Under no circumstances do I pretend to understand the divine sense of humor: one might expect subtly pitched bits of irony — "God is an iron," declared Spider Robinson, and I'm pretty sure Robinson wasn't referring to a Proctor-Silex with steam vents and a Teflon sole plate — alternating with the sort of obvious stuff that even a fourth-grader can comprehend, because we lesser creatures have to be shown things once in a while.

And so it came to pass that El Jefe, our fearless leader, took me aside one day in April and made exactly the sort of announcement I would bitterly resent even as I endorsed its presence. I am, after all, retiring at the end of this year, and my replacement was already on site; declared El Jefe, he's never going to learn this stuff with me looking over his shoulder, and therefore I would be sent back to the steno pool, whence I came twenty-eight years ago, to give the new kid a chance to sink or swim on his own merits. I seethed a bit, as I often do, but the bossman had the better of the argument and I knew it. Besides, my pay wasn't being cut. Something deep inside me rebelled, causing me to miss about a week of work due to inexplicable illness — it was as though three or four different 24-hour bugs had joined forces to render me as useless as possible — with the not entirely unexpected side effect of delaying the inevitable.

On the sixth day, I duly reported to the head of my new unit, a fortyish woman with a girlfriend of long standing, a voice that could be both gracious and grating simultaneously, and a pair of legs worthy of Claudia Cardinale. We had but a single clash, early on, when I flubbed something up bigtime, arranged to fix the flub, and was caught out: we have procedures for this sort of thing, she informed me icily, and so long as it's her neck on the line, I would comply. I don't do meek very well, but I yielded.

And gradually I settled into a routine, as befits a creature of habit like myself. I'd done this work before, but it wasn't the same work I'd done in there in the early 1990s; the basic application, a program of many hundreds of lines then, was now up in the thousands, and as one expects, bugs have been fixed, only to be replaced by new bugs. There were, of course, workarounds; I noted with grim satisfaction that none of those workarounds proved to be a result of my own failings. It was dull as hell, but the day passed quickly enough, and inasmuch as I was no longer expected to show up early, I was happy to reset my alarm clock to allow myself an extra fifteen minutes of shuteye, later modified to ten to deal with a slightly different commute, same route but different traffic pattern.

And then on Monday, the other shoe dropped: New Kid (who, incidentally, is older than I am, but not much) turned in his notice. As I have learned to expect over the years, I received no notification of this fact until Wednesday; in keeping with this pattern, I made no response until Friday. And I stalled on actual commitment, saying only that I thought the optics would be bad if I went back over there while he was still on the premises.

I had, of course, been close enough to the seats of power to have been able to suss out a reason for New Kid's departure: he'd actually improved on one of the accounting functions, which was good, but his implementation of exception handling was, to be charitable, subpar. This might not have mattered so much, except for the fact that calling attention to where the exception handling had failed wounded him deeply, cursed as he is with a skin so thin a teenaged girl could cope better than he could. I didn't actually see him go to pieces, of course, but I kept hearing the voice of Popeye the Sailor: "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!"

So a week from Monday, I'll probably be back at the old stand, undoing some of what he did and trying to adapt to the rest. Girlboss might miss me, but I think she'll be grateful for not having to deal with the fallout of New Kid's flubs. And if I have a lick of sense, I won't say much of anything about this whole sordid affair. Fortunately, nobody in a position of power reads this stuff.

The Vent

  11 May 2019

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