Do you have wireless?

21 August 2011

I can’t remember where or when exactly it was, as it was a while ago, but I do remember that it was at a coffee shop, where a man, probably in his late teens, with all the accoutrements of modern gadgetry, asked a contemporary of his standing behind the bar, often given the incongruously grand title of barista: do you have wireless? Of course, by asking for wireless, he was asking for wi-fi access or wireless internet. I had never heard wireless on its own used in this context. Because, to me, wireless is another word for radio, imagined as something that comes in a wooden case, Art Deco style.

It was rather strange. I perfectly knew what he meant, but I had to translate it in my mind, or rather, I had to push out the picture of an Art Deco radio from my head, together with the voice in my head (not that kind of voice, but as voice imagined as emanating from the wireless) that spoke in the accent of the narrator of a black-and-white British Pathé newsreel.