There I was – heading to a town in southern Saudi Arabia. There are always two hard parts of demonstrations – getting the equipment to the site and picking it up from the site. When it is local, the two get combined and it merely makes for a very long day. But when the demo is remote, you start facing lots of transport and customs issues.
A good colleague had arranged for the demo in southern Saudi Arabia. I had watched him try to remotely guide the equipment into the desired town – a fiasco. The equipment kept getting ‘bumped’ because the baggage of the local labor would fill the cargo hold and not allow room for paid freight. You need to check in to a flight in the Middle East at a holiday time to appreciate that. Families would have literally dozens of bags – sometimes even a big-screen TV or a large stereo set – all gifts for relatives back home. As an American businessman with frequent flyer status, I would take my one or two little bags and circumvent the check-in with little problem. It was easy to see why our equipment would be bumped, even on a flight from Cairo to southern Saudi Arabia. The gear finally arrived and my buddy and our local representative got it set up at an air base for testing. They left the gear there for a month of testing as part of the test.
Enter my good deal. My buddy called me one day from the States and asked if, per chance, I could go down and retrieve all this kit, since it was now needed elsewhere. As I was based just across the peninsula in Abu Dhabi, should be easy, right? Ugh. Sure, but it will cost you.
So off I fly to southern Saudi Arabia. Fortunately, as he had been there, he had a recommended car rental company and hotel. Unfortunately, the largest vehicle they had at the car company was a Mercury Marquis. With a bit of help from Google Maps, I got to the base. After getting there, I had the smallest staff sergeant available to help retrieve the gear. This gear weighed collectively over five hundred pounds. What I had not realized was that the demo kit was on top of the air traffic control tower. Elevator to floor three; climb up stairs to floor four; take a pull-down ladder to the roof.
I disassembled the set-up and – using a borrowed rope of dubious age and load bearing capacity – lowered each piece of expensive gear down the ladder to the fourth floor. Then the sergeant and I man-handled it to the third floor and stuffed it in the boxes. Note to self – check for number of boxes before filling them. It took me forever to figure out how to stuff everything into six boxes. At the very end of the day, as we were stuffing them into the car, I noticed a box label that said, “One of Seven.” The sergeant was not happy at all to go back with me to the tower, but sure enough we found box number seven hiding under a desk on the fourth floor; then all the equipment fit snug as a bug.
Now we had to stuff this gear into the Mercury: trunk full to overflowing and tied ‘shut;’ boxes filled the back and passenger seats; I’m crunched as far forward as the steering wheel allowed. I gave the sergeant the biggest tip I could. I drove to the hotel for the night and arrived sweaty and exhausted. Fortunately, they took huge pity on me and agreed to serve as a staging area for the equipment until the shipping company would collect it (in three days). But now I had to manhandle all the boxes – with the help of a luggage cart and an elevator, at least – up to the office. Once there, it made a man-high pile of shipping crates that covered one wall.
Moral: Maybe you aren’t hauling five hundred pounds of gear around, but in Offset, you are likely to be the Lone Ranger at the far edges of your company’s international pursuits. You are also likely to be tasked with other jobs to help win a program. Try to learn from and even possibly enjoy the variety. Most others in your company will not have that chance.