Just don't take my Blackberry away

Rudy Maxa

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

SCOTT JAGOW: This summer, the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago launched a new service for guests. You might call it detox for people who are addicted to constant e-mailing. The hotel will lock away your Blackberry so you won't be tempted to use it. Travel commentator Rudy Maxa knows all too well the love-hate affair between road warriors and electronic gear.


RUDY MAXA: I write a lot, so I travel with a laptop. I carry a digital camera and a noise-canceling headset. And a Skype phone that lets me make nearly free calls anywhere in the world I can grab a high-speed connection. And I even broke down recently and bought a Blackberry.

So that's five items, each of which requires a unique charger and, when overseas, a handful of adaptors to fit electric outlets.

But I've learned I'm just an amateur.

I sometimes write for a magazine called Best Life. Someone there mistakenly told a Web site that I was in charge of choosing items for the magazine's December gifts guide. So, lately I've been inundated every day by phone, fax and UPS with suggestions for the latest electronic products a traveler can't live without.

Things like 3M privacy filters that screen your PC from prying seatmates, MP3 players, a bewildering array of portable iPod speakers, portable document scanners and printers, hand-held GPS units, electronic translation and currency converter devices.

Give up yet?

Now, do we really need all those gizmos? Sadly, plenty of road warriors do need several of them. What I think is this: Someone could make a killing inventing a really big jacket with about 15 pockets that can hold every hand-sized electronic devices plus their chargers.

In my new, unasked-for-role as Best Life's Christmas gifts editor, I did come across one neat perk that won't take up any additional space in my carry-on bag.

It's a mostly free Web site called askmenow.com that sends answers to just about any question to your Internet-enabled cell phone or PDA. That's handy for travelers who want to know weather, flight information, directions, stock prices, or even movie times.

As for me and that Blackberry that's now permanently secured to my hip, I've made a vow never to do e-mail at the dinner table. But I know that if I don't set some boundaries, there's a hotel in Chicago willing to practice tough love by locking up my Blackberry upon check in.

SCOTT JAGOW: Rudy Maxa is Marketplace's travel expert in residence. In Los Angeles, I'm Scott Jagow. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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