Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Shoeshine Guy Codes in C

Raleigh-Durham, home of Duke University, and the world's largest research facility, North Carolina's Research Triangle Park, has an enviable reputation for intellectual activity. I figured out why within five minutes of arriving: the shoeshine guy at the RDU airport codes in C.

As I took my seat up atop the shoeshine stand at RDU airport this week, with the objective of getting my shoes into presentable shape for a high-level meeting, I got into a conversation with the stall operator. The dialog went something like this:

Him: "So where'd you come in from?"

Me: "Palm Beach. Florida"

Him: "Florida. What line of business are you in?"

Me. "Software."

The guy nodded in a knowing kind of way.

Me. "You got a computer?"

Him: "Not right now. Used to have though. I used to program in Pascal."

"You were a programmer?"

"That's right. I started in Pascal, then I moved to C."


"Nah, I never was that attracted by that object-oriented stuff. Never appealed to me. Only got five pages into the manual."

"You should take it up again. Or take up C# - that stuff is drag and drop - you'd pick it up in a heartbeat".

He smiled and shrugged and kept on shining. "Maybe - got to get me a computer first". His smile said he was pretty content. He went back to work.

His friend arrived. His badge said he worked on the same stand. He was reading a newspaper. He frowned and tut-tutted and commented on what a terrible world it is when a four year old in the Middle East can hate her neighbors. I said something from my high chair along the lines of "the tragedy is, there's probably another four year old across the border that feels the same way about her."

"Which is ridiculous", I added, "because all religions come from the same father - Abraham."

The second shoeshine guy put down the paper and looked at me like I was from Mars. "I got a good heart", he said, poking himself in the chest. "You got a good heart", he said, pointing to my heart. "Two thousand years and where are we? Religions, they just want to control the Truth. We should just treat each other *nice*. That's what matters."

His friend nodded, and tapped the bottom of my shoes - the shine was done. Pascal, C, object-oriented programming, four thousand years of religion, and the Control of Truth: just another day at the RDU shoeshine stand.

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