Saturday, May 01, 2010

Who/What/Where Am I Today?

I'm confused. Admittedly, the older I get, the more that seems to be happening. Doesn't take much... I stay up a little later than usual, I go to bed a little earlier than usual... in short, virtually anything can set it off. However, in this case I think I have a fairly legitimate excuse. That's because in a single week, I'm doing 5 different projects in different locations for 5 different clients.

Keeping the work straight is certainly part of it... heaven forbid I give the wrong budget to the wrong person. But the harder part is remembering the logistical idiosyncrasies of each different location that I visit. Every day is an adventure, requiring that I stop for a moment and make sure I'm not wearing ski boots to the beach.

It starts before I ever leave the house, as I figure out what to wear. Not from a fashionista standpoint: no one would ever accuse me of being trendy. Rather, while most places these days are business casual, not all are. For some, the basic uniform consists of pressed slacks and a shirt and tie, while others amp that up to the full monty and prefer a traditional business suit. Still others go the opposite direction, and the inhabitants therein regard anyone not in jeans with suspicion. Even within the same organization styles vary: while the gang in marketing is business casual, visit the executive floors and a suit is apropos, while a day working with the IT guys means anything but.

Transportation is the next great challenge. No motor memory here: once I pull out of the garage, I have to mentally review the route I'm taking to make sure I'm not heading to the place I went the day before. If it's by train, I get another hour or so to figure out my next move, which may be by foot, subway or a combination. If the location is one to which I can drive, I need to pay close attention, not so much from a safety issue, but in a realizing-I-took-the-wrong-exit-because-I-forgot-where-I-was-going issue.

Then there's security. In addition to my driver's license, I carry half a dozen different IDs. Some are flashed, some are swiped, some are scanned and some require matching fingerprints and bloodwork with a predetermined password derived from the maiden name of my mother's child pet. Or something like that.

Even once I get there, the challenges don't stop. Sooner or later it will be time for a pit stop. In firms that occupy the entire building, all I need do is remember where the facilities are located. But not all the places I spend time in are occupied by one company. Many are smaller firms, who have a piece of a floor in a building in the city. And that means security, not just at the front door, but at the rest room door.

In some cases, the entrance is secured by a combination lock. Of course, every sequence is different, forcing me to act like a second grading trying to remember my phone number. "Let's see, that was 2, 5, then 3 and 4 together, then 6, right?" More that once, as I started to make my way there, someone yells over, "Hey, was that 3 or 4 days we needed to allow for those 6 pieces of equipment to get there in time?" I respond on my way out the door, get to the rest room and punch in what I thought was the right combination, only to have to crawl back and ask for the keys to the kingdom again.

Thankfully, some places make it easier by having a communal key to gain access. However, since people have a tendency to pocket these and then forget to return them to the appropriate spot, more than one place has attached something to prevent this occurrence. It's often a token that not only won't fit into your pocket, but one that is thematic to the business at hand. Audio studios seem to favor CDs, communication firms like telephone receivers and editing facilities like old videotapes. However, some go for things that are merely tough to forget: I've used keys attached to a miniature Eiffel Tower, a Teddy Bear and even a plastic dinosaur.

It all means that by the time I'm done on Friday night, I'm ready for a rest. Maybe that's why I like being home: everything is in the same place day after day, I can walk around in the dark with the lights out and not trip over anything, and best of all, the bathrooms only have knobs.


Marc Wollin of Bedford can't remember the last time he was in the same place all week. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

No comments: