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Traveling tech wins or fails

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Traveling in today's world is fraught with peril. Ok, not so much peril, but boredom, layover, delays, and very, very occasionally, peril. My personal travels have never been perilous, but they have been often frustrating. And, what's better to offset a frustrating experience than technology (keep that snickering to yourself, please. I will hold onto my dreams.)

Today's blog entry is brought to you by my attempt to travel from Northern VA on a Monday AM to my home in NJ, and arrive by 2:30 at the latest to be able to drive to a 3:00 appointment nearby. Here was the proposed itinerary:

1: Out the door at 7:30 AM to the Metro station, 10 minutes away.
2: Amtrak out of Union Station, Washington DC at 9:25 AM, giving me a solid hour to make what should be a 40 minute Metro trip.
3: Amtrak into Newark, NJ at 12:30 PM
4: Bus out of Newark, NJ at 1 PM.
5: Home around 1:30 PM, in plenty of time.

Of course, what can go wrong does, and although step 1 went fine, step 2 became (da da DAAA!)--perilous. "Smoke" in one of the stations down the line caused the Metro line to slow down, use just one track for a specific tunnel, and ultimately get me into Union Station about 15 minutes after my 9:25 train departed. Failures here on multiple levels:

-That the Metro was so badly delayed that it cost me an hour: FAIL.
-That the conductor didn't suggest at an earlier station to change trains to avoid that knot when there WAS a junction we passed through to change to: FAIL.
-That the conductor felt it necessary to explain we were stuck and would be moving shortly several times BETWEEN stops, when no one could have gotten on or off between stops (and hence, everyone had heard him, several times): Annoying FAIL
-That the DC Metro builders did not have the forethought to provide the type of express tracks that can allow trains to bypass stations, forcing all traffic to run on one track and bringing the entire system to a halt: EPIC FAIL.

While on the Metro, it became obvious that I would miss my train. At that point, I pulled out the iPhone and made a bee-line for to determine whether my train was delayed (meaning i might make it anyway) or otherwise book another train. AT&T. Underground. Nope.


However, the young woman in front of me on her Verizon Blackberry was clearly getting and sending emails. She was communicating with the world. From two feet away.

Knowing better than to wait for AT&T to work for me at all, I connected my iPhone to my Mifi, a wireless access point with, and this is worth noting, cellular service via VERIZON. After about 10 minutes of frustrating, but progressing surfing, I had determined that:

A: my train was going to be perfectly on time--and thus I would miss it. (FAIL, but a WIN to find out from the Metro car)
B: the next train would be at 10:25 AM and get me in at 1:30 PM (WIN.)
C: the bus would be at 2:00 PM and get my home by 2:25 PM. Narrowly getting me to my 3:00 appointment . (BIG WIN).

And now, the biggest WIN of the day (so far): With a few swift clicks, my ticket was purchased from my seat on the Metro for the 10:25 train, assuring me I would be in NJ well before my Appointment. Confirmation emailed to me.

After arriving (late, as promised) at Union Station, quickly to the kiosk to print out boarding passes. A swipe of my credit card and all of the trips I'd bought on that card came up.

Print today's 10:25 boarding pass? Yes, thank you.
Cancel the 9:25 and get a refund on that ticket while I'm there? Don't mind if I do.

Amtrak "Quick-Trip" kiosks? Full of WIN.

So, the Metro (and AT&T, of course) had let me down, but Amtrak has lived up to their embracing of technology. iPhone-friendly website + truly rapid check in and check out, mostly on-time departures, and I'm wending my way up north, blogging this on the Mifi.

Which, by the way, is plugged into the dual power outlets at every seat on every Amtrak train.

Full. Of. WIN.

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I haven't blogged about this yet, but thought it was about time. About 6 months ago, Tony and I decided to take the "" domain name he owned and form a new company, creatively titled "". He says it was my idea, although I don't remember specifically. I'll take credit if it's offered because, even if we fail, I think it's a good idea.

With a loan from his dad (thank you Tony Ricciardi, Sr.!), we founded the company as 50-50 partnership. We lucked into finding a brilliant web developer, Francis, to create our site and ecommerce system, and, after finding a nice space on 7th avenue right near Penn Station hired a terrific young, eager first employee, Liam.

I've never been a "boss." I've been an employee and a consultant, but i've never had "staff." I realize that one of the things that I didn't expect to feel with "staff" is proud. Proud that i'm paying them to work for me. I think that feeling goes across the board for, actually. I look around our small office and can say "this place is mine." That's a GOOD feeling. It's a SCARY feeling, but it's a good one. Knowing that if I (or Tony) don't do the work, it simply won't get done has kept me on edge for months now, and much more so since we went live, November 6th, 2009. It turns out that all of the complexity of getting a company up and running is nothing compared to getting people to come give us money. Although I KNOW we offer a great service, at what I think is a pretty good value, advertising is not something i knew, or really know, anything about. However, hiring a firm, or even a person, to do the advertising for us is really out of the question financially. It's us or nothing.

We've made some spending mistakes, to be sure, but I think we're making some progress. The questions seems to be: Can we survive long enough for people to know we're available? I hope so, because even though it's a lot of work, I'm really enjoying being an integral part of the team that makes it grow.

So, without further ado, tell everyone you know that uses a Macintosh to head over to and buy an incident and use our service. We'll help you. It's what we do.

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