Generation Y Finds Free WiFi

Internet is free unless you want to pay for it.


I am truly convinced that somehow one day Internet service will be free to all with access to a computer. The thing is, it’s already kind of that way- at least in a city the size of Nashville. A monumental event happened last week when Starbucks officially began advertising free WiFi in their stores. For months I have been mocking them for being so behind the times, as they have been charging by the hour for Internet service when McDonald’s has been offering it for a while now. In fact, Starbucks was the last major (and still relevant) store to join the crowd.

It’s quite symbolic of the direction that Internet is heading. I haven’t paid for Internet the entire 4 ½ years I’ve lived in Nashville. My laptop automatically picks up the nearest open network wherever I am, or wherever I’m driving by and decide to drop in- hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, churches, book stores, even auto repair shops provide Internet for me while I wait on my car. And I have weekly taken advantage of all those places.

Last weekend I went in to Verizon to renew my contract (and more importantly, get a new free phone they always offer for staying with them). I found the phone I wanted- it was small, light, and shaped like a stone. Yet when the salesman came over to help me I learned that the only way I could get that phone would be to get Internet through them for about $30 extra dollars a month. I made the mistake of telling him that eventually Verizon will offer free Internet (so that people will buy more expensive phones that make better use of online capabilities).

The guy actually said this to me in an attempt to make a sell: “Having Internet on your phone makes life so much easier. You may look out the window and see a rain cloud and wonder what the weather is going to be like that day. If you have the Internet on your phone, you can look up the weather forecast and find out.”

Really?! Really. Seems like the word “rain” in the phrase “rain cloud” might have given me a clue…

He wanted to argue with/educate me about technology so I simply replied, “Where are the phones that don’t require me to purchase additional Internet service?” I ended up leaving the store, with my same two-year old phone. The few options that didn’t require Internet were no more advanced than the phone I have now so I’ve decided to hold off on trading in my old one for a new one. It would be ridiculous to pay for what I already can get for free (the Internet) or try use my “free new phone” pass on a phone identical to the one I already have. And since I don’t live with a constant need to Tweet, I will manage just fine.

Surely it says something about access to free Internet use when I have built and maintained this website mainly using the Internet of Borders (where I’m posting this from now) and other coffee shop types of venues. If anyone should have to pay for Internet, it should be me. But I never have.

It just requires diligence, patience, and creativity. I also have never paid for cable- I paid $60 a few years ago for “bunny ears” at Best Buy that give me access to ABC, NBC, and Fox (plus some obscure Canadian channels). That’s how I watch the shows that I do recaps of. As for TV shows I want to see that don’t come on the major networks, I can easily watch them on their network’s website. Of course I am willing to part with $9 a month for Netflix- I began subscribing the month they started offering free instant streaming.

There’s a very thin line between being cheap and being smart. I’m okay with either side of that line.

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Leaving a Voicemail Vs. Text Messaging

It’s never been easier to communicate with people on the phone,  but it’s still as complicated as it’s always been when the person doesn’t pick up the phone.  Though it really doesn’t have to be…

Something I’m pretty horrible at is listening to and erasing voicemails.  At work, about once every week I get a message from Nick Burns, my company’s computer guy, saying I need to erase my messages- the average of my unlistened to and unerased messages is typically around 88.  And currently on my personal cell phone there are about four voicemails waiting to be listened to and erased.  I just don’t know when I’ll get around to it.  It’s homework.

Maybe I can blame it on my generation; I’m stuck in the middle of two of them.  I was born in April of 1981, the final year for Generation X (1961-1981).  Generation Y began nine months later (1982-1995).  I’m sure I inherited a shared amount of traits from both generations, but the tendency to put off what is irrelevant is linked to both generations.

This is how my mind processes communication regarding a cell phone: “If it’s important, they’ll text me.”  Which is different than what is typical with Baby Boomers (1946-1964) who think, “If it’s important, they will call and leave a voicemail if I’m not available”.

The easiest way to communicate with me is via text message.  I respond within 60 seconds because my phone is always right next to me.  As for a voicemail, I may not ever respond.  I strongly don’t believe in having a landline phone because it encourages people to leave voicemails and if a person really needed to talk to me they would reach me through my cell phone.  By texting.

Of course, there are times for actual conversations.  But when I see a missed call, I’m going to return the call anway.

Just as a reminder to those who haven’t yet realized why voicemails are so awful:

1)     To check them, you have to call your voicemail box.

2)     You have to punch in your password.

3)     You have to listen to the voicemail which is essentially someone telling you to call them back.

When I call someone and they don’t pick up, I just hang up.  Because obviously they will see on their phone that I tried to call.  Then I’ll instantly text them in abbreviated form what I needed to talk to them about.

There are so many minutes of our time that we’ll never get back, having been wasted on listening to not only the person I am calling explain to me on a recorded message that they’re unavailable right now but to leave a message and they’ll call me back, but then have to listen to the Verizon lady go through all the options, including  hearing her talk about leaving a “callback number”.

For the times we must endure having to leave someone a voicemail, there should be a new official sound we hear that would soon become as universally recognizable as Mario dying when he falls in a hole in Super Mario Bros.  Just a two-second blip that we all know means “leave a message beginning right now”.

That’s the world that I want to live in.

For a related post by the same author, read TMTT (Too Much Trouble to Talk).