Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Empty halls

I was driving in to work this morning and thinking – then wondered if other people think like that too? There is always a conversation going on in my head, and usually I am part of it. No, I am not hearing voices and talking to somebody else, I am just having an internal conversation with myself. Maybe seeing somebody driving in the next lane suddenly cutting me off (TWIT!!) (oh my, am I becoming British, or do I read too many Brit blogs? I blame it on striped Lisa) Anyway, I then proceed to have this little internal conversation about whether or not the idiot driving gets into more accidents than I do; does he ever get any traffic tickets; does he really get to work earlier; does he have ulcers from all that tension; is he happier because he got ahead of me; . . . ? Of course I respond to these questions, with answers something like Of course he never gets a ticket, this is Vegas where there apparently are no traffic cops; yes he did arrive at his parking garage fifteen seconds earlier than yesterday and is very happy about that; yes he has ulcers and really really suffers and doesn’t know why; of course he is happy, he’s singing and didn’t even notice me slamming on the brakes to miss him; . . . I then go on to wonder about whether or not I am strange to be thinking of things like this, and do other people have conversations going on internally, and am I repeating myself, and how long can I make a paragraph without pressing the enter key?

So, do any of you have random conversations with yourself? (see, I can press enter)

It’s not just when I’m driving. Random things roll around in my head all the time: while sitting here typing I’ve gone on a trip to the south of France, visited the green fields of the Cotswolds and gone back home to play with E. And remembered enough of each to type them down. Sometimes I’m amazed that I get any useful work done. Well, I hope this stuff I do here is useful, I’m getting paid for it and evidently my boss is very happy with my work. But that’s a different thought.

So much for random thoughts. Back to our program which is already in progress: (see, even Firesign Theatre still keeps intruding)

I work in a basement room of a large convention facility. I’ve been here two months (and still like it) and have seen a variety of events take place in our building. I like to walk around the shows and look at all of the different things that I would never have contact with if I were not here. How may people have been to a security show, and seen themselves on thousands of video monitors being viewed by thousands of security cameras? (photos to come someday). But I also like it when there are no shows. Then I get to walk around the half dark halls on my own. Sometimes there is somebody walking on the other side that I can almost see, sometimes a truck drives by (yes, inside), but most of the time it is quiet.

The above pic is of the lower hall, right around the corner from our office. When there is no activity most of the lights are out, but they leave on about 5% of them for safety. The blue bands on the columns are about six feet high (2 meters), the columns are about twenty feet apart. The ceiling is only fifteen feet high. It feels like I’m walking through a forest of trees in the evening. There is a low whoosh from the air conditioning system, and a background continuous hum from the lights that are still on. I don’t have a wide angle lens, so these pics show less than a quarter of the halls. The lower hall is about five hundred feet long and four hundred feet across.

The upper hall is about 30% larger and the ceiling is higher –a bout 45 feet. This shot doesn’t show it all – they are setting up for a small seminar at one end, and the ‘air walls’ are cutting the room in half. These are big panels that can be slid across to cut the one big space into four smaller spaces, so that smaller shows can be accommodated, or multiple events can go on at the same time. Over to the right is one of the two ‘block houses’ that are about centered in the halls. They have stairs to go between the levels, rest rooms down halfway, and up here food stands on each side. There are a lot fewer columns in the above hall, mainly because they just hold up the roof while the ones in the lower hall have to hold up the two foot thick floor of the upper hall as well as the roof.

The upper hall is a fun place to be during show setup. There are big doors that open along one side and usually twenty or so big semi trucks at a time pull in. There are up to fifty or so little forklifts zipping around driving up into the trailers and pulling out pallets of stuff, then distributing it around the hall. A small army of workers are setting up frames and curtains, others are running electrical lines and network cables while others trying to lay carpets. Different groups are unpacking the pallets, setting up custom booths and displays. There is quite a lot of activity during show setup, which usually takes place over three or four days.

Show breakdown is even faster paced. At show closing time the lights are cut from full to half and usually a page is made informing everyone that the show is closed. All of the participants just want to get home, so everyone is furiously packing up their displays and taking down whatever products were shown. At the same time the carpet crew is pulling up the carpets, the electric crew is pulling their wires, the trucks are back in and the forklifts are delivering empty crates and pallets to be loaded, and pulling filled pallets out of the way. The hall is usually emptied within four hours or so. After taking four days to set up it only takes four hours to clear out. With everything buzzing around it’s difficult to find a place out of the way to watch everything.

Because of the lower ceilings in areas of the lower hall trucks can only drive down the middle, from the back door out to a front door. But here they are parked side by side, probably a line of eight trucks long with space between them for the loading ramps and forklifts. So the lower hall takes longer to setup, because of the limited number of trucks that can get in.

So that’s what my empty halls look like. I realize that there is no income when the room is empty – like airline seats or hotel rooms, once the clock goes by that’s inventory that can never be sold. But I like the quiet. I try to do a walk around the hall a few times a day; sitting at that desk all day is making my butt too big and I need the exercise.

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