As the wireless discussion breaks up, I ponder what to do next. I never did get a ticket to Annie Get Your Gun, and it's a little late to just drop by. I consider seeing a movie and tap on Moviefone on my Palm. Quills is playing at 8:45 across town at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. I might have time if I rush, but I want to make sure tickets are available. I try to buy a ticket online at Moviefone.com but am foiled once again: "Due to technical difficulties, we are unable to process your request at this time." I call my editor to complain. He suggests that my blood sugar is probably low (I haven't eaten dinner), and I should order a pizza on the Palm. I don't think it's possible. Instead, I flag down a cab and start checking my Palm version of Zagat's for restaurants near my hotel. A restaurant called Felix is just down the street. Despite complaints of "actress-model waitresses" in the review, I decide to try it out.
Zagat's was right. Our waiter at Felix was more interested in chatting with friends at the bar than in taking our order. A service rating of 15 out of 30 was generous.
Collapse in a heap. Dream about wireless devices.
Next day 7:45 a.m.
Wake up feeling guilty that I have failed to get anything for my husband, who has been holding down the fort. I try OmniSky but again fail to get a connection. Pull out my phone, tap on Amazon.com and look for Radiohead, Kid A, a new CD recommended by Caroline, my New York friend with whom I had had lunch yesterday. Gaining some dexterity on the tiny screen, I tap in my e-mail address and choose one-click shopping. Amazon tells me: "Entering an unsecure area." I forge ahead, press buy and wham, I have made my first wireless purchase. I feel unsure that the CD will ever arrive at my home, and I have visions of hackers capturing my credit card number and assuming my wireless identity. Still, I am strangely exhilarated. Would I do it again? Probably not. (Wrong. Two days later, I bought a book on Barnesandnoble.com's Sprint PCS site.)
The Soho Grand Hotel doesn't have wireless checkout; I head to the counter. As I wait for my receipt, I check the weather forecast back home on the Weather.com site on my Palm: Expected high 38 degrees Fahrenheit. I check the news headlines: We don't have a president yet. I have a ticket on Amtrak's new fast train, but unlike the major airlines, Amtrak doesn't have a wireless site to check schedules.
As the train leaves Penn Station, cell phones start ringing around me. A woman sitting across from me opens a laptop computer and says to her colleague: "I wish we could get e-mail when we're on the road."
Though frustrating, my wireless day in Manhattan gave me a clear view of the promise and problems of wireless communication. I enjoyed the comparison shopping, but technical problems kept me from effortlessly buying gifts on the run or snagging tickets to a Broadway show. I liked being in touch with the office, but did I really need to hear from my editor so often? Like many who have ventured to the Big Apple before me, I came with high hopes and I'm leaving jaded by the experience.
This story, "Wireless in Manhattan" was originally published by CIO.