Cain: The outlet maul: It’s about plugging in
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain On Businessfirstname.lastname@example.org March 29, 2013 11:42PM
A view of an outlet in the cafeteria in the campus center at Joliet Junior College Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Joliet. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 1, 2013 3:26PM
Everywhere I go these days, I’m hunting for electrical outlets.
My new affliction is so bad, I was scouring my mother’s hospital room recently to see where I could plug in to do some work. The only plugs available were behind her bed, and they looked too high-tech.
I was afraid to plug in and short out her oxygen. My mom is OK, but my need for juice is getting worse.
When I’m working, I try to find a place close to my assignment to plug in, but it’s not always easy.
Recently, I had time to kill while fishermen hired by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources were harvesting Asian carp out of a Will County lake. It was cold out, and I wanted to get started on my story. I found a nice diner nearby that had Wi-Fi, but I didn’t see any outlets around so I had to pray my batteries lasted.
My iPad doesn’t suck much juice, but my smartphone’s battery always seems to be draining before my eyes. I have a gizmo that plugs into a cigarette lighter in a car and allows you to plug a real plug into the other end, so that helps. I also am acquiring a collection of plugs with USB connections. I have more wires in my car these days than a space shuttle.
Last week, I stumbled onto outlet heaven. The new Joliet Junior College Campus Center building, which opened in the summer of 2011, has a plethora of plugs. They’re along the walls in the main hallway, known as Student Street, and also located in large concrete columns in the cafeteria.
The library has tons of outlets, too. Extra outlets were planned to accommodate a technology-heavy generation, said Jeffrey Sronkoski, principal architect for Chicago-based Legat Architects, which designed the building.
Sronkoski has been in the biz 35 years and he runs his company’s higher education practice, so he’s seen buildings go from a few outlets to hundreds of outlets.
“Wherever we had an opportunity to put more outlets, we certainly tried to do that,” he said. “Learning happens everywhere, not just in the classroom. It happens in the spaces in between as well.”
It’s nice to know I’m not the only one looking for nooks and crannies that offer juice.
Last week, I happened to mention my dilemma to Rodney Tonelli — president at Ruettiger, Tonelli and Associates — and John Greuling, president and chief executive of the Will County Center for Economic Development. They felt my pain because both travel a lot. Tonelli said he remembers a time when plugs were scarce in airports.
“You’d be standing in a hallway because you found an outlet,” he said.
But now there are kiosks where you can charge your devices, he said.
Greuling said every time he works out at his gym, he sees an electrical cord coming out of a locker that is plugged into a nearby wall outlet. Apparently, some fellow exercise enthusiast is beefing up his battery as he buffs up his body.
So I’m not alone in my fear of dead batteries. Sronkoski said he keeps hearing that wearable technology will be the next wave in power-hungry devices. So far, I haven’t been issued any Google glasses or hats. But I’m sure that’s next.