It Takes Dark Magic to Fix Your Wifi

You almost didn't get this column this week. That would have been a shame because this is my 1,500th newspaper column. One thousand and five hundred weeks ago, I started writing a newspaper humor column, and my streak was nearly broken by a faulty computer.

This morning, my computer wouldn't connect to the wifi. Not a problem; that happens once in a while, but it's easy to fix.


I did everything you're supposed to: Turn your computer's wifi off and on. Reboot your router. Swear at the cable company. Make sure your bill is paid. Make sure there's not an outage. Swear some more. Reboot your computer.

Most of the time, these will fix the problem, and you'll be watching cat videos and shouting at political opponents in no time.

But once in a while, it's not enough. No matter what you do or how many cable companies you swear at, it doesn't work.

Now it's time for drastic measures. Dust off the old tomes, draw a pentagram on the floor, perform the sacrifices, and recite the ancient chant: "Siri, call tech support."

"Tech support, this is Rick. How may I help you?"

That's not his real name, of course. He won't tell you his true name, because you could banish him from this realm for all eternity.

"I can't connect to my wifi."

Is that the moans of the damned you hear on the other end? Or is that just the other tech support people?

"I'm sorry to hear you're having trouble with your wifi," Rick says, reciting his portion of the ritual created by the Ancient Ones. He continues, "First, let's go ahead and reboot your router."

"I already did that," you say. A tortured groan rises above the other voices in the background.

"I know you think you did, but we need to make absolutely sure."

"Look, I did it, I tell you! I unplugged it and counted to 30 seconds and plugged it back in."

"I'm sorry, you need to count to 60 seconds." Last time I did this, they told me 30 seconds.

"Fine, there. I unplugged it."

"My system says it's still plugged in."

"It does? Seriously? Then why can't you just use your stupid system to fix my router?"

"This is what the dark lords have commanded — I mean, our highly-trained IT specialists have told us."

"Can't you just reboot it from your end?" you ask, not unreasonably.

Rick's sounds almost. . . hungry. "Oh, no, we must first be invited into your home."

"I don't need a service call," you protest. "Don't send anyone here."

You think you hear Rick swear followed by another tortured groan. "Just reboot your router, and we'll wait."

Your router is so old the old girl may not survive one more reboot, let alone until the lease period is up. You turn the crank handle, and it coughs and sputters to life, black smoke billowing out of the exhaust.

After 20 minutes of awkward conversation — where Rick tries to sign you up for an MLM program — the Check Engine light shuts off, and the router's green light turns on.

"My system shows that everything is OK," says Rick, a little disappointed. "Are you sure you wouldn't like one of our representatives to visit? He can come any time after dusk, but please don't have any Bibles or holy water around."

"No, thank you!" You quickly hang up.

I skipped all of this. I've been through enough wifi exorcisms that I didn't need Rick teaching me about Wifi 101, especially since every other device in the house was working.

A quick Google search on my phone showed other things to try, several of which I knew, and none of which worked.

Could this be it? Was this the end of my computer? Would my column streak end? Would I reach 1,500, or would I fall one short?

I unearthed a forgotten article, buried deep in the grave of some long-forgotten IT monk. I wrenched the book from his skeleton, and could barely decipher the Latin inscription.

It said to delete specific files buried in my computer's operating system. This was old magic indeed! Tinkering with the operating system could have world-shaking consequences. Like reaching into your car engines and yanking out random wires because some guy on the Internet told you to.

I raised my arms, recited the incantation, deleted the files, and shut down my computer.

The skies darkened, the clouds rolled in, and I extended a shaking finger toward the power button. "Life! Give my computer life!" I screamed at the heavens.

There was a chime like a far-off church bell, and my computer started up. I opened my browser and entered a web address.

It was a miracle! Angels rejoiced, choirs sang, and everything was back to normal. The magic had worked, and my computer breathed once again.

It was a close call, but everything turned out all right. I only hope I'm ready for the next time. Because Ol' Rick is scratching at the door, hoping you'll invite him in for a "service call."

Although technically I think it's a re-booty call.

Photo credit: Kim Scarborough (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available from 4 Horsemen Publications. You can get the ebook and print versions here.