(or How I Learned To Do Everything Without Waiting in Line)
I recently took a business trip to one of those exotic and exciting destinations that you often read about but don’t normally get a chance to visit: Salt Lick, Kentucky. And so, mistakenly thinking that I would be the only one aboard the flight to this hidden locale, you can imagine my shock when the line to check in at the gate was longer than the line at my neighborhood artillery shop during their recent Y2K blowout sale. Do any of you know what’s going on in Salt Lick that they’re not telling us?
It was quite a predicament. I had less than 20 minutes to go to the bathroom, buy a $15 bottle of water, browse through the adult magazines, donate some money to the nuns, and still wait in the never-ending line to get my boarding pass and request a window seat next to the emergency exit (extra leg room, you know). Okay, I could probably skip the nuns, the water, and even the bathroom, but I definitely wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity to browse through some filth in near-anonymity.
Yet the line at the gate wasn’t budging an inch. In fact, it was growing. Families materialized out of nowhere to add more length and girth to the line. It was a no-win situation. I would either miss my flight or miss everything else I desperately wanted to do. It was major prioritization time. I quickly walked up to the vacant counter at the next gate, which was surprisingly empty considering how beautiful Yugoslavia is this time of year, and I asked the lady if she knew what the absolute latest cut-off time was to receive a boarding pass to Salt Lick. “I have to do some–uh–quick errands around the airport,” I explained, “and I don’t want to miss my plane.”
She eyed me with a knowing look and said, “Here. Give me your ticket. I’ll check you in right now.” I immediately retaliated. “No, no, no… you don’t understand. I’m not going to your destination. I’m visiting Salt Lick. That’s my gigantic line over there. I’m just trying to figure out if I have enough time to–well, you know–do everything I need to do.” She stopped, leaned over the counter, and whispered one of the greatest traveling secrets I have ever learned in my entire life: “We all have the same computer systems, sir. You can check in at any gate.” I stared at her blankly. “WHAT?” “Just give me your ticket, and I’ll give you a boarding pass right now.” “NOW WAIT JUST A SECOND HERE. You mean to tell me that for the last 27 years, I never needed to wait in any of those lines that I always waited in?” “That’s right, sir.” “You’re telling me that I was blindly following the masses, when all along I could have just side-stepped all the lines and picked up a boarding pass from ANY of your employees?” “That’s right, sir.” “You’re saying that all of that wasted, stressful time for all those years could have been completely productive and relaxing?” “That’s right, sir.”
“Go to hell. I’m waiting in line.”
It’s hard to suddenly realize that you’ve been doing things the “old way” or the “slow way”, so I don’t expect you guys to immediately embrace all of the following Internet secrets, either. But once you get over the emotional hurt that no one told you about these sooner, you’ll find yourself saving lots of time and energy! Welcome to the Internet Secrets column.
Check Your Email From Anywhere
Admit it. It’s happened to you. You’re on a relaxing vacation (or even a short day-trip) to visit some friends, yet you end up salivating every time they check their own email right in front of you. How dare they taunt you like that? Don’t they know that you seriously need to check your own email to see if your new love interests from match.com and jdate.com have finally written you back? For the life of you, you can’t figure out how to change the settings in their email program to check your own Internet mail. But you try. After all, it can’t be that difficult, right? Wrong. You end up screwing up their whole computer system, you lose all of your own email, you lose a close friend, and you never do hear back from the love of your life. Bummer.
Even you America Online users (God help you) can never find a copy of the normally ubiquitous AOL software when you truly need to sign on as a guest!
Enter MailStart http://www.mailstart.com
> and AOL NetMail http://netmail.web.aol.com, two websites that let you check your own email–from any computer–without needing any special email programs nor AOL software! (MailStart lets you check your Internet mail, while AOL NetMail is designed for AOL users.)
With these two websites, all you need is a computer–any computer–with an Internet connection, and you have instantaneous access to all of your email! Send, receive, and forward email from anybody’s computer anywhere–all from your own email account!
And MailStart is ultra-cool, because it leaves all of your messages on your ISP’s server. What this means is that as long as you don’t delete your messages from MailStart, when you come back to your regular computer, you will still be able to retrieve all of your messages normally via your normal email program!
Technical Note: MailStart will not work if you have a mail server in your office that continuously checks your email for you. To check your email remotely, please contact your network administrator…
Never Get Lost Again
Your friends sure mean well, don’t they? Yet they always seem to screw up those driving directions nonetheless. Now you can do what I do. When your friends start rattling off directions on the phone, simply pretend that you’re listening, throwing in the occasional “uh-huh” and “gotcha” to throw ’em off the scent. In actuality, what you’re really doing is logging on to MapQuest http://www.mapquest.com. MapQuest will automatically generate the shortest driving route between any two addresses that you provide. It will even produce miniature driving maps for you! Even if you don’t know the exact address of where you’re going, MapQuest can give you a city-to-city travel route. It’s brilliant. What more do I need to say?
