(Word of warning to phone-book toting grandmas: Both San Francisco and Seattle have passed ordinances to reduce the distribution of phone books on the grounds they create litter, add to landfills and annoy increasingly wired consumers. For now, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently ruled phone books have the same First Amendment protection as newspapers. I have no doubt, however, that one day phone books will be outlawed in a Fahrenheit 451-like new world where books are banned.)
Regrettably, I was not able to go to the bakery this trip. I had to get to the airport in plenty of time to poke at one – or several – of those “time-saving” electronic self check-in kiosks, the first of which told me I couldn't check in for my US Air flight at the US Air counter, but instead should go to the United counter, where a similar wonder of technology failed to print a boarding pass or checked baggage receipt without human intervention.
Give Me a Nor'easter Any Day
Kind of makes one nostalgic for the old days when the Remodeling Show, really the predecessor to the current one, was held every March in Atlantic City. It was a time when an actual human being handed you your boarding pass, and no one was dumb enough to get on a plane to fly less than an hour to either Baltimore or Atlantic City from Philadelphia when perfectly good motor vehicles were available. A Nor'easter blowing in from the Atlantic back then was way more fun than today's dysfunctional technology and travel logistics.
Meanwhile, back at O'Hare after the show, my car service, unaware US Air had shunted me off to United, was set to go to the wrong terminal to pick me up. Airlines, especially since deregulation, have engaged all manner of partnering and alliancing and going out of business and what not. You can no longer tell which one is about to merge, go bankrupt, lose your luggage or dump you off on another airline not necessarily of your choice.
(I would direct you to an earlier blog I wrote about the importance of branding, calling things by their proper names and making sure your customers know with whom they are dealing – but it seems our website has failed to properly archive that blog. You wouldn't find it, even though technically it's still there.)
Talking to Humans
What to do? About my ride from the airport, I mean. Well, I pulled out my non-smart, five-year-old, $20 cell phone that people no doubt snicker at and called the dispatcher, an actual human being, some 40 miles away, who relayed the message about the terminal change back to my driver, another humanoid, somewhere in the hinterlands of O'Hare – and, holy cow, the technology worked. The driver and car (old-fashioned, reliable internal combustion engine) appeared magically to within a foot or two of the very same exact spot I was waiting. Now, that's technology.
If there's a moral for remodelers in this tale of technological annoyance, it's that certainly you should use technology to reach out to your clients and potential customers, but don't depend on it so much it makes you stupid. When in doubt, talk to somebody the old-fashioned way.
Now, before you can read this, dear reader, I must enter it into a piece of technology called a content management system…. No, on second thought, just send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope and I’ll send you a printed copy – on a piece of authentic plant based fiber known as paper – by return mail.
P.S. While Hurricane Sandy was no laughing matter, techie guru David Pogue’s New York Times post, “How to Keep Electronics Going With No Power,” provided some comic relief, intended or not.
Complaining about the gasoline powered generator he was fortunate enough to have, Pogue writes, “It’s horribly designed. Just to turn it on, you have to unplug everything, turn on the fuel valve, pull out the choke loop, turn on the master switch, yank the starter, wait a few seconds, push the choke loop back in, and re-plug your appliances. And all of this seems to be explained in 4-point type on page 41,922 of the Owner’s Warnings Book; electron microscope sold separately.”
I don’t know, Dave, that sounds suspiciously like my recent experience replacing a faulty DSL modem and then having to reconfigure my home network to recognize the damn thing. New technology… same as the old technology.