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Laziness Disguised As Excess Caution

, , , , , , , | Working | November 27, 2022

This happened in the early 1970s when the wonderful world of walkie-talkies had not quite reached the peak of popularity and common usage. Keep in mind that this was long ago, so the conversations are approximated.

I was an apprentice, assisting the electrical engineer who was servicing the elevators of a building. The place was high enough society that they had security guards. The electrical engineer sent me out of the building to get a couple of boxes of bolts for control covers for the lift controls.

My mistake: the work was pretty hot, so I had taken off my jacket while working; unfortunately, my jacket had my ID badge in it. The elevator electronics were huge and filthy with oils, so I fully admit I looked like a complete mess. We had been doing battle with the great metal beast that had decided to hemorrhage fluids everywhere and make horrendous metallic noises like a dying UFO. Also, unfortunately, the security guards changed shifts whilst I was out of the building, so they hadn’t seen me previously going in or going out. So now, with no ID badge, the security guards wouldn’t let me in.

Me: “Look, I get it. You have a job to do and I can’t come in without my badge. Could one of you please tell [Electrical Engineer] at the elevator to bring it? You can get confirmation from him and from my ID that I have business here.”

Guard #1: *Pompously* “Nah, I don’t think so.”

Me: “Sorry? Why not?”

Guard #1: “Because you’re some random, snot-nosed kid in filthy clothes. I’m not going to bother a professional.”

Me: “I’m his apprentice.”

Guard #2: “Sure you are, kid. Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal: if you walk out that door in the next ten seconds, I won’t box your ear and throw you out myself.”

I took a deep breath, let it out, walked out to the truck, and leaned against it. Now, we’d been working on this thing all day, and the box of bolts I had been sent out to get was supposed to be one of the last things we did.

Due to me being told to get out, [Electrical Engineer] went over his allowed working hours. I saw him come down to the lobby, looking inquisitive. This is his conversation with the guards, as told to me when he came out.

Electrical Engineer: “Have you seen my apprentice? I sent him out to get some supplies.”

Guard #1: “Eh, some filthy brat tried getting in here, but no ID, no entry.”

Electrical Engineer: “His ID was with me. You could have come to ask.”

Guard #2: *Grunting and lazily scratching his belly* “Yeah, we could have. So, anyway, is the elevator fixed yet?”

Electrical Engineer: “Thanks to you two idiots? No.”

Guard #1: “What?!”

Electrical Engineer: “I called you both idiots. Due to my work hours being up, due to you morons not letting my apprentice back into the building, and due to him not being able to bring me the supplies I needed, the elevator will remain unusable until sometime tomorrow.”

Beaming broadly, [Electrical Engineer] went in and came back down with my stuff as well as his own and we left. We laughed all the way back to our offices as the guards sputtered and protested, only to be ignored. 

There was a very interesting phone call later, where [Electrical Engineer] gave his side of the story to the building manager. Apparently, two guards meant that one was indeed expected to check in such instances, and the building manager was not happy to note that the guards had failed to follow protocol and had just caused a delay in getting the lift fixed. Many building residents were going to have a lot to say when they found out that they would have to walk up or down flights upon flights of stairs if they wanted to go anywhere.

The next day, we arrived early, at a pretty premium rate, and the morning shift guards were VERY pleasant and professional to us the whole time we were there.

Quick! What Rhymes With “Pepto Bismol”?

, , , , , , , , , | Working | August 24, 2022

I work in a small engineering office with six others, although only two were there when this happened. If things are quiet and no one is on the phone, it’s normal for someone to whistle a bit or maybe start quietly singing to themselves. No one minds.

It was getting late in the afternoon, and I think my coworker needed to hit his silly quota for the day, to the tune of a song from a certain musical about a wannabe nun from Austria.

Coworker #1: *Singing* “How do you solve a problem like diarrhoea?”

I burst out laughing.

Coworker #1: “You like that, then, [My Name]?”

Me: “Brilliant! If they put that on in the West End, that show would run and run!”

