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The Art of Problem Solving


While Michael was away visiting his mother I called my cousin Enrique for an update on the situation back home. There where few loose ends that need tidying up from afar. Not the best way to do it, but I had no choice…

“¿Como que trecientos pesos? ¡Vete pal carajo! ¡Pero esa maquina esta nueva! ¡De paquete! Targeta de video, mouse inalambrico, targeta wireless, de todo. Dile al patuleco de Ricardo que no sea tan pillo…si lo se pero sabes cuanto yo pierdo en el cambio de moneda…esto no es Francia es Inglatera. No usan euros, usan libras esterlinas aunque eso no importa con lo bajito que esta el dolar… esta bien. ¿Y que paso con los muebles, ya estan en el almacen? Esta bien yo le envio un cheque de cajero… No se, posiblemente en navidades, si puedo… te dejo que ya llego Michael…mandale saludos a todos… que gracioso…acuerdame reirme la otra vez que hable contigo…cuidate!”

I hung up the phone as Michael came in through the door. I had to talk to him before he hunkered down inside his room for the night “Michael, you got a second?”

He looked up showing swollen lower lowered lip. If it felt as bad as my eye did then it really hurt “Whot?”

“Listen, I don’t know what your planning to do this summer, if anything, but if your available I got a job for you”. He didn’t answer, just stared back. “We are having some problems with the computers in the office. Somebody decided to upgrade the operating system but not the hardware. Now we are getting error messages left and right. We have backups, but it won’t be long before we start losing important data.”

“So?”

“Its pretty simple. We still have the old licenses. All you have to do is do a backup of each machine upload the old OS and update the files.”

“What if the data uses updated software formats. Won’t they be incompatible with the older versions?

“Nah, I checked and we are still running the old software, which another reason for the problems with the OS.  If you put about 6 hours a day you should be done by the end of the week”.

“How much?”

“Say ten pounds an hour. Can you to start tomorrow, say around 9 or so?”

Michael did his usual shrug “Ok”.

“Ok as in you will do it?”

“Yeah sure” Michael said as he walked upstairs. I wasn’t sure whether he would show up or not. I didn’t have the time to do it myself and didn’t want to hire somebody that would charge me three times the what I would pay Michael. Besides, if he did a good job then I could ask him to do other things around the office. That would familiarize him with the business, in case he decided to work there someday. It might also give me a chance to get to know him. If this was going to work I needed to give him a chance.

Next morning I came to work early as usual and as usual I left the office door open.

Mistake.

Patty stopped by to say good morning, as she always did “Good morning Mr. Mendoza.”

“Morning Patty.”

She hovered near the door. “Mr. Mendoza, is everything alright?”

I looked up and said “Yes”

She stared at me “Are you sure?”

“Yes, Ms. Wilson.” Her face betrayed her concern. By this time other employees outside the office also took notice of the situation. While her concern about my injury was touching, this was neither the time or the place for it. “If there is anything I can do for you, Ms. Wilson, please let me know. In the mean we both have plenty of work to do.”

Worry transformed into anger. The room temperature increased by ten degrees. “Very well sir. Have a nice day!” and she slammed the door behind her.

Sigh

A storm of pain gathered strength on my forehead. Putting one hand on my temple and the other on the intercom I pressed the call button. “Mrs. Davis, could you please come in. We need to go over the weekly schedule.”

Mrs. Davis, who had a ring side view of the action wore an enigmatic twist of her lips.

I didn’t have to ask why she had that look on her face “No a word Mrs. Davis. Not a single word.”

Michael arrived an hour later and got to work. Everything went according to plan, except for a few problems. A few blue screens of death, a couple of minor files lost and several reboots. Nothing out of the ordinary. By the end of the week all the machines were restored to their old standards.

Meanwhile I focused on the sat-nav problem. I decided that they would be reinstalled, but that the drivers where not going to rely only on them. Instead Michael moved two of the computers to the dispatchers booth. From there the dispatchers could monitor traffic and weather on the internet. New sets of hands free microphones allowed the principals to keep in touch with the drivers and the dispatchers. That kept key personnel in the loop. I hoped that would satisfy Mr. Whetstone and keep my drivers out of trouble.

So far so good.  The practical part of the drivers test was on Wednesday, which I passed. That made what came next easier.

On Saturday I told Michael to bring his car to work while I drove the Jag.  From there we drove to North Oxford.  Turning into the dealership with Michael right behind him, I saw the puzzled look on his face though my rear view mirror. He had no idea what was about to happen.

