A few years ago, my travels took me to Bandung Indonesia during Ramadan. The morning call to Muslim prayer begins at a ridiculous hour, 4:30am if memory serves. They drive what amounts to an ice cream truck throughout the townships and neighborhoods (an ice cream truck from hell) with an enormous loudspeaker on the roof that blasts the call, “UMBOOOOYAAAAAHHHAA-HEY-YAAAAAAAAOBLIOBLI-YAAAAHH” Wow. It’s loud, and I guess that’s the point. If you’re a local Muslim, you delight in the noise and you wake your family for the big meal of the day and prayer and fellowship.
If you’re a Christian boy from Texas trying to get some sleep, it’s pretty rough. I heard that noise and I swear I was reaching for a gun while technically, I was still asleep. Wow. I wanted so badly to share that moment with my wife and it came to me in a fuzzy noise induced haze, “Call her! Now!” It was only 4:30 in the afternoon back in the USA so I grabbed my cell and hit the speed dial. Lying in bed, still too tired to get up to pee, I simply said, “Honey, can you hear this… and I raised the phone above the pillows and pointed it toward the window, “OH MY GOD, WHAT IS THAT NOISE?” We bonded. It was awesome, we still chuckle over it.
Most modern cell phones have a tiny silver dot on their backs. Why? If you haven’t already figured it out, you’ll chuckle at how simple the answer is… No it’s not an antenna booster, nor is it to shield you from radioactive interference. It’s simply to allow you to center yourself when you take a picture with your phone from arm’s length!
“Why would you want to do that?” I’ll tell you! So you can use the same phone to email the picture you just took back home to your wife, kids, dog, neighbor’s, neighbor’s kids, etc. You see, being away for extended periods of time can stress the ones you leave at home as much as it stresses you. Here are some creative ways to keep in touch:
- Invest in smart phones. If you’ve been putting this off, it’s time. Besides being able to track your calendars and keep up with your confirmation and frequent traveler numbers, a smart phone can email and do multi-media messaging, which is the key to a lot of the other bullets in this blog.
- Take crazy pictures of yourself and email or message them back home to your spouse and kids. A picture of yourself being bored in a meeting, on the steps of the capital building, in a fun restaurant, in a cab, on the bus, on the train, plane, or whatever. Snap a photo of the hippopotamus meat or the fish eyeballs they want you to eat in Japan. Take a picture of your cool rental car. Take a picture of your hideous rental car… the point is, let them know what you’re up to.
- Shop, long distance. My wife and I do this! If you’re in Manhattan on 5th avenue, or in Chicago on Michigan, and your significant other who would die for a pair of shoes, or would swoon over those hand blown salt and pepper shakers couldn’t make the trip… take a picture and email it home with the price and a description. Then call right away and “discuss” while you’re still in the store and you have a chance to buy.
- Make sure you’ve both signed up for a chat or Instant messaging service. Typing back and forth can be a lot of fun, particularly if you develop a code! For example, if I wrote, “Craig is the soft-tie presenter at the meeting and boy, has he ever done his homework” to my wife, she would know that he’s a complete douche and that he has no idea what he’s doing…
- Small video cams are surprisingly affordable. For a $50 investment, you can get two and install each of them on your home and travel computers. When you’re done for the day, you can go back to the hotel and log on for a mini video-conference with your family. Watch junior take his first steps, show your wife the new shoes you bought her on Michigan avenue. Talk to the dog. Wait until the kids go to bed and have a naughty conference!
- If your spouse works during the day as hard as you do, try establishing a certain time of day when you can call and chat for 5 minutes. Even if you don’t talk about anything substantial, it’s nice to hear each other’s voices.