Rob Shoesmith, a 27-year-old binman from Whitley, Coventry adventures continue with the latest installment from his busy diary. Rob gained fame last year, releasing an iPhone application in Problem Halved, with the aid of MEDL Mobile, a company that builds iPhone applications and encourages development with an App Incubator scheme, while still ensuring the local bins got emptied. His story featured on local and national news, in newspapers, radio, online and The Gadget Show.
Over Christmas, Rob sent Macworld an update on his recent progress as he continues to work as a binman while promoting his own application and planning others, including an ambitious trip to the US.
"If someone had told me in January I’d be visiting the city of Los Angeles I wouldn’t have believed them. This was going to be some trip! To have my Iphone app idea Problem Halved in the Apple iTunes App Store was a surprise in itself.
The approach to Los Angeles was very foggy. I couldn’t see too much as we descended into Los Angeles airport. The flight wasn’t too bad, but I was very glad to stretch my feet after being on the plane for nearly 12 hours. I got through immigration without too many problems, but like usual my bags were the last to come out.
After about 20 minutes or so my suitcase arrived and I made for the exits. The thing that hit me the most when I stepped outside was how busy the traffic was. It seemed like London rush hour traffic.
I was craving my first cigarette in about 14 hours and to my disbelief I had mislaid my lighter. I asked a guy who was smoking a cigarette for a light.
I chatted to him for a couple of minutes and he soon asked me if I was English. He wanted to know if I liked The Beatles, which I replied yes too. We talked a little about the current recession in both the UK and USA. We both departed and he wished me a nice vacation in Los Angeles.
From outside the airport I picked up the shuttle bus that would take me to Huntington beach where Dave Swartz and his family live.
I met a couple of interesting characters on the mini bus, first a business lady from the LA area and secondly a guy who developed indestructible electronics. Both were keen to talk about what I had planned for my trip.
When I mentioned iPhone applications, both were interested to know more. I told them my personal story of working as a bin man and how I become involved with MEDL mobile.
The business lady passed me her business card and mentioned she worked in the recycling industry and was perhaps looking to build an iphone app. An hour passed before arriving at Huntington Beach. I got out of the taxi and was soon greeted by one of MEDL's founders Dave Swartz.
Rob Shoesmith in LA.
It was great to see him. It was cool to put a face to a voice and all the emails we had exchanged over the last 6 months or so. Dave invited me into his home and I was really impressed on how homely his house felt. I was then introduced to his wife Kim who was very welcoming.
Home comforts from the UK
I then gave them my gifts, which they liked. Dave had spent some time in London as a student and was particularly fond of Cadbury flakes so I’d made sure I packed him 6 bars to enjoy. Both Dave and his wife Kim also really enjoyed the Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts I’d packed too.
We chatted for about an hour, which was nice, before having a stroll with their dog Lucy around the block before finally hitting the bed.
I was seriously jet-lagged by this point and couldn’t work out the time it felt like. Dave showed me the bed that I’d be sleeping in which looked like heaven after my 12 hour flight!
Because my body clock was out of sync I found it hard to go to sleep initially. I think I slept for about 6 hours before waking up at about 5.30 am local time.
I didn’t want to disturb them sleeping so crept downstairs quietly trying not to wake them. I watched a bit of ESPN which was screening live Premiership football. Normally games kick off at 12 or 3pm so watching some live football at 5.30 am was kind of strange.
I was soon greeted by Dave’s children. Both were very keen to show me their plates which they had decorated for the Jewish festival Hanukkah. Whilst on the plane I had purchased them a remote control plane which Dave’s son was keen to set up and loved.
Dave’s son, who is five, then showed me his collection of Thomas the Tank Engine trains, which took me back about 20 years to my childhood days, which was awesome. We played a little while with his train set which was good fun. Dave’s daughter was keen to show me all her toys, which was cool, and her bunny rabbit. Both their kids were really nice and had impeccable manners, which were refreshing to see.
Weather with You
The weather was looking terrible outside but we all decided to head out so I could see some of Huntington Beach. I was looking forward to visiting Ruby’s diner, a traditional 1940’s American diner. After a windy and wet walk up the pier with an umbrella in my hand - yes an umbrella in sunny LA - we arrived at Ruby’s.
I opted for the American burger with fries and a large toffee fudge milkshake. What surprised me was the fact that you got refill fries. The burger tasted irresistible! In fact I would go as far as saying it was one of the best burgers that had ever wet my lips. Dave and Kim were very kind and brought my girlfriend Sarah a Ruby’s t-shirt. That was totally unexpected and very nice of them.
Home from home in LA.
