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ATPM 9.09
September 2003





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The Candy Apple

by Ellyn Ritterskamp,

Keeping in Touch

Several vacation trips this summer and fall have gotten me to thinking about the ways in which we are connected. It used to be that a four-day trip was just a matter of calling my folks and telling them where I’d be, and then wading through the catalogs and credit card offers in the mail when I got home. Now it’s different. Better, mostly, but different.

First is the way it’s gotten so easy to plan and book the trip itself. I never need to deal with a travel agent or even an airline agent. We can do all that stuff on the Web site, either the airline site itself, or one of the many successful travel brokers like Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz. These kinds of sites make it easy to find good rates for flights, hotels, and car rentals, if such rates can be had. You have to remember that certain destinations at certain times of year are just not going to be cheap.

Or, you can be like me and go to Las Vegas in August. The daily high temperature is over 100° F. They almost pay you to go there. Rooms are really, really cheap, especially midweek.

So, I’m heading to Vegas for four days. What do I do to stay connected? First, I e-mail a few friends the flight numbers and arrival times. I spend some time on the Web site of the hotel where I’m staying to see if it has Internet access (it doesn’t, or if it does, the hotel is not shouting about it). The day of the flight, I’ll get a boarding pass from my home computer and avoid one of the lines at the airport. I have to tell you, though, that anyone who shows up with a home-printed boarding pass is very likely to be selected for extra inspection at security. That suits me fine—I want them to check out people who are well enough equipped to do that.

I’m not yet at the stage of buying a laptop and taking it with me on the plane. I don’t fly often enough for that. But if I did, I’d have one quicker than you can say G5. Why be held hostage to the $5 movie that might be crummy, when you can bring your own and see it up close? I checked to see what DVD I should rent, but then remembered I still have a Harry Potter movie to watch, and Apocalypse Now, and Casablanca. (I went on a DVD buying spree a while back but haven’t caught up with myself just yet.) Anyway, that’s just a fantasy. Hey, does anybody rent PowerBooks?

So I’ve made all the travel arrangements and now the plane has landed in Vegas. I’ll get settled in my room and then play blackjack all night. The next morning, though, I have an online game scheduled at 9:30 Vegas time. Half a dozen of my message board friends will be there, expecting me to ask them trivia questions. I’ve tried for a week to get someone else to host the game, but no one I’ve asked can do it. So I’ll need to find Internet access by 9.

I’m fortunate that a Los Angeles friend frequently visits Las Vegas and has thoroughly scoped out the public libraries. He’ll point me in the right direction and I’ll be able to run my game on schedule. They’ll never know I’m not at home, on Eastern Daylight Time. Such places are normally free but have a 30-minute time limit, which is just how long the game lasts.

Then there’ll be the matter of wading through all the mail, like I said earlier, only now it’s spam in addition to paper mail. At least this way I can weed out most of the spam before I even get home. One trip I think I’ll just let it pile up, to see how much actually comes in. I only average about 50 messages a day—that’s mostly because this address is accessible to Web crawlers that go around looking for @ symbols. It’s kind of fun coming home to all that mess, imagining the sort of person who could use all those products. Their plumbing might be awfully complicated.

So the regular e-mail stuff is taken care of, and the travel arrangements. Now all that’s left is to check the e-mail at two work addresses and to put in a little maintenance time on my fantasy baseball teams. One allows only weekly changes, which I’ll make before the trip. So all I can do on that one is look to see how well my teams are doing. The other league allows for daily changes, so I need to drop by now and then to make sure none of my lads has been injured and needs replacing.

All this stuff will happen at a local library. This wouldn’t have been the case a few years ago. Of course, a few years ago, I wouldn’t have been hosting an online game, or had half a dozen e-mail accounts, or have been playing fantasy baseball.

Our world is getting larger, or smaller. Or whatever it is when we stay connected to each other more than we used to. And that is A Good Thing.


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