We walked into the showroom. While Michael gawked at the BMWs Mr. Gallant, the salesman I had talked to earlier, approached. He was wearing a gray suit with a red power tie. The perfect uniform for a salesperson in the luxury car business.

“Good morning Mr. Mendoza! I hope everything well” said Mr. Gallant with the ease of an expert salesman.

“Everything fine Mr. Gallant. Did you find the models I asked about earlier?”

“Yes, their in the back. Come right this way.” The salesman lead us to the back. Now, for the record, I don’t like Beemers, I can’t explain it, I just don’t like them. However they do make one of the coolest cars ever…the Mini! I mean when in Rome, right?

“Wicked!” Michael said. His eyes caressed every contour of the vehicle in front of him.

Fished hooked, time to reel him in. “Well Mike, your getting a new car. Well actually, we are getting new cars.” That statement got me the raised eyebrow “I mean their not the newest model. That would be next years, which comes in the fall.”

Our salesman chimed in “That is correct Mr. Mendoza”.

“Which of course means that these ones are on sale.”

Michael was not convinced “Can we afford two cars?”

“Mr. Gallant could you give us a moment?” I asked.

“Certainly, I’ll get started on the paperwork” he said.

“Mike, we will have to trade in your car and dad’s” I said when as soon as salesman was out of earshot.

Michael stopped gawking at the cars and looked at me “Why?”

“Because the Jag is too expensive to maintain and you need a new car” I said nonchalantly.

That did not go so well “Do you want to give rid of everything that was dad’s?” he said. The accusation had merit.

“No. That car is just taking space in the driveway. Might as well put it to good use.”

His expression hardened “So its about the money?”

“Yes Michael, its about the money. It is about not wasting it. That car is four years old, past warranty. Your car is twice as old. This way we get rid of two gas guzzlers and get brand new cars in return. Besides, you have proven to be a responsible driver and I have not been the best brother I could be. Consider this a peace offering”.

“I understand” he nodded and smiled. That took me by surprise. The only thing I could do was to smile back.

It took about 45 minutes to get all the paperwork in order. As expected Michael took off like a rocket to parts unknown. I had plans of my own. What better way to enjoy a new car than with a lady at your side. One Cristina Miller to be exact. The last time we saw each other I almost murdered my brother. Hopefully a cool yet unassuming Mini would make a better impression.

I gave her a quick call on my phone but got no answer.

“Hi, Crissy. Its me Anthony. Just saying hi and wondering how you where doing. Call me.”

A few minutes later the phone buzzed. It was a text message:

Fine. @ the library…be out soon.

This time around the sat-nav worked to perfection. Good thing because, otherwise I could not tell where the town of Oxford ended and the university began. No curb side parking spots meant using one of the car parks. Save money on gas mileage, waste it on parking fees.

If anyone asks me why would I want to be immortal, the answer would be library. I walked through the forest of book stacks. Thousands of stories, billions of words,. Reminded me of that classic Twilight Zone episode. The one where the old man survives a nuclear holocaust and finds himself alone with thousands of books, all for him to enjoy. At that moment his glasses fall over and break. The screen fades to black among his anguish cries of “I had all the time in the world!”. You would need a hundred lifetimes to peruse all the information here. It took a thousand of those lifetimes to write it all down. Such dreams drove Alonso Quijano mad. Best to focus on the object of my quest.

After much searching I came upon her as she poured over several tomes. I took cover behind a nearby stack and texted her.

U sure u be out soon?

She flipped open her phone and typed.

Yes

In a whisper I said “Then why is it I don’t believe you, Ms. Miller?”

She jumped and turned to face me. I never understood the phrase ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’ until then.

Easy now!

She gave me a wry smile “So how did you ever managed to find me?”

“I am the kind of man who is not afraid of asking for directions” I said.

“Thats good to know.”

“So if your not entirely to busy, may I suggest a short break? Lunch perhaps?”

“Sounds great. I tend to lose track of time in here. There is a café around the corner.”

She checked out a couple of books and then we walked over to the coffee shop. The usual English gloom gave way to a clear summer day. We secured a table by the window. The coffee was weak, but the sandwiches where pretty good. We talked about school, work, the usual. She asked me about Puerto Rico and I asked her about life in England. Then the conversation turned to family.

“So what happened last Sunday?” she asked innocently. By now I was used to such questions. In a small town news spreads fast.

