No way you can reserve for that many in a state park. — J.H.
“Hey, Jennifer,” I say to the mom of Nick’s friend Jay, “I’m putting together a team to make reservations for the camp out. Want in on it?”
“What do I need to do?”
“Um, you have to practice how to use this website. Then you have to be ready at 8:00 am sharp on November 1st. It’ll take maybe 45 minutes.”
“Fun!” she says. “I’m in!”
So are 18 other parents, 20 of us in all. Twenty is the number needed at the starting line of the site rush. Needed, I have determined, to give us a ghost of a chance to get our Memorial Day Weekend campsites.
Memorial Day Weekend.
The weekend everyone in the state goes camping.
Over the past few days I have been haunted by What indeed.
Remember the wrong sign-up date on the flyer? Piece of cake. In the school office, Sarah has taken pity on me and sent out a second email announcement with the correction.
But the Reserve America website, which will make our sites available to all comers at the stroke of 8:00 am on November 1st? Not a piece of cake. Not at all.
It comes down to electrons. Electrons and key strokes. That’s the essence of a site rush, where we will be competing with hundreds of other potential campers for our sites, all of them sitting at their computers at the appointed hour with hungry eyes, fingers poised.
When not recruiting my team, I am daily on the phone with Reserve America customer service.
“How long will I have to get all my sites when they become available on November 1st?”
“For Memorial Weekend? Under a minute, sir. Maybe thirty seconds. Maybe ten.”
“Can you tell me the fastest way to reserve a site?”
Of course they can tell me. Each agent has a different method. Some say it takes three keystrokes. Some two. Some one. Nobody, it seems, knows exactly how the website will behave at the crucial hour.
“Sir, you can email our technical staff to ask. They’re very good at responding.”
I fire off an email with my question. No answer. I fire off another. No answer. I fire off another.
So it goes.
I ask Don and James, the Fern Hill dads who are practiced at getting those websites.
“I don’t exactly remember,” says James.
“I should have written it down,” says Don.
“Anyway,” says James,” “Their website is always changing.”
THE PEOPLE AT THE TOP
I begin practicing on the website, making up dates, running scenarios, devising strategies. I learn a three keystroke method which I know will work. Three keystrokes, three seconds. Too long. I learn a one keystroke method. But will it work? Or will it, as one agent tells me, cause the website to hiccough and log me out of my account?
Somewhere, someone has got to know. The site programmers, I hear, are in New York. Or Minnesota. Or China.
If the people at the bottom don’t know, the people at the top must. I discover that Reserve America is owned by a company called Active Network, headquarters in San Diego. I scour the web for their corporate directory. A name sticks its tongue out at me: Darko Dejanovic, Chief of Technology. It’s worth a shot.
I call the company and get voice mail.
“If you don’t know your party’s extension, please enter their full name.”
I spell out D-A-R-K-O. Voice mail spits back an extension.
I have the number.
Dear God, I have Darko Dejanovic’s phone number.
I get his secretary. I decide to come clean.
“I’m only a dad,” I say. “I have no experience. I’m going to have 150 campers and no sites. We just want a fair shot.”
The secretary is sympathetic.
“I’ll tell Darko,” she says.
Darko doesn’t call back.
BUT WHAT I’D REALLY LIKE TO DO
Somewhere in the middle of this I realize my team needs practice and I haven’t told them yet what they’re supposed to do. I haven’t told them because I still don’t know.
What I need is everyone in one room. I need a Power Point with a computer hookup. With time for questions.
No problem, pal. And I’m the Prince of Wales.
The answer comes. Video! I have screen capture—I can record anything and post it on You Tube! Will they all think I’m crazy? No matter. I set to work. I have to tell them everything I know.
I make not one video, but three. Each is ten minutes long. Surely everyone has half an hour to spare? These are the titles:
Fern Hill Reservations: Overview
Fern Hill Reservations: Reserve America Mechanics
Fern Hill Reservations: Team Communication
I post the videos, password protected. I email links to the team. I give up sleeping.
One night Nora has had enough.
“Come to bed. Now.”
I follow her upstairs.
I dream of the one-click method. Will it work? Or must it be three clicks? The speed of light is finite, so there must be a time lag. Perhaps we should start our keystrokes not at 8:00 am, but at one-half second before 8:00 am. How long does it take an electron particle to get through the cloud? Is it a problem of quantum entanglement, where a particle has two natures, and may teleport itself?
Two different browsers. That’s it! Each team member must have two browsers logged separately into the site. Two identities! One for the one-click method, the other for three-clicks.
I force myself to wake up. I scribble a note in the dark.
It says: Make a 4th video.
Camp director continues next time with Sign-up.
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:
Speaking of taking on the impossible. Some of you know Big Little Wolf, a blogging friend and frequent commenter here. A couple of weeks ago, she got it into her head to help raise a cool quarter of a million for a renal transplant for Ashley Quiñones, sister of Kelly Miller of The Miller Mix. These women do not quit. You can read all about it on BLW’s magnificent blog, Daily Plate of Crazy. There’s a link to donate at the end of the post.
Quantum Entanglement — A five minute film on how particles can teleport. This is what happens when you dream of electrons.
Art Passions — The painting above (A Fairy Roundel from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) by Arthur Rackham is taken from this lovely website, which warehouses and merchandises public domain art from some of my favorite artists.
It’s beyond chill pills. Any help appreciated. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)
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