Sunday, July 21, 2013

Blame It on Boingo


One of the surprises of the electronic revolution has been the generosity of various providers. In this land of free enterprise, consumerism, capitalism and everything fair game when it comes to the almighty dollar, it’s extraordinary how much is available to us for little or no money. Is Homeland Security getting on this? It’s downright anti-American! Unheard of to offer something for free when you can make a buck! And yet it’s happening all around us.

Instead of buying those hefty, expensive encyclopedias, it’s Wikipedia baby! No more buying obscure videos to find the scene with Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye singing “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In” or enjoy Fats Waller playing piano in “Stormy Weather.” A simple flick of the Youtube switch will do. Coming from the era of plunking a pocketful of coins in those European phones to get a couple of minutes to talk to the folks back home (“Send money!”) or the gal you left behind (“I miss you, baby. I…Hay que depositar 50 pesatas más…), Skype is a blessing and completely incomprehensible as to how it can be so cheap— as in virtually free! It would cost serious postage to send your vacation photos to all your friends via mail, but Facebook lets you do it for—how much? Oh yeah. Free.

Then along came Wifi. In any funky Motel 6 or Ramada Inn, it’s free. But if you’re at the next level up, it means a trip to the lobby for the free stuff— in the room, you gotta pay. And then at the swankiest hotels, you pay wherever you are—and it ain’t cheap.

And finally, the airports. San Francisco is free, L.A. is free, Helsinki is free, Madrid is free— as are some 80% of the airports I know these days are. But Chicago, the place this United Premium Member inevitably must fly through, is still monopolized by Boingo Hotspot. And Traverse City, where I'm waiting to board to arrive at O-Hare, is the same. What’s the deal? How does one airport get away with charging when most of the others are generously offering their travel weary customers the courtesy of a few minutes online without having to dig out your credit card?

I know that my average blog reader is waiting breathlessly for the next entry, anxious to read the next insight into the human condition that came to this writer like a gift from the gods while waiting in the airport, observations that will amuse, inspire or affirm. But thanks to the stranglehold of those capitalist dogs at Boingo, that reader will have to wait until I arrive in San Francisco and the freshness will already be fading.

For example, here are two people carrying their shoes some few hundred yards past Security, making a statement worth pondering. But knowing that the reader won’t receive this until I’ve arrived in the Wifi haven of my home, I’m not inspired to pursue it.

Upset about this? Blame it on Boingo!

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