On the Road: Adventures in Consulting on 9-11

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had to report for duty in San Diego. Amazingly, his fiancée lives in the same little town I do. We asked Dave if they really wrote messages on the bombs in chalk like you see in the movies. He wasn't sure, but we found a piece of paper and wrote our names and the messages we wanted delivered to whoever the enemy turned out to be. Dave promised to write them on the bombs if he could. 

"Folks, welcome to Texas. It's about nine at night. For those of you headed west, at nine tomorrow night you'll still be in Texas. Yup, just like they say, it's a whole 'nother country."

Janice is from Spokane, Washington. She's a fraud-prevention specialist with a large credit union. She had been attending a conference and, like the rest of us, wanted to get home. She spent hours describing the various ways people cheat banks and credit unions: They give checks to friends who cash them and then they report the checks stolen. They do the same with credit cards. Janice claims she can tell the phony reports from the real ones "a mile away." But these are just little scams. I asked Janice what the secret was to stealing millions. She just smiled ... and went to sleep. 

"This is Amarillo, folks. We have a thirty-five-minute lunch break here. I highly recommend the lunch counter here. It's good food, not like back in the Dallas station. Try the burgers."

Our driver/restaurant guide was right. How long had it been since I'd seen a fry-cook actually toast the buns--a little bit of real butter first, and then grilled to a golden brown? And the tomatoes and onions sliced thick, and only the greenest part of the lettuce, and fries made from real potatoes ... just like I'd done it so many years ago, working my way through high school cooking burgers at Pinky's Drive-Inn. Actually, I started as a car hop. We all wore pink shorts and put little pink plastic elephants on the ice cream cones. Ed, the owner, taught me how to cook burgers right; we grilled the onions too. Oh, sorry. 

"Hey, anyone named Bob and Sally on this bus? There's some people out at the side of the road looking' for you."

Rather than wait for the New Yorkers to arrive in Santa Fe, Bob and Sally's friends had driven all night to rescue them from the bus. We were all happy to see the signs and the balloons and the hugs and the tears. Why hadn't someone come to rescue us?

Dean is in the merchant marines. He works as the chief mechanic on ships that supply offshore oil rigs. He was on his way home to Cody, Wyoming, after serving six months off the coast of Nigeria. He loves the sea but loves the rugged mountains of Wyoming even more. He regaled us with tales of Africa and Belize and the North Sea and the South Pacific. Sitting across from Dean was Cliff. Cliff was with his blonde, two-year old daughter, Raven. Raven slept. Cliff talked. Seemed that he and Dean were both from Cody. The first two hours of their discussion consisted of making a list of all the people they both knew and didn't know in Cody. Cliff owns a company that leads pack trips into the mountains--hunting and fishing mostly, although he did have a prospector once who had a secret map, and a couple on their honeymoon who wanted solitude. Into the night they shared stories of encounters with grizzlies. Cliff had to shoot

User Comments

3 comments
Sanat Sharma's picture
Sanat Sharma

Touchy article.

We all faced the after effects of 9/11, directly or indirectly. Two of my friends also lost their life on that day. But this is life. We should be ready for worst to face. Our personal lows make us more hard and strong in life.

God bless all who suffered 9/11 accident.

-- Sanat Sharma

September 14, 2011 - 11:25pm
Naomi Karten's picture
Naomi Karten

What a wonderful column – a special mix of poignant and funny. I empathize with the sorrows in your life and am gladdened by the joys. And I appreciate you for mentioning Anna Allison. I thought about her all day yesterday. ~Naomi

September 12, 2011 - 5:04pm
Gerard Miller's picture
Gerard Miller

Thank you for writing Lee.

My condolences on the deaths of two children.

Mick

September 12, 2011 - 9:32am

About the author

Lee Copeland's picture Lee Copeland

Lee Copeland has more than thirty years of experience in the field of software development and testing. He has worked as a programmer, development director, process improvement leader, and consultant. Based on his experience, Lee has developed and taught a number of training courses focusing on software testing and development issues. Lee is the managing technical editor for Better Software magazine, a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com, and the author of A Practitioner's Guide to Software Test Design. Contact Lee at lcopeland@sqe.com.

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