After two hilarious days in Hollywood, monday morning arrived and I was driving to Pasadena for my first day of real work. I was in wonderland. Traveling along on a freeway consisting of ten adjacent lanes all going with me and me as fast as my tiny dangerously inconspicuous Japanese car would go, I wondered if highway 101 was related to room 101 and why route 66 went no-where in particular.
My new taxi driver friend had giving me the heads up on how to drive to Pasadena from Hollywood on the freeways in peak hour. Thanks to his remarkably detailed instructions and the fact that the peak hour traffic was heading in the reverse direction to me, I arrived in plenty of time to park in the companies car park with what seemed to me like a thousand other happy cars. My white shirt was clean and ironed together with my best suit and matching tie. With my briefcase full of the my Australian customers functional specifications, I made my way to the front of the building. I was ready.
The trouble was, I couldn’t find anyone that had any prior knowledge of someone visiting from their Australian subsidiary. I found the reception. The building consisted of two floors, with manufacturing obviously showing on the ground floor and offices discretely above. The person I was to contact was called Chuck; Yep, his real name. I was told by reception that he was away that day, visiting a customer site interstate. Some state that sounded to me like it was in a movie. Ok. I took a seat in the reception and watched attentively as people passed this way and that.
With a time zone difference of 18 hours ahead to Australia, there was no use in phoning my boss in Australia; he’d be a sleep already. I sat and calmly waited in wonderland. The receptionist was kind and eventually found the head of the automation department for me; a women introducing herself to me as Jane. Evidently everyone was on a first name basis and as I followed her up the stairs, noticed I was the only person wearing a suit. She apologized for not knowing I was coming. Not a good start I suppose, but I was not put off. Typical of life though, my introduction was an excellent indicator of what was to come.
Jane was between meetings and our meeting was in the hall way. When she realized what project I was evolved in, she handed me off to Mark, complete with jeans and cow boy boats. He also knew nothing about the Australian project. Nevertheless, he was very pleased to meet me, “an Australian” and escorted me to an open plan room in the centre of the office floor. The
room was was not at all modern, which surprised me. Sort of brown wooden and retro, but not meaning to be. Pleasant enough though and reminded me of country outback living in Australia. The room was large which thankfully easily made up for having no windows.
Mark quickly introduced me to the 6 others quietly working away at their computers. A couple of them kindly and with no apparent surprise, found me a vacant desk and chair next to a very friendly and happy Mexican guy called Cisco. Mark explained to me that he was sorry about the rush, but that morning they were all dealing with an emergency on the other side of the floor.
“What sort of an emergency?”, I ask.
“We are being sued for 10 million by a large customer of ours and we need to get it fixed immediately”, he explains before rushing off to leave me with my new work mates as they busily and silently typed away on their keyboards. The office had all hands to the deck and as I learned later, Mark was the gun. I was left to fend for myself, which was fine with me. I had pen and paper.
At lunch, I discovered the plant covered the whole block and I was, of course, tiny in comparison. From there, in California, this new point of view for me, it was slowly dawning on me that even my country was tiny. No one seemed to know anything about the Australian project, let alone, a guy coming from Australia to pick up the new system. Even more surprising to me on that first day was that everyone seemed to like the fact that I was an Australian, despite never having been to my country and closer to home, not even being aware of the Australian project I was working on.
I never did get to the bottom of their interest in Australia, but it served me well for a while, or so it seemed. I suspected my new west coast friends perceived “Australia” and me in particular, as being even further west of them. I in consequence, would naturally fit in with their way of doing life and business in the west. The ‘life style” as they say. Needless to say, given what was soon to sadly unfold in front of me, their nice friendly perception of me only lasted a few weeks.
The next day when I arrived, no one was around again, neither in my side of the floor or on the other side as was the situation the day before. Knowing the place much better now, I soon discovered they were down stairs thinking that they must have solved yesterdays drama, but no. Turned out that someone else was now suing them for even more money and that now was the priority and yesterdays problem could wait. This turned out to be this groups modus operandi, running from one fire to another each day. I found I had plenty of time to enjoy LA, staying out late and sleeping during the day at my desk. They were very happy about that too.
© 2016 – 2017, James Harry Burton. All rights reserved.