading" sequence (see above in re an eternity), so whether I post this in the next few minutes or when I have gone beyond the clutches of Big Brother aka Midcontinent "Communications" remains to be seen.
8. Now Caribou has been overrun by twenty-something women who are all ordering drinks that require much blender time.
9. Another 400 error on the Blogger attempt.
10. Another screaming kid. There is a special corner of hell reserved for whoever thought a big indoor shopping mall would be a good idea.
11. I can get onto AlterNet. And there I read a report on the same subject (Mike Huckabee having suggested quarantining AIDS sufferers) that Midcontinent would not let me read at Carpetbagger. This suggests it is dumbness rather than conspiracy blocks users from Carpetbagger. But I'd rather they not take it upon themselves to censor thought at all.
12. The problem with ordering two medium Fireside coffees--or, I assume, any other variety--is that, when nature calls a couple of hours later, one must pack up laptop, coat, hat, etc., and abandon the comfy chair (the comfy chair! The comfy chair!) in search of indoor plumbing. Hope the bathroom works better than the "hot spot"...