Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Messing with the locals minds

yup - another story or two from my first trip to the US, 1982. It was a company trip; I went to Santa Rosa California for training on Microwave Spectrum Analysers at Hewlett Packard. Another Australian made the same trip for somewhat different training at the same location. One night we went out for dinner and solemnly told the waitress that we wanted to start with coffee and dessert, followed by the main course and finishing with the appetizer. She was somewhat surprised but we assured her that's how Australians eat their meals. There's probably an ex waitress somewhere in California who, to this day, believes that Australians eat their meals backwards. I imagine we caused havoc in the kitchen that night!

I got on very well with the engineers who ran the training course. They, of course, were curious about the southern hemisphere; specifically they wanted to know if the water really does swirl the other way. I've never noticed a difference. But I did take cruel advantage of their curiousity. I told them that because of the coriolis effect clocks down south actually have to run the other way or else they'll lose time and how when we're reading northern hemisphere technical manuals that say 'turn Pot B clockwise' we have to remember to turn them anti-clockwise from our point of view. They were somewhat doubtful at first, until I pointed at the clock on the wall and read the numbers backward. That convinced em. Of course, the fact that my wristwatch was digital helped.

Somewhat later I told them a true story; about the 6 foot (or longer) earthworms found in Gippsland, eastern Victoria, my home state. They refused to believe that one and alas, this was in the days before the WWW so I was unable to convince them I was telling the truth.

In 1986 I went back to Santa Rosa for a second round of training on the newer all digital Spectrum Analysers. I was delighted to learn, before travelling, that the same two guys would be running the training. We (myself and the other guys in the Microwave department at HP Melbourne) made a special clock for me to take to them. It was a cheap alarm clock with the spring reversed so it ran backward. We spray painted the original face and used Letraset (remember that stuff?) to put the numbers on in the reverse order. As a final touch we put 'made in the USA' at the bottom.

Tom, one of the engineers, was delighted!

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