Beach “Bars” or Lack Thereof

Where do I begin? A family emergency (don’t worry, we are ok) forced me and my daughters to vacate our house in Atlanta with 30 minutes notice. I hopped in the car to head to the only place I knew to go, my parents. I headed up to a small town called Carolina Beach, NC where my mom and dad were. This isn’t your ordinary beach town. This is an old-school, nostalgic 1940’s beach town.  This is the kind of beach town where the traveling mall parking lot amusement rides set up shop from Memorial day to Labor day.  The kind where grammatical errors are common on professionally print signs (see below). The kind where the cigarette buds out number the grains of sand. My parents stay in the upstairs portion of the old beach cottage. When I say old, I mean old. I am talking 1919, asbestos-coated, 1 window AC unit, old. I am talking wouldn’t even come remotely close to passing a home inspection old. I am talking plug my hairdryer into the ceiling fan kind of old. As I arrived I set up my office in a nook in the cottage. I assumed my hotspot would carry me through the next 48 hours. Boy, was I wrong. I relocated to a corner closer to the motel, yes motel not hotel, next door to see if I could tap into their WiFi. I got one bar on my cell… one measly bar. This wasn’t going to cut it.

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In a panic, I called my boss, and he reduced my stress by telling me to grab a hotel room to hold my two meetings- brilliant! During one of these meetings, I was going to present to the field…a 400+ person audience alongside the CTO to boot. This was something I couldn’t mess up. I checked into the local Microtel which was covered in 1990’s primary colored printed bedspreads, Formica counter-tops and an envelope holding a VIP card for 10% off of my total food bill at the local meat and three next door. I fired up my laptop to check the settings and Wifi. As soon as I refreshed my WiFi, it hit me. This local hotel also did not have WiFi. Sheesh! What does one do? Immediately I called my problem-solving friend in tears. “What do I do? You always solve my problems. Help?”

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Often, I work on my hotspot with no problem. Clearly, this was going to be my solution. Then I realized, I couldn’t use my hotspot, and mirror my phone and talk on the call through the same phone all at the same time. Also, I still only had one bar because I was on a barrier island. Quickly, I Googled Verizon cell towers nearby to find an area that had a better signal. I found the spot, grabbed my dad’s iPhone 3 and headed to the spot that had service. As soon as I parked and started to setup to do this meeting from the driver’s seat of my car, I realized that this old-school phone needed the old-school style headphones. Off to CVS I go. Corded headphones in hand, I headed back to the spot with the good cell service.

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Let me explain this place that I found to settle into for my meeting.  We will call it “my office.”  My office was a run-down strip mall parking lot littered with pot holes, multiple shades of decrepit concrete buildings and, well, actual litter. The parking lot lines had been eaten by the patched asphalt long ago.  I stopped my car right smack in the middle of the parking lot, abandoned movie theater on one side of me and hulking concrete shell of the vacated grocery store on the other, but I had found five bars of cell signal!

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I did a few test calls using dad’s iPhone 3, ran the Zoom meeting on my hotspot and mirrored my phone. As far as I could see, this was going to work!  I tested once more and it was working. I took a deep breath of relief before my nerves of the demo set in. Everything was working out and the sun was shining….for a minute.

The session started. We were up and rolling and the meeting was on! My nerves set in a little, and I started to take deep breaths and chug water while continuously checking to ensure I was still muted on my iPhone, dad’s iPhone 3 and my PC. I started to settle in and then the clouds rolled in. I am talking pitch black, dark thunderstorm clouds, and they were rolling in fast! Joe passed the ball to Mike so I knew my part was getting closer. It began to pour, I mean pour down rain. You know those heavy raindrops that sounds like water balloons busting on your windshield. The lighting was striking non-stop accompanied by continuous booming thunder. What are the chances? There was truly one pocket of thunderstorms on the entire eastern seaboard and it was hovering directly over my “office.”  This is not an exaggeration. Crying, I called my problem-solving friend to see if he could hear the rain or the thunder. He said the sound was fine until it thundered. BOOM! He definitely heard that.

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In the meantime, two 1950’s prison school buses roll up into my sketchy “office.”  They park 20 yards from me. Knowing that with inmates typically come police officers, who might be curious as to why I was loitering in this parking lot, I crafted a note to show an officer through the window should they approach my car during my presentation. I knew they would still rap on the window but it was worth a try and gave me a little peace of mind that maybe my demo to 400+ wouldn’t be interrupted by “Ma’am, please step out of the vehicle.”

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With two minutes to spare, the torrential downpour and bone rattling thunder let up, a little sunshine came out and I was on the air. After 10 nerve-wracking minutes of demonstration, I passed the ball back to Mike, took a long deep breath, finished the call and shut down my PC. I am not sure how I pulled it off, but it all worked out in the end. As an SC, you learn to do what you gotta do to make the demo fly and always expect the unexpected.

did it