Dec 22, 2015

    Let the dead rest in peace without Wi-Fi

    LIFE'S a bitch, sometimes. Don't you just hate it when you're standing in a cemetery and you want to look up something on the Internet, only to discover that you don't have mobile coverage?

    I mean to say, of all the terrible things that could happen to you, that one must qualify as the "Mother of All Hardships".

    You tilt your phone this way and that, but you can't even get one tiny connection bar. You have a good mind to call your service provider to complain about the coverage, but you can't. You try moving around the cemetery. Maybe the connection is better by the side of that large gravestone, or behind that one, or inside that freshly-dug-but-still-empty grave.

    "As if anyone gives a rat's doodah about Internet coverage in a graveyard," some of you might be thinking right about now. And I agree.

    How can we even be bothered with such a non-issue when millions of people are currently displaced by conflict in their homelands, an Islamophobic real estate tycoon with a bad comb-over has designs on the White House, Europe is groaning under the weight of the refugee crisis, greenhouse gas emissions are fast approaching tipping point and innocent civilians in Syria are being killed by airstrikes?

    However, Moscow City Hall is bothered. It recently announced that free Wi-Fi will be available at the city's three main cemeteries starting next year. In a country where the reported cases of drug addiction, HIV infection and alcoholism continue to rise, and the spending on public healthcare continues to fall, authorities have decided that it's worth spending their limited funds on unnecessary connections.

    The people in charge of the public purse say the move is part of an ongoing campaign to bring Wi-Fi to crowded public spots in the Russian capital. Muscovites already enjoy free Internet in cafes and on the metro system.

    I'm not surprised to hear that Moscow cemeteries are crowded, but I thought they were crowded with dead people - people who have no use for Wi-Fi. I had no idea they are also crowded with living people.

    It would seem that hordes of people are visiting Moscow graveyards to see the final resting places of famous Russians like Anton Chekov, Nikita Khrushchev and Boris Yeltsin. And according to a spokesman, Wi-Fi connections will allow these visitors to find out more about a cemetery's famous residents, and also help them (the visitors) to "unwind" at specially designated places in the cemeteries.

    Who the heck unwinds in a cemetery? Next thing you know, they'll be renting out vibrating chairs, offering foot massages and dispensing health drinks. Fancy coffees will go on sale, complete with death-themed names: Murdered Mocha, Late Latte and Fatality Frappuccino.

    If the wireless Internet service proves popular, the authorities will consider expanding it to the rest of the Moscow's 133 cemeteries.


    This just has to be a money-making ploy. I mean to say, don't most people have a mobile phone with Internet access these days? Also, if you're going to go out of your way to visit, say, Chekhov's grave, won't you find out as much about him as possible before you set foot in the cemetery?

    Call me old-fashioned, but I feel a cemetery should inspire reverence and quiet reflection. It's bad enough that people are already taking selfies next to gravestones, or recording the intimate details of funerals, just to post the results on social media, without encouraging more madness.

    Can't we stop with the narcissistic behaviour and just pay our respects to the dead without thinking about the number of likes we'll get when we upload our oh-so-sad photos?

    While researching this story, I came across a number of funeral selfies: people posing next to a hearse parked in a cemetery, people pouting in front of coffins that are about to be lowered into the ground, and people standing next to genuinely grieving people at the graveside.

    Imagine, if you will, the following scenario: you're attending the funeral of a loved one, and the last few solemn words are just being uttered when a busload of chattering tourists can be heard a few graves away at one of the designated "unwind" areas.

    "Look, Brittany!" one of them says, between mouthfuls of cake: "It's a real funeral. How about we go over and take some photos?"

    "Lovely," says Brittany. "I'm dying to use the Cemetery Selfie Stick I bought at the gift shop a few minutes ago."

    It would be enough to make anyone turn in their grave.