50 Ways to Say Welcome

Growing up we always took our vacations in the family station wagon, traversing the country on America’s highways. You see so much that way, rolling over every mile. This was before iPods, DVD players, and some of our cars didn’t even have air conditioning. Today’s recreational ride is much different. My kids are so spoiled.

One of the constants that marks progress and transition are the Welcome signs you see when crossing state lines. I found this collection on slideshare.net today. I particularly like the Connecticut Welcomes You sign. Enjoy.

In a Taxi? You Just Might Be On Camera

San Francisco is on of my favorite cities. What’s not to like? It’s scenic, progressive, and has so many landmarks; Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, the Embarcadero, Alcatraz. While traveling to the airport from the downtown district by taxi the other day, I noticed something I haven’t seen before. The cab had a small camera positioned above the driver’s inside rear view mirror pointed at the back seat (circled in red below). A passenger notice was posted on the driver’s side rear window that read, “You are on camera.” The service was labeled FairView™. Also on the sign was a reference to Silent Witness®, a maker of video surveillance equipment (acquired by Honeywell in 2003).

My search on the City of San Francisco official web site did not yield any information about FairView™. I’m assuming the system was installed to monitor activities taking place in cabs in an attempt to reduce crime. The driver did mention anything about it, so if I hadn’t seen the sign and camera I wouldn’t have known.

While I personally don’t have an issue with this practice, some will feel this is yet another invasion of personal privacy. Leads to some questions. Are the images being stored? How long are they kept? How secure is the feed and storage? Who has access to the content? Is audio being recorded as well? Who pays for it?

If the system is effective in reducing crime or improving the safety record of cabs, we will probably be seeing a lot more of this?

Photos by Steve A. Furman


543 Parking Spaces Remaining

April is a heavy travel month. Three business trips plus a very much anticipated week long vacation; a delayed spring break. Today my travels have taken me to Columbus, Ohio, spending two nights in a Hilton Hotel near a new and brisk residence and shopping district (Easton).

While we were waiting for a dinner table I happen to glance out the window onto the shopping scape. The usual can be seen, Macy’s, Barnes and Noble, etc. As I continue to scan the horizon my eye rests on the corner street sign; something new. A stack of three signs mounted atop a pole. One is the standard parking symbol (a big red P), a second points the way to the Hilton valet. The third one, sandwiched in between the other two, has a digital readout embeded in it. Bright red numerals that display the number of spaces available in one of the parking decks. It changes real time, as cars enter and leave the structure.

Not only is this really clever it’s good business. First-timers to any shopping area will be looking at signs to help guide them, so the displays will be easily seen. By positioning them at the entrances and not on the parking structures themselves, customers will be able to gage where available spots are without driving around. Once you are familiar with the location of your favorite shops and restaruants, finding parking is a snap. It also works as a retention tool. Imagine it’s the busy holiday season or a random rainy Saturday afternoon. You just might choose the Easton shopping center over others because you know the parking experience will be better.

Of course it makes me wonder about the accuracy. How do they record entrances and exits to the deck? Is it by space or simply by counting vehicles that come and go? What happens when it’ s busy and the display shows only 1 space remaining? Are shoppers off to the races? Who will be the first to hack the system to ensure there is a place waiting for them on Black Friday?

Ultimate convergence will be achieved when this information can be pushed real time to your car’s GPS displaying the deck, level number and exact space available.

I gotta say that I didn’t expect to find something this forward thinking on my trip. Great job Columbus!

Super Tuesday, Good Experience

We’re so spoiled. Anyone who grew up a U.S. citizen and is reading this has always had the right to vote under the rules of our democratic process. No dictators ruling with an iron fist, no military coups forcing regime change. We get to have our say. But so many of us don’t choose to exercise this wonderful privilege. But I guess not voting is also making a choice, and I have to accept that.My oldest son (26) is keen on the voting process. He carefully reviews what the candidates are saying, and makes a thoughtful choice. He prints out the ballot from the county web site ahead of time so he is prepared when he enters the booth. This is serious business for him.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

My youngest son (3) had his first experience at the polls on this Super Tuesday. Of course he has yet to declare a party affiliation, for today he was only observing the process, and quite a smooth process it was. There are a variety of ballots and machines available for casting votes in this country. For many years I used the punch card process. Some areas of the country employ a touch screen. Standardization would be a good goal for the country some day. In my precinct, we use a very low tech paper and pen method. Although it was not fancy, it was quite orderly and very easy.We entered the polling place at about 8:30 am to find there was no line. Simply gave the official my name and address, signed for a ballot, and went behind a cardboard booth to vote. Every aspect of the process was clear and well signed. Granted the signs could use a little updating, but hey, this is not about the presentation, it’s about the content. Once again my iPhone camera comes in handy.


