Tuesday, July 31, 2012

No Internet For Over 4 Days

I can't believe it has been two weeks since my last post. We left the property for a trip up north and things have been a bit crazy. The title of this post probably led you to believe that we were stranded off-grid with no Internet, but that is not the case. We are still away from the property and living 'on the grid', but I did not turn my computer on from Wednesday night, July 18th until Monday morning July 23rd.

First, to answer why this occurred...
Every year we spend a long weekend in July helping one of our daughters at a sales event she attends in Lexington, Kentucky. She has had a booth at BreyerFest at the Kentucky Horse Park for the past five years. Every year she has doubled the stock she takes and every year she sells out of almost everything. It is a very successful event for her.

This year, she was due to have a baby a week after the event, so Alan and I volunteered to go without her and just the two of us man the booth. Last year she expanded to a double booth since the business has expanded so much, so this year Alan and I had to build and stock the display and run the sale. We always enjoy doing this, but this year's attendance was larger than ever. Even though we had twice the stock as last year, it was once again a sell out year!

A few slow minutes at the booth with just a couple
people at the check out.
Many attenders come each year and have learned that our booth sells out of  'all the good stuff' quickly, so Friday morning (the first day of the event) the booth fills up quickly. The vendor area opened at 9 AM, Alan manned the cash register and he did not have a point where no one was waiting to check out until about 2:30 in the afternoon and that was for less than 5 minutes before the line once again grew. I spent much of my time trying to keep those in line to stay away from the merchandise displays so that others could still shop. At close of day Friday, we breathed a huge sigh of relief and started discussing what we could due to improve traffic flow through the booth the next day.

Creating the check out lane Saturday morning.
First, we employed a little ingenuity to help with crowd control in the check out line. I had an idea to make a 'check-out-lane' using bright pink duct tape. We took down one small display table so that the aisle could be located away from all the display tables. Alan was dubious that people would stay within the 'lane' while waiting to pay, but it worked! On Saturday, everyone waiting to pay stayed within the pink duct tape 'barrier' and as the line grew, they stretched past the end of it, down the hallway towards the next booth. Now shoppers had room to browse all the displays without trying to squeeze between those waiting to pay.

Second, Alan came up with a 'MacGyver' solution to aid the check out process. As it was, we had vastly improved the speed of the check out process this year. The product tags were bar coded for the first time, and Alan set up his Android tablet with a cash register program called 'Regisdroid' and used the camera on the tablet to scan the bar codes. Not only was it faster than the standard cash register we had used last year, it also provided more detailed end-of-day reports. For credit card sales we once again used Square on an Android phone, and this year we added a wireless receipt printer to the system since we no longer had the normal cash register receipt.

...to plug into Alan!
The USB is ready...
However, both Friday and Saturday Alan noticed the touch screen response on the tablet becoming slower and slower. And then, for some unknown reason it would 'fix' itself, respond quickly for a while and then deteriorate once again. It seemed that standing up and 'grounding' himself would help for a while, but the problem always returned. Part way through Saturday he realized that it was the fact that he held onto the tablet while standing up that was 'fixing' the problem. Throughout the day, the table was resting on an case that held it at a convenient angle to use the stylus with and was 'hands-free'. However, this hand-free solution was the downfall. Overtime, the table could not detect the difference of when the stylus was touching it or not (think of it like the tablet was building up a static charge). Whenever Alan made contact with the tablet, it reset the 'charge' so that the tablet could once again detect the stylus. Alan's solution - plug a USB connector into the tablet, wrap the other end in aluminum foild and 'plug' it into his shorts so there is always a skin connection  to ground the tablet.

Oh, we also kept our MiFi internet unit we use on the property close at hand in case the cell signal at the facility failed. We did end up turning it on a few times when the cell deteriorated to the point of slowing down credit card transactions. We needed all the help we could get in speeding up the check-out line. At end-of-day Friday, I checked the sales report and there had been 347 transactions from 9AM to 5 PM. That is 44.6 transactions an hour! So, even though there was a constant line, we were certainly moving them through quickly. We received many comments and inquiries regarding our 'hi-tech' set up at a remote vendor site (inside a horse arena). We are already planning on having two check outs next year.

So, what does that long story have to do with not having internet for 4+ days? I was so busy with the event, and packaging additional product each night, I never turned on my computer.

Next, to answer why I decided to blog about it...
Thursday night I am sitting in the hotel exhausted after staying up Wednesday night to help my daughter finish packaging more product, sleeping in the truck while Alan drove us to Kentucky and then setting up the booth once we arrived. I haven't checked email in almost 24 hours, which is almost unheard of. However, I convinced myself that if I turned the computer on, I would be up half the night and I really needed sleep so I could get up early and finish stocking the booth Friday morning before the sale started. If my customers have an urgent need they can always reach me by phone, which I am constantly checking for messages since my daughter is due to have a baby in a week.

Friday night I am sitting in the hotel room packaging up more product to restock the displays on Saturday and I am mentally arguing with myself about if I needed to set up the computer and check my email. This time I convince myself that it is now the weekend and if I do have emails to answer my customers will not expect me to respond until Monday. But I am fretting that I will never be able to get caught up on reading friends' Facebook status' from the past few days, how many days does Facebook allow you to scroll back through?!?

Saturday night I am once again trying to add more product to the depleted stock while Alan checks his email and Facebook account. As I am working he says ' It sounds like something has happened in Colorado. Several of my Facebook friends have status updates saying they are praying for Aurora, Colorado.' He then checks headline news and we learn the whole story -- almost 24 hours after it happened.

Later, this 'no internet for several days' made me start to realize that we have become so accustomed to instant updates that we do not stop to realize that the fact we do not know something right away is not earth-shattering. The fact that we did not hear about the Aurora tragedy for almost 24 hours did not effect anything one iota. The fact I did not respond to client emails over the weekend did not effect the work I was doing on their accounts. The fact I missed some of the Facebook 'posters' my friends incessantly 'share' was not earth-shattering.

So, I am grateful for this busy, hectic, exhausting weekend putting some perspective back in my life. Being 'always connected' and owning my own business has a tendency to worm itself into my life 24 hours a day. I work on client projects at 3 in the morning, I check and answer customer emails on Saturday and Sunday to have a 'clear desk' on Monday morning. Being disconnected these few days helped me to once again realize why I am once again longing to be off-grid. Yes, we are still 'always connected' there, but it is so much easier to compartmentalize client work and  separate a hectic life style from the peace and contentment I feel when 'at the property.'

By the way, we are still waiting on that grandbaby to make her grand appearance!


  1. Well good to hear from you guys. I'm doing No Facebook now. Getting sick of the whole social media thing. So no baby yet!

    When is the next trip down south?

    1. Still no grandbaby, we are not setting a solid date as to when we head back to the property until Hanna is born. Andi had a doctor's visit yesterday and if Hanna does not come before Sunday night, Andi goes to the hospital then and will be induced Monday morning.