Christopherson Column: Channeling my inner Kyle, and saving the day
It’s one of the more memorable, if not iconic, episodes of the Comedy Central animated show, South Park. In the 2008 episode, the internet goes down in South Park, Colorado and across the nation. Not able to chat endlessly with friends, shop for things they don’t need or surf porn, everyone goes from zero to 60 in a nanosecond and the streets are filled with frenzied panic.
The episode is a tribute to John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel, “The Grapes of Wrath.” Soon, everyone is heading “Californee-way” because there are rumors that there is internet service in Silicon Valley.
Meanwhile, one of the wiser-than-the-grownups kids in South Park, Kyle, has a hunch on how to reboot the internet…
We rebooted our basement recently. For years, it was your basic man-cave, although for us it was the whole family cave, with a home theater set up by the audiophile husband and dad occupying the premises. It was a pretty sweet space.
Then the boys grew up and left. We sent some of the basement furniture with them. We gave a couch and a chair to Times sports editors who moved to town with no furniture to speak of. Eventually, the overpriced high-definition TV we bought way back then – one of the first ones on the market – was dwarfed in performance by today’s amazing TVs, so we unplugged it and rolled it out of the room.
The resulting empty space was so cavernous that when you stood in it and spoke, your voice echoed.
My wife and I decided a few weeks ago that we were going to once again live in our entire house. We went the bargain route on furnishings, and I hooked up all of the speakers. One TV purchase and a new audio receiver later, and the room was restored to its heyday from days gone by.
Then, four days later, a glitch. The Hulu+Live Sports streaming service suddenly wouldn’t load on the new TV. I’d click the Hulu icon and for a half-second “Hulu Loading” and the little circulating, circular dots would appear on the screen, then vanish.
True to form, I snapped at my wife when she dared to ask what was going on. You don’t want to be around me when techno-gadgets malfunction. I had planned on grabbing a cold one and flipping back and forth between the Twins game and the NHL playoffs. Not able to enjoy my evening as I’d envisioned, in no time I was ranting and raving in the basement, much like the melodramatic South Park folks booted from cyberspace.
I spent two hours late into the night chatting online with Hulu tech support. Rebecca was up first, and she and I traversed all of the basic and familiar troubleshooting measures you might expect, to no avail.
She passed me up the ladder to more advanced members of the Hulu tech team, and soon Ibrahim entered the fray. But it was clear he shared the same rung as Rebecca. I found myself repeating my issue and repeating steps previously taken to remedy it, and we were getting nowhere.
With the clock inching past midnight, I ended my online chat session in a childish huff, hoping against all hope that Hulu would magically fix itself on our new TV in the middle of the night. It didn’t.
The next day, I called Hulu tech support. Carol Ann couldn’t have been more understanding, but she was no less flummoxed than Rebecca and Ibrahim. She brought Veronica into the call, and they communicated back and forth as I sat there on the line, feeling by the minute more unreasonable yet crushing dread. At this point, they were just spitballing.
Then it hit me, much like it came to young Kyle Broflovski. He thought his potential solution was impossibly simple, but he had to give it a try. America’s leaders thought he was just a naive kid, but they were miserable offline, so they didn’t stand in his way. Kyle approached the nation’s comically oversized internet router – about the size of a house – then strolled to the giant outlet on the wall and unplugged it. Then he plugged it back in. In seconds, the flashing yellow light on the massive black box turned to a solid green. The internet was back! A nation collectively exhaled, cheered, then got back online.
As Carol Ann and Veronica tossed largely useless ideas back and forth, I put the call in speaker mode, placed my phone on the coffee table, crawled across the floor and maneuvered my way under the table on which the TV sat. I found the appropriate cord and unplugged it from the power strip. A few seconds later, I plugged it back in.
As Carol Ann and Veronica perused a Samsung TV e-manual and brainstormed, I turned the TV on, clicked the Hulu icon, and it launched. I politely interrupted so I could announce my triumph, and the incredibly basic action that it took to get Hulu to load properly.
“Wonderful!” Carol Ann beamed.
“Teamwork!” Veronica excitedly added.
“Kyle, you brilliant little (expletive)” I muttered, slightly under my breath, but not entirely.
It would have been perfect had my reference clicked with one or both of them, but it did not. But in our shared moment of jubilation, it mattered not.