This may seem an odd title, but as you all know, I can find ways of making a testing allegory to just about anything, if given a chance.
Last weekend, my wife, Christina, and I decided to take a weekend away. Our kids are old enough now that they can look after themselves for a night, and we wanted to celebrate our 20th anniversary (albeit delayed) in a more "festive" location and manner, so early Saturday morning, we boarded a plane, and took a short flight to Las Vegas.
First, a couple of things to know about us. Neither of us drink, we're not "partiers", and neither of us gambles or frequents strip clubs, etc. Some might say that, with that kind of a list (or anti-list), Las Vegas would be the most boring place on Earth. Not so. Christina considers Las Vegas to be a second home, especially the Strip with all its glitzy hotels, resorts and amenities available for all ages. She's kind of an expert on it. Ask her to point out the ten best shows on the strip and she can tell you without hesitation. Best restaurants? She can tell you dozens off the top of her head. Architectural designs unique to each hotel? Yep, she knows all of them and has combed just about every inch of every hotel from Mandalay Bay to the Stratosphere (there's a few she hasn't been to yet, but rest assured, she'll get to them soon enough :) ).
My point is, if anyone wanted to consult a "domain expert" on the places to see and things to do in Las Vegas that didn't revolve around drinking, gambling, or strip clubs, Christina is it. Yet even with that, we discovered that you can throw curve balls even to the best of experts and make them have to adapt.
A little context might help. Christina and her mom have been going to Las Vegas once or twice yearly as long as I have known them. I think this tradition started when Christina was a teenager, and without fail, at least once a year (sometimes twice), exploratory trips are planned, conducted, and travelogues of sorts are reported. Typically, they go mid week and they go "off season", usually meaning February or October. In that situation, they have plenty of time to go where they want to go, do what they want to do, and see what they want to see. For our trip, however, timing just happened to be that we were going to go on a weekend, and in particular, St. Patrick's Day weekend.
The net result was that we discovered the stress test that was getting from our hotel (at the Palazzo) to our dinner reservation (at THEMix at THEHotel at Mandalay Bay) and then to our show (Blue Man Group at Monte Carlo) and then negotiate how to get back to the Palazzo.
First, a bit about the Las Vegas Strip. If you look at it from a map, it looks like everything is close together. In reality, it's not. The hotels are just so big that they look like they are next door. The distance from Mandala Bay to the Stratosphere (the traditional boundaries of "The Strip") is about six miles. To get from place to place, cabs are important. On this night, we discovered that the queue to get a cab from the Palazzo was about 300 people thick. WOW! Not something we had anticipated. We did get our cab, and we did get to our dinner reservation... at which we had to wait a bit to be seated, and wait even longer to get our dinner (almost an hour... was it because I ordered Wagyu?).
From there, we made our way down and, caught another cab to get us to the Monte Carlo for our show (with a little time to spare, but not much). After the Blue Man Group Show (which was amazing, btw, and totally worthy of its own post :) ), we walked out of the hotel hoping to catch a cab... and saw the queue was triple the size it was at the Palazzo. Doing the math and realizing how long it would take, we decided to walk and have Christina play "tour guide" to me and show me her favorite spots. However, even this was stymied because of the sheer volume of people everywhere we went. Just moving from place to place was like salmon swimming upstream. Even with all of that, it was a lot of fun watching Christina, even under pressure, modify her approach and where we would go, and the angles she'd choose to take to avoid the crowds when possible. In short, she could adapt quickly because she knew just about every angle of the Las Vegas Strip there was. Were I to try to figure it out on my own, well, we probably would have made it back, but a lot later, I'd bet.
So what's my testing analogy? We may think we know an area, and we may think we understand how something works, but we don't really know how well or what parameters we know until we put some stress on the system. The fact is, pathways that are well known and easy to navigate may become considerably less so when our environment changes, and on this night, changes radically. If you have done your homework in advance (in this case, about two decades worth) you can adapt and move more freely. Likewise, when a system is under stress, it's vital we know as many avenues to get around as possible to allow us to see where people might go and interact with. Quiet times are good times to explore and find them, but rest assured, under load and stress, even quiet areas of an app will take on more load and pressure, and the results may be less than ideal.
One bright point... the odds of you running into several revelers puking in the bushes... probably higher in Las Vegas the night before St. Patrick's Day than in your app... but you never know ;).