Overheard in Portland

Scene: Busy Portland coffee shop, Sunday afternoon. VAL, a workaholic programmer transplanted from the Bay area, is typing intently on her laptop. Enter four middle-aged men, talking loudly. They choose the table next to VAL and engage in much good-natured (and loud and annoying) shuffling around and unpacking of laptops. Their leader finally calls them to attention.

LEADER: Okay, let’s get started. So, should we hire more salesmen in Paris? Or wait till next quarter?

MAN #1: [European Spanish accent] Well, I don’t know. What’s our budget?

[VAL perks up and casts an interested look, as she comes from the Land of Start-ups and such conversations are relatively rare in Portland.]

LEADER: I guess it really depends on whether we ship both business softwares.

[VAL looks slightly affronted. How come these, er, average guys have a startup with international sales offices and they don’t even know the correct plural of software?]

MAN #2: [mutters as he struggles to pull out his laptop] I hate this laptop. As soon as I get a real job, I’m giving this to my son.

LEADER: I talked to the professor, and he says that we should focus on the markets that our competitors are doing well in – follow the leader, you know.

[VAL looks somewhat impressed that they are consulting with distinguished academics.]

MAN #3: [unidentifiable Eastern European accent] Should we have a cushion for unexpected costs?

LEADER: I don’t think the professor’s going to dock points for exceeding our budget that way, no.

[VAL makes “Oh!” face as she realizes these people aren’t in a start-up, they’re in business school. Immediately feels better about herself for having zero sales offices in Paris.]

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