Wednesday, July 27, 2011

They drive on the left, idiots

Remember when you first graduated from college and got a real job?  It was so cool, you actually had money to go out with your friends and not argue about who had the expensive beer.  Ohh, and no roommates, I do not mean sharing a house with cool friends, I mean sharing your bedroom so that the "system" is required to let each other know when you could use your bedroom or not.  When I started college our system was simple, one of those meeting room signs on the door that says, "Meeting in progress".  I don't ever remember getting to use the sign but I sure liked the idea and it annoyed the crap out of me how much my roommate, Rob, got to use the sign.  I think he slept with some of the girls just to rub it in my face.  So when I got my first house with my own bedroom it was excellent.

He scored so often I felt like the little brother, too short to ride this ride. (BTW that is an 8" ruler)

I started my computer career at Accenture.  Well really it was called Andersen Consulting when I started but a nasty bit of scandal on the part of Arthur Andersen caused them to change their name.  In truth I started my computer career before college working for Burroughs when I was 19 but that is another story...  When you work for a consulting company travel becomes your life, there was one stretch where I flew over 200k miles a year for 3 consecutive years, trust me, the warm nuts in first class are not worth it.  When you just graduated from college though, the thought of traveling for work was oh so glamorous.  My first day at Andersen, Melissa, the exceedingly cool Seattle HR manager, was showing myself and Jeff (brown dog) Brown around the office where she introduced us to Erin. Erin has the coolest assignment on the planet, she was staffed at Microsoft deploying accounting systems around the world.  She had lived in Sydney for a year and was about to head off to London for another year.  Jeff and I looked at each other and said how do we get that job.  Melissa laughed and said  yeah, all 200 Seattle employees say that.

Jeff and I spend the nest 3 weeks in Chicago training followed by 2 weeks of twiddling our thumbs in the office copying proposals for various potential clients.  Finally we get the call, guys, come and meet Dan your new project manager.  Dan turns out to be the coolest manager one could ever ask for, he is an amazing mentor, leader, and friend.  He says, guys, how soon can you be ready to move to London for a year.  No f*&#in' way!  "When do you need us?"  To which he replies, "2 weeks".  Jeff and I caucus and counter, can we leave on Friday and vacation in Europe for 10 days? It was Wednesday but what the hell.  "If you can pull it off then sure", he says.

Jeff and I manage to break our leases, pack up our houses and move our crap into storage, and pack for 12 months all in 22 hours. Then we hop on BA direct to London. We get off in London, store our stuff at the Microsoft office in Reading, and hop a train south with no destination in mind other than sunshine but that too is another story.

Sadly not London, a house in Winnersh

Living in London is quite an experience, well I cheat because we did not live in London we lived in Wokingham, well actually even worse Winnersh, which is west of London on the M4, just a short train ride in as they say.  This is a bit like learning thy are sending you to NY but then you learn its really in Yonkers.  Not living in London proper meant we had to drive cars, the company rented us Audi A4s for the duration.  While they were gutless wonders that probably saved our lives.  You see driving on the left requires significant additional mental processing time to decide which way to go or more precisely which lane to choose.  It is also a good idea to have an underpowered car when in London because you end up at a pub 4 nights a week after work.  Our pub was The Ship.

On this one particular night about 3 months after we arrived we were at the pub and ready to head home.  When we got to the car there was a short debate about who should drive.  Jeff definitively says he is the one to handle the job.  We all pile in.  2 blocks from the pub is the B3270<>Reading road roundabout, see above.  Jeff is apparently not the right person to be driving since he heads right around the roundabout. Erin yells, "wrong way, LEFT" (sadly she fails to throw in "you idiot") to which Jeff swings it around to the left.  Well he fails to turn tight enough, drives up on the curb in the middle of the round about and takes out a traffic light.  The traffic light breaks free of its moorings and swings on the cable and smashes the front Window.  We get out and survey the damage, it is spectacular.  I take one look at Jeff and it is clear he is now completely inebriated. I would have sworn this was not the case 2 blocks back but he is now so...

Yeah, the policeman looked nothing like this except the radio

After 2 minutes the police drive up.  I tell everyone to say I was driving because if Jeff gets arrested he is going to get deported.  And if they talk to him he is going to get arrested.  It seems I have a knack for talking to policemen, as you will find in future posts, and I tell him I have not been in England for long so I made the mistake of thinking I was supposed to go right when I needed to go left.  He bought it and let us get a cab home.

Those of you who follow me know my friends call me Butthead.  I pondered in that post why I have friends at all given my propensity for dickish behavior.  Telling this story reminds me why.  One of the values my parents instilled in me is loyalty.  I may be a little raw from time to time but when the chips are down I will be there for you and do all I can.  I have a sign on the door of my office that says it all, a good friend will come and bail you out of jail but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying "damn that was fun".  Which are you?

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