I spied him over the top of my monitor. He’d walked in well enough, but I could tell by his confused look that he had no idea what to do now that he was inside. This happens frequently. I’d seen that befuddled look on the faces of Gangplank newcomers countless times.
As a Gangplank veteran, I consider it my duty to make visitors feel welcome. Plus, I needed a break from writing marketing copy.
“Today’s subject is Software-defined Networking, boys and girls!” I’d loudly announced to the 15 odd entrepreneurs working out of Gangplank as I arrived earlier. (The crowd had returned my excitement with odd looks and loud groans.)
“Hi, how’s it going?” I asked as I rose from behind my monitor and walked towards the visitor. Perhaps he was an entrepreneur, looking for a home.
He tells me his name, Todd. He wants to know how much is it to use a computer here. He’d like to download a large file that someone sent him via email.
“You don’t pay anything to use the facilities here,” I tell him. “At least not monetarily.”
His confused look returns.
“Walk with me,” I tell him, laughing to myself. “We’ll get you squared away.”
We walk past the hot desks, large tables with office chairs where anyone who wants to can come in, set up a laptop and get some work done.
“There’s no charge here,” I repeat as we walk. “Because payment is in social capital.”
“Uhhhhhhhh-huh,” he says, in that tone that says “I have no idea what you are saying.”
We walk past the 3D printers that line the back half of the main Gangplank workspace. I continue giving Todd an introduction.
“Basically, if you find Gangplank is a space you like working from, and the people here a community you find valuable, all that is asked to use Gangplank’s resources is that you find a way to contribute something back. What you contribute is up to you.”
He’s not from around here, he says. He’s passing through town on tour. Just wants to use a computer, “How much?” he asks.
I shake my head and chuckle.
We continue straight down the hall, past the free library, buzzing conference rooms, and podcast studio. Finally, we arrive at the Gangplank computer lab. He seems a very nice guy, about 50 years old I’d guess, wearing glasses, a gently worn pair of blue jeans, and respectable short sleeved dress shirt.
I help him log on to one of the eight iMac computers in the lab, all freely available to the public. I make small talk while he accesses his email.
“So what is this file?”
“It’s a pilot for a TV show that I’m in. ” he says.
“Uhhhhh-huh” I say using the same tone he had earlier. An actor, just about to make his big break. Yeah, right.
Todd downloads the video. Over the next 45 minutes I am amazed and delighted at his talent. As we watch, we talk about life, swap stories about our kids, and generally just get to be pals.
The people you meet at Gangplank are random and diverse – and always interesting. I love this place.
Todd Oliver, nationally known comedian, ventriloquist, and past performer on America’s Got Talent.