Last night, I got a ride home late with a coworker. We picked up a Cisco engineer named Carla, who struck me as being a very fannish person in a very ... obscure job. I only heard part of her story, but she's a very well-traveled person who has kind of the personality of a biker chick, Hemmingway, and your average SCA/RennFest nerd all rolled up into one. She's a very free spirit, but in a way, not really attached to anything, so her disconnected social skills kept going out of sync in normal conversation, which were interrupted frequently by her cell phone.
Since I had once worked International, she hooked on to that off and on, and it was nice to have someone corroborate with my "shark bit the cable" stories (oddball telecom stories). She said in Puerto Rico, half the island has pre-WW2 telecom equipment, and no one replaces anything unless it literally burns down or something. She also said she was one of the last people to keep telecom alive in the 1970s during the bombing of Beirut (where she lost a coworker to the fray). But what was really offhandedly impressive, is during cell phone calls where she was tracking down equipment and telling people where she'd be.
"I'm in Virginia, but I'll be down your way in St. Petersburg and then the rest of Russia next week. Don't drop off anything until I get to the lab there in person. Then the week after that, I'll be all over Australia, and I think I'll take some vacation days there, too. Outback or something. I'll be in San Jose when I get back, then I'll go back to Hong Kong, and we can pick up where they left off."
She was traveling almost to all four corners of the globe in less than a month. She spoke of other countries like most people speak of shopping errands. She's probably pretty important to Cisco. But it also reminded me of 1995-98, when I traveled a lot. Not as much as she did, obviously, but in three years, I had been to San Antonio, Cancun, Sweden, Dallas, San Jose, and Boston. I was pretty sick of traveling by then. An itinerary like that, which took me 3 years, would be a typical month for her. I can only imagine what it must be like to see the whole world as small and accessible as she does, but it's also tragic because how could she keep a relationship? Where is home for her? When I asked her where she lived, she said "depends on the week," and when I asked if she had an apartment, she said, "I am in San Jose a lot, but only because Cisco's HQ is there..." I wondered if her personailty was a side effect of her work, or the reason she choses this type of work to begin with.
I know I would totally burn out on a job like that, no matter how much it paid. So it kind of put my recent work hours into perspective, and now I don't feel so bad.
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