It was 1990 and was in San Diego. The project was for Security Pacific Bank we had well over 100 programmers involved. They came from all over the world. The phone directory read like the UN. It was the best of the very best. Israel, Hong Kong, South Africa, England, Canada, and even a few people from the US.

This was not about cheap foreign labor, this was about locating people that had the skill set, and we had no time to train anyone. My own interview had been conducted via phone. It boiled down to a single question. I listened and responded that that was not an interview question, rather it sounded like a tech support issue with IBM and told them the two solutions that I had used. Two weeks later I was on a plane US bound.

Martin Luther King day arrived, the building was deserted. There was a show stopping problem in a 12,000 line Cobol subroutine used to calculate interest rates on loans. Everyone and their dog had fiddled in the damn thing. Three of us decided that with this day of peace and quiet we would solve the mystery behind AFP90.

So Simon and the Peters, they rarely were seen apart, so they were simply referred to as the Peters. Peter B, I had worked with previously in Canada and was one of the most creative thinkers I know. Peter S was a Brit, had a great analytical mind and a very dry sense of humor.

By mid afternoon, some 6 hours into the quest we were getting very close to understanding and so, fixing the problem. The programmers were housed in groups of 6 which were called 6 packs. And it was one of these that we had commandeered for the day, our offices were more spacious, but the 6 pack gave us access to more screens in a small area.

We had natural light and were surprised when the fluorescents for the entire floor came on, but as we were in this midst of a mumbled discussion about the finer points of how various IBM mainframes and Minis handled floating point arithmetic, we ignored the intrusion.

We watched in silence as one of our programmers, Linda B (white, dumpy 5 foot nothing) sauntered by with an 8 foot six muscled black man. Their destination was a small and rarely used conference room at the end of the hallway, they closed the door. We went back to discussing the vagaries of 32 bit floating point numbers.

20 minutes later Linda and her friend emerged, it must have been a serious and heated conference, based on their disheveled appearances. Again they did not notice us, simply walked by, and a minute later switched the lights out.

It was Peter S that spoke first. Using his classic dry wit he remarked.

“Now that is a girl that takes her holidays seriously”

Simon Barrett

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