Sunday, November 16, 2008

Roaming Salsa

The concierge recommended a club in LA where we could both eat Cuban cuisine and dance to a live Salsa band, but when we got there, the joint was empty, in a seedy neighborhood, and the proprieter had had a tiff with the band leader, so there was no music. So there we were: myself, my boss, a colleague whose booth we were sharing, and his PR agent, somewhere in LA, hungry and without a dance floor.

First thing's first: one of us whips out a phone with a GPS and we start looking for a place to eat. Easy-peasy, you might think. The problem is, all you get is the name of the place. No star rating, no description of the cuisine, no pricing, nothing. Just a name and a street. Eventually we gave up on that and just picked a restaurant that looked nice and had a lot of customers in it.

Next, we started to try to figure out where to go Salsa dancing. Now, we had already looked on Google, and this first place didn't work out, but what else could we do? Actually, none of us wanted to surf to look for a place because roaming charges for data are so outrageous, it's cheaper wasting petrol than accessing the internet. So we asked around, and were instructed to drive about 15 minutes to a place which we found to be... closed. Again.

At this point, the one member of our group with a US phone made some attempts to surf and find something suitable, with no success.

I had a similar problem the next day, looking for a hotel in Chicago (more about my new life in a future post). The important and relevant parameters to me were: price, proximity to public transport, and shuttle to the airport. It was simply impossible to search with those parameters. In the end, I asked some friends and was directed to somewhere just great. I had to order on the phone, though, since you can't order online for the same night because it takes time to process.

I could add to that my failed attempts to find a good British Pub online during my London stay, my inability to locate a printer in Anaheim through the Internet, and a slew of other informational and technological disappiontments.

In theory, we should have never had to ask a concierge, the girl on the street, or the friend about hotels or restaurants. In theory, it should have been easy to find an open dance club, and maybe even get some live video of the dance floor. In theory, it shouldn't take 10 minutes, much less 10 hours, to process my online order for a hotel. In theory, restaraunt star ratings could be incorporated into your GPS listing. And, mostly, in theory, it should not cost an outrageous sum to surf the internet just because you are out of your "home" mobile zone. It also shouldn't take so damn long to get a response from the network.

In fact, the best way to find a good restaurant, hotel, or dance club still appears to be by word of mouth. It's a good thing we can all still depend on the kindness of strangers, because the technology is still practically very far from helpful in a real crunch. And no, we never found a place to dance and ended up in a bizzarre piano dive.

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