Saturday 10 January 2015

Hats Off to Engineers

Round about the beginning of December, our land-line started acting up.  There was often a background crackle and calls would be abruptly dropped - notably when I was in the middle of a rant to customer service at our dysfunctional insurance company.  Because we live rural, for a long time we reckoned it was our fault and did nothing.  Then a week ago, TB called the telephone company and registered a complaint.  A tuthree days later I happened to be at home to field a call from the engineer who hoped that he had fixed the problem but was ringing to make sure we were happy.  It turned out that although the line looked sound externally, 17 years of bucketing about in the wind had fractured the copper wire inside so it was only intermittently completing the circuit. I was fulsome in my thanks and praise of his problem solving skills and engineers in general.  He modestly said that he had instruments to help him identify not only line-breaks but also how far they were from his current position. I told him the following parable to say how much of it lay, not in the tools, but in their competent use.

Megacorp's computer goes down and they call out an engineer to make it go again.  Little chap arrives with diminutive tool-kit; walks round the big machine with his head cocked to one side; then steps forward removes a small hammer from his bag and gives the back of the computer a sharp tap at the top left-hand corner.  Computer hums to life and Megacorp is very happy.  A week later an invoice appears:
Item Description Amount
1 Fixing Megacorp computer £1,000
TOTAL £1,000
VP Finance splutters with indignation: "£1000?! The fellow was only here for 5 minutes. Tell them to send an itemised bill!". A week later another invoice turns up:
Item Description Amount
1 Tapping Megacorp computer with hammer £5
1 Knowing where to tap £995
TOTAL £1,000
It's not just the star engineers, I reckon it's pretty much all engineers, however humble.  I'm not an engineer but I also have a toolkit in my head; that's why I can charge as much as a plumber to teach outside the Institute.

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