Sunday, November 4, 2007

traveling office

I’ve been meaning to write for awhile now about how much of an adventure it is (or how much of a pain, depending on your frustration level) it is to work in a traveling office. Our office is actually one heavy-duty black travel case that we cleverly call “the office”, that holds our router, printer, and a few power strips. It is usually set up in a quiet corner somewhere in our facility. We’ve worked in dressing rooms, orchestra pits, steampipe-trunk-distribution-venues, storage areas, classrooms, you name it. We’re lucky when we have enough tables and chairs… most of the time we sit with computers on our laps, often on couches, folding chairs, or the floor. We have meetings in theatre lobbies, coffee shops, street curbs—I even had one in a tree in San Diego! One of my other favorite locations was when our office was in a preschool classroom in Switzerland, and we all sat on little tiny chairs with our knees above the height of the tables made for 4-6 year olds!

Internet access is hit or miss— if we have the ability, we set up our own router for wireless, or if we’re really lucky, we’re near free wireless. However, if we are set up through a school or community center (which we often are) we are sometimes blocked from sites that the students can’t have access to, like email. And you wouldn’t believe how many things go wrong when 20 computers are logged on and we are all desperate for internet. It’s the main form of communication for up with people, because of all the international dialogue we need to have with upcoming cities and with the office in Denver. We use online calling through Skype, and send everything via email, so when we don’t have access for the majority of a city, it is really stressful on the whole team. You’ll often see both staff and students walking outside with their computers open, searching the neighborhoods for a wireless signal they can poach.

There’s another funny element that has plagued our office in Europe, and that is the theft of electric plug adapters! There are many fewer outlets in our European facilities, and not everyone has adapters to get our American plugs to fit in the sockets. So, you cannot leave your computer charging and let it out of your sight. You will come back and your laptop will have been unplugged, and someone will have stolen your adapter! Luckily, they usually show up, and of course, always with a really good reason to have been “borrowed.”

The environment also brings a whole new meaning to me of an “open office”. It is impossible to find a quiet space—your only alternative is using headphones, which I often put in without even putting music on, just so I am interrupted a little less frequently. But it is lively and spirited, and for the most part is the opposite of a desk job, which I love. It is well worth the adventures of a traveling office.

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