617: Places With Terrible Wi-Fi

617: Places With Terrible Wi-Fi

617: Places With Terrible Wi-Fi


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

Hiding has gotten so much harder these days. Growing up, I could hide by the creek or in the branches of a shrub. In high school, I could hide behind the dumpsters, or in the creek, or by the tennis courts. In college, I could hide by Greenlake or by Gasworks Park, or in the arboretum.

But now, there is a little machine in my pocket that is always on. And you can always find me. How can we ever hide if we attach ourselves to these little machines that are hell-bent on finding us?

In the early days of the pandemic, I had this thought that I wanted to be alone for a little while, but I was already very very very alone. My husband was working in another state, and my dog and cat and I just made the same small circles around our house for months. Still, I could never really hide. No matter how hard I tried, the internet was with me. The doom scrolling, the barrage of news, the world on fire.

For a few days, we went to a cabin in Kentucky with a porch that looked out over the poplar-covered hills and a fireplace around which we’d play cards and scrabble. The best thing about this place is that it didn’t have the internet. I told my parents and my good friend who was watching our dog the number of the main house in case something went awry, but otherwise, there was no scrolling or checking in or ASAP or even looking up “what are the rules to gin rummy anyway?” And let me tell you, it was fantastic.

It was as if there was a switch in my brain that is always on, always making a humming like a refrigerator working too hard, and suddenly I just turned it off. Everything sounded clearer, tasted better, looked more vibrant. Listen, I am not against the internet, but it felt so good to really hide, the kind of hiding that makes you find yourself again.

Today’s poem ponders what it is to be without the internet, and what it means to not have access to the constant buzz of the world. What comes is a reminder of what’s sacred.

Places With Terrible Wi-Fi
by J. Estanislao Lopez

The Garden of Eden. My ancestors’ graves. A watermelon field in Central Texas where my father
once slept. Miles of rivers. The waiting room of a hospital in which a doctor, thin-looking in 
his coat, shared mixed results. A den of worms beneath the frozen grass. Jesus’s tomb. The
stretches of highway on the long drive home after burial. The figurative abyss. The literal
heavens. The cheap motel room in which I thought about praying despite my disbelief. What
I thought was a voice was simply a recording playing from another room. The cluttered attic.
Most of the past. The very distant future, where man is just another stratum in the ground.
The tell of Megiddo. The flooded house and the scorched one. My favorite cemetery, where I 
can touch the white noise distorting memory. What is static if not the sound of the universe’s
grief? Anywhere static reigns.

"Places with Terrible Wi-Fi" by J. Estanislao Lopez. Used by permission of the poet.