Memos From the Parking Lot

While I work in the employ of Macworld , I do not actually work in the massive Mac Publishing/IDG headquarters complex. Most of the time you'll find me working 300 miles to the south, pounding out stories on my 1.25GHz PowerBook G4 from the comfort of my apartment.

Working at home has it own unique set of challenges -- particularly when you live, as I do, in an apartment complex with a healthy percentage of college-aged tenants who are still learning the finer points of the give-and-take of apartment living. (For instance, playing the pop music at high volume after midnight will not endear you to neighbors who have to work for a living, no matter what those McDonald's ads claim.)

Take this morning. I went into the spare bedroom that doubles as my home office, opened the window and looked across the alleyway, where I saw a Ford Mustang parked in my parking space. Which would be perfectly all right if not for the fact that I don't own a Ford Mustang, and I'm fairly certain that my wife didn't purchase one that very morning to surprise me. So I could only assume that another tenant, finding my space empty -- alas, my wife's employers do not allow her to work from the comfort of her apartment -- decided to stow his car there, however temporarily, figuring that I wouldn't mind.

He figured wrong.

I picked up my PowerBook, grabbed a cup of coffee, and trudged downstairs and across the alley where I planted myself directly behind the Mustang to wait for the parking-space squatter to show his face. I don't know how far it is from my apartment to the parking space -- certainly far enough to test AirPort Extreme's promised 150-foot range -- but I had no problem staying connected to my network. I was able to write and edit a couple of stories, fire off some e-mails, even have an iChat with my Macworld colleague Jon Seff (mostly about the indignities of apartment living), all while waiting to give my thoughtless neighbor a piece of my mind.

And that's when it hit me: I couldn't have pulled off this stunt five years ago. Oh sure, I could have worked from home or even used a laptop to get my work done from a remote location. But to walk outside my apartment and essentially cross a street, all without losing my connection to a network , where I could keep working without sacrificing any productivity -- I'm not sure I could have even comprehended a scenario like that back in 1999. I suppose that's a fairly obvious point, but every now and then, every one of us has that moment when they realize that technology companies in general and Apple in particular have invented ways that not only change how they go about their work but do it in a way that makes the old way of doing business hopelessly quaint. And today, this was my moment for that.

Oh, the parking space? The young man came out to move his car and couldn't have been more apologetic. Which is good, since he was much larger than me.

And I don't think Apple has invented a technology to tackle that problem just yet.

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