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  • Writer's pictureAlan Dale

We Sorted This. No Outsiders Ever Knew. Now It’s All Good Plotting Material

All seemed to be going smoothly, that’s to say relatively uneventfully, which was about as good as it got in engineering design. Only one textbook required to be open, nothing too taxing demanded, lunch break only an hour away. Keep calm and carry on. Check, check and check again.

That’s when my white knuckle ride began.

The incorrect formula jarred, like a loud, obvious wrong note. It swaggered across the page, elbowing aside the preceding and following lines of reasoning, like a drunken heavy, intent on a refill. I retreated hurriedly to the well-known text book, by an eminent specialist. Must be me, I thought and hoped. No harm done, soon sort it out, easy enough to get confused with this sort of thing. Even as I marshalled all these standard reassurances, I somehow knew that this time, it wouldn’t end thus.

My survival instincts had already kicked in, in full diplomatic mode, in parallel with the alarm about the technical implications. The engineer who had written what I had been told to check had, fortunately, left our department. He still worked for the company, however, and was a popular, respected figure. I was new. In this context, make that potentially compromisingly new. I had already learned that when juniors highlighted seniors’ errors, resentment would overshadow credit for attention to detail.

Realising that I’d have to tell my section leader sooner or later, I decided to dive straight in. Trade in the opportunity for psyching myself up for a hefty discount on anticipatory stress.

“Liam, I think I may have found something rather...” I hesitated. What, exactly, was the appropriate way to describe a potentially dangerous error of this nature? “Awkward,” I lamely concluded.

“What’s that, then?” The tone was amiably unconcerned, reassuringly indicative of years of dealing uneventfully with the traumas of flustered juniors.

I duly explained, striving to avoid letting my tone and delivery betray my genuine anxiety.

“Mm, yes, I see. Well, just recalculate everything and see how it compares with the original. If there’s any dramatic difference, we’ll need to revise the drawings, otherwise I’ll simply sign off the corrected version for reference.”

I retreated gratefully, to execute these hopefully sufficient instructions. Mercifully they revealed no need for any further measures, panic or otherwise.

Nearly fifty years later, I can chuckle sympathetically at my worried, very junior self, remembering the embarrassment I felt at the time.

Another excellent snippet for the writing ideas file, as it has various possible angles. Perhaps two different characters, on encountering the same situation, react very differently. One could follow my diffident approach, while the other might welcome the opportunity to broadcast evidence of his diligence and inherent ability. Perhaps a deadly rivalry would ensue. Maybe they were much more senior, playing for far higher career stakes.

Short story? Flash fiction? Part of a novel plot idea? Who knows!

My first novel, Theta Double Dot, a thriller, has been published by Austin Macauley and may be purchased from them, or Amazon.

Click on the links below, for the Austin Macauley or Amazon website page. I hope you really enjoy it – if you do, please leave a review on Amazon. Many thanks!

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