I love my job as a programmer, but like most jobs, it can have a downside. Sometimes I really dread having to tell someone what I do for a living. The story I am about to tell you is 100% true.
When driving home one night, I was stopped by a police officer. It was just a “routine inspection.” I don’t know how it is in other countries, but here in Mexico they always ask questions like “Where are you going?” “Are you drinking alcohol?” (Seriously? Like I’m going to say “Of course I am, take me to jail or take my money… or both!” ) “Is this car yours?” and (in my experience) the most difficult question a muggle can ask a programmer, “What do you do for a living?”
So, of course, that’s just the question I got. I had to put my analytical skills to the test with this one: I had to guess the education level of the policeman (high school at most), his age (fifty something), and how much money I had in my pocket (maybe 100 pesos). Then I came up with two different options and played out the two scenarios in my head.
Option A: Tell the truth
Me: I’m a programmer.
Officer: (Stares at me with a clueless expression) What is that?
Me: I write programs for computers.
Officer: Where do you work?
Me: From my home, via internet.
Of course everybody already knows what the internet is, but working from home, well that’s a different thing—especially in a small city like Obregón (Sonora). That would be followed by more questions and me trying to convince him that what I do is legal and I’m not a drug lord (with a 2001 Jetta) lying about my work.
Estimated time: 20 minutes talking and having him checking my papers and car.
Option B: Say my career name
Me: I’m a computer engineer
That’s not entirely a lie, since that’s more or less what I studied and the name of the career I studied is commonly heard here (the real name in Spanish is “Ingeniero en Sistemas Computacionales”). The police officer would be familiar with that title, more or less know what it entails (computer things), and would let me go because I do not represent any trouble to mankind.
Estimated time: One minute or two, just checking my driver’s license and asking the standard questions.
I didn’t personally like option B because that’s just what I studied and it doesn’t feel like an accurate description of my job function—I’m a proud programmer! Even though, I decided that was the best option if I wanted to arrive home any time soon. So that’s the option I went with; but it didn’t quite play out the way I had envisioned! Here’s what happened:
Officer: What do you do for a living?
Me: I’m a computer engineer.
Officer: (Looks me over…glasses, kinda’ nerdy looking, 24 years old) You know, my computer won’t start anymore. Do you know what it can be? Can you check it out? …
What’s Your Take?
Yep, true story. Has something similar happened to you? What do you hate the most about being a programmer? Share your stories at @thecoderlife.
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Posted on Jun 3rd 2016