It never fails. Someone from engineering joins the interdisciplinary team and the shoulder pad thumping begins: tales of sales teams bartering local currency for booze in exotic locations or bailing customers out of jail for busting up a hotel lobby. Sometimes it’s that hilarious story about dressing up like a chicken, sacrificing dignity for a greater cause. It usually has all the authenticity of late-night, one-upmanship, “I can top that!” fraternity bull sessions or maybe the battle scar competition between Quint, Brody and Hooper in Jaws. I don’t remember that any of these stories had the dramatic impact of Ken Follett’s retelling of the rescue of Ross Perot’s EDS employees from Iran . But it sends a WWC signal: “We business guys risk it all. We’re dedicated. We live in a different — and way more exciting — world than you do.” Maybe all the engineers need is a story like this one.
We were within hours of defaulting on the delivery schedule for an important contract. My team was working around the clock to test and package software on a magnetic tape because those were the days when bits had to be sent from place to place in back of a truck. It was late Saturday afternoon and the only one who knew how to get to the Federal Express office in North Atlanta before it closed was our graduate student assistant, Walt, who, as we found out, was not only ingenious and loyal but had some experience in, umm, navigating back roads. Walt just wanted to be reimbursed for gas. “Sure,” I said, “send me a short trip report.”
From: email@example.com Sat Sep 26 16:58:15 1987
Subject: the chase
well, it is on its way — but not without some work!!
i flew to fedx, speeding, running lights, etc. i ran the light at northside in front of oga’s bbq in the turning lane at 60 mph. there was a cop just gettin out of his car at the trajik markup. i lost him by cutting thru the kroger parking lot and slipping across i-75. then i cut the big star lot to collier. next i had to get passed the police station on collier — which i did with no trouble but then i came to the light on defoors ferry an met one comming the other way. i bit my lip hoping the other one had not radioed ahead, but he didn’t bat an eye. finally i get down the road to fedx and the truck was waiting for me. did my business and started back out. there was 4 or 5 blue boys crawling up and down collier and defoors! i hid behind a dumpster til the coast was clear and then slipped 200 ft up defoors to bohler — an old trick — thru the residential section up to moors mill onto 75 and gone!
anyway — if they come get me tonight you may have to contact cathy for any more developments. i really don’t think they got my number.
walt — in hiding
My Thanksgiving request to all of you who would like to share a story that our dramatically challenged engineering colleagues can haul out as proof of physical courage and personal commitment is that it be true. Or at least someone should assure you that a friend of theirs swears that the story is true.
Like the time we took sausages in trade for network hardware.
 Ken Follett, On Wings of Eagles, William Morrow & Co 1983