That One Time I Expensed a Gun Case
Setting the Scene…
Back in the early-2000’s, WiFi was far from ubiquitous.
- Most laptops and other mobile devices didn’t even support WiFi unless you added a PC Card.
- WiFi really sucked back then. Typical distances were maybe 50 feet through walls, or even up to 100 feet with a clear line of sight. If the signal was blocked by anything brick or metal, simply forget it.
- Back then, an access point and a “router” (firewall) were two different devices, making WiFi a little bit more difficult to configure, and much harder to secure.
At the time, the company I worked for sold software and consulting services for financial institutions, and it was normal for our company to have a booth at one of several technical or trade shows throughout the year.
One of the guys who worked some of those trade shows came to us and said “Normally, we get a single ethernet connection for internet access, and if we bring a router [firewall], we can at least share a single connection, but all these cables make it prohibitive to do anything productive. Can you guys think of a way that we could plug something in that would allow us to all use WiFi instead?”
One of my guys came up with the idea to get a router, an access point, some cables, a power strip, and some WiFi PC Cards, put all of it in a box, and pre-configure everything so that all you needed was power and ethernet.
We even had an extra-long uplink cable so that the box could be located almost anywhere, allowing you to be able to optimize the position of the AP to get the greatest coverage.
The only thing left was to figure out how to ship this thing across the country, repeatedly, without having to package it each time.
At the time, you could get a padded, hard-sided camera case for about $200, which was not going to fly, since IT was paying for it, and we had virtually no budget.
So we went to Wal-Mart to see if we could improvise.
After looking through almost the entire store with no luck, we happened to be in the sporting goods section, and what do you know? There’s a hard-sided, padded pistol case, with briefcase-style combination locks for about $20.
And that’s how I came to expense a gun case.
Of course, the poor fellow in Accounting who processed my expense report saw the receipt, which clearly stated “gun case” and was rather alarmed.
After a quick explanation, we showed him a picture of the case with the equipment inside, and everything was fine.
He did say that this was one of the most unusual expense reports he’s ever processed, but not THE most unusual, and you really have to wonder about that.
Because it looked like something that might contain nuclear launch codes, we called it the “Wireless Football“.
After a few faithful years of service, all the cables and PC Cards were looted by another department. By that time, it was kind of unnecessary, because most venues were starting to offer free WiFi and most devices had built-in WiFi cards.
We ended up re-purposing the router and AP to build a home VPN lab. The case sat around for quite some time, and I think we even used it a couple of times to ship equipment. Eventually it disappeared – either “appropriated” by another department, or thrown away during one of the many equipment purges.
Thanks to Aaron for the pictures!
Wal-Mart Pistol Case
Router, AP, PC Cards (in box) and cables
WiFi PC Cards packed individually for transport