Operator, information; get me high-speed on the line . . .

I can see the photograph in my mind’s eye as clearly as when my friend Rex showed it to me a while back.

Rex said he’d snapped that picture in Burney of a teenage girl, deep in concentration as she typed on a laptop. 

She was outside. She sat upon the ground, in the dirt. Her back was pressed against one of those commercial electrical boxes. She was within a few feet of the main road, seemingly oblivious to traffic.

What the photo didn’t show, Rex said, was the reason she was there: a nearby pizza parlor had high-speed Internet service.

This girl, Rex said, sat close enough to borrow the pizza parlor’s wireless signal. Rex said others used the restaurant’s wireless service in the same way, but usually they sat in cars in the parking lot, typing away on their laptops.  

Rex laughed and laughed. 

I didn’t tell him that I could relate to that girl, and those people sitting in their cars, syphoning wireless service. 

I didn’t tell Rex that I’d gladly sit in the dirt with a laptop, too, if it meant I could watch video on my computer or open an e-mail in less than five minutes and download files quickly.

I didn’t tell him that if we had high-speed Internet in Igo, Bruce could finally watch the last two years’ of my cooking videos on redding.com (assuming they’re still there), and one of my favorite slide shows, the one about Halfblack, the duck who belonged to a mechanic.

I didn’t tell Rex that wireless Internet service would mean my desk would no longer look like I lived there, with stacks of books and magazines and emery boards and ironing, all within easy reach. Anyone who had dial-up knows about this. They know what it’s like to not lose your mind while one waits patiently for the computer’s freakin’ hourglass to spin around and around and around and around as it waited and waited and waited and waited for its dial-up connection to come through.  

Basically, I didn’t tell him how sick I am of watching the whole modern world zip past us in their sleek sportscars on the super-information highway, while the Greenbergs plod along rutted, dirt roads via horse and buggy.

Dial-up Internet service is what we’ve used since we moved to Igo two years ago. Not that we haven’t tried to secure high-speed service.

Every few months I call TDS, our phone company, to see if, by some miracle, the high-speed Internet boundaries have moved, and if so, whether our home now rests within them. Please, please, please pretty please, please, please say yes.

But their reply is always the same: The boundaries are unchanged. No high-speed Internet for you.

Despite our disappointment, we do our best to take the high road. We don’t disclose how, in our home, we jokingly refer to TDS as Tedious. We don’t say how the joke in our house is that we’re convinced T-D-S stands for Too Damn Slow.

We don’t say these things, not so much because we’re nice people, but because we’re afraid of rocking the TDS boat and ruining our chances to be hooked up with wireless Internet service when it finally does become available.

 It might be a moot point. I think TDS is sick of my calls. I think Clearwire is sick of me, too, especially after I begged a woman who worked at one of those Clearwire information booths to, for God’s sake, please come to my house and see if her little machine would agree we’re close enough to the action to get some.

Last week, right after I had a nice chat with a Clearwire representative in Maine (it was snowing there), who said no dice on the wireless,  I called a local Internet provider company (I won’t put it on the spot here, just in case it doesn’t work).

A representative actually came out and climbed on our roof to see if he could see his company’s tower from our house.

He could see it!

He left and said he’d return soon with a GPS system and some maps, both of which would give him the answer he needed to tell whether we could have wireless Internet service. I sent him off with coffee cake in a little white box, and some holiday napkins, and promises that he’d be my hero if he could find a way to bring us into modern times with wireless Internet service.

I shouldn’t get my hopes up.

In the meantime, maybe that girl in Burney, or the other citizens typing inside their cars outside the pizza parlor, would like some company.     

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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