The Road Less Gravelled
Shhh. Listen, closely. OK, you may have to open a window to hear it. (Don’t worry. Flies and mosquitoes won’t start rushing in for at least another few weeks; it’s a union thing, I believe). Somewhere, not too far away from your rural home, is another rural home wherein its residents are cursing – loudly — their internet. Or, rather, lack of internet. Maybe – likely – they’re watching that tiny “trouble connecting” wheel futilely and frantically spin on their computer screen like that runaway wheel barrow tire that falls off the back of that over-loaded truck that’s ahead of you on that winding back road, trudging along at 28 kilometres an hour, when your math tells you it has to travel at least 63 km/h so that you can make it to that farm auction before “all the good stuff” is gone.
Maybe, when you hear that expletive-laden screaming – (“Gee! I didn’t even know you could hyphenate those bad words?”) – you’re heaving a sympathetic sigh for your neighbour. Heck, you’d like to express that compassion to them via a Zoom chat. But your internet is also down. Again. So, maybe that’s really just your own cursing you’re hearing in your head – yup, turns out you can hyphenate those words, after all.
There are, to be sure, many things that create the great divide between ruralite and urbanite. Our grocery store parking lots are typically populated with pickup trucks, theirs with e-bikes and hybrids. We have coffee shops, they have cafés – and, therefore, more signs with accent eh-gooze. They have more choices of internet providers, each providing internet that, you know, works. We have people screaming expletives at their computer screens – and, usually, at the ONLY available internet provider in their area.
Me: “Hi. Me again. Our internet is down. Again.”
Internet provider: “Oh, hi Denis! Again. Nice to hear from you – twice before lunch! Let me transfer you. Again.”
Me: (frantic) “Nooo!! Please don…”
Internet provider recording: “Thank you for calling Limited Access. Your friendly internet provider. All of our service reps are busy talking to your neighbours. And wow! Did they Google all those bad words? Oh, right. Not likely, since their internet is down, too. If you would like to maintain your place in line, please charge your cell phone’s battery, ensure you’re hydrated and we should be able to get back to you before the start of black fly season in three months.”
So it was a welcome email a few months back – (which we got, you know, because it arrived in that 16-minute daily window when our internet service is fully operational) — from Elon Musk’s new satellite internet service, which was specifically targeting rural areas across North America. The Tesla-creatin’ gazillionaire outlined how his new internet service would, as it continues to toss more satellites into the atmosphere faster than corn comes blasting out of a combine chute during fall harvest, offer amazing up and download speeds, make work-at-home easier and even eliminate all flies from entering our home. (I may be misremembering one of those claims). It went on to explain that this was a sort of pilot program, for which we were eligible to participate in. Actually, it didn’t call it a pilot program. It referred to it, officially, as Starlink Beta, leaving me to question the true merit of a purportedly space-age internet revolution by choosing to give it a name that evokes an image of a failed 1980s VCR format. It could have been worse, I suppose. Elon could have called it Starlink 8-Track or Elon’s Edsell.
Still, my wife Nancy emailed Elon’s people – (hot-spotting her cell phone’s internet because, well, see all of the above) — and we doled out the one-time, $800 set up costs. We braced ourselves for a monthly fee that would be slightly higher than our Limited Access provider. And last week Elon’s small internet satellite and its related equipment arrived in a box that’s about the size of four VCRs – the VHS, not the Beta, kind.
It’s only been a few days, but so far its success can be measured in the number of expletives NOT heard in our home. I’m not looking forward to that next phone call with our old provider.
Internet provider: “Is everything okay, Denis? We haven’t heard from you in awhile.”
Me: “Actually, we’ve grown apart. I really think it’s time we start seeing other people. In fact, I already started seeing someone new.”
Internet provider: “And you’re only telling me this now? After all we’ve been through?”
Me: “Well, I DID email you a few weeks ago. But maybe you didn’t receive it – because your internet was probably down.”
Denis Grignon is a standup comedian and journalist. He lives near Lindsay. Reach him via cleancomedian.ca