Indebted to the Internet

BREAKING NEWS: Three days at Kickapoo Cavern State Park in Brackettville, TX without cell service or WiFi signal…

“Really?”, I asked the ranger upon check-in, afraid of her confirmation.

“That’s right,” she responded. “Who’s your carrier?”

“Does it make a difference?” I didn’t want to belabor the point. “Verizon?”

“Then you’re screwed,” she said emphatically. “The only reason I asked,” she continued, “is if by chance you had AT&T, then maybe there’s a slight chance that if you hike to the ridge, you might get a weak signal.

“Great!” I conceded with resignation. I noticed a “FREE WiFi” sign by a monitor playing video of the park’s activities, and I think I felt a bit of a rush.

“What about WiFi?” I asked eagerly.

“Well, yeah, there’s WiFi here during the day when the ranger station is open and it’s not raining. Otherwise, you can probably pick up the signal at the bathhouse, and nowhere else,” she proclaimed.

My heart sank. The purpose behind this trip was to enjoy the outdoors when the weather allowed. But after learning that the park’s internet connection would be available at precisely the same time when I should be out experiencing nature, I am left to choose between which of the two necessaries is more meaningful. While not as devastating as “Sophie’s Choice”, I know I must surrender one for the benefit of the other.

I had psychologically prepared myself for this situation; it was inevitable. I knew that once we headed into wide-open spaces of rural Western states, there would be limited or no service. And where we are now certainly feels remote. After 40 miles on a winding road without traffic, we reached the park’s welcome sign. Another four miles in and we reached our true destination. This place is a rolling bust-line of shrub and sagebrush-covered hills. But best of all–for the first time in a month there is ABSOLUTELY NO SOUND OF TRAFFIC!

As I type this on my laptop on a picnic bench in view of the Airstream, I glance at the WiFi icon sitting on the left side of the task bar. As a lark, I position the cursor over the icon, and up pops the message, “WiFi connections available”. Incredulous, I click on it and sure enough, I have the option of opening a channel called “TPWD—PUBLIC”.

I waste little time activating the signal. I am immediately redirected to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Wireless Acceptable Use Policy (Effective date: December 15, 2005). I am ordered to read the entire policy before proceeding.

Accordingly, in order to utilize wireless services, I must hit the “I Agree” button at the bottom. Criteria to consider before agreeing are: Content Prohibitions, Content Harmful or Offensive to Third-Parties, Unlawful Content, Infringing Content Impersonation, Content Interference, Deceptive Content or Spam, Unapproved Promotions or Advertising of Goods or Services, Off-Topic Content, Content Harmful to Other Systems, Network Usage.

After perusing all the “CYA” jargon that Texan lawyers are obliged to disclose, I hold my breath and push the “I Agree” button. I figure if Trump can get elected, then surely I can get a connection to internet. By the way, wasn’t that part of his platform–improving infrastructure across America?

Behold! The clouds part, the planets align, the angels sing, and a faint and intermittent internet connection is born! Hallelujah!!

So what’s the point of this post if I no longer have to measure the merits of being cut-off from the main-streaming world?


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