Wifi and Other Mental Health Emergencies


During the summer of 2011, I watched a lot of Bad Girls Club. Marathons upon marathons and seasons upon seasons of episodes wherein these troubled, violent, young nymphomaniacs would go at it in a big house in some major city, trying to keep from getting ousted from the house by their peers or arrested by local police.  This show has to be the final straw on the camel’s back of awful, exploitative reality TV.  A show like Intervention, for instance is sad, exploitation. It carries with it a certain voyeuristic guilt, but the women of Bad Girls Club relish in the idea of millions of viewers, gawking at their awful lives, like exhibitionists for not just sex, but human terribleness.  The Bad Girls Club is bottom-of-the-barrel reality TV, and I blame it for the rut I fell into that summer, leaving me without wifi, spending money, or any motivation whatsoever.

I’d gotten to the point where all of my responsibilities came second to the next episode of Bad Girls Club and the awful Salt-n-Pepa-style theme song that kicked off each episode gave me a cloying euphoria rush each time it played off my laptop.  All the relationships I’d formed with editors were hanging by a thread, and I had no forthcoming work, no forthcoming paychecks, and no wifi with which to interact with the outside world.  My electricity would be next to go.  I was completely unprepared, wrapped up in a hollow “oh no she didn’t” brand of ennui, when I received an email from an editor on my cell phone, the first in weeks.

I’d written an article for a big magazine months before, and I was positive it would not run. This particular magazine had a “kill fee” clause where they paid the writer 20% of the original rate for the piece if they chose not to run it, and at this point I was desperate just for that 20%. Again, I had no hope that the piece would actually run.  The email came on my iPhone and I initially assumed that it was a notification they were going to kill the article, but there was an attachment.  I was utterly shocked to read that the article was going to run in the print version of the magazine the following month, that I’d be paid the entire rate, and that the edits were attached.  In that instant I felt myself being handed an olive branch of hope, a reprieve from becoming something even more sad than a cast member of the Bad Girls Club.

Focused and revived, I not only closed my QuickTime movie player, but erased all of my remaining Bad Girls Club episodes, and edited the piece.  When finished, I was faced with a sudden obstacle.  I needed to send the edits back immediately, but I had I no wifi.  At the same time, I was broke. In fact, I was so broke that I could not afford to go to my local coffice and buy a coffee in order to quickly send the email.  Even my change had been rounded up, put in a zip lock bag and dumped into a coinstar machine at Key Food. I was stuck between a newly common kind of rock and hard place, unique to the digital age.

It was the dead of winter and, wearing only pair of pajama bottoms, flip flops and a coat I found myself walking down Grand Street in search of an open wifi network.  I needed only that one second of wifi to send the edits. Finding that one open network quickly proved harder than expected. I’d walked two entire L train stops away from my apartment when I began to lose hope.  I passed locked networks with names like “GET YOUR OWN WIFI,” mocking me as I walked.  Nearly an hour had passed before I finally found an open network and sent the email.  I was nearly in Greenpoint, holding my laptop with my feet covered in slush when my mission was complete.

Since that day, I’ve learned a few tricks for those who find themselves in desperate need of wifi.

Newer iPhones allow users to “tether” their internet connection from their phones to their laptops.  This is done on most iPhones by connecting the phone to your laptop via USB and clicking the “Internet Tethering” option under the “Network” section via the “Settings” button on the iPhone Springboard.  If you jailbreak your phone, tethering can be done on any generation iPhone and is easily accessible through the many free
Cydia apps such as MyWi.  If you’re interested in Jailbreaking your phone easy to follow guides are available at iClarified.

Educated Guessing
In Brooklyn, most people lock their wifi networks and passwords are generally pretty tough to guess.  However, some people, when they first get their wifi connection set up, neglect to choose a unique password.  The most clear sign of an unprotected network are the ones named after router companies.  Networks named things like, “NETGEAR,” “BELKIN” Or “LINKSYS” are your best bet.  Selecting these networks and typing “admin” or “password” or “1234” in the password field is likely to connect you.  If that doesn’t work, this list of the most commonly used passwords, might be helpful.

Cracking WEPs
If you’re setting up a wifi network, choose a WPA password instead of a WEP password.  Here’s why:

Cracking WEP passwords is surprisingly easy if you’re willing to put in a bit of effort.  While it’s a bit complex to go into here, the program KISMAC (for Apple users) and an inexpensive USB network scanner is all it takes.  Someone who isn’t me has found the program’s Newshams Attack very effective. [Don’t do this. You could also put the piece on your thumb drive and go to the library. The place with books, remember? They have computers, too. –eds]

For the Very Desperate
If you are extremely desperate for a quick bit of wifi (like pajama bottoms and Bad Girls Club desperate) you could always walk over to your regular coffice, stand by the window and send an email.  But, if you really must do this, I recommend you make up for it with a big tip or extra purchases during your next visit.

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