Friday, March 10, 2006

Of machine and men

My life for the past 2 months or so has been distributed (and not evenly) between work and sleep. Heavens alone know how I manage to do other things that normal human beings do. Without bias I can confess that my work has been more greedy and had the lion's share of my day. Sleep squeezed in whenever work knocked me off.

In the midst of this very eventful (sic) phase of my life, I realised one thing which really tickled me. The way we depend on machines for the normal functioning of our lives is tremendous and ironical. We invented machines to ease our life and then we lose our lives to them. But of all of them, I think the telephone is very interesting. And most of my time with this machine was spent on conference calls.

So come with me and imagine this room with 4-5 people standing or sitting (or sleeping) and staring earnestly at an innocuous machine and calling it various names.

"No Sandeep, what we are trying to say is that the design for this component departs from the specification."

And machine says, "Not really, E. Which version are you looking at?"

Sometimes it is name plus voice. So imagine a lady called Tina with a voice like crabs slipping in a tin drum. So you are kind to her and ask her:
"Why on earth wasn't this piece done on time?"

and right claw says: "Oh!! You see..." and left claw takes over "that requirement was missed."

Then we sit back to imagine how this person would look like. Deep voices always seem to beckon sturdy images, and shrill voices conjure a well dressed pencil like structure. Those who stumble and go "Ummm... Aaaah" too often must look like little goats with specs. We invariably imagine bald heads on quivering voices and horn-rimmed glasses and protruding teeth on those we don't like.
The fun part is all the jokes and puns that we shoot out while we put the machine on mute.
My biggest problem has been with too many machines on the same table. I am not sure which one I should talk into, and invariably talk to the dead one. Reminds me of the man who lost his specs and ended up confessing to his wife what he wanted to tell his mistress!

Some guys on the other end are fun and very very friendly. The worst thing we could have is a bunch of dead-techies at the other end who go on in monotone about how this pointer caused that memory leak which resulted in some god-forsaken failure. I enjoy my time with this guy whom I shall call L. We would start the call and he would go: "Is that you, E?" and I would reply in affirmative and he would start out: "Hey! How've you been?" and so on. Really warm person who loves to joke. I know that recounting incidents are less humourous but I enjoyed this one.

We were assigning and delegating tasks and understanding everyone's role for the next 24 hours (yup, now our deadlines are in terms of hours and minutes. No kidding! I love this quote by Doug Adams: I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by). Some people were taking the call from their homes (and pretty noisy homes). I was telling him what he needs to ensure as complete. So I say:
"L, we would need this thing done by EOD tomorrow. Please ensure that you and your team work on this and get it done."

Suddenly someone's child started crying and it was fairly loud on the call. There was a minutes silence till we let it die down or hoped that the person would put it on mute. Neither happened. Unable to hold myself I shot out:

"Come on L. You don't have to cry for that. We are all here to help you!" :-D and he responded with "Mommmmyyyy! See Big Bad Indians are making me work!" and for a few minutes everyone was rolling. People just needed such breaks from what our work was doing to us.

But in all this, the phone stayed the same. Heated arguments, inter-continental demos, sad moments, tense moments and that dark grey instrument stays the same, conjuring images and voices and emotions. If someone's phone is switched off, then it becomes a crisis situation. Telephone lines are down and then there is a flurry of emails. Servers go down and we live off the phone. If someone is not reachable then a lot of things seem to stop (depending on the person's relevance to our work).

And here I am typing away at this post, because the office boy hadn't arranged for my car back home. When I asked him why the delay he said, "Saar, you should have called me on my mobile!" :-O


  1. I am now doubly glad that I did not call and add to your gadget woes :)

  2. !! A noisy world it seems, with even the deadest of lines like a dead line fly by with a whooshing sound... need we say anything at all about the other lines?


  3. Abhilash Warrier2:50 PM

    hey Eroteme,

    I can relate to that one very well.

    I once had attended a client call wherein the client had called us apparently to say that our phones were not good enough... that when we speak, they can hear us breathe!

    hahahahah!!! Imagine... state-of-the-art phones at Tata Interactive Systems, Mumbai... hahahah, yes, sir, we breathe a lot while we talk!

    E, you are in Chennai, right? I too am in Chennai. Would love to meet you sometime... and we can talk books, blogs, and bookwork.

    We can think about writing/ publishing stuff together, and maybe even create a TLC (The Literary Club) of our own here! What say?

    Please call me at XXXXXXXXX. We'll talk! ;-)

  4. Dear E,
    In the words of the wise Mountain Monk: Yeah Right!

    Dear P,
    Uhhhmmm. Nope. Nothing else required! ;-)

    Dear AW,
    I took the liberty of modifying your comment. We should meet sometime. Alvibest is having a meeting over this weekend.

  5. @Eroteme - My deep condolences the telephone and to you!!! Both of you have been overworked!!!

  6. It was about time......thought you died and was in some medical school for show and tell purposes!!!!!!!

  7. phew, that was indeed a 'machini-cal' post. glad to see you back Eroteme. was waiting for your next one. anyways, you are an 'id ka chand' now.

  8. Dear S,
    I shall pass on your kind words to the telephone! ;-)

    Dear GI,
    Show and tell? :-O That doesn't sound like a good game to play with a dead man!

    Dear A,
    How are you? Id ka chand nahin, chandra grahan ho gaya tha mere zindagi mein! :-(