Strategies: Plug-in at the Gate
Published: June 2009
space for rent
You've probably passed them in airports and wondered about those Laptop Lanes, business centers popping up like Starbucks. It started when ad executive Mark McNeely told his friend Bruce Merrell that he'd seen a businessman crawling on the carpet looking for an electrical outlet. "We realized there was a need for high-tech business centers in airports," says Merrell, former president of a small oil company. "After all, seventy percent of all biz travelers now carry a notebook."
The first Laptop Lane opened at the Cincinnati airport in 1998, and there are now nine in six U.S. airports (Denver, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle-Tacoma, and Phoenix). Ten more (in New York, San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, Detroit, Raleigh-Durham, and other cities) will open in the next month or so, with a dozen scheduled for Europe, Asia, and Mexico by December 2000. And that's not all: nearly 500 more are planned over the next five years, in airports, convention centers, and city business districts.
Each center has up to 15 cubicles where you can recharge a laptop, check E-mail via a T-1 connection, and hold a conference call (domestic phone and fax calls are included in the fee). The offices, available on a first come, first served basis, are stocked with PC's, laser printers, faxes, multi-line phones, and locks on the doors. A handful of "cyber-concierges" will scan documents, shred documents, whatever. Computers are checked after every customer's use to ensure that no viruses or data have been left behind (phones and keyboards are also disinfected to stop more traditional viruses).
Some companies are going so far as to establish accounts for eternally traveling employees. Now—like it or not—there's no excuse not to be productive on your next layover.
Laptop Lane 877/346-8740; www.laptoplane.com. Open seven days a week; hours vary by location. Two dollars for the first five minutes, 38 cents for each additional minute.
so you have meetings in . . . SILICON VALLEY
best business hotels: Garden Court Hotel (520 Cowper St., Palo Alto; 800/824-9028 or 650/322-9000; doubles from $295), and the Fairmont (170 S. Market St., San Jose; 800/527-4727 or 408/998-1900; doubles from $229). expense-account restaurants: Breakfast at Buck's Restaurant (3062 Woodside Rd., Woodside; 650/851-8010; $15 for two); lunch at Il Fornaio (Garden Court Hotel, 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto; 650/853-3888; $30 for two); dinner at Spago (265 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto; 650/833-1000; $100 for two). if you have a free afternoon: The Tech Museum of Innovation (201 S. Market St., San Jose; 408/294-8324). if you forgot to pack a scarf or tie: Stanford Shopping Center (180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 800/772-9332). Only venture capitalists wear ties . . . wired travel: Through this month, you can leave the San Francisco airport in style by ordering a Luxor cab with a laptop and free Internet access (415/282-4141).
going my way
Name: Denis Reggie
Title: Wedding photographer
Home base: Atlanta
How often do you travel? About 52 weekends a year.
What cameras do you take? I use three 35 mm cameras—I love Canon's EOS line—and two larger Hasselblads for greater resolution. Technology has allowed me to be much more inconspicuous and the photography more sensitive. When I took the shot of John and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy [coming out of the church], they had no idea. The picture was done in near darkness, and it's full of feeling because they're not relating to the camera.
Do you worry about baggage scanners? There's a new high-tech scanner that airlines use to examine checked-in baggage based on random selection. Some airlines promise to let you know when you've been designated for a search, and I've been able to talk them into not putting my stuff through the "death ray." Even though my film is in lead-lined bags, the ray can damage it. To be safe, I usually FedEx film to where I'm going.
What's the ideal hotel for a wedding? The St. Regis in New York is the country's finest hotel. There's also the Pierre—when a florist dripped candle wax on my tuxedo, the valet had it cleaned within an hour. I've also done great weddings at the Inn of the Anasazi in Santa Fe and the Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley.
Do you take pictures when you're on vacation? I always bring a Canon EOS IX. My kids and I went to Alaska last June; I wanted to go when the salmon were biting, even though it's my craziest time for weddings. We'd catch our dinner and take it to a restaurant that would prepare it for us. And now I can drop my film at the developer's, have it sent to my AOL account, and E-mail photos to my parents and friends. It's very cool.
protect your pet!
When the Northridge earthquake ravaged her California neighborhood in 1994, former veterinary technician Blake Donovan saved her own dog and cat and then answered the cries of neighboring pets. Meanwhile, her best friend's rottweiler, across town, bled to death from wounds that could easily have been treated. Donovan soon created first-aid kits for every pet owner she knew. The response was so positive that she decided to market them as ResQPet Kits (888/738-7377; www.resqpet.com) to raise funds for the animal shelter she dreams of founding. Designed with help from vets, the $45 fanny pack comes with gauze, bandages, antibiotic creams, a glow stick, a space blanket, and pouches of drinking water. Since injured animals tend to lash out, Donovan included surgical gloves and a muzzle, to protect the human handler. She wrote first-aid guides (for dogs, cats, birds, and horses) and left room for prescription medicines, three days' worth of food, and a toy.
—Dara Y. Herman
what is it? SitSleeper, an inflatable plastic pillow. The press release calls it "a new concept for resting or sleeping in a sitting position on an airplane."
packability: The big blue blob clogged up half my backpack.
prep work: Two minutes to inflate (prepare for dizziness, especially at 10,000 feet). And there is no glamour involved: I could hear a young boy giggling, while adults simply stared.
pluses: For a while, it felt nice to slouch (at least until my back started to hurt). Window light passing through it cast an eerie blue glow—a good way to aggravate an annoying seatmate.
comfort level: When the seat in front of me was reclined, SitSleeper filled the entire space. Getting up was not an option. The plastic's beach-ball stench kept me awake, and the texture made my face sweat. They say you can put something over it, but I wouldn't put an airline blanket next to my face; would you?
verdict: Patent pending for good reasons. Reject, reject, reject.
cost: $19.95, plus $4.50 shipping and handling. To order, call 515/277-2107, or go to www.sitsleeper.com.