The Second Shift

Each evening, after 19h, during the second shift, I was waiting for the sound of his steps. He was a small-to-medium-built man with a dark complexion. His slightly swinging gait gave him a certain stateliness. The Mondays were the only days when his black beard, freshly shaved, was allowing his face to be seen. Despite the lack of high-level formal education, he was a very knowledgeable man with a rare skill: he knew to ask questions and to look for new questions from the answers he had got. I think his formal training was in vocational school only. He was a very smart guy and an avid reader. Every single engineer in the Company (quite more than a hundred) knew him well and few of them really appreciated his friendship, me included.

I have many memories with and about him: his uniques accomplishments, our discussions during the last hours of the evening shifts – when the production process allowed us to chat – and so on. What pushes me, now, to write about him is a story from a revolute era, when the Berlin Wall was still to fall in a couple of years, that links perfectly with present day when some other Walls are still to be built.

The only character in all the articles, in the very few newspapers, was the Leader (of the Party and the country). My friend, one day, took his time, despite nausea that it provokes, to count all the places where the Leader’s name was printed in the Party’s newspaper, a slim 8 pages.

In that memorable evening, he arrived with the Party’s newspaper in his hand, thrown it on one table and said to me “His … name is mentioned here for two hundred times.” After a long moment of silence, filled up with despair, he added  “It might be worse than now but has to be somebody with a fucking different name.

By the way: we have an election here on 19 October, isn’t it?

Customer service: the best

I found some answers on Quora (here) for an interesting question, that was sitting in the back of my head for a long while and never being put in words.

This post is not about that question but for some of its answers.

A few days ago I had to do a complaint, by phone, to a Customer Service. I was a little irritated about the issue because I already addressed it a couple of months ago. I stayed on the phone for about an hour trying to convince the guy over there to do what I was asking for. He declined his competence concerning my issue and passed me over to his supervisor. As usual, when you are dealing with these kinds of things, the best thing to do is to keep in mind that you have a problem to solved and not to show to the other that you are smart and he is dumb or you are Right and he is Wrong.

Here I have to bring in a clarifying note (maybe you already figured out): I am not an English speaker and I do not use English on a daily basis. For this reason, I pay a great amount of attention to the others’ English.

Both these two guys speak English with a quite bumpy Spanish accent. This was a little unusual for me (naively) and I asked the supervisor where in the world is located. He proudly answered me that was in Salvador and he followed with the question if I know where the country is located. I told him that I know and I gave some details to proof my knowledge.

This simple dialog triggered a quite different approach of my complaint. Everything was solved very smoothly in no more than a couple of minutes.

Final note

In the educational system, where I spent my youngest years, the notes were, and still are, from 1 (minimum) to 10 (maximum) but to pass the minimum was 5.

To have the 5 at Geography, in the last year of High School (over there is called Lyceum), it was quite simple: you should know all the countries of the world with their respective capitals and be able to show them on the map. There were two “exceptions”: the USA and USSR where you should know all the States and the Soviet Republics with their respective capitals.

Back then, there were some 180 countries on the map.

In the comments, below, give me your best guess for the country I am from.

Une ère passée

Devrait le faire: d’écrire le premier poste en Français.

Il m’arrive de tomber sur des idées, pour les poster ici ou pour d’autres fins, en marchant. Depuis quelque temps – il y a déjà trois ans – je m’efforce de faire dix kilomètres par jour. C’est chose connu que le bon usage des pieds fait du bien a la tête. Mais c’est aussi connu que le mal usage de la tête fait mal aux pieds.

S’arrivent des drôles des choses en marchant sur pas mal longues distances. Des fois tu parle à toi-même en te rappelant des faits depuis long temps oubliées, ou c’est qu’est-que tu croyais.

Il y à presque vingt ans depuis quand j’ai m’acheté le tout premier ordinateur PC, avec l’argent obtenu sur la vente de ma première voiture et en ajoutant comme vingt pourcent pour atteindre la faramineuse somme de 1995 US$. C’était l’année 1995 et venait de sortir le fameux Windows95 et j’ai acheté l’ordi avec la licence de Microsoft, un péché très grave parmi mes concitoyens. Je crois que j’étais le seul dans la grande ville faisant une chose pareille. Mais je voulais être correct et sans souci. Pauvre moi! Quelle naïveté!

Dix ans auparavant je déjà construisais mon tout premier « ordi » comparable aux performances du ZX-Spectrum. Mais ce vrai ordi PC était déjà le Soleil face à la Lune.

English: Sinclair 48K ZX Spectrum computer (19...

Sinclair 48K ZX Spectrum computer (1982) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

J’ai beaucoup appris avec cet ordinateur. Le Windows venait de changer d’apparence vers le nouveau look, déjà connu des nos jours, du XP. Je l’ai installé de dizaine des fois, j’ai commencé à comprendre la structure encombrée du SO Windows, des fichiers ini, des fichiers dll et, le plus mystérieux, le Registry. Quels beaux jours!

Je me rappel que, même avant d’avoir mon PC, j’étais fan d’Excel – version 4, si je ne me trompe pas – et j’ai lu un livre sur ça jusqu’à je l’ai appris par cœur. Je suis devenu expert en Excel avant de le voir.

Mais je n’avais pas d’Internet.

En 1995 il était pas mal rare d’entendre parler d’Internet mais il était là déjà. Mon pays était parmi les touts premiers d’avoir Internet en l’Europe de l’Est, tour de 1992.

La Compagnie ou je travaillais était connectée au Internet et, d’une façon ou d’une autre, je devrais avoir Internet chez moi. Il n’était pas simple, parce qu’il n’y avait pas d’Internet commercial encore, pour le grand public, seulement venait d’être offert pour les compagnies.

Finalement je l’ai eu!

A la prochaine!