I frequently visit one online group. It sends some thought-provoking prompts to reflect on past experiences and random ideas.
Here are some examples.
Which bad commercial that you saw that has stayed with you?
What does a ‘perfect day’ mean to you?
This week’s prompt was about the act of kindness shown to you, that you’ll never forget.
Before COVID-19, I was traveling for my job. In July-August 2019, my assignment was in Moline, IL. It’s a small town on Illinois - Iowa border. This was my very first visit to the city. Due to an inclement weather-induced delay, I landed at Moline airport around 12.50 AM on Monday. I couldn’t find an Uber or a taxi to go to the hotel. Apparently no one provides a ride at that time of the night. I didn’t have a rental car booking, and the rental car counters couldn’t provide me a car on the spot. My only other option was to wait at the airport for the next 5 hours and hope for the cab driver to show up. There was no food at that small airport. I was more worried about my important meeting in the morning. As a last attempt, I called the hotel - Element - to check on the possibility of helping me out. I was aware that they don’t provide an Airport shuttle. Fortunately, the front desk lady at the hotel was super helpful and drove at 1.30 AM in her own car to pick me up at the airport.
This random act of kindness from a stranger has left a lasting impression on me. It has also associated this experience with Mariott - the owners of the Element hotels. Whenever I book a hotel room, I search for availability at one of the Mariott’s hotels first.
Last month I signed up for Audible. I thought it would be great to listen to the audiobooks, instead of reading them. In the past, I had enjoyed a few audiobooks on my long road trips. I especially remember listening to George Carlin’s books. The idea of listening to books on the go, the ultimate portability, and convenience, and an opportunity to give rest to my eyes was very enticing. Audible was offering a 1-month free trial. I skimmed their huge catalog and signed up. The signup process was smooth - as you would expect from Amazon. I downloaded The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre and started listening to it. While the book was great, one of the best thrillers I enjoyed, my experience with Audible was suboptimal.
Challenges with Audiobooks:
Audiobooks feel strange: When reading a physical or ebook, I feel like driving in daylight, with clear visibility. I can look in the rearview mirrors or outside the windows. I can notice another car approaching the intersection. If someone is overtaking I can adjust my driving. With audiobooks, I feel like someone else is driving even though I am in the driver’s seat. We are traveling in the dark with only front lights. I can’t look sideways or behind, as its all dark
Audiobooks aren’t as convenient as I would like them to be: Audiobooks need a lot of concentration. It’s very easy to get distracted, tune out and miss the important part. Once you lose focus, it becomes very difficult to get back on track.
Audiobooks don’t give the satisfaction of reading: Almost always the narrator is different. His performance is very clean and robotic. There is a constant feeling that it’s not me who is reading this book.
Issues with Audible
Audible’s subscription: When I signed up for Audiobook’s trial, I thought it was like a Netflix model. I was hoping to get access to a large library of content for a low monthly price. I misunderstood. With Audible I get 1 credit to buy a book of my choice every month. Credits expire and there is pressure to buy the book to use those credits. I can buy most of the books I want, whenever I want, without an Audible subscription and still save some money.
Problems with the Audible app - Audible books have DRM, so I can’t listen in the app I like. I have to use the Audible app, which is okay for the most part. But my phone’s aggressive battery management policy kills the app if I pause the book. This is super inconvenient. To begin listening again, I have to restart the app.
Better and cheaper options available - I can borrow audiobooks for free from my local library. Their catalog is not as big as Audible’s but only 2 books I wanted to read were unavailable in my library.
I don’t think I will continue my Audible subscription for now.
This week I got my new pair of glasses. I use photochromic lenses to help protect my eyes from the bright sunlight. These lenses turn dark when exposed to sunlight or high temperature. With this pair, my optician gave me a ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ card from this company called ‘Transitions’. Transitions provide the photochromic feature in the lenses. I wasn’t aware of them. Anyway, this certificate requested that I should register my purchase. I can’t figure out why I should do this, and what’s the downside of not registering. This also got me confused on many fronts. My last 4 pairs purchased from the same optician had photochromic lenses. Yet, I never got a certificate of authenticity. Does it mean those were inauthentic photochromic lenses? What would happen if I continue wearing them? Is this a new program to certify authentic lenses? Is there a spread of inauthentic lenses that the company is trying to contain?
Whatever it might be. I am curious to understand how did this ‘Certificate of Authenticity’ program launch? What’s the strategy? What could be the end goal? Is it to increase brand awareness? That is one possibility. Even though my last 4 pairs had photochromic lenses, I never asked for a specific brand. Now I know about a product, which guarantees the authenticity of photochromic lenses. The next time I am ready for new glasses, should I insist on this specific brand? It is authentic. I know now! Or is it a desperate attempt to capture my contact information? So they can send me targeted advertisements? I looked at the registration page. It asked for my name, address, email, date of birth, gender(!), and other information. At least they didn’t ask for my phone number! (Do they already have it?)
Another interesting question is, how does it relate to Crizal - my go-to lens brand? My lense says it’s from Crizal! Then why do I have this certificate from Transitions? My cursory check on the internet shows that these are two different companies. Does Crizal provide the physical lens? And Transitions provide some sort of mechanism (sticker or a chemical?) to turn the lense dark when exposed to sunlight? Or is it the other way round where Transitions provide the color-changing physical lense, and Crizal provides an anti-reflective, anti-scratch coating on it?
This innocent little card has raised a lot of questions in my mind.