Friday, June 3, 2011

I'm in Berlin, but that's not what this post is about.

Working abroad from California, while traveling in Europe, is a pain in the ass. Not because of the obvious working while on holiday issue; quite the contrary. The inclusion of a few hours of work every few days is a welcomed grounding for any Fanny Trekker, giving one's life a brief, albeit fleeting feeling of importance. The problem is timing.

The 9-5 grind on the American west coast occurs in most of Europe between 5-1 at night. Getting started at 5 PM doesn't pose many troubles, except libraries and internet caf├ęs tend to be closing. The issue lies in California, where no one gets started with any real work until 11 AM. One is hard pressed to find anyone working first thing in the morning. The first few hours are spent bullshitting with coworkers, going for some coffee, online banking, watching bids on eBay, returning emails, going to meetings, making plans for the rest of the day, and even doing personal errands or doctor appointments. No one actually works before 11 AM, and then they start just in time for lunch. Now, lunch is rarely 30 minutes, it can last an hour or more. So basically, one is left with 2 PM on, for any work to get done. But before 5 PM hits, people are ducking out early, be it for the kid’s soccer game, cheerleader practice, running to the bank or post office, or picking up an anniversary gift; anything to not spend the full 8 hours every day in the office.

Well what are we left with? Two hours. Two hours to rapidly cram a respectful amount of work into our jobs. But my two hours are near midnight when I'm drunk and high. Try sounding professional after cruising the beer houses of Germany all day or after just getting out of a coffee shop in Amsterdam, all while having to talk on a static riddled overseas telephone line, nearly yelling to be heard. I received a technical email one night filled with jargon that normally would be simple for me to understand. The stakes go up when it’s a pressing issue and I’m 4 hours into the night. I’m forced to put it off while knowing I won't have another chance until the following evening. Then there’s the inevitability of just blocking out the time. Well, at least if I want to keep some semblance of professionalism intact. I've also got that skeptical old man and his son in Norway to prove wrong.

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