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The Best Conference Call

The best conference call I ever had was in 2013, soon after we started Oru Kayak. 

Anton Willis, Founder & Lead Designer of Oru reflects on conference calls.

The best conference call I ever had was in 2013, soon after we started Oru Kayak. There were four of us then, and we had no office. We had daily morning calls- so one day two of us took the bus down to a dock near the Port of Oakland, assembled our original Bay kayaks (our only product at the time), and headed out on the water with our headsets. The other two people on the call probably couldn’t hear much, given the morning breeze, and the clanking of a crane dropping scrap metal onto a nearby ship. But it was a wonderful, invigorating way to work, with the cries of birds and a million-dollar-view across the bay to San Francisco and the Golden Gate.

The worst conference call I ever had was yesterday. My toddler woke up early from his nap mid-call. I tried hiding in the bathroom and hoping he’d go back down (much to the amusement of the rest of the team) but the cries continued. Eventually my wife, on her own (muted) work call, started banging on the door and gesturing to me to do something about it. With the still-streaming laptop in one hand, I managed to lift him out of the crib and get him to the backyard- where the internet failed and the call ended (at least for me).

Since it all started, all ten of us at Oru Kayak have been working from home- trying to manage kids from age 1 to 17, keep houses clean, stock up on necessities, and generally not go crazy from the combination of close quarters and ominous current events. Our airy, light-filled office/warehouse lies empty, save for alternating shifts of myself and Forrest, our other product designer- we work on ongoing projects one at a time, and wipe off our tools with alcohol at the end of each day, to keep things safe for the next.

It’s a strange and challenging time for all of us, as we adapt to the world of the COVID 19 epidemic. Luckily, we’ve always managed to be flexible and adaptable. That’s what it takes to start a business- especially one based on an idea as crazy as an origami kayak- and we’re young enough that it’s still part of us. So we march on with our daily video calls, obsessively read the latest guidelines on going outside, and watch the beautiful spring flowers outside the window. We’ll be back out soon enough, and the water will still be as beautiful and peaceful as ever. 

To quote Lao Tzu, Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard.”