Since she had been at the accident site, she knew that our respective injuries had nothing to do with the accident. Besides I was sure that Michelle told her about Michael been ‘grounded’. So I decided not to lie “Mike and I got into a fight of sorts. It was to be expected. We hardly talked since I got here. I mean there was a lot of baggage between me and my dad. It was bound to happen”.

“The fight?”

“Yes. I mean it was kind of stupid really. You saw me that night, I was so angry, although to be honest I don’t know why”. And I really didn’t know why I had been so angry that night.

“Maybe its because you care” she said.

“Are little brother’s so hard to manage?”

“I don’t know about little brothers but little sisters can drive you mental!” she said with a laugh.

“Michelle? No way!” I said. It was hard to believe that walking ray of sunshine could be a problem.

She shook her head “Oh yes. She is the apple of my grandparent’s eye. When she was little she would pester me for hours and then she would turn on the charm as soon as gran turned the corner. She is better now, but she was a little terror back then”.

I took her word for it. Since we where on the subject of siblings I decided to find the answer to a question that had been in the back of my mind for awhile “Talking of which? What is the deal between Michelle and Michael?”

She paused. Her eyes darted about as if she was searching for the right answer “They know each other for ages really. My sister has always had a crush on Michael since they where little…”

“But he doesn’t pay much attention to her, right?”

“Yes.”

“Idiot!”

“I wouldn’t be so hard on him, my sister can be very annoying.”

“Ok, but that doesn’t explain the church thing” I said.

Crissy covered her mouth trying not to spit out her coffee. She probably hear about my bit of theater the last time I visited that house of worship. She hadn’t been there, but  nothing stays secret in a small town for long. “I think its her way of helping him cope, you know with his dad. I mean your dad gone and his mum in the hospital. It helped her after what happened to our mum and dad”.

She then pulled out her cellphone from her purse “I have to ring Michelle. She has the Volvo.”

“Well I can give you a ride back, if you want?”

“Sure, I just call her then”.

When we reached the car park she asked “Is this your car?” I could see she approved.

“Brand new, as of this morning” I said.

We drove around a bit before we headed back home. She pointed out the sights. We didn’t get back into town until six or so.

“Aren’t you coming in? I’m sure that we have a full house by now.”

“Nah. Long day. But I will stop by next weekend.”

“Ok then” she gave me a quick peck on the cheek and left.

On and all, a good day.

While Michael was away visiting his mother I called my cousin Enrique for an update on the situation back home. There where few loose ends that need tidying up from afar. Not the best way to do it, but I had no choice…

“¿Como que trecientos pesos? ¡Vete pal carajo! ¡Pero esa maquina esta nueva! ¡De paquete! Targeta de video, mouse inalambrico, targeta wireless, de todo. Dile al patuleco de Ricardo que no sea tan pillo…si lo se pero sabes cuanto yo pierdo en el cambio de moneda…esto no es Francia es Inglatera. No usan euros, usan libras esterlinas aunque eso no importa con lo bajito que esta el dolar… esta bien. ¿Y que paso con los muebles, ya estan en el almacen? Esta bien yo le envio un cheque de cajero… No se, posiblemente en navidades, si puedo… te dejo que ya llego Michael…mandale saludos a todos… que gracioso…acuerdame reirme la otra vez que hable contigo…cuidate!”

I hung up the phone as Michael came in through the door. I had to talk to him before he hunkered down inside his room for the night “Michael, you got a second?”

He looked up showing swollen lower lowered lip. If it felt as bad as my eye did then it really hurt “Whot?”

“Listen, I don’t know what your planning to do this summer, if anything, but if your available I got a job for you”. He didn’t answer, just stared back. “We are having some problems with the computers in the office. Somebody decided to upgrade the operating system but not the hardware. Now we are getting error messages left and right. We have backups, but it won’t be long before we start losing important data.”

“So?”

“Its pretty simple. We still have the old licenses. All you have to do is do a backup of each machine upload the old OS and update the files.”

“What if the data uses updated software formats. Won’t they be incompatible with the older versions?

“Nah, I checked and we are still running the old software, which another reason for the problems with the OS. If you put about 6 hours a day you should be done by the end of the week”.

“How much?”

“Say ten pounds an hour. Can you to start tomorrow, say around 9 or so?”

Michael did his usual shrug “Ok”.

“Ok as in you will do it?”

“Yeah sure” Michael said as he walked upstairs. I wasn’t sure whether he would show up or not. I didn’t have the time to do it myself and didn’t want to hire somebody that would charge me three times the what I would pay Michael. Besides, if he did a good job then I could ask him to do other things around the office. That would familiarize him with the business, in case he decided to work there someday. It might also give me a chance to get to know him. If this was going to work I needed to give him a chance.

