I've discovered that the essential item for an aspiring computer consultant isn't a laptop, or a manual, or even expertise. The key item is a good suitcase.
I don't know if it's everybody in this business or just me, but I seem to be traveling a great deal. I'm not good at traveling, and doing it a lot makes me cranky. I know now, for instance, that if the good Lord had meant for us to fly, He would have made us all shorter and narrower. At least, that seems to be the opinion of whoever designs the seats in airplanes.
I'm sometimes on the road for two or three weeks at a time. This means I carry a big suitcase that I have to check into baggage rather than carry on the plane. And that means an extra half hour at the airport waiting to claim my baggage (though the baggage claims area is placed far enough from where you get off the plane that you spend most of that time walking). Of course there are those who get on the plane with two huge "carry-ons" equal to my single bag. They then proceed to shove these enormous bags into the holding racks over my head. I want you to know that I hate those people. (By the way, it's currently estimated that 4,000 people are injured each year putting stuff into overhead racks, taking stuff out, or being struck by stuff falling out of overhead racks.)
My last trip started with three days in a hotel in Los Angeles. I had a fabulous view of a parking lot, the airport, and another hotel. I got out of the hotel exactly once, when my client took me to lunch at a "funky" (as she put it) Mexican restaurant. She suggested that we eat on the roof. I had assumed that she meant there would be tables and chairs up there. This shows you how wrong I can be.
I went from L.A. to England for a week. However, there was some problem with the plane's rudder and we were delayed for four hours. At that point, I wasn't sure that I wanted to get on the plane -- how did I know if they'd really fixed the rudder? When we finally landed, it was gray, overcast, and drizzling. The newspapers were commenting on how wonderful the weather was for this time of year.
I had the foresight to buy an adapter to convert the European 220-volt power supplies to the 110-volt that my laptop requires. I even switched to a global Internet Service Provider so that I'd always be making a local call when I picked up my e-mail. However, I failed to realize that the phone jacks in England are different from the ones we use in North America. It was four days before I could find the appropriate adapter and pick up my mail. As a friend commented, "I have seen the future, but I don't have the cables to get to it."
That was a minor problem, though. The real problem was that I was risking my life every time I crossed the street because I kept looking the wrong way.
And then there's the language. England and North America really are a people separated by a common language. I was trying to find the public washrooms and walked past three signs labeled "WC" before I realized that it stood for "water closet," the British term for bathroom.
However, I did have the opportunity to meet some Smart Access readers in England, and I discovered that they aren't much different from the readers here in North America. One subscriber had been reading Smart Access for four years and teaching it for almost that long. He told me that he recommended our newsletter to all of his classes as the best resource available.
Suddenly, I wasn't so cranky anymore.