Keep Your Eyes Open Einstein

Submitted into Contest #137 in response to: Write about a character who gets called an Einstein ironically.... view prompt


Creative Nonfiction

Filled with a mixture of excitement, ambition and trepidation I headed into the first day of my first ever internship. The administrator from HR went through the company policies quite sternly, then said the pay was $7.00 an hour, I said ok. This was more than I had ever been paid.

He showed me my cubicle. I sat down. It was the first time I had ever sat down at a job, It felt like heaven. Before this I had only worked in very physical retail jobs. Things were not easy in Milwaukee heading into 1990.

I was introduced to my new boss Michael, who was very Scandinavian and from Minnesota, an organizer and a planner. On the weekends in winter, he would cross country ski. He was a fine person but we didn’t have much in common.

The first few weeks I kept my head down and followed instructions. Studied the training manuals. When everybody looked busy and I ran out of manuals, I read old source code. I didn’t learn much but I was getting paid $7 an hour for doing this.

The other big boss Phil was a bit pudgy, fit all the nerd stereotypes, enjoyed eating and loved talking about technology. He was more fun to talk to. He was also a programming genius, so he was assigned all the lead programmers, so I didn’t get much time with him.

Before this, to pay my living expenses I toiled at several odd jobs. I washed dishes at a Denny’s family restaurant. On days that I worked double shifts from 10 to Midnight I barely kept my balance cycling home afterwards. I then signed up for a temporary job agency. Their name sounded good. They placed me an hour away from home at an arts and crafts factory, on the cleanup crew pounding dried plaster off molds with a hammer. I settled at sticking with a job in the produce section at a local Pick N Save supermarket. Restocking bananas and oranges was more my speed.

My brother had been seen my struggle, and put in a few words to his employer. The company that was providing my new internship, a small software company named System 5. It was based in an anonymous looking three story office building a few blocks south of downtown Milwaukee on the opposite side of a few hourly parking lots.

My coworkers could never explain the terse name of the company, "System 5". Perhaps it was short because Wisconsinites tend to be low key. German immigrants helped form our state’s humble and hard working character. In Milwaukee big talk gets shut down quickly and the conversation shifted back to the Packers and the Bucks. There is no Google or talk of "unicorns" in Wisconsin.

After being there a while I started networking. At school I didn’t have many people to talk to, and I enjoyed chatting with the older crowd at the office.

One of the programmers who sat near to me, Praveen, had his own office, with a door. I would come around to ask questions, and he would close the door and then tell me about his wild tech ideas, his love of American rock music, how he learned English by watching TV in India. He especially loved Jethro Tull. It felt as if Jethro Tull may have been his main influence in coming to America despite them being a British band.

Praveen was friendly with Kevin, a more stoic character. Kevin was divorced, which is why he was able to drive an older model Porsche 911 and drink whiskey after work at a bar just north of downtown according to the others who mostly didn’t seem to have girlfriends.

For a while, Greg from sales was my buddy. He would tell me I was a genius, a young einstein! He would ask me to shut the door, and tell me funny jokes and talk about sports. After the project I was working on for him had finished he changed. He would no longer shut the door. During a conversation other things would come up and things would get cut short. I find salespeople are often like that.

After a year working there, I was also getting closer to graduating. Milwaukee still felt small. I was aiming for bigger things. I applied to a good grad school in the midwest, University of Illinois - Champaign-Urbana. If I could get accepted there, that might lead to California, who knows.


Part 2

Michael came around with a group of new interns. One was in the master program at UW.

He was eager, he asked a lot of questions, he was “pushy”. He didn't tell funny stories.

He wore an unusual colored foreign looking shiny suit, and had a thick Indian accent unlike my rock and roll buddy Praveen. 

I decided that even though the management appeared to be treating this intern better than others because he was a Master Student, this man was going nowhere in Wisconsin.

As interns do he came around and said hello and asked questions.

“Scott, could I ask you about the compile process?”

“Sat, I'm not really the one who understands that, you should talk to Paul.”

The next week I had a new accounting module to sink my teeth into programming when Sat came around again.

“Could I ask you about the invoice template screen?”

