Previously on Tales From Retirement Acres:
“Mom,” our hapless protagonist protested, “I’m on call and your house is in a technological black hole. And you don’t have WiFi.”
“I know all that, but your grandmother thinks this is one of the last six times you’ll see her on this mortal plane, so—“
“Fine. Fine. I’ll see what I can do.”
And so we arrive at Chez Auto with a cellphone, a laptop, and almost no hope for making it out of the weekend alive. Of course we get a phone call requiring immediate action.
“All right. Let’s see what we’ve got by way of computer signal.” Scans list. “Why does Mr Jim have WiFi?”
“You can tell that?” Dad asks.
“Nvm. I’m using it until he complains.”
Three weeks later, on a Tuesday evening. Mom comes to the top of the stairs, clearly trying to repress a sigh.
“Bobby, Mr Jim wants you to come over because he’s having computer trouble.”
“Dad?” I ask. “Why Dad? I mean, no offense, but you two frequently explain that I can’t send Mom’s kindle a book because the computer isn’t on.” (It’s true. One time they asked if the toaster might cause her to experience interference. I did not have a good answer.) “So what problem are you solving?”
“Do you want to come or not?” Dad asks, putting away the pliers and the ski rope.
(Not all my projects are successful, okay?)
“Will I get an answer to the question about why Mr Jim has WiFi?”
“Probably not, but he was real tickled you were able to see his network. He said he didn’t know if it worked or not.”
“He has WiFi service but nothing to use it on?”
“You better put some shoes on,” Dad advised. “That a-hole cat of theirs bites.”
Mr Jim is approximately 226 years old. He once played in the Air Force band with Glenn Miller. He has almost no business using the computer or the internet. This does not stop him. This is not the first phone call the IT Department at Chez Auto has received, despite not having an IT department.
Upon inspection of Casa Canapé, the problem is a rolling IP address coupled with a total lack of any sort of security.
“I’m going to fix some things,” I advise Monsieur Canapé. “You won’t notice.”
Especially if you’re not using the WiFi, but it’s your money so whatever.
“Are you sure?” He inquires. “I don’t want it to be slower.”
“Are you going to wreck his system?” Dad murmurs. “He’s old, but he’s gonna notice if he can’t connect to anything.”
“I’m going to MAC filter his system,” I explain. Dad looks skeptical. “Besides my computer and his, there are at least eight other devices running through his system and Mrs Jim just said they don’t have cell phones. The kid across the street is running a porn ring through Casa Canapé, and I haven’t got the time.”
Dad ponders this for a moment.
“Do I need to go to the Apple store? Or McDonalds?”
“Just tell me where the main computer is.”
“Downstairs,” he says. “Good luck.”
I think he means “good luck wrangling that mess into something useful.” What he really means is “the stairs have plaid carpet. Don’t look directly at them.”
Dad returns to the den to listen to Mr and Mrs Jim bemoan the state of current affairs and basically run a distraction campaign while I shift 7568 floppy disks, hard disks, and old cables to the side while also trying to identify which monitor and keyboard are the real ones and which are the clever decoys. Aside from the red and green plaid carpet, this place looks like a Radio Shack from 1983 exploded and was promptly walled over.
Occasionally, the hiss of an angry cat can be heard, but determining the source of the cat proves to be a waste of resources. 27 minutes later, I have filtered the network, got the dirt bag teen across the street off it, added Mr and Mrs Jim’s laptops plus my work laptop, and also the phones of their grown children.
Because Retirement Acres is where cell phone service goes to die.
Triumphant, I make my careful way back up the plaid staircase.
“Everything working?” I ask, noting that Dad is grinding his back teeth together.
“Works great!” Mr Jim beams. “Did you make it faster? It seems faster.”
“Yes! Be sure to let Dad know if you have any trouble,” I say without glancing at the father in question. “But you should work fine, and I fixed it so your daughter and son in law should be able to work with no problems.”
“Kids these days,” Mr Jim chuckles.
“You got that right,” Dad answers.
Fortunately, Mr and Mrs Jim are both deaf as posts, so they miss any nuances his response might have held.
“Don’t let the cat out when you leave,” Mrs Jim admonishes. We are dismissed.
As we begin the trek next door, Dad says “What did you do, and what is all that screaming from Miss Connie’s house?”
“Nothing, and I booted the kid off the WiFi so that Mr and Mrs Jim don’t get arrested for running a porn ring. I’ll be taking no complaints.”
“Can you set that up at our house?” Dad asks.
“You don’t have—sure,” I answer. “Be glad to. Tell everyone else on the street that the Chez Auto IT Department works on a fee schedule when they ask.”
“Do you think that shouting will stop soon?”
“If they come ask, tell them the truth: you don’t have a network.”
“What’s your plan if they go ask Mr Jim?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. They’ll never hear someone knocking on the door.”