Friday - 3pm
I'm sitting at my desk minding my own business (a rarity).
Cindy-Loo (not her real name): Mike, can you call Carmela (not her real name) on her cel, she needs you to help with a video conference.
Me (my real name): Sure, do you have the number? By the way, what video conference is this? The one at 4am tomorrow?
Cindy-Loo: I don't know, and I don't know. Just call her.
After getting the number, I enter it into my cell, then call her from a land line.
Me: Hi, it's Mike. What's up?
Carmela: Oh him Mike. Yeah, Dr. Schmooziewhatzie (not his real name, we'll call him Doc moving forward) has to do a video conference tomorrow morning with a conference in Morocco (not the real city either. Getting the hang of this? Assume every proper name moving forward is made up, except mine). The vendor at the hotel raised the price at the last minute.
Me: Nothing. What hotel are you at?
Carmela: The Big Outlandish Resort in Las Vegas (the actual city in this case).
Me: Well, one can except to get taken advantage of there. Do you have any details?
Carmela: No, you can call Doc, he's at lunch.
Me: Ok, I'll call you back.
Me: Doc, hey it's Mike. I talked to Carmela. Do you have any details?
Doc: Let me e-mail you. Bye.
I actually tried to set this up 2 weeks ago, but the hotel said they could do it for $600. Thus I had some contacts already. First call is to Generic Video Conferencing Vendor with 1st Google Ad Position (GVCVw1GAP).
Person: Hello, GVCVw1GAP services. How can I help you?
Me: Hey how ya doin'. I need to setup a video conference for early tomorrow morning in Vegas. Can you help me?
Person: Sure. Do you know what location in Vegas?
Me: No, that's why I called your company. Something near the Strip.
Person: Well, i don't know what's near the strip. I'm in Dallas.
Me: Mmm, hmm. Ok, how about the Howard Hughes Blvd location.
Person: Is that near the Strip:
Me: Yep. You don't have the internet there?
Person: Ok, let me check on availability. When did you need this?
Me: 4am local time, connecting to Morocco.
Person: So you are connecting to Morocco at 4am their time. What time is that here?
Me: 4AM in Vegas, 12noon Morocco time. You with me?
Person: Ok, I see. Our rate is $350/hour. How long is the meeting?
Me: About 45 minutes.
Person: Well I'm sorry but there is a 1 hour minimum.
Person: Oh I'm sorry but because it is after hours it is $450/hour. Is that ok.
Person: Oh, it seems all of our rooms in Vegas are booked. Sorry. Bye.
It was not really that abrupt but it should have been.
I found the next listing on Google and called them:
Person: Hello Smack Daddy-O Conferencing and Bait Shop, this is Dave.
Me: Hey Dave, got any nightcrawlers?
Dave: We sure do. They're sold by the ounce, with a 2 ounce minimum, priced at $2.50 an ounce.
Me: I need them at 4am.
Dave: Oh, sorry but at that hour nightcrawlers are most active, so the price goes up to $3.50 an ounce.
Me: Ok, forget it.
Ok seriously now:
Dave: Hello Smak Daddy-o Conferenceing, this is Dave(not really).
Me: Hi Dave. I need a last minute request. Can you get me a video conferencing room for 4am Saturday morning in Vegas?
Dave: Connecting to where?
Me: Morocco (not really).
Dave: Let me get your number and call you back.
Me: Hello this is Mike (really).
Dave: Hi Mike this is Dave from Smack Daddy-o Conferencing. We spoke a few minutes ago.
Me: Yep. What can you tell me?
Dave: Well, due to the time, you pay time and a half, so that's $450/hour.
Dave: However, we may not be able to get a technician at that hour, so if there are any problems you're on your own.
Me: Uh, huh. Ok, thanks for trying.
Dave: I'm real sorry about that. Let me confirm that and call you back. I can tell you the best fishin' spots in Vegas however(not really).
I could see where this was going. I switched gears and called a vendor that has been trying to get my business, BigHonkingMeeting.com (actually megameeting.com - really!).
Basically like WebEx but cheaper and I could get setup in an hour.
Me: Hello this is Mike.
Natalie(really): Hi Mike, this is Natalie from the meeting website.
Me: Hi thanks for calling me back. Can you sign me up?
Natalie: I just e-mailed you a link to our signup form. Did you get it?
Me: Actually I'm in my car. Can we do this over the phone?
Natalie: Absolutely (when was the last time you heard anyone on the phone say "absolutely" ?)
I pull over into a parking lot and exchange payment information.
Natalie: Ok, Mike. You are all set. You should get your confirmation e-mail and password by the end of day.
Me: Is that end of day like midnight, or end of working hours San Jose time?
Natalie: I put a rush on this, so probably in an hour.
Me: Great. Thanks for your help.
Natalie: My pleasure.
I'm in love! (not really, but she must have read my Customer Service blog).
