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Your Neighbors’ Wifi Network

Just who are your neighbors, really? If you’re like me, you live in a multi-unit apartment complex inhabited by a rogues gallery of folks who don’t say “Hello,” but do move your underwear out of the dryer when you forget about them because you were drunk and finishing “Lonesome Dove” (damn you Woodrow, just tell Newt how you feel!). Anyhow, beyond spying on my neighbors through the blinds or rifling through their garbage, it’s damn difficult to get a good read on who’s connected to these stranger-hands gracing my unmentionables. Before you say anything, no I will NOT have a conversation with these weirdos. I am a normal person who cherishes his God-given American privacy, and besides only weirdos consort with weirdos. Which is why instead I judge my neighbors in the most logical of ways: based on what they name their publicly viewable wireless networks. What better representation of a building-mate’s identity than a personally dubbed moniker. Everything they want strangers to know about them boiled down to a 1-3 word phrase/name on display for anyone with a strong enough wireless modem. Their hopes, dreams, fears, regrets, political views, and personal shortcomings just sitting there like the purest, briefest form of social networking.

Our Facebooks and Twitters and Instagrams and DigiHoozles and what-nots.com don’t paint nearly as specific a portrait as these few mascot letters cast out for no one and everyone to see. We are our wi-fi! Disagree if you like, but realizing this made me see my neighbors in a whole new light. I knew them better than they knew themselves.For instance, “CleverGirl” is certainly those hipsters across they way with asymmetrical haircuts. Who else would know such a favored (yet cliché) “Jurassic Park” quote? Definitely not whoever owns “linksys,” because a) this network is not secured and b) this name comes as a default with Linksys brand router. My guess: that 50 year-old chain-smoker who calls herself “Dot” in loud phone conversations to people back in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She seems pretty incapable all around and it would not surprise me to learn she was as bad at computers as she was with not-smelling like cats. AKA, the polar opposite of the paranoid mastermind shut-in behind “trojanwormvirus” – obviously trying to trick myself and/or the government into thinking his network is dangerous to access. Totally thinking this is that black dude who kind of looks like Sinbad if he believed in 9-11 themed hoaxes. Nice try, guy!

Sure there are drawbacks to knowing your neighbors so intimately without ever having made eye contact. I honestly feel for the religious nut running “revelations2213.” I wish I could help him realize that the concept of “End Times” did not need updating into this digital forum, but then again if he wants to tuck in his shirts way too dramatically and pretend like I don’t see him walking home from the liquor store with white wine every other night than that’s his call. Many a-time I’ve wanted to shake him by the shoulders and suggest he pick a gentler name, like “Constance” – the byproduct of that sweet old widower two floors up who dedicated his network name to a late wife. Even so, would that I could let this elderly fellow know this gesture is a bit morbid, but also really touching in a “hard science fiction” way. Like he imagines his wife Constance’s spirit is the Internet bits flying all over the place as he Googles pictures of rowboats or whatever old men Google. Brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it. Then there’s “FUN4LIFE” – hate to say it, but there’s not a doubt in my mind this is an al Qaeda terrorist cell, and if they refuse to hold the elevator door for me one more time, I will call the Department of Homeland Security faster than they can say “jihad.”In my weaker moments, I fear these same weirdos – my neighbors, are judging me by my wireless network name: “SO_VERY_ALONE.” Pssh, whatever. Their loss. Besides I got them pegged like “Peg Bundy.” Match point, me. (Also I think that the wireless network named “notselfaware” is likely a self-aware computer).

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