While discussing some of the more memorable disasters from our past, EETimes editor Max The Magnificent told me this tale of unfortunate events.
I hope to be late for my own funeral!
I was a student at Sheffield Hallam University in the late 1970s. Sheffield is located about 170 miles north-northwest from London. My BSc Control Engineering course was of a type we called a "thick sandwich" (a "co-op" in the US) on the basis that we spent periods of time in industry "sandwiched" between periods of time at the university. As I recall, it was one year in, then six months out with one company, then another year in, then another six months out with a different company, and a final year back at the university.
In order to obtain a co-op position at a company, one had to be interviewed. For my second placement, the university set me up with an interview at the research and development facility for a glass-making company. This facility was located in St Albans, which is a small city in southern Hertfordshire, England, around 22 miles north of central London.
On the day of my interview, I was supposed to get up at 6:00 a.m. to catch a train down to London at 7:00 a.m. Sad to relate, I slept through the alarm clock. When I eventually awoke, I was in a complete panic. I raced down to the train station in the middle of Sheffield. Unfortunately, all I had was the address of the interviewing company, but no telephone number. Thus, while I was waiting for the next train to London, I used a pay phone to call my mother (this was long before the widespread use of cellphones). I asked my mother to call the university, to ask them to call the company at which I was to be interviewed, to inform them I was going to be late.
When I arrived in London, I ran to the nearest tube station to catch an underground train that would take me to another station from whence I could catch a British Rail train to St Albans. After a while, I realized my underground journey was taking longer than expected -- I was going the wrong way! So I jumped off at the next station and caught the first train going in the other direction.
When I eventually staggered into the company for my interview, I was about three hours later than expected and I was in a complete fluster. I presented myself to the receptionist, who told me to sit down while she located the manager in charge. When the manager arrived in reception a couple of minutes later, I apologized profusely for being late. "What are you talking about?" he said, "We weren't expecting you until tomorrow!" (This wasn't entirely my fault. The information sheet I'd been given by the university said something like: "Your interview is on Tuesday the 21st." But the 21st was actually a Wednesday.)
Of course, this long pre-dated The Simpsons, otherwise this would possibly have been the most appropriate moment in my life for me to slap my forehead and exclaim "Doh!"
Time is an amazing and magical thing. Max can laugh about this now, and even share it for our amusement. What disasters can you laugh about? Send your disaster story to me at Caleb.Kraft@ubm.com and we'll all laugh together, or at least slap our foreheads.