In The Book, we talk about some of the downsides to having a home office and, in fact, to being self-employed. A new one, I discovered, is that being on Undercover Boss is not a practical option…
Here was my problem. I had to leave the home office to go down to New York City for a day, but realized en route that I had to do a phone interview that I had set up before I knew that I was going to the city. I had 45 minutes from the time my train got in to the time the call was scheduled to find a suitable (i.e., quiet) location for the call. It being New York City, I knew that would be a challenge.
In our book, we talk about finding locations for meetings outside the home office, but this was—admittedly—an eventuality we did not anticipate: having to scout locations on-the-fly. We talk about Regus, so on the train down I checked out their Web site. They had locations in midtown on Park Avenue but were way more than my budget (which was $0 or less) for this project.
When I got in, I thought I’d take a chance on the Penn Station food court, which usually isn’t very crowded between 10 a.m. and the noon lunch feeding frenzy. Alas, the music was far too blaring and every free table appeared to be under a speaker. I took a walk around the neighborhood and scoped out the usual places I grab lunch or a pre-train drink, but it was before noon and were not open yet. The Starbuckses and other breakfast places had no appropriate free tables.
There was a hotel across the street, so I thought I could find a quiet spot in the lobby, or maybe an empty meeting room. I did blunder into a L’Oreal corporate breakfast—and I am the last person who would ever be admitted to any L’Oreal event, except maybe a convention of fashion disasters or “before” picture models.
The lobby could have worked—but again, the music was way too loud. (No wonder people bellow into cellphones!)
I wandered through the hotel (when people asked, I said I was looking for the rest room, which wasn’t a complete falsehood, especially after visiting all the Starbuckses). It wasn’t going to work, so I headed back to Penn Station; maybe the passenger waiting area would suffice. (I toyed with the idea of buying the cheapest Acela ticket I could get, just to use the Acela lounge, but that was also out of my budget.) Time was ticking, so the passenger waiting area would have to do. A crowded, delayed train had just started boarding, so there was an empty region toward the back, and even had a little table and phone charging station. The train announcements seemed far enough apart to not be too intrusive. As I got out the phone, workmen abruptly started repairing a nearby escalator, so there was a bit of sporadic hammering. Then there was the redcap convention, where they vied to see who could make the most noise with their luggage trolleys.
This call would be a challenge…
The punchline to all this was that when I dialed into the conference call number, the guy I was supposed to interview flaked on me. It had all been for naught. So it was off to the Village to see if there was a shop where I could buy a voodoo doll.
Still, the lesson here is to do a better job of planning such forays in advance. If I had been smart and organized about it, I could have used social media to crowdsource a practical location, or done some more research in advance.
Sometimes we learn these things from bitter experience, if only that every public space seems to have blaring background music.