After lunch we had a walk around the shops in Huntington Beach. It’s a typical Orange Country seaside town with a gorgeous beach with volleyball nets and an abundance of palm trees.
The shops were good too. If I’d had more spending money I would have spent an absolute fortune, as there were some seriously cool clothing shops.
In the end I picked up some baby clothes and popped into the Harley Davidson shop to pick up a gift for my Harley mad friend who I work with. I wasn’t sure what to buy her and settled on a couple of shot glasses with the Harley logo on it.
In the evening we headed towards LA for the big MEDL mobile and Dayna Decker Christmas party. All I can say is what a house!
We arrived at about 8pm, which incidentally felt like 4am to my body clock. There was a full valet car parking service. I felt like royalty! We went in and grabbed a drink before being introduced to Andrew Maltin who is the other co founder of MEDL mobile and the host of the party. It was nice to see Andrew who had believed in my ideas and gave me employment with MEDL mobile. I gave him a nice bottle of Scottish whiskey and some English sweets.
From there I had a look round his house. It was huge and very nicely furnished. My girlfriend Sarah would have loved it! My favourite room was the home cinema room, which was equipped with a gigantic screen that must have been in excess of 120 inches and had probably at least a dozen leather reclining seats.
From there I was introduced to a guy called Andrew who has just started at MEDL mobile as a programmer. He was a nice lad and we spoke about MEDL and the differences between the USA and England a fair bit. Most of the evening I spent outside as it had a smoking area next to the pool with extremely comfortable sofas and patio heaters.
I got talking first to an American guy named Rob and a Ukrainian girl. I mentioned my brother had visited the Chernobyl site and we had a very interesting conversation. Rob had done a lot of work with Andrew Maltin and we talked about his time in London and the cultural differences. What I found funny was that people gave him funny looks whilst wearing Burberry clothing. I explained to him that the reason for this was that English football hooligans wear this apparel to identify themselves to other football firms.
After about an hour or so Shannon from MEDL mobile introduced herself to me. We had chatted a little on Skype and have exchanged a fair few emails and it was nice to see her in person. She was very friendly and we had a good chat about all sorts of things.
Another guy who had worked for MEDL a short time ago was Jason Reis and it was great to talk to him too. We spoke about the USA and England and discussed my iPhone app Problem Halved 2 and about possible new functionality.
I had a moment to reflect on how much of a crazy year it has been. To be in Los Angeles sat in this mansion was incredible. I come from a pretty normal working class background so this experience was very new to me. What I found fascinating was the great mix of nationalities at the party. The party ended at about 2 am and I returned back home with Dave and Kim to Huntington Beach.
I awoke at about 7am on Sunday morning and a had a fun game of hide and seek with Dave’s kids. I pretended not to be able to see them as I walked past them which was greeted by a series of laughter and giggles. The kids were awesome and had lovely little personalities. I gave them a pound coin each to put in their money boxes which they both loved and thanked me for.
We had a whole day free so we decided to go out and about and look round Orange County. We traveled to Newport Beach further down the coast, which was gorgeous. The biggest difference I noticed was a lack of litter on the streets and how everything looked so perfect with immaculate gardens.
We then stopped at a Mexican restaurant. What I found funny was that there was a full car valeting parking service in operation. We got out of the car right outside the restaurant, with them opening the doors of the car for us all to get out of. I felt like a celebrity arriving at a movie premiere.
This is totally alien to me as this just doesn’t happen in England. We went and sat outside. It was a really swanky restaurant with views of the ocean with palm trees. The waiter brought out a huge bowl of tortillas with a salsa and extremely tasty guacamole dip. This in itself seemed like a big meal to me. I ordered a chicken enchilada with rice and fried beans. The beans tasted incredible. It was like the consistency of mashed potato with cheeses melted on the top.
Laguna Beach and the Hills
Whilst doing some research into LA before my trip I noticed everyone wore sunglasses. I now knew why. The weather was brilliant and ever so sunny by this time so could have done with some sunglasses.
From there we headed towards Laguna Beach. Me and my girlfriend Sarah are keen viewers of Laguna Beach and the Hills so I was excited to go and see it.
This was a seriously expensive looking place. The houses looked marvellous and some of the cars were incredible. You could just tell there was serious money in this place by the array of cars whizzing past, including Aston Martins and two of my favourite cars, the Corvette and Mustang.
In 2009, Rob Shoesmith met Jason Bradbury from fives popular The Gadget Show.
Laguna had some fantastic shops. I soon noticed an American candy shop, which I had to go into. It sold a variety of pick and mix American sweets as well as English imported chocolate. You will never guess how much they were charging for a Cadbury Curly Whirly. For those who are based in the USA they cost us about 25 pence. Well they were charging $1.99. They must have been making a killing!
