Today I spent the first two hours of my morning typing out a massive email missive to my current manager at work. As is typical for me it was a bit on the irreverent side (if not completely insubordinate), pried deeply into managerial corners that are completely not my concern as a mere grunt employee and contained the sorts of things that just don’t generally endear employees to their employers.
With that little bit of fun behind me I couldn’t help thinking back over my work history at all the amusing things I’d done in the past to make a buck. If I go really far back it seems I’ve always had a way of seeking out and doing the shittiest jobs I could find. I remember when I was working in ye olde Terry Courts kitchen at Purdue. Most of the kitchen staff avoided cleaning duties like the plague but if I was around I’d happily take the industrial abrasives to the old grill cook top after a night of cooking up 250 cheeseburgers. There was something inexplicably appealing to me in doing the work that everyone else hated.
After college of course things changed mightily. I remember working Tech Support at a software company and the phone system let you see who was waiting in the old phone queue. It didn’t take long to figure out who the problem customers were since they’d inevitably sit on hold for 20 minutes while half the staff who were supposed to be on duty got up and walked around the office ‘not noticing’ while poor Steve Morgan sat in the queue for what must have seemed like forever. I never really seemed to mind the problem customers so much though. At best, they had an interesting problem to be resolved and at worst they made a damn funny story. Sadly though that couldn’t last forever. Eventually the software company closed; we made a 10-foot-long curtain from paperclips, put together a 1000-piece puzzle and then the office was no more.
Then came the fun of interviewing again. I’ve always said that I interview like a sack of wet potatoes but I really think that’s unfair to the potatoes in a way. I distinctly recall having said unfortunate things like, “Then I’m probably not the person you want to hire. Unless there is nobody else.” But then, I’m all about honesty in the interview process because frankly, who wants a job they’re not qualified for? If you take the sum total of all interview questions I’ve ever been asked, my most popular response has probably been, “I have no clue but I’m sure I can find out.”
Any rate, interviewing skills aside, it wasn’t long before I landed a sweet gig at Corporate Systems Engineering. I’m sure you can tell from their name that they do electrical grid load management devices. These people introduced me to such winning concepts as the 26-hour workday. It would have been less infuriating if I’d actually had something to DO during these 26 hours but I was there ‘just in case they needed something.’ I was there for a year and I recall one especially amusing directive. My boss asked me to write 15 test programs for their hardware device. My first and obvious question was simply, “Why don’t we just write one test program that’s flexible enough to do all 15 tests?” He looked at me like a cow looks at an oncoming train and responded that it would be impossible and too complicated. Luckily, he left for Florida for a week immediately afterwards so I had time to finish the ‘impossible’ task before he got back to complain about it.
I worked at that bastion of intellect for about a year and got the next job I interviewed for. It just so happened that on the day I had the 26-hour workday I also had a job interview. So I left work at 10am after having been there for 26 straight hours (they were gracious enough to give me half a day off) and went to sleep for about 3 hours until I had to get up for my 2pm job interview. When I rolled into the IT manager’s office for the interview I was quite a sight. But let me tell you when the interviewer asked that inevitable question, “Why are you leaving your current job?” the bleary-eyed response of “Because I just got off at 10 this morning after working 26 hours straight” probably left a pretty stark impression because I got the job.
Needless to say, I left Corporate Systems after the obligatory 2-weeks notice. I often wonder how they’re getting along as during my year there I basically rewrote every bit of software they had. I can’t imagine how much cursing and general yelling must have gone on in that office trying to unravel an entire company’s worth of software that nobody understands. But, as the owner always said, he could hire ‘any $50,000 a year programmer’ to do my job so I’m sure he replaced me practically the next day with an equivalent employee. Ass.
The next job was relatively uneventful as it was pretty short lived. I was only there for a few months and only managed to become partially convinced that the whole place was a disaster. My manager there also got a huge earful of my opinion about every topic possible. I recall one day I went into his office and railed bitterly about the contractors we had in the office. My argument was simply that we shouldn’t have all these contractors in positions of architecting our systems as they have absolutely no motivation to do a good job. In fact, the worse job they do the longer they get to stay. My thesis was a determined one and I stated it without hesitation. It wasn’t until later that I realized that my manager himself was a contractor. He seemed to take it pretty well all in all.
Sadly, the secret rantings of the current job cannot be shared. But do check back later when I’ve shuffled off this current mortal coil and perhaps I’ll have some more happy anecdotes to share.