“Did you try turning it off and turning it back on?”
“Okay then…try that now and we’ll wait”
You might think this conversation happened with your typical help desk call at work when your computer freezes. This time it was between the pilot of the commercial airplane I am on and the maintenance mechanic trying to help problem solve a warning light. I do not necessarily find it comforting that the same advice the pimply faced IT guy at my office gives me is essentially identical to the advice being given to the pilot of a major airlines responsible for the safety of over 300 crew and passengers.
“You’ll have to come back to the gate so we can swap that part out…”
“We have the part but we have to check if the software is compatible. If not, we will have to download some new software.”
So apparently this multi-billion dollar airline is not sure if the software installed in the spare parts they stock is compatible with the planes in their fleet of aircraft. Once again, not feeling reassured. I appreciate the commitment to safety, the decision to not not take off with an unexplained warning light that might be a sign of trouble. I guess I appreciate the honesty and transparency of the communication but… but I suppose I was hoping for a more impressive display of technical brilliance than – we might have to go online and download a patch if the software isn’t up-to-date.
It would be like your surgeon saying something like, ” I usually don’t operate on that body part but I downloaded the instructions from the internet and I am good to go.”
I really wanted to see a team made up of a top gun pilot, MIT mechanical engineer and NASA flight control specialist striding confidently toward the plane with an array of impressive equipment and tools. Instead, looking out the window, I saw someone who looked like he was reporting for a shift at Jiffy Lube for the first time amble towards the plane with his baggy coveralls, shaggy haircut and and crooked smirk.
I suppose it is a marvel of modern technology that it doesn’t take an MIT PhD to swap out a part on a jumbo jet but I am a firm believer in the power of theater – managing what the customer sees “on stage” to create the illusion of awe inspiring skill and talent.
There is a reason that financial investment firms and law firms invest in fancy offices with fine art and mahogany furniture. When you are being asked to turn over control of your money or potential freedom to someone; you want to be inspired – in awe. I don’t want the guy I call to keep me out of jail – or falling from 30,000 feet in the air – to look like the last book he read was long on pictures and short on words.
In the end, we got lucky – the part fit, the software matched and Vinnie Barbarino gave our pilot the thumbs up to take off. Now if I could just get my seat back to its upright and locked position, my tray table stowed and power down my communication devices we will be up, up and away.