“Sure, what would you like to know?”. 

I needed to keep plausible deniability in case he complained I wasn't cooperating.


Why is he asking questions about things he hasn’t even bothered to study himself?

I explained the absolute minimum.

“Sorry, I really need to get this report done for Michael now.” 

Gradually Sat came around less and less often.

I spent my time absorbing tech knowledge from Phil and Michael. I had fun listening to exploits outside the office from Praveen and Kevin. After graduating to try to make it big I went on a two year trip to japan and then came back to wisconsin. Later on I would do ok in my i.t. career but nothing exceptional.

A few months ago, a friend told me the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, studied in Milwaukee and was an intern at a small company called System 5. Young Einsteins should not have their vision pointed so high that they miss seeing the people around them.

March 18, 2022 23:04

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Hello, Scott. This story is very nice! I like your style of writing. I have a few critiques: [Filled with a mixture of excitement, ambition and trepidation I headed into the first day of my first ever internship.] I would add one comma here, after [trepidation]. {Filled with a mixture of excitement, ambition and trepidation, I headed into the first day of my first ever internship.} [said the pay was $7.00 an hour, I said ok.] I would put {said the pay was $7.00 an hour; I said ok.} [After graduating to try to make it big I went on a tw...


22:36 Mar 27, 2022

Thanks! Those are exactly the suggestions I need to improve. And I'm still trying to figure out voice. Why some stories are so much easier to read than others. 'The Shadow of his Wings' is on amazon, will check it out. Stories humanizing the other side of wars and conflicts are very important for people to read. 'Grave of the Fireflies' is one of the most memorable films I've watched.


I keep seeing references to that . . . I will have to check it out.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mike Panasitti
05:14 Mar 24, 2022

Good twist at the end. Perhaps if you would've partially fictionalized your account, you could've taken some creative liberties...invented humorous dialogue, developed characterization and character relationships a little more. You might've made speculations about Sat or allowed him a soliloquy that would've added to the story.


06:28 Mar 24, 2022

Thx! I really wanted to have a bit more substance in the last part and those are super good ideas. When I rewrite this next i will add more character details and things that might have happened given the situation.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Sharon Hancock
00:37 Mar 24, 2022

I had to work a lot of jobs to get through college too, so I relate to that. I like how you describe getting to know the people you worked with. What was it that turned the narrator off about Sat? If I’m reading it right, it seems that the narrator is kicking himself for not getting to know Sat and he missed an opportunity to learn from someone who went on to be successful in IT. I’d love to hear more about your travels. Thanks for sharing this!😻


01:46 Mar 24, 2022

Thanks so much for reading, i really appreciate it. Yes, i barely remember him, , he had much more of a business student vibe than the big bang crowd i was working with, and now i’m thinking.. woah if i would have reached out even a little bit i could have known someone important in my hometown instead of thinking i needed to go someplace else lol. Keeping some notes in sydney of fun details i spot here:)


01:54 Mar 24, 2022

Rereading my own story I plan to keep working on expanding my vocab of expressions. With i could be a bit more colorful. Also you are a great writer, i relate to some of ur description of adhd in your prev story, ill give some feedback on your latest when i get time.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Craig Westmore
00:50 Mar 22, 2022

Hey Scott, as you hinted at in your comment, the first part could use some editing. The main focus of part one is to show the narrator's desire to succeed and his persistence in learning from the experienced guys. I'd start the story with his first day on the job and work in some of the background info as you go along. Then you can introduce Satya's persistent badgering of the narrator to show he had forgotten how hard it is to be the new guy...or that he just didn't care (which makes the twist at the end a good lesson). The twist was the be...


05:27 Mar 22, 2022

Thanks! that's probably a better way, introduce people within the action, rather than just having an 'info dump', I'll see if i get some time to rework that...finally out of hk and spending a few weeks in sydney. It's great to be out of the fear factor and someplace where life has returned back to normal.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
12:52 Mar 19, 2022

Written in a bit of a rush before my first holiday in two years. (Travel after covid, thats something to write about.) please skip ahead to part 2 for the twist if the beginning is slow.


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.