Monday, January 5, 2009

THE OBAMATHON GUIDE.™ Part 4: Phone Frenzy

From planes to porta-potties, everything is going to be impacted in DC during the inauguration. That includes cell phone service. So many people will be trying to make phone calls that even the nerdy dude and his army of guys with hard hats won't be able to help. But with a little forethought - or a large investment in new equipment - you can stay in touch with friends and keep from getting lost.

Cell phone companies are preparing for the influx of calls by implementing units known as Cell-on-Wheels, which are humorous because they rhyme with "hell on wheels", and their acronym is COW. But COWs alone won't pick up all cell phone calls - no matter how large the herd, your calls won't be heard. The main problem with inaugural service is that there is likely to be a gaggle of people sending pictures during the swearing-in. Cell phone companies advise that you should text instead of talk, and not send any kind of transmission during key moments of the swearing-in process. The texting part shouldn't be hard to do, since no one really does anything but text these days anyway. But I'd bet my right kidney that there will still be plenty of folks trying to send pics right after Obama says "So help me God" and then get confused when the photo wont send. As a side note, Obamathon Man plans to send photo updates by phone, but will wait 15 minutes after the swear-in to do so, to spare the precious bandwith of the American people. America, you owe me a beer.

There are various high-tech solutions to bad phone service. First, there are satellite phones, which are usually reserved for less excruciating environments like the Amazon Jungle or the Alaskan Tundra (you betcha!). Satellite phones connect to satellites far out in space where it is less crowded than the Washington Mall, so they are less prone to drop calls. You don't want to actually buy these things unless you like wasting money, but a minimum four day rental will set you back $36, plus $1.09/min to talk. Thing is, this is kind of pointless unless you talk all of your companions into renting one themselves, otherwise you'll be stuck trying to get through to their cell phone on the regular network.

Another option is using walkie talkies. A Google search reveals that inaugural attendees don't seem to know that walkie talkies exist, so you may not have difficulty finding an open frequency. Or you might, there's no way to tell. But don't forget that if you plan on carrying any strange-looking technology, be careful around the arrestocrats, who might mistake it for a bomb trigger and beat you to a bloody pulp.

Also, certain cell phones allow for GPS tracking, a good option if you are just looking to keep track of where your friends are. I've never tried this myself, so you may want to test it out before you get there. Also, cell phone GPS can be off by as much as 100 meters (330 feet) which could be problematic in large crowds.

In all likelihood, calls and texting will be impossible during key moments and doable at other times. But to keep from getting separated from your friends, it's best to have a very specific meeting place, preferably somewhere (relatively) less crowded. Might I suggest your home state's pillar on the WWII Memorial? Or, if you're from outside the US, try the the Phillipines's pillar. Also, have meetup places for all stages of your trip, in case you get separated on the Metro or while walking to the Mall or parade route. Be creative, but more importantly, be specific. Stay in touch, stay together, and know what to do if you're separated. See you in DC.

Introduction (history, crowd density)
Part 1: Is It Safe? (safety, prohibited items, law enforcement, crime)
Part 2: Crush Hour(Transportation, Getting to DC, Getting to the Mall, the Metro)
Part 3: When Nature Calls (restrooms, sanitation)
Part 4: Phone Frenzy
Part 5: Food for Thought (Food, sack lunches, vendors, restaurants)
Part 6: Got Balls? (Inaugural balls, dress codes, bars)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Obamathon Man,
    Here's hoping you and your associate stay in touch throughout your journey and especially on the big day.

    Oh, check out Obama Radio Nation at It's on Sunday the 18th and all my favorite radio celebrities will be there.