Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This message brought to you by... me, I guess

Where I work, we've had television sets in the cafeteria for years. For a long time, all they ever displayed were plain text messages -- things like the cafeteria menu for the week, years of service awards, and helpful suggestions like "Keep extra blankets and food in your car in the winter, in case you're stranded by a snowstorm."

The messages originated, as you might guess, at our headquarters in Iowa, not here in Florida.

For years, no one paid any attention to these televisions. The cafeteria tables were in long rows diagonal to the walls, and during their breaks and lunch the employees sat around these tables and talked. They talked about their families, about the news, about their coworkers and bosses, about whatever.

Then we began building a new product, an in-flight entertainment system for airplanes that includes satellite television. To be able to test this product, we had to get a satellite television feed into our factory. Then it occurred to someone that as long as we had a satellite feed, it could be hooked into the televisions in the cafeteria, and instead of bland, silent text messages, we could have CNN. Live.

At first, the televisions were just a little distracting: People would turn their heads, crane their necks, to get a glimpse of CNN, and then turn back to their lunches and their coworkers. But then some people began rotating their chairs to better face a television, even if it meant sitting at an awkward angle to the table (and everyone else). And then, finally, the tables shifted. One day, instead of being diagonal to the walls, they were parallel. Parallel so that you could sit at a table and watch a TV. That is, as long as you sat on the right side of the table. And that's what everyone did. Instead of sitting along both sides of the table, facing each other and talking, everyone sat on one side of the table, like they were in seats in a theater, vacantly chewing their lunches, silently watching CNN.

As you may know, I don't have television at home. When people hear this, they ask, "Why? Don't you like TV?" I answer, "Yes, that's the problem. I like TV too much. If I had it, I'd watch it all the time, and I wouldn't get anything done." People tell me I'm crazy.

Now I think, maybe not so much.

Anyway, the other day we were having a thunderstorm. I don't know how much you know about satellite TV -- it may depend on the climate where you live -- but satellite reception doesn't work during thunderstorms. I was passing through the cafeteria on my way to somewhere, and all the employees eating their lunches where sitting behind their tables, as they now do every day, each in his own world, not talking, just silently chewing and watching, raptly...

...TV screens that displayed nothing more than the words, "Satellite signal has been lost."


That was funny, right up until the end. Poor sad TV zombies!
About the consistency of satellite TV. We used to have it in our previous home & the largest inconvenience (of many) was that the dish would fill up with snow and ice in the winter. Since it was high up on the house climbing up to clean it was not an appealing option. Luckily it faced south so the longest we were out before the sun cleared things up was 2 days.

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