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A Short Story About "Stupid Questions"I have become quite friendly with one of my customers over that last few years, and he happens to be a senior city building inspector. As you can imagine this is an interesting and demanding job. He inspects new construction such as high-rise buildings, industrial complexes and so on. He has been doing it for 26 years. This job requires a lot of knowledge from many disciplines and there are not many ways to study or otherwise prepare yourself specifically for such employment (Sound familiar?). He has told me many fascinating and amusing stories about people trying to pull fast ones and some of the incompetence he runs into.
There is a restaurant around the corner from my office where I often go for a morning coffee and a read of the paper. I started noticing that he was often there as well, with a group of other people. After a while I realized that they were there every single day around 10 AM. One day I literally bumped into them and my friend introduced me to the bunch, saying they were all city building inspectors. Human nature being what it is, after I got over to a table and thought about it my brow furrowed a little and the taxpayer in me generated some resentment at these well paid city employees squandering their time in the coffee shop as I realized they were in there an hour or more every day.
A week or two later I saw him at my neighbor's shop getting his vehicle serviced, and thought I would chastise him in a friendly way for the super sized coffee breaks. "Oh," he said, "those aren't really coffee breaks, those are meetings".
My skepticism must have moved to my face like a neon sign because he smiled and said that really they were. There were only building inspectors at those meetings, and as many as possible attended each one. There were no supervisors or municipal politicians, or anyone else from the office for that matter. It was known as the "stupid question" meeting, and the purpose was to enable the newer inspectors to ask questions, without fear of being chastised in any way, about the projects they were currently working on. In the informal setting of the coffee shop they could ask the questions that they would not feel good about asking in the office in front of the boss. The people with 25 years experience would answer these questions quickly and easily, give tips on how to proceed, and if they identified something more complicated or sinister, would arrange for a senior inspector to go with them to help out.
Needless to say I chastised myself for jumping to conclusions, and was impressed by the initiative shown by these people.
Boatpokers should be the "stupid question" forum for marine surveyors. I know that many subscribers hesitate to use the resource for fear of an immediate and somewhat public reprisal. I am afraid there will always be people with low self esteem waiting to put someone else down at every opportunity, but what they do or think doesn't really matter. What matters is that you get the information you need when you need it, and there are plenty of folks on the subscriber list willing to help you.
Let's see some "stupid questions".
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