My kingdom for a working wifi spot. For that sweet fan of a full-strength signal icon, bold and black; the internet equivalent of a peacock’s tail. Whoever it was who jokingly added wifi to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – now a common trope on social media – was correct.
Don’t get me wrong: sometimes it is bliss to spurn the constant connectivity we are all expected to adhere to these days (I have written about the contentment to be found on airplane mode). But it is human nature to want what we cannot have, and in no area is this more true than wifi. There have been times when I have been desperately scanning the windows of cafes and arts venues for that telling yin-yang logo, just as one bursts into a pub to use the loo.
With 5G on the horizon, and the advent of personal hotspots, the grasping for wifi has become somewhat less crazed. But not when, say, an important work call has to be made – especially in pandemic times – and you would rather not appear to your boss as a collection of pixels. Or you urgently need access to a Spotify playlist you forgot to make available offline because you really want to induce some Feelings on the bus home. These are wifi jobs, not mobile data jobs.
Before coronavirus (BC), if I was not in the physical office, I liked to work from places that served good coffee and frittata, with a side of excellent, full-strength wifi. When I book a hotel, I make sure wifi is available in rooms, not just in lobbies. I will spend a lot of time reading in my room, but need to be near my bed for a lie down when I check for the latest government snafu: I can’t deal with Brexit catastrophes or inept cabinet ministers in a simulacrum of a marble hall surrounded by fake plants.
That’s not to say I can’t slum it, internet-wise. I’ve owned 2G dongles in various countries. I am lucky to live in a country where the internet is not censored and freely available (mostly; some rural places are disadvantaged by rubbish coverage). But it is the case that, once accustomed to something, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. By which I mean those depleting bars when accidentally moving out of range, or the password protected spots one can only lust after, like peering through prison bars. Speaking of which, I will never not laugh at wifi puns. My favourite ever? I Believe Wi Can Fi. You’re welcome.