The news that Internet radio waves began rippling through the oak leaves and bouncing off the marigolds yesterday at Dupont Circle was urban heresy to some of the park's lunch crowd.
"The Internet? Here?" asked Harvey Rubin, who described himself as "older than dirt" at 62 and who, with a quick chop of the air, batted aside the possibility of logging on in a park. "I come here for the trees. The grass. And now they're telling me I can use my computer here? Naaaah."
"For some of these young kids, it's never enough -- they want to stay connected everywhere. Everywhere!" said Rubin, who works for a corporation near his lunch-hour oasis. "I tell them stories about doing business when we had no fax. . . . They look at me like I'm talking about the Peloponnesian War."
The introduction of free wireless fidelity, or WiFi, at Dupont Circle is one of those technological advances that weaves the digital into daily life while widening the digital divide. And it adds Dupont Circle to the growing community of free public hot spots for WiFi, including Pershing Park, Capitol Hill and the Alexandria waterfront.
Rebecca Gelenberg, 24, devoured her Harry Potter on a shady spot yesterday. But she said she would return with her laptop in the evening to check e-mail, gossip or shop online.
"I wouldn't use it for work purposes," she said. "I can't afford wireless at home, so it would be great for me to have wireless access and be able to sit outside, in a park, and be online. It's wonderful."
Rich Wellons, 29, left his office near the park with his laptop. "I heard about it and just wanted to come check it out," he said after a short online session.
"I checked some news sites. It was nice. It's nice to have the option to do this," he said, before enjoying his lunch and an actual newspaper. "But it's not something I always want to do. . . . It would be kind of disconcerting to look around and see everyone looking at the computer, instead of the park."
It's the definition of recreation and relationships that is changing, said Gregory Staple, president and co-founder of Open Park, a nonprofit group that works to provide free Internet access in public places across the nation's capital.
"The way we keep in touch with each other has changed. The way we spend our leisure time has changed," said Staple, whose latest project is a to get WiFi on the Mall. "There is a big generational divide, and everyone doesn't understand this."
Although Open Park did not provide the Internet access in Dupont Circle, the group applauded the effort. Access came from a wireless router placed atop Jurys Washington Hotel by the Internet technology provider TechAssist as part of a free promotion.
Garrett Davis, 26, became the unwitting promoter and face of civic WiFi access yesterday, when one of the temps that the company hired to hand out fliers and drum up excitement did not show up. So his boss made Davis handle the job.
Davis is a computer engineer, well versed in the language of macro preprocessors, HTML tags and the Ethernet, but not so hot in the people-skills department, he said.
"I'm not really good at this, dealing with all these people," he said, awkwardly extending his arm again and again to hand out advertisements.
Davis approached a fashionable pair of women in flowing, full skirts. One of them rolled her eyes when Davis uttered the word "wireless" and turned back to her friend.
Between firing off messages with his BlackBerry, Bob Doucette, 40, said: "I think it's great; it's just great to have this here."