Take me to Your Leader

“Problem! there’s no problem! – a problem is when you don’t have any food!”, Binh millpractically spit. A few years back I worked in a blood pressure cuff factory. Yes there are such places and this one was in an old mill, in an old mill town in New England. Back to Binh’s outburst, you can probably tell Binh is a nice Irish name…ha. He was an engineer (that’s an entire story in itself) struggling to develop tooling and processes to get the job done. The job in this case, was to develop a new type of cushion for a wheelchair. These were hi end cushions mind you, because medicare was probably paying for them. Anyhow, the prototype tooling was designed and built (Binh did both) and his assistant Travis was supposed to test it and figure out how to make it work. Once it was producing consistently, it was documented and turned over to production.

stormix.comProblem was, Travis was the kind of guy who would find a problem with a hot cheerleader begging him to sleep with her. Smart enough guy, fun to be around, but not exactly who you would call a,  git-her-done,  kind of guy –  pun intended.  So Trav is taking his sweet ass time setting up the machine and getting everything just so… Mind you the engineering guys only have the production machine for a two or three hour slot of time. There is work scheduled on the machine so they have to do their tests and get out. Binh would rather do the validation himself but the poor guy can’t do everything, that’s why the company hired Travis. So there’s a burr on one of the rails, easy enough to clean up with a file or some emery cloth, it’s standard procedure. But no, Old Trav decides to run the tooling as-is and of course there’s a problem. A big blue flash arcs out from under the head during a seal and Travis jumps back a few feet – Trav is a big boy mind you. Right there he declares ,”Binh, we got a problem.”  I can see the vein in Binh’s forehead machinethrobbing and that’s when he yelled

“Problem!?, there’s no problem, a problem is when you don’t have enough to eat!”

He had heard “problem” after problem from Travis and he was on his last Tylenol. You see, Binh knew what is was like to not have enough food. He knew what is was like to be far from home and not speak the language – stranger in a strange land. He knew what is was like to be in the South China sea in a half sunk boat with 30 other refugees and watch helplessly as pirates took all their food and water. (Real pirates aren’t like Johnny Depp and don’t say Arrrhh.) Just criminals at sea.

So when Travis said “we have aproblem”, it just didn’t jive with old Binh’s idea of what a PROBLEM really was. I learned more from that guy than he will ever know. Put himself through engineering school at UMass and graduated. Started out bagging groceries and collecting carts for Stop n Shop. Cut trees for a while with this tree service in western mass company No money, no car, no connections.

Anyone who tells you there are no opportunities any more, send them to me, there’s a guy I’d like them to meet.

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