Saturday, February 21, 2009

Keeping Track

I've built a lot of my 'reputation' on my memory.

Being in the computer/data processing business means thinking in different languages with specialized formats and syntax which are very unforgiving. It's either perfect or completely, unutterably wrong. There are also different symbols and methodologies of work flow that you don't bump into elsewhere and you have to know all the details and the smallest failing will mess. . . you. . . up.

Some people are good at this crap and others have different skills. I got into the business because I could process spacial relationships well and I had a good memory.

I was working at Genuine Parts in Miami driving a delivery truck and I saw an advertisement
for aircraft cleaners for Eastern Airlines at the Miami airport, so I went down to apply. As I was leaving, I happened to overhear an employee say "OK, everyone here for the aptitude test, come on in." So I sauntered over and asked, "What kind of aptitude test." He squinted at me and said, "We're looking for people with data processing aptitude." "Oh, really", I said, having no idea what he was talking about. "Mind if I sit in?" No, there was plenty of room.

Well, I had never seen a test like this one. They gave us an image of a pile of boxes and asked what it would look like upside down and looking from the right. They gave us number sequences and asked what the next number would be. We're all familiar with these kinds of tests now, but this was all new to me. Fifty people took the test and they scored it while we waited. I was the only one that passed and they offered me a job on the spot. Talk about a life changing event.

So, don't tell me timing isn't important. It may not be everything, like some people say, but it sure is a lot. Where would I be right now if I had walked by that man one minute earlier or later? Would I still be in Miami? Would I have children? Would I still have hair? The mind reels.

My spacial relationship handling and memory actually improved as I exercised them in my career.
People were fooled into thinking I was smart because I could remember stuff. Working in genealogy helps, too. You try keeping track of 10,000+ relatives!

But as the memory starts to 'slip' a little, you must learn to use tools to help out. And if there are no tools, you must build them. For example, the first time I went off on a genealogy trip and came home with copies of the same pages from the same book (at 10 cents a page no less!), then I built my Genealogy Bibliography in Excel. I'm sure I re-invented what many others have done, but I listed all the books, parts of books, family history sheets, etc. in my library and I carry it with me when I go on trips.

That's probably pretty common, but I don't know how common my other little trick is. When I set about the task of scanning my photographs, I wanted to keep them chronologically correct. So I named them all starting with the date in the format 'YYYYMMDD Names Places'. That was fine, but I still had to discover what the date was. So I put the scanning on hold until I built the Kleylein Chronicle. I gathered all the pertinent data I could from various sources like calendars, canceled checks, financial records, notebooks, school records, whatever and built an Excel spreadsheet listing events in my family's lives that might provide clues to identifying dates and people in photographs. Important dates might include:

  • Purchase or sale of a house or car
  • Vacations and who went on them
  • Starting or stopping jobs
  • Births, deaths, marriages, anniversaries, etc.
  • Business trips or other work events
  • Major weather events
  • Illnesses or automobile accidents
  • Work events like promotions or new assignments
  • Education events like starting at a school or graduating
  • Sprinkling of major world events like O.J. murdering his wife
It really helped when the people were standing in front of a car that we didn't own until 1985 to help narrow the window. I imagine that as time passes, it may provide a bonus by preventing a lot of arguments.

"Oh, yes, I remember we drove to New Orleans in 1992. . ."

"It was 1993."

"No, it wasn't!"

"Well, let's just look at the Chronicle, shall we?" Heh, heh, heh.

1 comment:

Redcay Family said...

I had NO idea that's how you started at Eastern Airlines. No idea. My God, you could still be in Miami cleaning airplanes if it hadn't been for that guy.