Bits and pieces


By Rick Ryckeley

I have had a problem with speed, or lack thereof, since growing up on Flamingo Street. Now it has raised its ugly head once more, dragging its feet into our happy little home.

Last weekend, lack of speed became the most important thing in my life. If I don’t get more, it will surely be the end of me. Okay, so maybe having slow Internet speed isn’t normally a life-threatening event, but recently our internet has been dragging its feet, and as a result, The Wife isn’t happy. And THAT could mean a life-threatening event. At least it could for me if I don’t get the internet thing fixed and fast!

Back on Flamingo, being the slowest runner meant three things. First, for any team sport with a running aspect, you were always picked last. Second, you never won a race. Third, and the most detrimental thing about being the slowest, you were the one Down the Street Bully Brad could catch, and when he caught you, he wasn’t giving you a warm, fuzzy hug.

I should know. With two older brothers, and Twin Brother Mark seldom playing by the rules, whether peddling a bike or simply trying to run away, yours truly often found himself the slowest.

My lack of speed continued to plague me throughout high school. I spent five years walking those hallowed halls of Briarwood, home of the Mighty Buccaneers. My three brothers and I played football every year, and every year I tried out to be a running back.

Unfortunately, since I had one of the slowest 40-yard dash times, Head Coach Reaves made me a defensive tackle. Being a tackle meant going up against Bubba Hanks during all practice drills. His nickname was Hank the Tank, and on the football field he lived up to his namesake by rolling over everything and everyone lining up against him. Even with pads on, Hank the Tank hit harder than Bully Brad.

Inside the walls of Briarwood, my speed troubles didn’t end. My tenth-grade math teacher, Mr. Myers, set a time limit on all tests. That year I think I only finished one before time ran out.

As bad as my time in math class was, Mrs. Newsome’s English class was far worse. She had us write term papers with set time limits for their drafts, corrections and final completions. She called it a “deadline”— something I’ve become all too familiar with during the last 16 years of this column.

After seven years, we moved away from Flamingo and, I thought, away from my speed problem. It wasn’t until years later as an adult that speed would become a critical part of my chosen occupation. A fire fighter’s shift is 24 hours, and during the night, if not running calls, we are allowed to sleep. But when the alarm sounds, we had to wake up, dress, run to the trucks, and leave the station knowing where we are going and the quickest way to get there, all within five minutes or less.

As a firefighter for 27 years, speed (or lack thereof) was actually a life and death situation I dealt with. And now it is once again. Which brings us right back to my current dilemma: our slow internet speed.

After spending the better part of Sunday afternoon at the giant electronics store with the dark blue roof, The Wife and I came away with three things: the new equipment needed to provide the fastest Internet connection possible and beam it throughout the entire house – and two massive headaches. With all those surround sound systems blaring, it’s really loud in the giant electronic store. And no, she wouldn’t let me buy one.

Just before this column’s deadline, the Geeky Guy arrived to install all the new equipment. I thought time would run out before he finished, and my deadline would be missed for the first time in 16 years. Nope, didn’t set up our network myself. Seems the older I get, the easier it has become simply to write a check and have a real expert take care of it. That, and if something goes wrong and we end up with no internet connection, I have someone to blame. Luckily for me everything went fine.

Less than two hours later, Geeky Guy explained we had 25 “bits” coming into the house and now we have 150 bits. Mr. Myers taught me that was six times more. More is better so I was happy. I just hoped all those bits streaming through the wires didn’t get so hot they cause a fire. Upon hearing this, Geeky Guy shook his head, gathered his tools, and started to leave. He said, “Don’t worry, you now have your own personal hot spot.”

The Wife got home that evening and was simply delighted with our internet speed. Me? I’m worried. It’s just too fast! As a firefighter I learned that fast means friction and friction means heat. Having a 150 bits speeding in through wires every second, the internet passing right through every wall, and a personal hot spot right in the center of our house … well, something is bound to get overheated. Just hope our smoke detectors alert us before the fire gets out of control.

[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001. To read more of Rick’s stories, visit his blog:]