Friday, April 07, 2006

The Horse Trailer

It's raining again in the East Bay. Apparently 2006 is the wettest year since Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered California. Yesterday, the snow on Mammoth passed 600 inches or 15 meters...

So, on with the story:

"Do you have a US drivers license?" "Not yet" "... Anyway..., we need you on the Hivemobile, can you fly to Orlando on Saturday?" That was just about how my first business trip for the Hive started. For the next 4 years, enough of them followed that I am still drawing on my frequent flyer miles six years later. In some months, I flew home, threw my clothes into the washer, repacked and was off again.

This first trip stuck in my mind, though, both because of the emergency landing in St. Louis, and for my first exposure to the Hivemobile.

The Hivemobile came into being during the run up to the three year delayed new version of the Hive's main--at at that time only--product: Hive 2.0. It was pushing past the envelope of what development tools and hardware allowed at the time. And, in mission speak, it was to change the world, revolutionize all aspects of human life, and bring fame and prosperity to anyone at the Hive. Our only fear was that even after favorable reviews, many hundreds or millions of dollars, a tour of our CEO through the most prestigious institutions of science and learning, and all kinds of email and PR initiatives, some students or potential customers would somehow miss it and be left in archaic darkness.

Also, technology companies had to be creative, think out of the box, and change the paradigm in everything they did. So while we didn't quite reached the level of inspiration that make CueCat a household name, something needed to be done!!!

Taking a clue from the Weinermobile, the marketing director decided that we needed a mobile demo station that could bring Hive 2.0 to the people. Since the Hive was nothing if not energetic, a 40 foot horse trailer and a pickup truck were shortly procured, test driven on the corn field studded plains, painted, outfitted with 12000 pounds of furnishings and computers, and sent off on its inaugural journey. The fact that the Australian driver ripped off a few struts that were a bit too close to the ground driving it from the baptism ceremony in the company parking didn't give anyone pause. Neither did the fact that shortly afterwards he discovered that he could break the trucks rear window by taking a sharp right turn. As we found out later, the outfitting had raised the weight of the trailer to a point where it was too close to the ground, tilted the truck backward enough that the front of the trailer hit trucks back window during sharp turns, and busted tires whenever driving over a curb.

These technical difficulties got greatly compounded by the fact that the person who initially planned the trip left without telling her successor that the preliminary list of stops was a superset that still needed to be whittled down by two thirds. Blissfully unaware, the successor proceeded to book every single stop on the original list. So a typical day in the first six months looked like:

-drive from hotel to location at 6am
-wake event sponsor and janitor at 6:30. At least this ensured that we would never be asked back.
-set up and start the generator
-talk to the occasional visitor who mistook us for the Jaegerettes for 6 hours
-pack up
-drive 400 miles to the next location at 45 miles an hour and stop for gas every 150 miles
-check into hotel at 3am and find some parking

rinse, lather, repeat.

Unsurprisingly, the staff consisted of two masochistic drivers and new employees who didn't know better. The Hivemobile had its perks, though. Since my partner would only arrive a day later and we didn't have an event until Monday, I decided to drive the gaudily painted truck from the hotel to Kissimmee and spend the day the day in Disney World. When I pulled up at the end of the long line going into the parking lot, the attendants frantically waved me to pass by the queue and drive into an almost empty lot. Getting out, I discovered that I had ended up in the employee lot with direct access to the park. The truck's psychedelic paint job had obviously convinced the guards that I had to work for the Mouse, saving me an hour and $45.

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