From there we could see and hear people dancing to music on the sea front. My first impression was that it was Mexican music. Dave informed me it was Jewish dancing as it was Hanukkah celebrations at this time of year.
It was a great weather for me. It was around 17 c. I found it funny that Dave and Kim found it cold and the kids were wearing coats. It was like a very warm midsummer to autumn’s day to me.
On the way back to the car I noticed an ice cream shop which I couldn’t resist going into. There were dozens of different flavours. Sarah my girlfriend would have loved it! The strawberry flavour caught my eye. I ordered a large one immediately and was asked by the girl ‘Don’t you want a tester pot first?’ This doesn’t happen in England, you just get what you pay for and that’s it.
More familiar ground, back on the bin round.
If I’d have known I would have had a sample of everything! The ice cream they gave me was huge. I was expecting a Cornetto sized cone. It must have been 3 to 4 times bigger! It fed all 5 of us. We then headed back home to Dave’s. All of us were tired after the party the night before and all the food we had all consumed.
Hanukkah in Huntington Beach
As part of the Hanukkah celebrations gifts are exchanged every night for 8 days. Dave and Kim had purchased me a nice Huntington Beach t-shirt which was very nice of them and had got the kids a Nintendo Wii computer game each.
I was looking forward to playing them on the big 120 inch projector screen Dave had in his house. It was quality! I so want one of those, but don’t think our house is big enough to fit one! I think Dave, Kim and Devyn were really tired as they fell asleep, so Ethan and I played some racing games.
The evening soon came and they ordered some pizzas for dinner. They were large ones but about 3 times the size of an English large pizza you would order from Dominos.
On Monday, my last day of the holiday, Dave took me to Fashion Island, a mall not too far from where he lived. He had a meeting there so it gave me some time to explore some of the shops .The mall was beautiful, with palm trees and a giant Christmas tree and carousel. It was a stunning mall to visit and so clean. The shops there were amazing and if it hadn’t been so close to Christmas I could have spent hundreds.
As a lover of food I had to try a hotdog and some pretzels, which are obviously traditional American food. They tasted great. I purchased some nice gifts for people back home for Christmas, which was fun. I had another half an hour to kill so went and sat on a bench and listened to some Christmas songs. It seemed strange listening to this with palm trees in the background and glorious sunny weather.
Dave then took me to the MEDL mobile office, which was cool. I saw Scott Sagan who couldn’t make the party. The table tennis table was set up and I was preparing myself for a battle with Dave but unfortunately the meeting room next door was being used so we were unable to play.
Was this a coincidence or did Dave bottle it? Did he deliberately book out the meeting room to avoid the English ping pong master? I can’t wait to return and get this game on!
Just before I’d left the office we took some pictures which was cool, but soon noticed that my iPhone was missing from my pocket. I must have dropped it in the Mall.
I searched franticly down the sofa at the MEDL shop and in Dave’s car to no avail. This had put a bit of a dampener on my last day in LA as I knew my girlfriend wouldn’t be happy to say the least.
We returned home and had a look round for my iPhone but it wasn’t there. We only had 10 minutes before the taxi was due to arrive so I thanked Dave and Kim for their super hospitality and gave the kids a hug and a few dollars to put in their money boxes.
I had an interesting experience on the way back to the airport. I got talking to a girl called Sandy from Cincinnati, Ohio who had been visiting LA. We talked about our experiences in LA and about the USA and England.
She was fun to talk to and to my surprise she offered me a place to stay in Concerti and gave me her card.
At about 9pm I took off from the airport back home but wasn’t looking forward to the gruelling 11 hour long flight. I had dinner just after takeoff and then shut my eyes and was out for the count for about 6 hours.
I arrived back in Heathrow and was greeted at the airport by my brother and sister in law, which was very nice. I couldn’t hack the train back to Coventry so stayed at their house for the night. It was so cold compared to the weather in Los Angeles!
To my amazement my brother asked me if I’d lost my iPhone. How did he know that? Well someone found it in the Mall and handed it into the concierge. The battery was flat so the lady took it to the Apple shop and charged it for five minutes. She then tried to ring home but the sim card was English and didn’t work.
She then saw I had Facebook installed so used Apple’s wireless network to connect to the internet and posted a message on Facebook. How lucky is that? In Coventry the phone would have been long gone!
All in all I had a fantastic time and without MEDL mobile this wouldn’t have been possible. I know that MEDL mobile are planning another party at some point next year so I would encourage everyone to keep sending their ideas into the incubator and you never know you could be appearing on national television in your country and visit LA.
I will definitely be revisiting the US at some point next year and I would just like to say a big thank you to everyone in the US who made me feel so welcome.