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The Life of a Road Warrior Circa

As many of you know, I have been writing this column in some form or another since 1996. This week, I thought it would be a bit of fun to rerun a column I wrote in 1997 regarding the life of a road warrior with a laptop. Let's just say things have changed. Enjoy!

If you've ever traveled with a notebook computer, you know that they don't build most hotel rooms with them in mind. If you're lucky, your notebook computer was, at least, an afterthought.

For a typical computerized road warrior, the drill is very much the same in most hotels. You open the door to your room and take a moment to bask in that particular room's strange odor. If you're lucky, it just smells like chemicals. After some settling in, next comes the computer.

The first thing you look for is the phone. It would be good if they all had a readily available data port on the side of the phone for your modem. It would be even better if the data port went to a separate line. Then, you could do phone and e-mail simultaneously.

That's apparently too much to ask. If you're lucky, you get the data port. However, it usually shares your voice line, so no phone calls in or out while you're online.

If there's no data port to plug your modem into, then you're forced to unplug your phone every time that you need to get online. Well, things could be worse than that and usually they are.

Now that you've found the phone line and have duly plugged it into your modem, the next game that you get to play is "Find the Hidden Electrical Outlet."

If you're like me, you often arrive at your destination with a computer battery that could use a good charge. My problem is that I work too hard on airplanes. (Okay, it's really solitaire that depletes the battery, but either way, the battery is dead.) Now wouldn't it be nice if there were a pretty little outlet sitting there at desktop level right next to the phone. Yeah, right.

Since I'm a lawyer, I know that if I follow the lamp cord far enough I'll eventually find an electrical outlet. Now I've never done a scientific survey on this or anything, but I swear that the most common place for outlets in hotel rooms is behind the king size bed at the height of the middle of the mattress. (Am I the only person that sees a fire hazard here?) So now you puuuulllllll that mattress away from the wall. (I feel sorry for any of you with a bad back.)

There it is-the outlet. Success! Or so you think.

All that and typically you see two outlets already filled with plugs. You do a quick calculation and yes, once again, it's the ol' lamp versus clock choice. You pull one plug and you're in darkness. Pull the other one and you lose your clock and its alarm.

I've often wondered if I'm the only one who's chosen to pull the lamp plug only to find that now it's too dark to see the electric socket.

But, of course, before you pull any plug, you have to be struck by the appearance of those plugs. You get the feeling that the cleaning staff doesn't include cleaning the plugs behind the king size bed as a part of their daily, yearly or any cleaning routine. I don't know about you, but I've looked behind some of these beds and wondered if I should be in some sort of bio-hazard suit.

As bad as this room design is, I guess that, at least, it gets you online so that you can retrieve your e-mail. Even worse is when there is no electrical outlet anywhere near a telephone. I've seen that too.

I can understand older hotels that have these and other problems with accommodating computers. What's inexplicable are newer and renovated hotels that are like this. And it's not just computers that aren't being well accommodated. It's everything electronic. It's as if electricity were an afterthought.

It's incredible how few available electric outlets there are in a typical business class hotel room. I've even had trouble finding a place to charge my cell phone battery. All too often it's a tradeoff - the lamp or charge the cell phone. You'd think that they were rationing power outlets.

It would be refreshing if a typical hotel room had an available desk with a separate telephone line conveniently available for your notebook, an accessible electrical outlet and even some spares for your cell phone, and other electronics. One of these days the hotel industry may yet wake up to the basic needs of the computerized road warrior.

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