Monday, March 09, 2015

The working life: Oh stewardess, I speak jive

You guys know I have a new job that I really, really like. I had started to think, at my old job, that perhaps I was the problem. I worked in two different groups at oldjob and each time, my boss didn't seem too interested in talking to me.

I am used to bosses who become friends. In October, I spent the day in Chicago with my boss from the Peace Corps, who was here from Chile. Next week, when I go to Memphis, my former boss from my Memphis job is picking me up at the airport. I get Christmas cards from other previous bosses. I have always gotten along well with my bosses.

Except for oldjob. And I started to wonder if it was me and what was I doing wrong and what did I need to change.


Well, nothing about me.

What I needed to change was bosses.

I like my new boss. I like the other VPs. They are smart and they are the kind of smart that does not get threatened, so they are open to discussion and disagreement. Without getting into identifying details, I will just say that neither of the old bosses from oldjob ever wanted to discuss, even when they were wrong. (For example, it is illegal to recognize revenue for a service that has not been delivered, old boss. I cannot believe you made five times as much money as I did yet I had to be the one to inform you of that.) Second old boss was mean and vindictive and you did not cross him. (However, a good lesson from this is to choose your battles carefully.)

My new boss and his peers are not like that. They are smart and they make references to Sheldon and they want to build cool new stuff and they are happy to have me.

The reason I am working with all these super smart engineers is that they need someone to interpret for them to the rest of the world.

I speak Engineer. I can do that. I know just enough to be dangerous and I know I don't know and I don't mind asking questions and having people think I am dumb.

Well, I would mind their thinking I was dumb if I were really dumb, but it's like Dolly Parton (PBUH) says, "Dumb blonde jokes don't bother me because I know I am not dumb and I am not blonde."

So I take what the engineers do and I put it in words that people who are  not engineers can understand.

I have to admit, though, that interviewing the 1. German 2. engineer about 3. customer benefits gave me a headache. No, it's not a customer benefit that the product has a torque of 11 and a specific gravity of 12. (I am making all that stuff up. But that's the sort of stuff he kept citing as a benefit, even as I kept asking, "OK, but why would someone in finance care about this product? Why would someone in marketing?" Marketing does not care about torque!)(Unless marketing is selling wrenches.)

The customer benefit is that the product will not only make a woman's butt look just like Jennifer Lopez's butt but it will also clean the bathroom. THAT is a customer benefit.

So at work, I translate Engineer into Other People.

At home, I translate Other People into Engineer.

SH and I have been watching House of Cards. (Did I tell you I went to an event where the MC said that Claire Underwood was her idol? I need to make sure I stay away from that woman.)

We can go days between episodes.

I remember what's going on but SH does not. Nor does he catch the nuance in the show. If it is not spoken - if it is not direct and binary and unambiguous - he does not pick up on it.

This is not necessarily a bad quality. When an engineer loves you, you know it. He tells you. He tells you straight out and then he shows you. He tells you he loves you and then he cleans the hair from the bathtub drain, even though it is not even his hair.

There is nothing wrong with direct, unambiguous speech and action. Nothing at all.

However. When one is watching a soap opera, one must be attuned to the nuance or one will miss that Jackie is angry with Remy and is probably not going to sleep with him again or that Claire is lying - again - or that Meecham has a crush on Claire. And on Frank.

I am happy to be SH's interpreter. He turns to me in confusion and I explain and he drinks from his beer and squeezes my leg and we move on, on to the next ambiguity that I, with the impractical BA in English, can explain, because all I did in college while I was preparing for underemployment was try to understand why on earth characters did what they did.

In general, I would tell kids today not to waste their money on a liberal arts degree unless they have a huge trust fund and will never have to work for a living, but I have to say that being able to understand what goes on in a soap opera has turned out to be a useful life skill.


Marsha said...

It's so nice to know you're not alone. I am also the emotional translator for House of Cards at my house - as well as Soap Opera Historian, unelected (being as how I tend to remember the relationships between the characters and with them the events that have happened in previous episodes, which my husband does not). My skills are particularly helpful in that they let me avoid my husband's solution to not remembering what has already happened in a series, which is to start over with episode one and watch them all again, in sequence and preferably on consecutive evenings, until we reach the one that we haven't yet seen.

Class factotum said...

Marsha, it would make me crazy to start all over! I can't even stand it when SH rewinds a few seconds when he misses some dialog. I always tell him what it was but he never believes me but I am always right.