Next morning I came to work early as usual and as usual I left the office door open.

Mistake.

Patty stopped by to say good morning, as she always did “Good morning Mr. Mendoza.”

“Morning Patty.”

She hovered near the door. “Mr. Mendoza, is everything alright?”

I looked up and said “Yes”

She stared at me “Are you sure?”

“Yes, Ms. Wilson.” Her face betrayed her concern. By this time other employees outside the office also took notice of the situation. While her concern about my injury was touching, this was neither the time or the place for it. “If there is anything I can do for you, Ms. Wilson, please let me know. In the mean we both have plenty of work to do.”

Worry transformed into anger. The room temperature increased by ten degrees. “Very well sir. Have a nice day!” and she slammed the door behind her.

Sigh

A storm of pain gathered strength on my temple. Putting one hand on my temple and the other on the intercom I pressed the call button. “Mrs. Davis, could you please come in. We need to go over the weekly schedule.”

Mrs. Davis, who had a ring side view of the action wore an enigmatic twist of her lips.

I didn’t have to ask why she had that look on her face “No a word Mrs. Davis. Not a single word.”

Michael arrived an hour later and got to work. Everything went according to plan, except for a few problems. A few blue screens of death, a couple of minor files lost and several reboots. Nothing out of the ordinary. By the end of the week all the machines were restored to their old standards.

Meanwhile I focused on the sat-nav problem. I decided that they would be reinstalled, but that the drivers where not going to rely only on them. Instead Michael moved two of the computers to the dispatchers booth. From there the dispatchers could monitor traffic and weather on the internet. New sets of hands free microphones allowed the principals to keep in touch with the drivers and the dispatchers. That kept key personnel in the loop. I hoped that would satisfy Mr. Whetstone and keep my drivers out of trouble.

So far so good. The practical part of the drivers test was on Wednesday, which I passed. That made what came next easier.

On Saturday I told Michael to bring his car to work while I drove the Jag. From there we drove to North Oxford. Turning into the dealership with Michael right behind him, I saw the puzzled look on his face though my rear view mirror. He had no idea what was about to happen.

We walked into the showroom. While Michael gawked at the BMWs Mr. Gallant, the salesman I had talked to earlier, approached. He was wearing a gray suit with a red power tie. The perfect uniform for a salesperson in the luxury car business.

“Good morning Mr. Mendoza! I hope everything well” said Mr. Gallant with the ease of an expert salesman.

“Everything fine Mr. Gallant. Did you find the models I asked about earlier?”

“Yes, their in the back. Come right this way.” The salesman lead us to the back. Now, for the record, I don’t like Beemers, I can’t explain it, I just don’t like them. However they do make one of the coolest cars ever…the Mini! I mean when in Rome, right?

“Wicked!” Michael said. His eyes caressed every contour of vehicles in front of him.

Fished hooked, time to reel him in. “Well Mike, your getting a new car. Well actually, we are getting new cars.” That statement got me the raised eyebrow “I mean their not the newest model. That would be next years, which comes in the fall.”

Our salesman chimed in “That is correct Mr. Mendoza”.

“Which of course means that these ones are on sale.”

Michael was not convinced “Can we afford two cars?”

“Mr. Gallant could you give us a moment?” I asked.

“Certainly, I’ll get started on the paperwork” he said.

“Mike, we will have to trade in your car and dad’s” I said when as soon as salesman was out of earshot.

Michael stopped gawking at the cars and looked at me “Why?”

“Because the Jag is too expensive to maintain and you need a new car” I said nonchalantly.

That did not go so well “Do you want to give rid of everything that was dad’s?” he said. The accusation had merit.

“No. That car is just taking space in the driveway. Might as well put it to good use.”

His expression hardened “So its about the money?”

“Yes Michael, its about the money. It is about not wasting it. That car is four years old, past warranty. Your car is twice as old. This way we get rid of two gas guzzlers and get brand new cars in return. Besides, you have proven to be a responsible driver and I have not been the best brother I could be. Consider this a peace offering”.

“I understand” he nodded and smiled. That took me by surprise. The only thing I could do was to smile back.

It took about 45 minutes to get all the paperwork in order. As expected Michael took of like a rocket to parts unknown. I had plans of my own. What better way to enjoy a new car than with a lady at your side. One Cristina Miller to be exact. The last time we saw each other I almost murdered my brother. Hopefully a cool yet unassuming Mini would make a better impression.

