When you're on the final leg of your journey, and you've finished the book you've started with, and you don't feel like going into the overhead compartment to dredge out your next book, and they screwed up your seats so that you're not sitting with your husband, and the guy next to you has his head in a PowerPoint presentation (that you can't understand because it's in German), you can read what's on the packaging around the small slab of chocolate that they just handed you.
So I did yesterday morning when, one half-hour out of Berlin, the Lufthansa flight attendant handed me some chocolate sponsored by Cisco.
Not that I could read most of it, since it was in German, but I could get the drift. The fact that it featured pictures from Cisco's TV ads - the Tibetan monks gathered around a laptop, the man and his dog connecting up from a park in Barcelona - helped.
And, there was a bit of English to help me along: Welcome to the human network.
Well, nobody knows better than a blogger that the Internet lets you make connections in a new and exciting way.
But welcome to the human network?
Come now, Cisco. Hasn't there been a human network all along? I mean, go ahead and take credit for helping with the connect-up part of things. And I guess I can't blame you for trying to put a human face on hubs, routers, and load balancers. But we were all part of the human network well before Cisco sold its first piece of wire.
So when we checked into our hotel in Potsdamer Platz and got connected - thanks, I'm sure, in no small part to Cisco - I thought I'd check out Cisco's site and see what they have to say.
For the most part, I'm down with with this statement:
When we're all connected, great things happen. Join us and see how life on the network is changing life as we know it.
Although, of course, terrible things can happen, too, on balance connected is a good thing.
Then there's this:
On the human network, people decide what's possible.
I don't want to over-think things here, but this is true and I believe it always has been. And always will be, at least until AI and robotics and machine intelligence get to the point where humans surrender their human prerogative.
Cisco then invites us to share our stories with them.
Tell us how the human network has helped you make something great possible. Enter your name and a short subject line to get started.
Where to begin....
Somewhere in the late 1800's, the human network helped two sets of my great-grandparents to leave the family farms in Ireland for life in Ameri-kay. That human network was composed of brothers and sisters, cousins, and town-folk who had come to Massachusetts before them, and was facilitated by letters that were written back and forth.
In the 1920's, the human network helped my German grandparents out. My grandfather had misinterpreted the immigration rules. He thought that the entrance fee to Amerika was $25 per family. When he got to Ellis Island, he found out it was $25 per head. He wired his brothers in Chicago to send him the rest of the money. It took a few days for them to come up with the dough, during which time my grandfather stayed in a men's dormitory, while my grandmother and mother stayed with the women and children. My mother remembered my grandmother crying the whole time because she didn't know what was happening. Happily, the Wolf family's human network came through and they were soon on their way to Chicago.
Where, during World War II, the human network worked yet again, when one of my mother's girlfriends, who was dating a sailor, fixed my mother up on a blind date with my father, who was stationed in Chicago for a couple of years during the War. The rest is family history.
These were just the first human network stories I thought of when I read Cisco's request.
Okay, maybe I'm not all that great, but the human network did make me possible.
I don't want to bust Cisco that much for their campaign. It's hardly the most egregious case of marketing hypes I've ever seen. And maybe you can chalk my reaction up my zonked out state after a long flight.
But welcome to the human network?
Thanks, but we've been there all along.