The first day for the new summer student that we hired was fairly mundane: a welcome to the other staff, a walk through the building, handing over of keys and things like that. But the second day was another story – the second day laid the ground for what was to become a memorable summer.
Wing was from China, and had moved to Canada four years prior in order to take classes at a Canadian university. On day number two, Wing showed up to work at 8:52 a.m. By no later than 8:54 a.m. he was logged into his computer and ready to work, looking at my expectantly and awaiting his marching orders. I sighed, since I hadn’t even had a good run at my coffee yet.
I turned my chair and faced Wing. “The first thing you need to do is install all of the development tools you will need: Subversion, Putty, Android Studio…” The list was decently long and he wasn’t taking notes, but I kept going. By the time I was done, Wing replied with a polite “OK” and then turned to his computer and started working. That was it. I was a little surprised, but happy to embrace my coffee cup again.
Not much longer than an hour later I heard a noise coming from behind me. It sounded like “Tah”. My brain registered the fact that there was a noise, but I kept on working.
Again with the noise, but this time the inflection made it a question and there was no doubt now that this noise was foreign to the room. I stopped typing and turned around, only to find Wing staring directly at me.
“What did you say?” I asked while cocking my head slightly to the side, still perplexed.
“Your name, Tah.”
“It’s Todd. You actually have to pronounce the Ds at the end.”
“No, just Todd.”
“What’s with the extra syllable? Just Todd. One syllable.”
“But there are two Ds at the end of your name. Tah and then D and another D makes Tah-duh-duh.”
Our other co-worker, Jake, by this time had stopped working and I could see his body trembling slightly as if he were stifling a laugh. I continued: “If it helps you, you can pretend the last D just isn’t there. Tod.”
“Ah, yes. Tahd. That makes sense.”
“Great. Now that all of that is out of the way, what can I do for you?”
“Installing all of the software. Done.”
“Really? Let me check.” I opened his Windows start menu and checked for all of the software that I had mentioned, and it was all there. “Huh.”
“Oh nothing. Well then what you can do next is pull a copy of the source code from the Subversion repository, and compile it to run on the Java emulator.”
“OK.” And that was that, as Wing turned back to his computer and started madly compiling Java code for an Android app.
I turned back to my own work, but not for long. At least this time I was ready for it.
“I suspected as much.” Without really looking, I grabbed the Nexus 7 tablet from beside me, tossed it his way, and said, “here’s a device. Get the app running on this please.”
I glanced over at the time on my computer: 10:13 a.m. I should be able to get a bit of work done now, since I anticipated that Wing may run into any number of problems getting the app working on a real device.
No, it couldn’t be. It was only 10:27 a.m. Only 14 minutes had passed since I last gave Wing his assignment that I thought would take him to lunch time. I lowered my coffee cup to the desk again and turned around to see Wing holding the tablet in one hand and pointing at it with the index finger of the other hand, all while sporting a grin from ear to ear.
“Done,” he proudly proclaimed once again.
“I see. Now we have a problem.”
Jake stopped typing and spun his char around to face us while the grin on Wing’s face quickly deflated.
“What problem?” Wing asked.
“You’re done too fast.”
“Yeah, you’re going to need to slow down. That was supposed to last you until lunch time.”
“I don’t understand,” Wing said with a dejected tone, while Jake burst out laughing.
“OH COME ON WING, IT WAS A JOKE!” I exclaimed while grinning and giggling.
“Oh, OK.” He stopped sulking, but still wasn’t laughing.
“You’re supposed to be laughing.”
“Ha ha ha?” Wing’s forced laughter was much funnier than the joke itself, and Jake and I both went into full-on laugh track mode.
After we calmed down, and Wing still wasn’t really getting the joke, I confessed to Wing that there were obviously some culture differences to overcome, but the work that he had done was great.
“Eventually, Wing, you WILL get my jokes. Even if it takes all summer.”