Doo Wop Diddy Diddy Dum Diddy Doo
MapQuest map in hand, you go driving off to your friend’s house (where you’ll still be able to check your email, of course). And on the way, you hear that incredible new song on the radio that you’ve been dying to hear. You know all the lyrics, you’re ready to plunk down $15 at cdnow.com for the entire CD, but you just can’t figure out who’s singing it.
You pray that the DJ is gonna come on to rescue you. Surely she must know that you’re breathlessly awaiting her expert knowledge so you can mindlessly purchase yet another CD that you only listen to once before realizing that the group is just a one-hit wonder. But she never comes on. You listen for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour–listening patiently for some human intervention. You finally give up, and are forced to disturb your friends for weeks on end as you sing your own unpolished version of the song, ending with the unanswerable question, “Do you know who that is?
Take it from me: Don’t do that again. Instead, head on over to the International Lyrics Server http://www.lyrics.ch/search/fulltext.htm, type in the lyrics you can remember, and within seconds you’ll have the name of the artist and the name of the song.
Why? How? Who? What? Where?
So you finally found the song you’ve been searching for–that long-lost oldie but goodie “Crying” by Roy Orbison. (Seriously now, your friends couldn’t figure that one out? You must be a really bad singer.) The CD arrives in the mail, you pop it into your stereo, and as you’re scanning the liner notes and photos, you suddenly realize that you don’t know something. Something really important. Something that you never really thought about before, but now you unexpectedly need to know it more than anything else. You absolutely must find out before you can move on with your life–was Roy Orbison blind?
Knowing better than to ask your friends again for their advice, you immediately do what I do. You log on to answers.com, type in your question, and observe as your mouth hits the floor when your answer instantaneously materializes before your eyes.
If answers.com doesn’t have your answer on file, they will miraculously email you the answer within a few days and then add it into their database for future searches. Answers.com is one of those invaluable resources that you will become addicted to in no time. (And yes, the Roy Orbison answer is already on file.)
Webster, Roget, and Grimes, Oh My!
There’s so many more treasure chests on the Internet that I could go on for pages and pages. But instead of listing every single one of the amazing secrets I’ve discovered for you right here, you can simply visit my “Special Links” page on the ScottWorld website at http://www.scottworld.com/special.html. I update the Special Links page monthly with all of the latest and greatest sites for you to explore, so be sure to bookmark it and continue visiting it on a regular basis! Before I sign off, however, here’s a few more of my favorite Internet secrets:
imdb.com: The Internet Movie Database. This is the hands-down #1 most useful movie/television reference site ever created on the Internet.
moviefone.com: The fastest way to search for movies playing in your area. Purchase your movie tickets online, too, to avoid waiting in line at the theatre. My favorite feature: “searching by time” (to find movies that are still playing on those late nights).
outpost.com: Free overnight shipping. No sales tax on any items. Superior customer service available 24 hours a day. 30-day money back guarantee on every single item they sell. Outpost.com is the only place to purchase all your computer software and hardware.
cheaptickets.com: The best place to find discount airfare online.
faxwave.com: Receive faxes right through your email, for free! No need to have a dedicated fax line anymore for receiving faxes. There’s lots of websites out there that offer this service, but this one’s my favorite.
ebay.com: Selling or buying something? Check out eBay, the Internet’s largest auction community! Start your own auction, bid on a current auction, or just lurk around to find the true value of your very first Apple IIe computer.
webtrafficschool.com: You guessed it. Go to traffic school in your pajamas.
dictionary.com: Look up the definition, pronunciation, and correct spelling of any word.
thesaurus.com: Look up the synonyms of any word.
NetBank.com: The way we’ll all be banking in the 21st Century. (Don’t believe me? People didn’t think the telephone was gonna catch on, either!)
Of course, none of this Internet stuff is much fun if you’re still “dialing in” to the Internet with a sluggish modem and a normal telephone line. Even if your modem is a 56k modem, you’re still wasting too much time waiting for pages to load in. How would you like to have instantaneous Internet access as soon as your computer turns on (no more waiting for the modem to connect), and flip through web pages as if you were flipping through television channels with your remote control? I thought so. That’s why, in a future column, I’ll be discussing all the high speed Internet options for your computer, such as cable modems, DSL, and ISDN!
Also in a future column, I’ll be sharing special tips and secret tricks for all of you lucky Macintosh and iMac users–tricks that none of your Windows friends could even dream about doing! Until then, happy travels…
Check out Scott’s website at http://www.scottworld.com