Author's note: The following anecdote is 100 percent true. The names have been slightly altered to protect reputations and avoid embarrassment.
It was a Saturday night in mid-October and I was running late -- as usual.
This time, though, it wasn't totally my fault.
Three friends and I were heading to a party at a home in a North Shore suburb. The invitation indicated that the event ran from 7 to 9 p.m. It was approaching 8:30 when the group picked me up outside of a basketball game Downtown.
Greg was driving with his lovely girlfriend, Carlie, riding shotgun. I was in the back with Stephen. Stephen and Greg, neither of whom grew up in Milwaukee, have been friends for about 25 years and their banter is always amusing.
As we headed north on I-43, it became apparent that nobody in the car knew the exact address of the party. Nobody had saved a printout of the invitation. Nobody knew the phone number of the home we would be visiting.
"The address is on my BlackBerry," Greg said. "The problem is that my battery has run down and the charger is at home."
After some quick brainstorming, we decided that calling Directory Assistance would be fruitless because the host of the party is certainly not listed. In a stroke of inspiration, we placed a call another friend we are certain is attending the same party. The call went to voice mail. We tried two or three other people who we think may know the address or phone number of the party's hosts.
At this point, we have reached the proper municipality and are driving aimlessly through some very nice neighborhoods in search of what looks like a party.
"What are we going to do, start walking into random houses?" Stephen asked.
"We'll find it," Greg said.
After driving through a few quiet subdivisions, Stephen had an idea. "Greg, if you have the e-mail on your BlackBerry, isn't it on your laptop, too?" he asks.
"Yes," Greg said. "But, my laptop battery is dead, too. Hey, didn't I forward you the email. Check your laptop."
Steve reaches into his computer briefcase and proceeds to turn on his laptop, which boots up slower than any I've ever seen. After what seems like five minutes, he begins plowing through an avalanche of e-mail.
"I've got your e-mail, but there is no address," he said.
At this point, things were getting humorous. We had a car with four people, four cellphones, two BlackBerries and two laptops and we still couldn't find the address.
What we needed to do is find a place where we can plug in Greg's computer, access the Web, pull up the e-mail and get the address. After a few moments, it occured to us that a nearby Starbucks is the answer.
"Are they even open?" Stephen asks as we pull up.
"Yes," Greg said.
"What kind of losers hang at Starbucks at this time on a Saturday night?" Stephen asked.
"Us," Greg said.
"Um, yeah," Stephen said.
Twenty minutes, two coffees, one tea and a fruit juice later, we got the address and were on our way to the party. Upon arrival, we found the area swarmed with cars, but we also see several people leaving the house.
"How about if we just walk in find the hosts and say ‘Thanks for a great time,' like we've been here the whole time?" Greg said.
"All I know is, you're going in first," Stephen said, shoving Greg forward and drifting to the back of our pack in case he needs to make a quick getaway.
Not this time. Greg opened the door. We enter the house. The party is in full swing. The food, refreshments and conversation are exceptional. The hosts are gracious. We have a spending evening and nobody in our party mentions our little adventure.
On the way home, we decided that it would be a good idea to find the location of several Wi-Fi "hotspots" and commit them to memory (and maybe even paper). After recounting this story to a friend last week, I started to compile the list.
Starbucks, Alterra, Stone Creek and other coffee shops have been offering Wi-Fi for some time. It's also free at Pere Marquette Park, Cathedral Square Park and public libraries, but, I wanted to find some new and unusual places with Wi-Fi so I went looking in Brookfield.
I'd heard that the newly-renovated McDonald's across from Brookfield Square, at 300 N. Moorland Rd., was one of 7,000 Wi-Fi enabled locations in the chain. There isn't a lot of signage outside, which creates kind of an "upscale" vibe that continues inside the doors. The place has a fireplace, flat screen TVs and comfortable couches.
I sat down at a booth next to some high school volleyball players and booted up the computer. The access charge was $2.95. After entering a credit card number, I was surfing within 90 seconds. I discovered that most other McDonald's locations around Milwaukee offer Wi-Fi access.
A friend in sales told me that the Open Pantry store near Capitol Dr. and Brookfield Rd. has wireless access, so I decided to try Dennis' Mobil, 14035 W. Capitol Dr. Their hot spot was indeed hot ... and free.
I sent a few more e-mails, bought some gas and headed home to add to the list, which has been growing steadily. Feel free to use the Talkback feature to add others.
Wi-Fi enabled businesses Downtown:
Taylor's, 795 N. Jefferson St.
Elsa's on the Park, 833 N. Jefferson St.
Louise's Italian Café, 801 N Jefferson St.
Flannery's Pub, 423 E. Wells St.
Real Chili Restaurant, 419 E. Wells St.
Benihana, 850 N. Plankinton Ave.
Milwaukee County Historical Society, 910 N. 3rd St.
Calderone Club, 842 N. 3rd St.
Milwaukee Ale House, 233 N. Water St.
Twisted Fork, 2238 N. Farwell Ave.
Major Goolsby's, 340 W. Kilbourn Ave.
Hooligan's, 2017 E. North Ave.
The Social, 118 Pittsburgh Ave., at its new location.
Cousins Subs, 307 E. Wisconsin
Wild Flour Bakery, Grand Ave.
Erbert and Gerbert's, 612 N. Water St.
Host of “The Drew Olson Show,” which airs 1-3 p.m. weekdays on The Big 902. Sidekick on “The Mike Heller Show,” airing weekdays on The Big 920 and a statewide network including stations in Madison, Appleton and Wausau. Co-author of Bill Schroeder’s “If These Walls Could Talk: Milwaukee Brewers” on Triumph Books. Co-host of “Big 12 Sports Saturday,” which airs Saturdays during football season on WISN-12. Former senior editor at OnMilwaukee.com. Former reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.