10.11.05

Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore...

The first time I traveled in Asia, I was working for a large networking company. I went to their sales conference in Thailand, to present on the nuances of device provisioning to several hundred customers from Asia and the Pacific rim. I did my talk, and that evening got hooked up with a bunch of sales guys and customers for a night of hardcore drinking in Phukett. It's not the point of my story, but as an aside, never ever try to drink with sales guys. That's what they do for a living. They will buy you drink after drink, smiling the whole time, and they will bury you.

I got buried that night. My last conscious memory was closing the only Irish bar in Phukett, getting poured into the back of a tuk-tuk, and riding half way back across the island singing Thunder Road at the top of my lungs.

Morning came early.

I put on my game face, and relying mostly on black coffee and my relative youth, I went to the "vendor fair". I had a booth all to myself, where I presented, once again, on the relative merits of various approaches to device provisioning. I was speaking to a group of engineers from a cable TV company in India. They wanted to know how to provision multiple layers of IP service using DOCSIS cable modems. I drew a bunch of stuff on the white board in the booth and said a bunch of smart stuff, while the room spun around me. I turned back to the 4 engineers and asked if they had understood what I had said. They all shook their heads. Okay, we'll try again. I braced myself, held back a wave of nausea, erased the white board, and started over. When I was done again, I asked them if they understood now. They all shook their heads. Sigh. I tried again. I knew I was a little off, but this was ridiculous. Using the most basic principles and small words I could muster, I re-explained. Again, all 4 engineers shook their head. But this time, one of them said "Yes Mister Hickman. We understand perfectly. Thank you very much." And they walked away, no doubt thinking I was a little odd, and possibly mentally, ahem, challenged.

Moral of the story - engineers from India shake their head back and forth when they mean yes.

Actually, they wobble their head a little bit.

It looks a lot like what engineers from the States do when we mean to say no.

I really wish someone had told me that before my trip.

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