The original plan was for me to fly out of state to my boss’ headquarters and spend as much time as I needed learning the ins and outs of how his home-based department operated so that I can work in tandem with them in my remote location. One of the key items on the agenda was for me to show the team some of the things I was doing in Access to get more and better data.
About the same time our plant financial manager declared that the site he used to work at did not have the same difficulty with the shipping software that we were having, and someone should go see why. The shipping manager nominated me. My boss said that site was not far from his location so I could go ahead and include it in my trip.
It turned out that the Access expert of the main group would be on long-overdue vacation while I was in the area. I thought I could probably get what I needed from spending half a day in the factory the financial manager came from, a day with my boss’ team, and half a day in the central warehouse nearby. But my boss’ team leader, G.J., suggested I needed at least four days, so I left Tuesday morning.
The idea that the exemplary factory is “close” to the headquarters is indisputable when contemplating the interstate miles I had to fly in any case, but as it was over two hours of driving and travelling by air is only efficiently fast while actually in the air, it took me nearly the entire day of Tuesday to get to my first destination. Upon arriving I found my boss and several people I have worked with remotely all engaged in a project at the factory that I was conscripted into without preamble.
Since I was asked by my boss to stay involved for the entire day of Wednesday, the original plan of driving up to the management headquarters mid-Wednesday went out the window. So I began the trip of three hours or so at about 7 pm, having awoken at 5 am and not slept well the night before (due to general excitement; the hotel was blameless). I was making this trip utterly dependent on the navigational computer in the rental car and the address of the hotel printed on my itinerary. This navigational computer had not been able to properly locate the factory I went to first, but it got me within site of the place and I had a phone call on the way that gave me all the further help I needed.
Well, you have probably already guessed that my reliance on the navigator betrayed me. I pulled off an exit, drove past a cluster of hotels and shops, and continued on into abruptly empty countryside. I drove through an intersection that was marked off on one side, “Road Closed, Bridge Out.” And then, in the middle of nowhere, the navigator cheerfully announced, “You have arrived at your destination.”
That’s when I realized I forgot to bring a tent.
Now what shall I do? Everyone I might call is in bed. I could put an address into the navigator, but the only address anywhere in the reasonably near vicinity I had any interest in reaching was the hotel, and that hadn’t turned out too well.
I figured it was a quirk of the navigator and I had passed my hotel earlier, so I turned around and headed back. I thought I knew how to retrace my steps (although the navigator did not provide me with this option, at least as far as I know). But when I thought I needed to go straight through an intersection I saw the orange signs glowing at me saying “Bridge Out” and “Road Closed.”
Well, crap. I must have remembered wrong. I turned off the other way and drove on a bit, hoping I would suddenly realize my earlier mistake. But no. It looked worse and worse. I stopped again, panned the navigator around until I got an idea of where the highway was, and headed back. But the navigator showed only a small bit of map at a time and turned when I turned, making it hard for me to follow my own ad-hoc directions. Again, the orange signs, and no clear alternate route.
After wandering back and forth through the area a bit I finally realized that the signs I was seeing were slightly off to the side of where I need to proceed “straight” through the intersection. In other words, my initial sense of direction was okay, it was my night vision that was misleading.
I had discovered, when reviewing my itinerary, that the name of my hotel was not shown. It had an illegible logo and an address, but no name. This presented a great consternation because I had hoped the navigator would more accurately identify the hotel by its name than by its street address, but I could not even attempt it.
Finally I arrived at the hotel I had passed when getting off of the highway. I went in and said, “I am really not sure I am in the right hotel, but do you have a reservation for me?”
The answer was no. So I asked if they could help me figure out which hotel I did have a reservation for. Fortunately the attendant was willing to help–although actually the phone number was printed on my itinerary, though I had not noticed it in my urgency–and called, got directions, and sent me on my way.
Of course after the long day and disorienting experiences I was no longer sure I was following my new directions even when I was, but fortunately the hotel was clearly visible as I took the exit and when I went into this hotel and asked if there were reservations in my name the answer was yes. If there hadn’t been I might have asked for any vacancy anyway, to heck with the itinerary; I could not take much more wandering around in the night.
Normally I have been avoiding clear identifiers on this site, but for anyone who may be risking a similar commitment I will inform you that I was using the Hertz Neverlost on a Magellan navigator. I have heard of similar misdirections from a Garmin system as well. So my advice, for those who are considering a navigator: don’t rely on it. It can be helpful, but it is not reliable, and you should have a more proven back-up option available to you. Also, do plan to take the time to review the system, because they (or at least mine) are not quite intuitive enough to just jump in and start driving without mistaking the directions given a few times.
There’s an interesting metaphor in the whole experience, if I am not simply gratifying myself making it up. The main purpose of my trip was to complete my training for my new role in Acme at our site. The main attraction, for me, was the sense of importance and connectedness I get in unreasonable amounts from making long trips to work with people. In that vein, it only inflated my ego that I was diverted from my original purpose in the financial manager’s star site to participate in a project for my boss. I was treated in some measure as an expert, out of proportion with my actual knowledge or effectiveness, I fear, but all the same quite titillating. So there was a certain sense in this trip that I had arrived as a notable figure and a resource across sites within Acme, two years from being temp with no background in anything related to Acme or its business processes except some trifling experience with Access.
But all that takes a hollow tone in light of the conversation I had with my boss shortly before leaving on Friday. I am now to set aside the definition of my role that has just been fully delivered and give my utmost attention to supporting the local plant, because it stands in real danger due to poor performance. Should things come to the point where my services are no longer needed in this plant, I do not see where Acme can make me an offer I would accept, due to my geographic preferences–even if they chose to make an offer, as I flatter myself there’s a good chance they would.
Yes, it is rather like arriving at nowhere.
This latest job realignment is the most predictable thing that has happened in my short career, all prior changes coming to me from hitherto unguessed sources, so I don’t take the boundaries of my perceived probabilities as any fair judge of the future.