For those of you who don’t know me, once upon a time I worked for IBM as a Main Frame service engineer. Those years most of us thought that IBM would eventually run the world. It was rich, powerful and it seemed that all new technology came from their famous labs. This is definitely no longer true and today IBM is just another name that most of recognize but not much more. It seems some segments of our population are still living in the past. This story starts at that time of my life when I was almost convinced that I was indeed a technical writer and needed to find a better paying place of work. I cannot remember exactly how I found out but ECI in Petach Tikva were looking for a technical writer with an engineering background to document their hardware products.
I had an appointment to speak to the technical writing manager. When I met him I realized that, apart from being a particularly pleasant person, his technical writing department was exactly what I was looking for. From the look in his eyes he seemed to think that I was a pretty good candidate for the position and he took me to meet Olger, the very impressive engineer that I would work with.
The word impressive does not do justice to her. She was over six feet tall and she wasn’t a dainty giant but a very powerful woman and definitely not a person to be trifled with. We had this running interview on the fly so to speak. She didn’t seem to believe in standing still in one place while interrogating a potential co-worker. She picked up PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) of varying complexity and just kept up a barrage of questions. Then Olger just vanished, almost in a puff of smoke. Marcus my prospective boss explained that it seemed that he had eventually found someone that passed the OLGER TEST as Olger hadn’t been rude to me. Faint praise indeed! We walked back to his office and he asked me to write him a short service manual for his stapler. I must have passed that as well as he got quite excited when he read the preventative maintenance section and found my sole instruction was to apply two drops of oil every leap year.
I was soon on my way home thinking of my impending meeting with someone from the HR department. My only real experience with HR people was at IBM and there they were very pleasant and seemed to spend most of their time organizing large events and selecting presents for the workers for Pesach. Harmless enough! However since then I had come to think that they actually did more harm than good in any company as they seemed to come to the strangest of conclusions from the most inane questions. Even when I became a freelancer they invariably mentioned that they had a problem with me having moved so many times. I started to dislike HR people and thank goodness, very rarely had to deal with them.
I arrived 10 minutes early for the meeting with the HR lady and was told to sit in the foyer and wait. That is what I did - for more than an hour. Eventually some young woman walked up to me and signaled me to follow her without saying a word. She led me up the stairs to the next floor and nodded towards a small room and speaking over her shoulder, told me to fill in the form and wait for her.
I entered the room and at first I didn’t see any forms. Eventually I found a slightly rumpled one on the floor under the table. I filled in the form using the pen I brought with me as apart from the small table and two chairs there wasn’t anything else in the room. I waited for almost half an hour. Suddenly the young woman appeared at the entrance to the room. Without saying a word she implied that I should follow her. We stepped into an airless room completely bare except for another table and two chairs. She sat down in one of the chairs. So this was the Human Resource person.
She was young, noticeably pregnant and not a very happy person. I just assumed that her lack of anything resembling a smile was due to her pregnancy.
The interview started off all right but the second time she asked me why I left IBM I thought it a bit strange. I explained again that IBM was cutting down on staff world wide and they paid a pretty good severance package for many of us to leave. True they were reluctant for me to leave not only because I was only 52 but also because I was the only person that really knew some of the hardware. By the time she had asked me for the fifth time I was starting to think that this wasn’t going to end all that well.
When I first entered the room with her I, for no sane reason, decided that I would do my utmost to leave her with a smile on her face. It was just more difficult to do than I had originally thought. What is the matter with me. People normally think I am funny, maybe not serious, but at least funny.
I couldn’t believe my ears. She had asked me again! Well it seems to her, this was the show stopper. She said that the only reason people left IBM was because they were fired for fraud or something worse. I remember now so clearly that what happened next was not really under my control.
I just blurted out the fact that it was actually a health thing. Her eyes lit up; -no she didn’t smile- and asked me if I was sick. My reply, “No I am not sick, THEY were making me sick.” This caused her to do the strangest thing. She simultaneously stood up and very rudely slammed the file closed, and still not smiling, told me I could leave.
That was a bit of a surprise. On the way out I popped in to see Marcus. I told him that the interview was a bit strange to say the least and I didn’t think the outcome would be a positive one.
Once again I found myself driving home thinking how could I have saved the day. Perhaps by acting differently, but decided that at my age, who the hell cares.