Navigating a virtual world

Susan Manzke
The masked library helper, Susan Manzke, volunteers at the Muehl Public Library, assisting with curbside delivery.

I just finished a visit with my friend Joyce in Illinois. Using our computers, we sit and talk face to face, chatting about our pets: Joyce has two Pomeranian dogs who are afraid of fireworks. Sometimes while we are visiting, I can hear a nearby bang. Joyce then notes that her 'little girls' just ran behind her armchair.

I’m amazed how well Joyce’s voice comes into my home. Once, I was moving about the kitchen, getting a glass of water, when I saw a pretty sunset out the window. I started to call Joyce to come join me so she could see. Silly me. Joyce wasn’t in the room with me. The only way she could see the orange sky was if I turned the computer and pointed the camera out the window.

Computers and the internet are a big part of my life. The words I’m entering on the keyboard are not on paper. They go via my internet DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) connection to my editor where she receives my column on her computer. When I started writing in 1980, I pounded on a heavy old typewriter and then sent it in the mail days ahead so I wouldn’t miss the newspaper’s deadline. Today, I can email it minutes before the deadline and still be on time, that is if everything goes well with my internet connection.

Working and living in the country doesn’t allow me a cable option. I only have a few choices on how to connect to the internet. One is an expensive hookup with a satellite company or using DSL through the phone lines, which is what I use – it’s many times better than the old-fashioned dial-up connections we started with all those years ago. Back then if you were talking on your land-line, you couldn’t connect to the internet and vice versa.

DSL is a turtle connection compared to a cable link. When one of our children had to use my computer, they groaned about how slow my connection was.

I don’t mind my Internet too much. It keeps me linked to the outside world, albeit slower. I can watch a video, as long as I don’t mind it buffering once in a while.

The only time that I want to pull my hair out is when I record one of my old columns and want to share it with everyone on YouTube. A four-minute recording can take over an hour to upload using my DSL connection – and even longer if my WiFi cuts out without me noticing. It adds extra minutes which takes away from my workday.

Last week, I was asked to help out at my local library. Though the doors are closed to regular browsing, patrons can order books, CDs, and DVDs and pick them up curbside. While the staff was attending a virtual library training session, I was to wait for the doorbell to ring, find out the patron’s name, and then hand them the bagged library selection they had arranged to pick up.

As I waited for patrons, I worked on my laptop. It was my first time using the library WiFi. I was amazed at how fast I could connect to their system. My recorded four-minute column reading took minutes while at home it would be over an hour.

While doing this volunteer work, I found out how much I was missing by not having cable at home.


Any other year, I could pop into the library and use their internet. These days, the doors aren’t open for regular service. The good thing is that I can use their WiFi 24/7 from the parking lot.

Susan at Muehl Public Library, trying to take a selfie while connecting to the library WiFi.

I brought my laptop and tried this out. It was a day the library was closed. The internet connection was there and instead of an hour at home, in about ten minutes I had my digital recording up on YouTube.

The library is one of my favorite places. I can’t wait to be able to browse the shelves again. Lucky for us, people can still borrow items, set children up for the summer reading program, and even use the internet. It’s just a little different.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;; and find Susan Manzke on