The Last Best Network
After some five hours of driving up Highway 5, on my way back to Montana, I spot a northern California town that rather than making my hair stand totally on end appears to be only mildly creepy. Taking the exit, I follow my GPS to the local cafe, grab my laptop bag and head inside to order a coffee and a cheese croissant. It’s cozy in here. Adding a splash of honey to my steamy mug, I find a seat by the fire and unpack the contents of my bag onto the tabletop.
Closing my eyes, I kick my feet up and take a minute to let the hot liquid energy sink in. Typical for fall, it’s been a rainy few days and the fire feels refreshing. The waitress arrives with my toasted pastry and as I take a bite of delicious flaky dough, I pop open my macbook. Realizing that I had forgotten to look at the Wi-Fi sign on my way in, I pick up my iPhone, get up, and walk back to the counter to snap a photo of the network name and password. Plugging the details into my Mac, I ready myself for action.
“Unable to reach network.”
I turn the Macbook’s Wi-Fi off and back on, hoping this will fix the problem.
I restart the computer.
Walking back to the girl at the coffee counter, I let her know I can’t access the wi-fi network and ask her to reset the router for me.
“The wi-fi is working, the music is playing.” She informs me, annoyed.
“Right, but it could have buffered this far or maybe it’s just not allowing another connection. Either way, if you could just reset the router it should fix the issue.”
“Sorry, I’m not going to do that. Other guests are using the network right now.”
I glance over at the two other people inside trying to remain calm.
“Please?” I whine exasperated. “It will take two seconds. The two other people, if they’re even on the network, won’t notice.”
Coffee girl, hands on her hips, stares at me indignantly.
I feel my blood beginning to boil. “Listen, I’m sorry I’m being a pain, but I just really need you to do this for me right now.”
I shoot her my most pleading lost puppy eyes and coffee girl rolls her eyes as she heads into the back room.
Finally. I take a deep exhale, trying to calm my rage. Coffee girl was about three seconds away from experiencing full meltdown mode.
Twenty minutes into heavy spreadsheeting I hit a roadblock, and unsure of what to do next, I call my boss.
“Sean? Hello? Can you hear me?” I say to the crackling on the other end.
“What the hell AT&T?” I shout at my unresponsive phone, which shows me that I have two bars.
Putting the phone on speaker, I ask the coffee girl to watch my things and head outside waving my arm in the air in an attempt to improve the connection.
“Dag? That’s better. Can you hear me now?” asks Sean’s voice.
“Yep.” I tell him my problem and feel my arm beginning to get shaky from its awkward position above my head.
Alas, midway through his response, I lose him anyway.
I hate AT&T.
Fast forward to present day.
Between six years of freelancing and four years of college before that, much of it spent traveling, I’ve dealt with more stubborn coffee girls, crappy internet networks, and dropped calls than I care to remember. So, I find it safe to say that there are few things in this world more frustrating than sitting down to work or trying to make a call only to find out your network suddenly isn’t there.
In 2014, I moved to Missoula, Montana, a place whose winters don’t really lend themselves to taking calls outside, or waving your arms up in the air to catch reception. All of my headphones were now making crackling sounds, after too much snow exposure. So, finally, months of icicle fingers later, I decided it was time. I had had enough, and despite my fear of breakups I prepared myself for the end.
Most of my friends were already with Verizon, so when Verizon called promising a better network I took the leap and headed to my local store. Signing on the dotted line, I walked out with a shiny new iPhone powered by what promised to be the solution to all my woes. Returning home, I proceeded to sit on the couch and begin playing with my new toy.
Then, something incredible happens. The phone rings. It’s my best friend Kiki. I answer and wait for it… hear the voice on the other end. “Hey, that was quick. It barely rang once.” Kiki tells me surprised at my lightning fast reflexes.
“OMG. Can you hear me?” I ask in disbelief.
“Uhh, ya. Why? Can you hear me?” She wonders, sounding puzzled.
“Dude, Yes! I can hear you from the couch.” I nearly scream in excitement.
“Are you okay?” Kiki asks concerned. Having lived on the edge of Silicon Valley for some time now, she has little experience with wireless networks that either don’t work at all or require hardcore outdoor gymnastics to make calls.
“I just switched to Verizon.” I inform her.
“Uhh… Great?” She says unimpressed and I can feel her rolling her eyes at me.
“No, you don’t understand.” I continue. “It’s amazing. My phone works from the couch. I didn’t even have to climb on the ladder and stick my arm out the window to hear you. Plus, get this – we’ve now officially been connected for over a minute without the call dropping.”
That was the day, I learned what it meant to have a reliable network and my life forever changed. I could now not only receive phone calls almost anywhere, but also no longer had to rely on snail paced mountain internet or less than helpful coffee girls to freelance. Instead, I’m able to tether all my devices to the Verizon’s network, which can handle playing Netflix while surfing the web all at the same time.
Less than a year later, I pick Kiki up from the Missoula airport and we head north towards Glacier National Park.
“Want to put some music on?” I ask rhetorically.
“Daggy, I can’t. I don’t think T-Mobile works out here. I haven’t had service since landing.” She tells me sadly.
“Don’t worry.” I calm her reassuringly. “Just turn on my wireless hotspot and you can tether to the Verizon network.”
Moments later, we’re singing along to Sublime while Kiki scrolls through her Instagram feed.
So, thanks Verizon, for keeping me connected where others couldn’t. Here’s to the Last Best Network from the Last Best Place.