Dave: Mike, this is Dave from...
Me: Yes i know who you are. What's up?
Dave: Well we can get you a room but no technician. It's up to you.
Me: Ok, thanks. I actually have made other arrangements. Maybe some other time.
Dave: I'm real sorry about that (I doubt it).
I happened to stop at BJ's to take this call so I went in for a gallon of Milk and some Tylenol (7 or 8 pills ought to do it).
Picked up a few grocery items. Making Chicken and Dumplings tomorrow (really).
Completed the shopping trifecta with a spin around Costco. The strawberries are like candy at the moment, so we have been eating a lot of fruit!
Got home, setup laptop, logged into megameeting and tested it out. In order to see if this works as advertised, I invited myself to a meeting and logged in from another computer. I get video (webcam), audio (headset) and PowerPoint broadcast from my laptop to any other connected users. Pretty nice.
Time to call Doc. Better e-mail him first in case he's eating.
Me: Doc, It's Mike. We have a solution. Not perfect but it should work.
I tell him the details. His eyes glaze over.
Doc: Ok, does Morocco know about this?
Me: No, it's 1AM there. We'll just pray.
Doc: Baruch atah adonai, elohenu melech haolam, asher kidshanu bamitzvotav, vitsivau lahadlikner, shel Hanukkah.
Me: Nice! He's not even Jewish. I'll do the motzi.
Doc: I'm at dinner, will call you when I'm done.
I e-mail the technician in Morocco (not really) the details and invite him to the web conference.
Doc gets back to his room. Carmela loaned him her laptop so he could use her webcam. However he does not have a headset (what he doesn't play WofW during his down time between surgeries?). So the conference website account comes with a conference call phone number. We'll have the Morocco guy call into this number and patch the telephone into the audio board (unlikely).
Doc and I successfully test the conference. He transmits his slides and we get his audio over the phone. He has to go to a meeting (in Vegas - 3 hours earlier).
Doc calls me back, we do a final test. We agree to meet up in a few hours at 3am his time. 6am on a Saturday is not great, but not that bad.
"Mike, wake up," my wife shouts at me. "Didn't you say you need to check something at 3am?"
She's always looking out for me!
Me: Thanks, but 3am Vegas time. Snore.
I wake up, splash water in my face, and get back online. I left everything running while I slept so as to defeat Murphy's Law.
Armando(not even close) from Morocco(not really) is already logged in, I can see him and hear him over the web. For the next 35 minutes he and I make sure everything works. One caveat, he cannot patch the phone audio into his sound board. Well even in Vegas Radio Shack is not open at 3:30am, so we will have to find another way.
I call my home phone from my cell phone, to simulate Doc calling into the conference call line. I hit speaker on my home phone and place my headset mic near the speaker, and the headset speaker near the speakerphone mic. Richard Dean Anderson would be impressed. Sometimes the simple solution is the best.
It actually worked. Next Armando routed the house audio into his computer's mic input, to attempt two-way audio (full duplex in geek). It was a bit distorted, but I could hear it through my computer speaker, but not through the speaker phone. I would have to relay messages from Morocco to Doc. Call me Garrett Morris.
With Doc on the conference call line, I called the conference call line from my home phone. I then called Doc's cel from my cel, so we have a front end and back end phone call going. When Morocco asks a question, I will interpret it for Doc over the back end and he can respond in the front end.
(4am Vegas, 12noon Morocco)
Distorted local audio coming over computer speaker (I held my cel to the computer speaker, but that was really asking for a miracle): Professor Whatchamahoozie, thank you for waking up so early to join us for this auspicious occasion. Senhoras e Senhores Deputados, o ilustre professor irá agora dizer-nos sobre o seu trabalho no tratamento da obesidade futurista utilizando novas técnicas. Professor...
Me (into cel): Doc, he is being gracious. Say thank you and get started.
Doc (into cel to me): Ok.
Doc (into land line to conference call line to speakerphone to headset microphone to computer to internets to computer to audio board to audience in Morocco (might as well have been the Moon): Hello, can you hear me?
Me: They said yes. Go ahead.
Doc: Thank you. Here I go.
Doc gives a flawless presentation. The videos do not play but what is this the Jetsons?
Periodically Armando and I trade text messages via a web chat window.
Is it working?
How is the audio?
Are the videos playing?
Doc finishes his lecture. There are no questions.
Morocco: Doc, thank you once again for taking time from your busy schedule and so early to join us and present this important information to our esteemed audience. Congratulations.
Me (to cel to Doc): Say Thanks.
Doc (to me): Ok.
Doc (to Morocco): Thank you.
Me (to doc): Applause.
Doc (to me): Laughs. Thanks for your help. I got a plane to catch. I gotta get a Mac.
Me: Good idea.
End of call. End of conference. End of this blog.
All names have been changed to protect the innocent. Except mine: