I have to say, this trip that I just took to L.A. for my cousin’s wedding was very fun, but it was also very interesting in that I employed a lot of technology in making it all work. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I wasn’t doing anything “special” or using cutting edge technology, but I was fascinated by the way in which I was able to employ the various technologies, sometimes in concert with one another to make the trip run pretty smoothly.
So let’s start with what I did and did not have.
1) I do not have a web-enabled phone. I do have a brand new texting phone, an acquisition brought on by the disappearance of my old phone. (It was finally found…in the bathtub…while Alissa was giving Annie a bath on Sunday.) This phone could do web stuff, but we disabled it, a decision that may have to be revisited.
2) I did not bring my laptop, hence the three pre-loaded filler posts over the weekend. I did however borrow one.
3) I brought my phone, a Bluetooth headset, a GPS, and a camera.
Secondary to the employment of wireless technology, I also found an “alternative” method for going to the airport. And that’s where our story begins.
At 6:50 in the morning, Alissa and the kids dropped me off at the Swift bus stop. The Swift bus runs along a single line between Everett Station and the Aurora Village Transit Center in Shoreline. It employs a number of technologies to make it a bit quicker and more efficient than a regular bus. After the goodbye’s I whipped out my Orca card and hopped on the bus. I was off.
A short time later, I was at Aurora Village where I tapped my orca card as I hopped onto King County Metro’s 301 express bus which took me to the Westlake Station in the tunnel deep below Downtown Seattle.
In the tunnel, I tapped in again and waited at the point where I had left the bus and waited a couple of minutes for the link light rail train. I hopped on with my backpack and roller bag and began the train ride through South Seattle to Seattle Tacoma International Airport. One last tap of the Orca card ended the transit portion of my trip at 8:30. The cost was $3.
After an uneventful flight, I made my way to the rental car counter. I had not requested a hybrid, but they were low on cars, so they gave me a beautiful red Nissan Altima Hybrid. My only complaint about the car was the odd placement of the ignition port (under the control panel on the left-hand side of the steering wheel…I’m used to finding hood releases there.) which caused me to take ten minutes figuring out how to turn on the engine before I figured it out. I ended up driving about 400 miles in that car on half a tank of gas, and that included significant journeys on wide open freeways.
Before pulling out of the rental lot, I deployed my GPS (a gift from my father-in-law who has one on his phone now) and my Bluetooth headset. Normally I wouldn’t use a GPS in L.A, but I was not going to be in normal haunts, so I brought mine along.
I know these are widely deployed technologies, but using them together was a different experience for me. It was nice to not have to rummage for a pen and paper or print out reams of addresses and directions. My first stop was to the home of friends whose home I’d never visited. Since I was on the 405 when I placed the call, they told me what exit to use. Upon exiting the Hollywood freeway, I pulled over, called again and punched the address into the GPS. It led me right to them. My next stop involved a similar process, except using text rather than voice. Both times, well really every time I used the GPS over the weekend,( and there were plenty), the system led me right to where I was trying to go. It really was pretty impressive to my mind, a real time saver.
Still, the best technology I used was Skype. I’ve used it before to great effect, so it was not a novel concept, but the ability to look at my wife and kids face to face over a distance of a thousand miles is a pretty cool one to have.
There’s a lot of talk about technology driving wedges between people and breaking the bonds between us, and some of it is probably valid. But sometimes those same technologies can be good and useful. Sometimes, technology lets us see our kids in another city or our friends on another continent. Sometimes, technology helps to strengthen the bonds between people.