How Slow Can You Go?
By DAVE KIFFER
October 10, 2015
Ketchikan, Alaska - Like all other 21st Century Men, I am obsessed with the size of my………… internet connection.
Yes. yes, I realize that when you are talking about internet connections you are talking about "speed" and not "size." But somehow obsessing about speed seems particularly shallow. Especially in a place like Ketchikan where there really is nowhere to go, no matter how fast you can get there.
I remember how everyone was so obsessed with fast cars when I was growing up. It was the end of the true muscle car era and people had GTOs and Chargers and Firebirds and Camaros. One guy even had a Challenger that ran on some special drag racer fuel. He could supposedly get the thing up to 150 mph. Not on any of our roads, of course. The smallest bump - of which we have many - at that speed would lead to violations of a variety of FAA flight safety rules. That guy's tray tables were NEVER in their upright and locked position.
Those were the days when jets still landed on the runway at Annette. Now, I guess you can go over there and "air out" your vehicle on the old runways.
Here the best you could do was "air out" your car on that mile long straight stretch near the Lighthouse Grocery out north. And a lot of folks did. Leading to a lot of tickets from the Troopers who camped out at either end of the straight stretch. Both ends also had pretty sharp corners and that led to the demise of more than a few "muscle" cars over the years. Just the like only straight stretch on South Tongass led more than a few cars to ditch in the channel.
Not, of course, that I ever engaged in any such juvenile shenanigans.
I didn't get a "muscle" car when I got old enough to drive. I got a pickup truck that seemed to have trouble eclipsing 50 mph, going downhill. So, while all my friends were bragging about the speed of "their rigs" my only response was to note that I could carry more crab traps than they could. Today, big trucks are all the rage, but when I was a young buck, trucks had all the adolescent cachet of the family station wagon.
So I suppose I still have a "problem" with speed. It dredges up bad adolescent memories. I will think of my internet connection as a "size" rather than a "speed"
Probably just as well, because you often hear that "speed kills." I don't thing I have heard that "size kills."
Wow that was an Indianapolis 500 size digression. I can't even remember what I was going to write about. I better check the headline again. Oh, yeah. Internet Speed.
So how "big" is your internet???
Everywhere there is all this chat about 3G, 4G, 10G, One million G. It’s hard to keep things straight.
I’m pretty sure that the only time I have ever experienced 4G was when I was strapped in the back seat of an F-14 taking part in a Department of Defense Public Relations ride along, also known as “hey, let’s make the journalist barf all over his notebook.”
No, I did not “barf all over my notebook.” Believe me , I wanted to. But I had wisely skipped meals for the preceeding 10 hours just so I would not “barf all over my notebook” like the cheerful Navy flyboy with the West Virginia accent wanted me to.
Anyway, I can pretty clearly say that I was not impressed with that sort of 4G.
But I digress. Again.
Natch, living on an island in Alaska doesn’t exactly create much connection with fast internet. I remember visiting a friend near San Francisco a decade ago. She had an internet speed that was so quick it was like the web sites popped up even before I decided to access them. It was like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were playing ping pong inside my head.
It was almost too fast, like they had plugged an ISB connection into the back of my head when I was asleep or something.
Anyway, I’ve never had that sort of instantaneous connection in Our Fair Salmon City. Like we like to tell the visitors who are muttering about their blinky toys slowing down when they get here: 4G in Ketchikan is four guys standing around saying “gee, I wish we had faster internet!”
I agree our internet is still pretty slow sometimes. But not like the old days, where you would have to walk away from the screen for 20 minutes or so while a website downloaded. Remember the days of "dial up" service and that lovely metal screech your modem would make as it connected. Of course, now that I am older, if I had to walk away from the computer for 20 minutes I would definitely forget that I was even on line in the first place.
Like when I put dinner on the stove and then forget and leave town for Seattle. My bad.
Still, it rankles a little bit when 10,000 people instantly disgorge from the floating hotels, set foot in our remote slice of paradise, immediately fire up their blinky toys and then loudly complain that our internet is "slow."
Of course, you have to wonder about someone who spends thousands of dollars to visit the “last great wilderness” and then kvetches about the fact it takes them a few extra seconds to upload their “Selfies with Bear.”
Speaking of which, some of my Lower 48 friends have written to ask whether it is true that a local bear ate a woman’s kayak like they saw on the internet recently. It's not like anyone should be surprised. Bear brain scan researchers (there's a job with a high mortality rate) have already determined that when a bear sees a sleeping bag its brain conjures up images of quesadillas and soft tacos.
Anyhow, I wish my internet could jump around as quickly as my mind does!
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Dave Kiffer is a freelance
writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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