Friday, September 23, 2011

A maze

Just the last few days I've been feeling a bit like a rat on a treadmill. Which isn't really an accurate thing to say, since Alberta is one of the very few places, perhaps only place, and certainly the only place of any size, where humans live and rats don't. The rats with four paws. The two-legged variety are doing quite well, thank you very much.

Even so, it's been back and forth to work, and nose to the grindstone at work. SAP go live is coming soon, and people are beginning to freak out. Technically, I'm not supposed to work overtime. Traffic and road construction on the routes home are strong incentive to be out of the office at 4. But it's getting harder to do.

I think a lot about process models. Do these things in this order for that line of reasoning. It's forming a mental model of a work process, and mapping it out so people can talk and think about it coherently. But it also leads me to thinking about mental models of the physical world and our giant 3D maze. I don't think of the route between my home and my office to be particularly complex, since I do it 5 days a week, and there are some days I'm not exactly at my best and brightest. Still, drive about 15 K to the parking structure. When Linda comes with me it's a surface parking lot. When she's not, it's the Gulf Canada parkade. (I know, some of you are rolling your eyes, and yes, it's expensive, but I have a generous boss and can expense it.) I once got lost in there, since there are exits onto 2 different avenues. The one to 10th Ave is on level 1A. (Yes, there is a level 1B, it's different.) The exit to 9th ave starts on level 5B. There are two sets of ramps depending on where you want to go.

I typically go in and out off of 10th Ave. I go up to level 1B and park near the central stairs. Walk up to level 4B. I do this rather than drive because I can walk up and down the levels faster than I can drive them. From there it's across an indoor bridge above the train tracks. Like many CPR towns, the train tracks cut the town in half. Down a half set of stairs and through the building. Then across a +15 into Bankers Hall West. Down the escalator; the stairs are way out of the way. Then the elevator up to my floor.

That's as simple as it gets. There are shops on the ground floor, +15, +30, and +45 levels. There are +15's in 4 directions, and a +30 as well for one of them. One block over there are 3 floors of shops as well running for several blocks. There is a complex web of +15 bridges linking many of the buildings downtown, adding up to 15 or 16 K of indoor walking.

There are days I think it would be fun to stage a running race through the network. At lunch time. (Kidding!) Each building has private security guards to keep the riff raff out, though occasionally you see them moving through. I think the rule is that if they're moving they're ok. Occasionally I see the bike cops riding through. Cops, riding bikes. Our cops are particularly plush in the transportation department. Our cops can ride bikes, cars, horses, helicopters, (yes more than one) and a tank (yes, an actual armoured personnel carrier). There may be other specialized vehicles I don't know about. The ones that walk either feel really special, or really rejected.

I know my way around the maze fairly well, but I've been lost a few times. There are major additions coming that I'd like to see. The Bow building will join the two major chunks. There are dead ends, secret nooks, detours, unmarked stairs, places that disagree with the map, lots of windows, and all sorts of art. I've been thinking it would be a fun Saturday, or a Friday off work, to get a group of people together and try to go through the entire network, and document it with photos and video. If you want in, let me know.

Yes, you're asking, but what about the workouts? Well, It's like this. If you think about it, in one sense, many of the buildings downtown are really one large building. Since one can get from one to the other without having to open the doors (they open themselves, if they exist at all) one could argue it's a contiguous interior space, meaning it's one building. Now think about the people that have worked for several companies downtown over the years. They've moved offices several times within that company, and worked for different companies in other office space. They visit coworkers in yet more office space, and associate, hobknob, and produce value by working with colleagues in other companies. They have friends they go for coffee and lunch with at various places. All the other shopping places. There are the various places to park, some of them reaching 7 or 8 floors underground. There are all the various routes connecting those places on foot or by other methods. Think of the complexity of that map. It's a wonder any of us get to the office, and that's to say nothing of the distractions along the way. Why, just the other day I nearly followed someone to her office in the hope she would adopt me. I'm not the only one that has happened to, though they might not admit it.

The ability to carry a map in our head varies between people, but it's getting more and more important. Our phones aren't quite able to guide us to where we want to go at that level of granularity, but I'm sure it's coming. I've been told they restrict some of the passes to the Tube in London so the tourists won't annoy the regulars at rush hour. (I wish they could do that here!) These people know a route so well they know exactly where the train doors will open, and what the best train seat is to minimize the walking going through several stations. My brain was beginning to hurt trying to keep a route in my head.

My legs have been killing me since the run a week ago. I've been stretching and rollering and NOT running. I was thinking of it tonight, but we've got plans. More on that later. The rest of the weekend is really nice, so I'm planning a bike ride. Nice and easy, maybe Millarville and back the scenic route. Any takers?

Yoga was good. Once again Fiona knows how to make it good. There was a plan for a Thursday swim, but I feel into bed and needed the sleep more than the swim.


  1. I would totally love a race in the Plus 15 system!

  2. KEITH! There is a movie that was shot in the +15 system of Calgary. Downtown?? I have to google. Well you can google. But it is pretty cool. A bit dated now I am sure. Check it out. And brilliant idea!!! I am in!

  3. That place sounds tricky. I am fairly good with directions and love maps but I think I would probably get lost, too.

    Why did you want that woman to adopt you? Surely she wouldn't take better care of you than Linda...

  4. Amber, I had forgotten that movie. It's called WayDownTown made 2000.


Looking forward to reading your comment!