Saturday, August 29, 2009

One Thing They Haven't Changed Yet

It's never nighttime on the Starship Enterprise. They very rarely beam themselves onto a planet's surface to find it's the dead of night and everyone's sleeping. Come to think of it, who are the people on the other shifts, and why isn't the First Officer the one to man the ship when the Captain is sleeping? ...

2:35 am. Laptop boots but Skype still churning, nothing seems to be online. In that half-funk between sleep and psyching yourself into presentation mode, I hobble over to the router. No blinking lights. Pick up the phone. No phone line.

On the one hand, you can't really blame the ISP for choosing 2 am as a good time to do standard maintenance. On the other hand, I'm supposed to be speaking to Tokyo, Sydney and Mumbai at 3 am.

Fast forward 20 minutes, an all-night coffee shop, after ordering some decaf to pay my rent, hooked in with my laptop, earphones and mic.

"We're getting a little background noise," says our host in the US.

"I'm having a few technical difficulties, sorry I can't do much about that," I answer. I've asked the waitresses to turn down the background music, but there's not much I can do about the coffee grinder and putting up the chairs to mop the floors.

While I narrate, my colleague shows the demo from his laptop, in his home, 30 kilometers from my coffee shop. The host in the States and some unknown people in the Far East ask questions, and 40 minutes later we're through. It went well.

Looking 2 tables over, I wonder about the lone geek with his laptop. What's his excuse at 4 am? I go home.

The host has thanked us several times for being flexible for the international sales meetings. We tell her this is infinitely better than having to fly to other time zones.

Truthfully, there really is very little in life that beats international web or video conferences for just general coolness. There's something about having 20 people from 12 countries in a virtual room together, speaking to one another and asking questions. You'd think by now the cool would have worn out, but no matter how many times I do these calls, it just cools me out all over again...

On Starship Enterprise, nobody seems to think it's even the least bit cool to talk to beings from different planets or to just beam yourself around.

When someone teleports in, the host never says: "How is your spacelag? Gosh, what time IS it on your planet?". Of course, the answer would be something like "It's 37 minues past the hour, " because on any given planet, it's every hour, but it's the same minute, everywhere, except in those weirdo time zones that are half-hours. Or where they don't have minutes.

Nobody wears a watch in space, because there's no time of day. Indeed, there's no standard length of day. You have to start wondering what kinds of work shifts they have to work out, with all kinds of different beings whose bodies are adapted to different sleep patterns. I'd be really surpised if any other planet came up with a standard of 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day...

Anyway, even if I can't time-shift, I can sleep-shift, and I can location-shift. Thank goodness for all-night coffee shops.

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