Technology fail

Sometimes a bunch of technology fails at the same time. This usually happens whenever I try to give a demo. Sometimes, it sends me on an adventure.

A few nights ago, I went out to dinner with some friends. At dinner, I looked at my phone and noticed that the battery level was a lot lower than it should have been at that point of the night. I’m not sure how that happened. Maybe it was on in my pocket, or maybe it was something else. Knowing that I’d need my phone to get home, I turned it off.

After I left the group, I turned my phone back on. To get home quickly, I opened Uber. Before I could request a ride, my phone determined that it didn’t have enough juice and turned itself off. No problem—the train station was nearby and the last train hadn’t left yet.

I found a payphone in the station. I of course didn’t have any change, and, not having enough recent experience using payphones to think about using a credit card, I had a flashback to my trip to summer camp when I used a payphone to make a collect call to my parents. So, I followed the instructions on the phone to call collect. As I started going through the process, there was a terrible buzz on the line to the point where I couldn’t understand the prompts. I gave up and headed farther into the station.

I found my platform and spotted another phone. This time, there was no buzz. I followed the instructions, but instead of hearing my parents, I heard an error message followed by a note that I had to wait 15 minutes before calling the same number again. I wondered if my parents thought I was calling from jail. During this attempt, I tried turning my phone back on again, and this time it stayed on. I quickly texted my mom to let her know which train I was getting on and let her know about the battery situation. She told me that she had also heard an error message from the collect call and let me know that my dad would pick me up at the destination station.

Since my phone seemed to be doing well and I had time before the train, I quickly popped outside to give Uber another shot. This time, it worked and an uberX car was soon on its way. I let my parents know and sent them a link to my ride so they would know my ETA. I was relieved, and was happy to be on my way home. The driver was friendly, and we talked on and off most of the way. When we got close to the last road, he started driving very slowly, and said something along the lines of “There are houses out here?”, obviously not used to being so far from the city. I thought he was joking. When we got to the final turn, he stopped the car, and wouldn’t continue. He indicated that he didn’t believe we were heading for a house that couldn’t be seen from the road. Something about the area (or me?) had obviously spooked him, and I guess he thought I was trying to prank him or worse. I tried for about 20 seconds to explain to him that he would see a house if he only continued to the crest of the hill, but he wouldn’t move. Not wanting to spend any more time arguing, and sensitive to the feeling that he really was afraid, I got out of the car and was left in a field in the middle of a night because a driver was scared of my driveway. Achievement unlocked? At least I got my 10,000 steps.

Homejoy

I like having a clean apartment, but I also don’t have a lot of time to clean it. For a while, I’ve been meaning to try Homejoy, and I finally got around to it last week.

Booking

Booking an appointment was easy. It’s cashless, it’s via a website, and I’m good at the Internet. The availability was somewhat limited, and I didn’t want to put it off for too long, so I ended up booking a 7 AM appointment on a weekday. That allowed me to be around to let the cleaner in without disrupting my work schedule while also leaving the apartment and my schedule all to myself during the weekend. Of course, 7 AM is quite a challenge for me, but I tend not to think of that too much when planning something for Future Wysz.

Before the appointment, I removed any clutter so that everything would be where I like it, and the cleaner could spend her time cleaning and not moving stuff around. I also took down and put away my Dropcam. I figured that if I left it out, I’d want to tell the cleaner about it, and I decided that it was just easier to remove it than to have that conversation while still acclimating to consciousness.

The appointment

At 7:03, I got a text from the cleaner, Maria, letting me know that she was going to be about 20 minutes late and asking if I could wait. I guess that 7 AM isn’t just early for me. At 7:20, she arrived. She was very honest about it; she had received a new phone from Homejoy and hadn’t set the alarm on it. I of course didn’t mind at all; I was not in a rush to be anywhere. She was super nice, professional, and ready to go right away, only asking me where to take the trash to. I was glad that she didn’t ask any hard questions, and my only notes to her were a reminder not to wash my cast iron skillet (though she already knew that from a note I left when booking) and that there was bottled water in the refrigerator.*

Since my apartment is a small space, I thought it would be awkward to stick around. My first plan was to sit on the patio area outside of my apartment and work within range of my own WiFi. I abandoned that quickly when I found out that all of the cushions were wet. My next stop was a Starbucks. I would be one of those people who worked from a coffee shop! New experience! When I arrived, there was a long empty table as well as a small two-person table. I initially wanted to go for the small table, but because of the way it was oriented, I would be facing people no matter which side I sat on, and I thought that would be awkward. So, I picked a spot at one end of the long empty table, with a wall on one side of me. I thought I would be safe, but shortly after I settled in, I realized that airport rules apply in coffee shops as well: If you spot Wysz, you must sit unnecessarily close to him no matter how many empty seats are available. Someone sat directly across from me. He started to pull out a laptop or tablet or something (maybe a Surface?) so I realized that his stay wasn’t going to be brief. I looked behind me, and the small table that I had passed on earlier had become occupied. I avoided eye contact and just focused on my laptop screen. I continued to work and enjoy my bagel and coffee. The stranger’s wife arrived later and sat next to him. Fortunately they were both busy reading and didn’t talk much. Unfortunately, he sipped his coffee too loudly for my liking someone else was talking loudly on the phone. I guess I’m not really fit for the coffee crowd. All I kept wondering was “Who are you people and don’t you have anywhere that you need to be?!”

