Road Tech 101
My private Everest consists of keeping a working office going while traveling as a one-woman, one-act show for eight months. I am still booking events for the second half of the tour, paying bills, contacting media, creating a new art piece on my web site, keeping supplies current and equipment repaired, and, hopefully, not loosing anything, while adapting to the various circumstances inwhich I find myself. The most curious challenge is that of spatial memory. At home, my possessions have a fairly consistent locations. As I move from one place to another, they constantly change in spatial relationship to one another, almost in the way objects do in dreams. My yoga is to remain calm while wondering where something is or what is the most effective way to deal with having left behind something I need. Today I picked up my bathrobe from the Greyhound station; Lily knew this was the fastest way to get it from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo.
Communication from a constantly moving base requires a variety of options, since nothing always works. I have a national cell phone account with Sprint. As long as I am in a Sprint service area, phone calls to any phone within the United States are 10 cents per minute for the first 700 minutes per month, for $70 per month. When I am not in a Sprint service area, and there are many on my route, calls, if available at all, are sixty-nine cents per minute. However, the account includes a voice mail in Los Angeles, which works most of the time (it crashed for two days while I was in LA in April). I can access this voice mail from a land-based phone. I also check the voice mail I set up years ago in Hawaii, to which my last phone number is forwarded for another two months. The Sprint phone has wonderful options, like call waiting, three-way calling, a computerized phone book, and an option to link to the laptop to go on-line. However, it also has a propensity to work only when it feels like it.
I make calls from land-based phones belonging to my friends using one of the three MCI cards I bought at Costco. Why three? You can't recharge (with a credit card) a Costco MCI phone card more than once in four days. You also can't recharge the card with a different credit card than you did the first time, so you have to match up each phone card with its own credit card. The computer system supporting the Costco MCI phone cards is not crash proof, either. There is a phone number for customer service on the back of each card, written in a font size my fifty year old eyes can read with a magnifying glass in bright sunlight. But at these prices, who's complaining? It's currently 5.9 cents per minute all the time, (and probably falling) to any phone in the USA. I can do better by going on-line and calling from dialpad.com. That's free, but setting up my laptop in order to make a phone call seems cumbersome. The phone reception isn't the best, either, so I wouldn't want to use it for business calls.
I am using a free internet service provider called NetZero ("defenders of the free world"), one of many internet services supported by selling banner ads. So far it has dial-up access numbers in each place I have visited. Another free internet service I use is eFax.com, which offers free phone numbers onwhich anyone can fax to you, and then scans the fax and sends it as an attachment in e-mail. I still have to set up my on-line banking and credit card account reports, but these are high on my list of things to do next.
I've had a merchant account (which receives credit card payments and deposits them electroncally in a commercial bank account) for a year; for the road, I got software that allows me to transact the payments over the internet instead of using the keypad and printer I used in the office. I can use the cell phone to get authorizations and, later on, enter the payments on my laptop. This, then, makes it possible to sell my art and CDs at outdoor fairs and private parties by credit card without access to electricity or a phone line.
I apologize for the rather dry content of this particular page; I am thinking that my fellow artists who are preparing to go on the road might find it useful. I am also hoping that I will receive information on even better options from the Road Tech experts among my readership. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.