I took the black felt tip pen and filled in the oval next to the candidate’s name as instructed. Like my son I had taken a sneak peek at the ballot, so I knew what to expect. Once my selections were made I inserted the completed ballot into the privacy sleeve and fed it into the ballot counting machine that looks like a giant industrial paper shredder. My civic duty had been neatly dispatched.


Although it was over in short order–no more than 10 minutes from beginning to end–the elapsed time had no bearing how I felt. When alone with the ballot, I play out numerous scenarios in my mind. What if this person was in office and this happened? How would they react? Has the country really matured enough to elect a woman or an African American to the nation’s highest office? It’s a satisfying feeling to be sure. But not one of power or entitlement. Instead I feel a heightened sense of responsibility. The process has weight and importance and heritage.I am very proud my oldest son is actively participating, and committed to ensuring my youngest one will be exposed to the process every time the opportunity arises. No it’s not s perfect system, but name one that is. Nothing is sadder than sitting on the sideline outside of the deal flow when you could be right in the middle of it. If you voted, congratulations, and thank you. If you didn’t, it’s never too late. The big one comes in November.

Doing My Time at the DMV

Today was one of those days almost all of us face every three years; the visit to the DMV to renew your driver’s license. We so don’t want to participate in this process. But if you intend to be an active citizen, drive, get a job or travel on a commercial airline, this little ritual is pretty much part of your life.Now you have probably launched back into time and are reliving the greatest hits of these experiences in your own life. The day it looked like the process was an underwater tai chi class with seniors in slow motion. Or once when you arrived the line was out the door and down the sidewalk. Here in Illinois we had a licenses for bribes scandal a few years ago. Hundreds of people paid off the Secretary of State clerks to give them the licenses. There were some ugly consequences as a result.Although it took me almost 80 minutes to navigate the process there are some bright spots. First the place was extremely well signed in both English and Spanish (excellent job). You knew exactly where to go for what, road test, written test, renewal, etc. The system was pretty well organized. A clerk determines what you are there for and presses one of seven buttons on a machine. Out pops a small paper receipt that details the date, service you need, and a big bold number. Mine was B266. So far so good. But then you wait in the sea of plastic chairs, surrounded posters promoting becoming an organ donor, fighting road rage, using car seats for kids and on yes, a friendly reminder that there is a stiff penalty for trying to bribe the clerk. Here is the display used to indicate what number is being serviced at what counter.


In addition, to the read out, a friendly voice calls it out. Quite efficient. Of course there are not enough people at the counters, and they move very deliberately, never in a hurry. But their motions are compact and efficient. Nothing is wasted, but nothing is urgent either. The main reason it took so long was due to volume. So hats off to the process, but I still wouldn’t want to do it more than once every three years.


You Must Exit Within 10 Minutes

I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t there more important things to do? Well, this is important. I was at a parking garage on Michigan Ave in Chicago yesterday. You know, those concrete structures requiring you to circle endlessly, pass dozens of huge, obnoxious vehicles taking up two spots, and finally you reach level 10 and park. One time when I was circling I had left my sunglasses on the dashboard and they slide right off and out the window where they were immediately run over by the car behind me.

Nearly all of these garages have spent a lot of time trying to eliminate employees. First they came up with themes to help you remember what floor you parked on so they didn’t have to have someone available to drive you from level to level. I’ve seen sports teams, colors, authors, plays, Presidents, just about anything is fair game. The other thing they have converted to is the pay on foot model. You take your ticket with you, conduct your business, museum visit, or shopping, and when returning to the garage you pay before entering the elevator to retrieve your car. It does speed up the exit but it can lead to other issues. Lines at the machine, broken software and in this case some mixed signals. So there I am putting my ticket in the machine and paying the $22 for a couple of hours (ouch) and I notice two signs. One at the top of the machine that reads, “Once you pay, you must exit within 10 minutes.” But at the bottom of the same machine is a sign that says, “Once you pay, you must exit within 15 minutes.”

Seems like it would have been an easy thing to catch when installing the equipment. After all, I saw it and wasn’t even looking. I wondered what would happen if I had waited past the 15 minutes. Would the arm not open? Would I have been directed back to the machine to pay again. Would I be sent to parking jail? Eliminating people from the process sometimes is a fine idea, but make sure the customer experience is thought all the way through. Directions and signs must be created assuming no one knows what to do.