[Coworker #1] and [Coworker #2] responded with a mix of laughing and groaning.

It Rarely Hurts To Listen

, , , , , , , | Working | CREDIT: sujit_warrier | August 14, 2022

I’m a software engineer. I used to work for a pretty big company that specialized in developing software solutions for their client. I was sent on-site to the client, a big Malaysian bank, to play the role of front-end developer (basically making their Internet banking website). They already had backend services set up for a mobile application which we were also to use for the website.

There was only one problem: you could only install the app on one phone and log in to your account. This meant that if the customer logged into their app, they wouldn’t be able to log in through the website. As anyone can determine, this is a big problem.

I went to the back architect and tried to tell him, as well as the project manager, about this problem.

Back Architect & Project Manager: “You don’t know what you’re talking about. Stop disturbing us. Just do your job and nothing else!”

(I later found out that they hated the previous front-end manager and would never listen to the front team.) So, I sent an email detailing the whole problem to both of them, and their bosses, as well. As expected, nothing happened, but my butt was covered.

Fast forward two months. The client reviewed the architecture for the website and found that no changes had been made to the backend to accommodate the different behaviour of the website. They called a meeting and blasted the back architect, the project manager, and their boss. They claimed that they were backend people and didn’t know the difference in behaviour in a website, and that it was my job to let them know. They brought me in to question me as to why I hadn’t let them know. They claimed that, because of me, the project had been delayed for two months and the company had incurred losses. I calmly told them of my meeting with the two idiots and showed them the email, which they had ignored. Then, there was a glorious explosion. Basically, the architect was called incompetent and his twenty years of experience were called into question, and the project manager blamed everything on the architect.

After that, they always considered my suggestions.

After two months, the architect was transferred to another project and replaced, and the project manager quit IT. The last I heard, he is trying to set up an organic farming business.

Perhaps Further Train-ing Is Required

, , , , , , , | Working | August 10, 2022

This is not my story, but that of a friend who was a computer engineer back in the 1990s. He was regularly shuttling from NYC (where he lived and generally worked) down to DC (where his company had a major client). They paid for travel. If I recall correctly, they were required to spring for First Class. He was paid something like $150 an hour at the time.

Normally, [Friend] flew, but one time, the weather went to heck and he had to take the train. He wound up in First Class on the Metroliner (high-speed train) with a nice dinner and drinks included. He liked it, so he opted to take the train the next time; it turned out that it was actually cheaper than a last-minute ticket flying from NYC to DC.

The client threw a fit, saying that their travel reimbursement system couldn’t handle train tickets and they really only dealt with the train the prior time because it was a weather emergency. He checked his contract and the following exchange ensued.

Friend: “So, you’re saying that you cannot reimburse me for the train tickets?”

Company: “That’s right. You’ll have to fly.”

Friend: “All right. In that case, if I have to fly, you can reimburse me for door-to-door travel time, which will be about three hours each way, if New York traffic cooperates.”

Company: “What?”

Friend: “Well, I’m entitled to travel time in our contract. If I have to fly, you can pay me for the travel time. Or, if you can reimburse my train tickets, I will happily waive that clause.”

Somehow, in the face of having to fork over an extra $900 per trip, their system was “suddenly” able to handle reimbursing train tickets.

And He’s An Engineer?!

, , , , | Right | June 20, 2022

I developed both a website and an intranet solution that approximately fifty civil engineers log into in order to submit files, reports, and other internal reports.

One of the engineers called me.

Engineer: “The solution you developed is absolutely worthless! I can’t even log in!”

I had sent a very detailed set of instructions in a PDF file, something I thought was absolutely idiot-proof.

After a step-by-step set of instructions over the phone, he resorted to calling one of the secretaries to see if she could log herself in.

As soon as she sat down in front of his computer, I heard her giggling, followed by bursts of laughter by several people surrounding his station. It was minutes before I could get someone to reply on the phone.

Turns out he was trying to log in on the PDF file’s screenshot.