Down to the Wireless


Our Daily Correspondent

Mike Licht flickr women of wifi

Mike Licht, Women of Wi-Fi, after Caillebotte. Image via Flickr

Someone in my building—or maybe two different people, I don’t know—rejoices in cruel, taunting names for his wireless networks: “MineNotYours” and “NoFreeLunch.” “I’m just going to go out on a limb here,” my old boyfriend once said, “and speculate that this person is an asshole.”

But is he? Riding in the elevator or passing neighbors in the hall, I often wonder who it might be—the retired nurse upstairs? The mild-mannered gentleman with the rescue dogs? The 103-year-old who sits with her nurse in the lobby? Does someone have a small, secret life as a righteous, anonymous enforcer?

A few are more transparent. “Miguel21” is not hard to guess; “AngieandTommyWirelss” too. I’m assuming “Yankees” belongs to the guy who’s always duded up in Bombers regalia. And presumably, anyone who cared could guess that “PymsCup” was mine.

Others have a whiff of intrigue. Who is “StinkyTofu”? Wherefore “ChouChou”? And is “CaliforniaDreamin” really so unhappy living here in New York? I hope not.

Such is city living: anonymity and proximity and small, petty mysteries and the occasional reminder of another’s tastes and likes and feelings. It is half misconceptions, of course. Back when I lived in Greenpoint, we just assumed that the hulking retired paratrooper with the penchant for Final Fantasy had the network called “Bonecrusher.” We referred to him this way as a matter of course, and without mockery. We had lived there for a year before we learned that, in fact, he was “MondayImInLove”—and, incidentally, that he loved the Cure.

This is not a decision one ponders much—at least, I didn’t. You choose it in a moment, try to think of something you’ll remember, perhaps. Some are happy to live with a string of numbers. And yet it is how you are known—or not known—by many of those physically closest. Or perhaps it takes on a life of its own. I know “NoFreeLunch” and “MineNotYours” is unnecessarily confrontational, unpleasant, even. I mean, we all have locks on our networks—no need to belabor the point, or engage in such gratuitous chest-beating. And yet, there is something I like about it. Every time I log on, there it is: an assertion of personality—that which is, or could be, or maybe only exists in this small, insignificant domain.