Technology, Travel, and Gift Certificates!

A couple of weeks ago, I went out to lunch with a friend of mine. He works in the technology industry, so as we ate, he told me about some of the new paraphernalia that was going to hit the open market in the next few months. It was awesome to hear about some of the items that I will be able to use in the not-so-distant future but for me, these conversations have become commonplace. And for that reason alone, I sometimes forget that living in the Boston area means that I am living on the cutting edge of technology. I get to learn about and utilize new items, gizmos, gadgets, and promotions before they ever find their way into regular use throughout the rest of the country.

I started to tell my friend about a trip Stephanie and I took back in September of 2005. Stephanie and I decided to forego the typical anniversary presents that we normally bought for each other and we decided to take the family to the Adirondack Balloon Festival in upstate New York.

We had gone to the Adirondack Balloon Festival many years ago when Stephanie was a student at Skidmore College. We had talked about going to Albuquerque, NM for the annual Balloon Fiesta they have every October, but we have never been able to afford the trip. Stephanie had been pining over a return trip to the balloon festival in upstate New York for years and I had wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of Boston. So for our ninth anniversary, we decided to head up to Lake George for the Adirondack Balloon Festival.

We made great time because the children slept the entire way from Boston to Lake George. If I had to sum up our weekend get-away to Lake George in one word, I would say it was amazing. Stephanie and I needed to get away from the house, the telephone, our daily commitments and every other intrusion into our lives and just relax.

Being on vacation was a change of pace; the food was fantastic and the scenery was breathtaking. It was the kind of trip that allowed us to the regroup and reconnect with one another. When the children were finally asleep, it was quite nice to actually sit down, hold my wife’s hand and catch up with one another because we knew the phone wasn’t going to ring and there weren’t any household chores to do. The trip was too brief but every once in a while, even a short break from our every day lives can make a world of difference.

Like all good things, though, our weekend had come to an end. We woke up on Sunday morning, packed the car, and headed to a local restaurant in Saratoga Springs for breakfast. We fed the kids, made numerous bathroom breaks so there wouldn’t be any “emergencies” in the car on the way home and we timed it perfectly; we fed Chloe a bottle just before we left. Sadly, our weekend get-away was finally over and it was time to head back to our extremely busy lives in Boston.

Just before we got back on the highway to head home, I saw the last bastion of hope for people who were about to travel a long distance after a weekend of very little sleep; Dunkin’ Donuts! I pulled into the drive thru and ordered two very large iced coffees for Stephanie and myself. As we slowly pulled towards the window in the drive thru lane, I rustled through my pockets and pulled out my Dunkin’ Donuts debit/gift card.

I pulled up to the window and I took the coffees from the staff member at Dunkin’ Donuts. I passed the coffees to Stephanie as I handed my debit/gift card to the polite and friendly Dunkin’ Donuts staff member; not only had she given me my beverages but she also had given me a complimentary copy of the Saratoga Sunday paper.

“Ah, sir, what is this?!” she asked as she looked strangely at the card I had just handed her. “We take coupons and gift certificates, not credit cards.”

“It is a gift certificate. It’s a Dunkin’ Donuts gift certificate,” I said as I pointed to the little plastic card with the big words ‘Dunkin’ and ‘Donuts’ printed on it. It wasn’t a paper gift certificate; it was a debit/gift card which meant it was better!

“Sir, I don’t know what this thing is but we can’t accept it, we don’t take credit cards” she said as she handed my Dunkin’ Donuts debit/gift card back to me. “Do you have anything else you could use?”

“Yes I do but for future reference, this is what gift certificates will look like in the future,” I told her as I took back the debit/gift card and handed her some cash. She took the cash and made change. As she handed the change back to me, I leaned out of my window and said to her, “And pay attention to my car as I get ready to take off because where we’re going, we don’t need roads!”

It was a little rude to make a wise-crack to the drive thru window attendant, but I could still see that she was hanging out of the drive thru window waiting for our car to start flying as we drove up the road towards the highway. I could’ve sworn that Back to the Future would have made it to the local movie theaters in Saratoga Springs by now but it was well worth the image in my rear view mirror as I saw just waiting for our car to start flying.

Anyway, that trip and specifically that sequence of events reminded me of how spoiled I was to live near Boston. The fact that I could have a little plastic debit/gift card for my coffee purchases in my wallet instead of those long, often lost, often destroyed, paper gift certificates was all I needed to realize that our community had truly entered the twenty-first century. Even when it came to the little things like the purchase of my coffee, Boston was on the cutting edge of technology.

As I finished telling the story to my friend, we both had a good laugh at the memory. But as I reached for my credit card so I could pay for our lunch, I wondered about that group of employees at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Saratoga Springs; what did they think when they finally got the Dunkin’ Donuts debit/gift card in their neck of the woods?

I coyly smiled to myself, settled the tab and walked out of the restaurant with my friend. As I got ready to head back to my office, I turned and asked my friend, “I know this is going to sound dumb, but what will gift certificates look like in the future?”

“I’ll let you know in about six months!” he said as he smirked at me and winked.

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