My first week at the new job has been nothing less than a spectacular whirlwind of activity. It all started last week when my boss called me and asked if I would join her and two others at some client meetings on Monday and Tuesday. Monday was to be my first day at work, so I was a bit flabbergasted that it would be spent in client meetings without my having any real background about the company to speak of, outside what I learned in my interview. Add to that the fact that the client was in Milwaukee, and I’d have to travel at the last minute, and the stage was set for a crazy beginning.
Lucky for me, my family lives only an hour from Milwaukee, so I was able to squeeze in dinner with a few relatives – not a bad bonus, all things considered.
Everyone else flew in on a red-eye Sunday evening, so I met them in the hotel lobby just in time for us to drive over to the client meetings on Monday morning. I sat in the back seat with the technical guy that was along for the trip. He is Russian, which was exciting for me, given my love of diversity and passion for communicating with foreigners.
The Russian introduced himself, and immediately explained that if I had any trouble understanding him because of his accent or because his English wasn’t good enough, I need only stop him to clarify. He added that his written English is much better than his spoken English, though I think his spoken English is just fine.
Making small talk on the ride over, I mentioned that I was from the area as I explained why I’d flown in Sunday morning instead of Sunday evening. His response was maybe the best response I’ve ever heard from a stranger after revealing where I grew up.
[Don’t forget the Russian accent…]
“The only thing I know about Wisconsin is from Slaughterhouse Five,” he said.
“Ah, of course!” I replied.
“‘My name is Yon Yonson, I work in Wisconsin, I work in
a lumbermill there.’ The people I meet when I walk down
the street, They say, ‘What is your name?’ And I say
‘My name is Yon Yonson, I work in Wisconsin…”
“Yes, yes,” he said, grinning and nodding his head emphatically.
What could be better than that? A Russian who thinks his English is bad, but who can quote Vonnegut – granted, it’s perhaps the most well-known Vonnegut book, but still. All I could think was ‘Wow, it will be cool to work with this guy!’
I now have to settle on a name for my new Russian coworker. ‘The Russian’ might work, since he seems to be the only one at the company. I also tend to get ‘Sergei’ stuck in my head when I think of him, even though that is not his name. I’m tempted to go with Yon Yonson, even though the real Jan Janson credited with the song was Danish. I’ll think on it for awhile before I decide…