When it was time for a break, I decided to go for a change of scenery and headed to one of the indoor common areas in my apartment complex. As it was a weekday morning, I had the place to myself. It was great.

mountains

lounge

Maria texted me when she was finished, and asked me if I was satisfied with how everything looked. I was happy, and she was on her way. Everything was arranged neatly on my counters, the shower was the cleanest that it’s ever been since I moved in, and a couple of days later I realized that she might have even set my oven clock!

Room for improvement

Before my first appointment, I received an email newsletter from Homejoy. A weekly newsletter. I did not recall signing up for a newsletter. I would not have intentionally signed up for a newsletter, and remember, I’m good at the Internet. This practice really bugs me. I don’t even opt for email receipts at brick-and-mortar retailers anymore because these days a single purchase is taken as permission to “engage” with me forever. It’s disappointing to see a forward-looking startup use such a non-consumer-focused marketing tactic.

I unsubscribed, but that didn’t stop the email annoyances. I rated my cleaner immediately after the appointment, and 10 hours later I got an email asking me to provide feedback by answering two questions. Weird. I thought maybe it was something other than the rating. I clicked on the link and was just taken to a page containing information about my appointment. There were no questions regarding my appointment.

The next day, I got yet another email asking me to leave a Yelp review. This one didn’t even have an unsubscribe option, but I emailed customer service and they said they unsubscribed me. What annoyed me the most about this email was that it asks for a Yelp review of Homejoy, but it’s written in a way that makes you think you’re helping the cleaner. Since cleaners are assigned by Homejoy and not chosen by the customer as far as I can tell, unless the cleaner is doing business outside of Homejoy, mentioning them by name in a Yelp review isn’t going to do much for that individual, and I don’t even know if Maria (whose last name I am intentionally omitting from this review) would want me to identify her online.

Aside from the annoying marketing, the other suggestion I’d like to make to Homejoy is that they move to a tip-free model. To be clear, I do tip when it’s customary, but that doesn’t mean that I like it. I’d rather they just raise the prices and wages appropriately. The site suggested 20% for a good job, so that’s what I did, right when I booked, before I even knew who was going to be doing the work. I’ll explain my position on tipping more in a later post.

I’ll likely use Homejoy again soon, once I decide what recurring appointment time will be best for me.

* It’s totally not relevant to this post, but I feel like I need to point out that I don’t generally buy bottled water. I think it was free from a hotel.

Healthcare transparency

I feel uninformed and helpless when it comes to medical services. I guess I feel the same way about other things too, like getting work done on my car, but in that case I’m usually just risking paying too much money. I don’t mean to say that I think I’ve ever been taken advantage of from a mechanic or anyone else, but I don’t like not knowing.

I first started to feel uncomfortable about the way medical services are set up when I would go to the optometrist. Even though everyone was very nice and I didn’t doubt their medical competency, it also felt like I was getting a lot of sales pitches. Get a picture taken of your eyes for only $25! Get all sorts of fancy coatings on your lenses! Special glasses for computers! It’s a store. The same place, and often the same person, that examines the health of my eyes and provides medical advice also sells products to solve vision issues. It makes me really uncomfortable, and it’s one of those things that feels like it should be illegal. I would prefer to be evaluated by someone who gets paid the same amount for their medical opinion, regardless of whether their advice is to buy something or not.

There’s an interesting TED talk by Leana Wen (with a sensational title that I think is unfair to apply to all doctors) which talks about the idea of doctors being voluntarily more transparent about what their biases and conflicts of interest might be.

The end goal for me is to get the best advice, and I think that transparency is one tool that could help us to get there even before it’s illegal for my eye doctor to profit from selling me glasses instead of referring me to a laser eye surgeon or Warby Parker.

Tesla Autopilot

I love hearing Elon Musk talk. He gets right to the point and tells people what they want to hear. His presentations have showmanship without verbal fluff. The official recording of a huge announcement for the Model S: the all-wheel drive and Autopilot, is shorter than 15 minutes. Here it is:

The live presentation was slightly longer. When Elon started to talk about Autopilot, the car being held by a robot for the dual-motor display was obscuring the audience’s view of the presentation, so there was a minute or so of the robot going through what I assume was a pre-programmed sequence to show off and then lower the car. Elon laughed it off with a simple “Robots.” But anyway, this stuff is so cool. I love technology. Here’s a video of some people trying out the new car:

I suppose now would be a good time to disclose that I own some Tesla stock, but as you’ve hopefully gathered from my multiple other posts about electric cars and autonomous cars, that’s definitely not why I’m writing about this.

Anyway, speaking of electric cars, I’ve been starting to see the BMW i3 around a little more recently. I caught a quick shot of one while driving in Mountain View the other day:

BMW i3

It’s fun to see a production car that looks like it’s from the future.

Michael Wyszomierski's personal blog