Three East Indian men came into the Mercantile on a Sunday morning. The first one asked me if we had any food, and I directed him to our shelves of snacks.
The two other men came in shortly after. The short young guy with puffy hair asked for food too, or at least I though he did. When I directed him to the snacks, he got exasperated and said, No. Like a banana. Apparently, he had asked for fruit.
I spared him my boisterous rendition of “Yes, We Have No Bananas” and simply told him we had no fruit. He bought a Payday bar and a granola bar, and then the men were on their way.
The other clerk had gone to lunch when the short fruitophile guy came back into the store. Excuse me, he said politely. Do you know the password to the WiFi?
Yes, I said, which I thought was the truth, but I’m not allowed to give it out, which was certainly the truth.
The young man looked very sad. Is there anyone here who can give it to me?
I shook my head and said no. All employees were under strict orders not to share the WiFi password with anyone not employed by the company that runs the store and the campground.
I don’t have signal, the young man said, looking sadder by the second.
No one has signal up here, I told him.
Knowing he was not alone in his lack of signal did not seem to comfort him. He stood there and looked at me with his big, dark eyes.
Do you have an emergency? I asked. If someone had been bleeding or his car had been on fire, I would have handed him the store phone.
No, he said, and I appreciated his honesty. I get super annoyed when folks try to convince me that their lack of planning is an emergency.
I haven’t talked to my family in like five days, he continued,
(That’s why I come up here! a camping friend of mine exclaimed when I told her this story.)
Once you get down to Tiny Babylon, you’ll have service again, I tried to comfort him.
My friend has the car, he said. Maybe he could only go where his friend drove, but I’m not sure how the ownership of the care affected his cell phone service.
There’s a facial expression I found myself making when I had nothing more to say to someone in the Mercantile. I pressed my lips together and turned down the corners of my mouth. This expression was accompanied by a little noise which sounded something like Hmm. This is how I conveyed that I could do nothing to help and the conversation was over. This reaction was the last thing the young man got from me. He looked at me sadly for several long seconds, then he turned around and walked out the door.
I found out later the same man had asked the other clerk for the password as she was coming back from lunch and had asked Javier the camp host for it too. Of course, they told him no, but I was a little miffed he’d asked after I told him no one would be able to give it to him.
Javier pointed out to me that although he’d put the password in his phone and he was now allowed to access the internet, he couldn’t access the password anymore. He wasn’t able to share the password with anyone even if he wanted to because he couldn’t find it on his phone.
I poked around on my phone and discovered I was in the same situation. The password was in my phone, doing its job to allow me to access the store’s WiFi, but I sure as hell couldn’t figure out how to see the password. (I had the password in a note on my old phone, but the battery on that one died so completely, I couldn’t get to any screen even when it was plugged in. I hadn’t thought to copy the password before my phone was totally gone.)
I was pleased when I realized I could truthfully tell people who wanted the password that I didn’t know it. I didn’t have to tell people I wasn’t allowed to give it out; all I had to do was admit my ignorance.