I gave her a quick call on my phone but got no answer.

“Hi, Crissy. Its me Anthony. Just saying hi and wondering how you where doing. Call me.”

A few minutes later the phone buzzed. It was a text message:

Fine. @ the library…be out soon.

This time around the sat-nav worked to perfection. Good thing because, otherwise I could not tell where the town of Oxford ended and the university began. No curb side parking spots meant using one of the car parks. Save money on gas mileage, waste it on parking fees.

If anyone asks me why would I want to be immortal, the answer would be library. I walked through the forest of book stacks. Thousands of stories, billions of words,. Reminded me of that classic Twilight Zone episode. The one where the old man survives a nuclear holocaust and finds himself alone with thousands of books, all for him to enjoy. At that moment his glasses fall over and break. The screen fades to black among his anguish cries of “I had all the time in the world!”. You would need a hundred lifetimes to peruse all the information here. It took a thousand of those lifetimes to write it all down. Such dreams drove Alonso Quijano mad. Best to focus on the object of my quest.

After much searching I came upon her as she poured over several tomes. I took cover behind a nearby stack and texted her.

U sure u be out soon?

She flipped open her phone and typed.

Yes

In a whisper I said “Then why is it I don’t believe you, Ms. Miller?”

She jumped and turned to face me. I never understood the phrase ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’ until then.

Easy now!

She gave me a wry smile “So how did you ever managed to find me?”

“I am the kind of man who is not afraid of asking for directions” I said.

“Thats good to know.”

“So if your not entirely to busy, may I suggest a short break? Lunch perhaps?”

“Sounds great. I tend to lose track of time in here. There is a café around the corner.”

She checked out a couple of books and then we walked over to the coffee shop. The usual English gloom gave way to a clear summer day. We secured a table by the window. The coffee was weak, but the sandwiches where pretty good. We talked about school, work, the usual. She asked me about Puerto Rico and I asked her about life in England. Then the conversation turned to family.

“So what happened last Sunday?” she asked innocently. By now I was used to such questions. In a small town news spreads fast.

Since she had been at the accident site, she knew that our respective injuries had nothing to do with the accident. Besides I was sure that Michelle told her about Michael been ‘grounded’. So I decided not to lie “Mike and I got into a fight of sorts. It was to be expected. We hardly talked since I got here. I mean there was a lot of baggage between me and my dad. It was bound to happen”.

“The fight?”

“Yes. I mean it was kind of stupid really. You saw me that night, I was so angry, although to be honest I don’t know why”. And I really didn’t know why I had been so angry that night.

“Maybe its because you care” she said.

“Are little brother’s so hard to manage?”

“I don’t know about little brothers but little sisters can drive you mental!” she said with a laugh.

“Michelle? No way!” I said. It was hard to believe that walking ray of sunshine could be a problem.

She shook her head “Oh yes. She is the apple of my grandparent’s eye. When she was little she would pester me for hours and then she would turn on the charm as soon as gran turned the corner. She is better now, but she was a little terror back then”.

I took her word for it. Since we where on the subject of siblings I decided to find the answer to a question that had been in the back of my mind for awhile “Talking of which? What is the deal between Michelle and Michael?”

She paused. Her eyes darted about as if she was searching for the right answer “They know each other for ages really. My sister has always had a crush on Michael since they where little…”

“But he doesn’t pay much attention to her, right?”

“Yes.”

“Idiot!”

“I wouldn’t be so hard on him, my sister can be very annoying.”

“Ok, but that doesn’t explain the church thing” I said.

Crissy covered her mouth trying not to spit out her coffee. She probably hear about my bit of theater the last time I visited that house of worship. She hadn’t been there, but nothing stays secret in a small town for long. “I think its her way of helping him cope, you know with his dad. I mean your dad gone and his mum in the hospital. It helped her after what happened to our mum and dad”.

She then pulled out her cellphone from her purse “I have to ring Michelle. She has the Volvo.”

“Well I can give you a ride back, if you want?”

“Sure, I just call her then”.

When we reached the car park she asked “Is this your car?” I could see she approved.

“Brand new, as of this morning” I said.

We drove around a bit before we headed back home. She pointed out the sights. We didn’t get back into town until six or so.

“Aren’t you coming in? I’m sure that we have a full house by now.”

“Nah. Long day. But I will stop by next weekend.”

“Ok then” she gave me a quick peck on the cheek and left.

On and all, a good day.

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