Engineers use a unique mode of thinking based on seeing everything as a system. They see structures that aren’t apparent to the layperson, they know how to design under constraints, and they understand trade-offs. (Farnum Street blog)

On the trail above Sofia, Bulgaria

Me: “Zdravetei!” (Hello, formal). “Do you speak English?”
Middle-aged dude: “A little, I am mechanical engineer.”
Me: “I am civil engineer. Same.”
Dude: “Not same, but same brain (tapping forehead). Engineer brain.”

At home

Beloved: I’m so upset, I just had an awkward exchange with XXX.”
Me: Tell me.
Bel: Oh, she asked my advice, and when I gave it, she got upset.
Me: Couldn’t you just call her and sort it out?
Bel: I’m not asking you how to fix it, I just want a bit of empathy. Why do you always have to think like an engineer

The engineer’s dress code always includes top hat, bow tie and cigar. (Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel in front of the launch chains of the paddle-wheel/screw-propelled steamship Great Eastern, 1857. Photo by Robert Howlett, public domain)

Night Soldiers, novel by Alan Furst

In 1934, the young Bulgarian misfit is being trained in spycraft, along with 50 others, by the NKVD in Moscow. They are each given a sealed envelope and two knitting needles, with the challenge to read what’s inside without any sign that the envelope had been opened. All fail except Khristo, who realized that there was a small unsealed gap where the glue ended. He was able to insert first one needle into the fold of the note inside, then the other, rotating them until the note was a thin tube, and pulling it out. 

Instructor: Where did you learn it?

Khristo: Just here. I, ah, it revealed itself…it seemed the obvious way.

Engineer brain.

Coming home from university after my first semester

Mum: I’m so glad you’re here, Barry, our new washing machine doesn’t work. Can you look at it?
Me: I don’t know anything about washing machines, Mum.
Mum: Don’t be silly, of course you do. You’re studying to be an engineer.

And the inevitable engineer joke

Engineer, priest and banker playing golf, impatiently wondering why the foursome ahead of them are so slow. The groundskeeper tells them, they’re four firemen, blinded while saving kids in an orphanage fire.

“Oh that’s terrible,” says the priest, “I’ll pray for them.”

“And I’ll set up a trust fund for them,” says the banker.

The engineer thinks for a moment, then, “Why can’t they play at night?”