After my tour in ‘Nam, I decided to never be forced to take a full time I.T. position again. My wife and I agreed that I just wasn’t cut out for the politics, the dysfunction, the sloppiness, the outright unprofessionalism that is the norm for FTEs in most I.T. shops. As a contractor/consultant, I could at least choose my poison.
Plus, I moved around a lot as a kid, and not being born in this country, I was always the outsider. I would never fit in for any significant length of time in one place. I was a drifter. A gypsy. I hired gun.
I had little to show for my five years as an FTE (full-time-employee) at three companies (I’m not even going to count the job that I had for a week). My billing rate was less then it used to be, but at least I finally had some good .NET experience. With C#, I could finally ditch the second-rate nature of my Visual Basic background and start pitching myself as a real developer. And the C# market was heating up.
I first did a three-week gig at a sweatshop consulting outfit, where I was given a 10-year old Pentium 3 with 256 MB of RAM to work on. This was Visual Studio 2005, mind you, not Clipper. What kind of bozo hires a consultant that gets paid by the hour and then makes him work on such crappy hardware? The Cheap I.T. Bastard, of course. After the first week of getting pressured to meet the insane deadlines the assholes in that company had committed to, I decided to look for greener pastures.
Two weeks later I was at a big Japanese company, hired to do who knows what, I wasn’t sure, but it had something to do with making some enhancements to a time tracking system. I was done in a month and I sat around for the rest of the contract, blogging, learning .NET pretty well, and keeping my head low.
Once again it was like a stint in the Mekong Delta – my whole team was Asian, mostly Vietnamese. They didn’t talk to me, and I didn’t talk to them. No Friday lunches with the team in that joint. And the microwaves had “No Fish” signs taped on the doors because people gotten fed up with the stench.
I can’t help but think that they had hired me to meet a diversity quota imposed by HR. The place literally had a half dozen white guys on a huge floor of cubes – it was all Indians, Japanese, and Asians. I would pass the white guys in the hall and we would nod at each other, even though I didn’t know them – it was just the silent bond of those in the minority. Shove that in your politically correct crack pipe and smoke it.
Speaking of political correctness, I tracked down my spike in traffic to another blog, where the tone of my writing seems to have touched a nerve amongst a group of sanctimonious finger wagers. The I.T. arena is full of smug primadonas whose politics generally lean left (especially the open source world), and they love to see themselves as virtuous defenders of political correctness.
The truth is that they are a bunch of phonies.
My suggestion to readers is that if you want to read feel-good stories about how one overcame the odds to deliver high-quality software that made a difference in the world, go read the blogs from the Google folks.
Those pricks love to pat themselves on the back and share their tales of an egalitarian culture where each person is valued for their uniqueness and individuality, and the projects are all fun to work on, and nobody is mean, and if you don't like your project you can just switch to a different team, and everybody recycles, and they make you healthy vegan meals in the cafeteria, and they above all do no evil, and --
…Shit, I just puked on keyboard.
Anyway, my point is that I tell tales from the trenches, not from some sissified oasis of enlightenment like Google.
But I digress.
Getting back to the topic at hand, I finally landed a gig at a relatively mature dot-com that went public in the late nineties. I got past a tough interview with some real techy-types, and was hired the next day for a six-month contract.
I was resigned to keeping my head low, so I spent the first few weeks reading all their documentation, enhancing an existing app that was well-written, and basically doing things by the book. All was good – until I ran into her.
The Menopausal Bitch DBA.
I got called into her office because it was her job to review the stored procs before they went into QA. I had written a few for the application – very basic CRUD stuff. And they didn’t really have a standard, so I just followed the patern that the other developers on the team were using. I had included drops and grants, and assumed all was cool.
I had first met her as I was introduced to everybody the first day. She seemed harmless enough, a little frumpy, somewhat eccentric. I.T. ladies don’t show up on MILF sites too much, and this was no exception.
I sat down across from her and she started taking a red-pen to my code. She had pictures of an old golden retriever all over the place. And then she started lecturing me.
“You will declare variables as constants”
“This is wrong”
“I want this done this way”
Trivial crap. I nodded. And then she stopped making sense.
“You will not grant rights to public,” she said sternly.
“But the other developers do that because the DBAs forget to do the grants and the procs blow up because they don’t have the rights,” I said gently. Ever so gently.
“You listen to me, and you listen good! You will do things the way I say you will around here!” Her face was red, and her lips were pursed. Her head was shaking a little bit. She looked like she was having a hot flash.
I shrugged. “Sure, no problem, so you want me to take the grants out, or leave them in?”
“If you don’t do things the way I want, I am calling Greg!” Greg was my tech lead, the guy who told me to include the grants in the procs.
“Fine, you want his extension? I think its 3476.” What did I care, I just wanted clear guidance on how they did things.
She made a showy gesture of turning around and picking up her phone, all the while glaring at me. She got Greg on speakerphone. “Greg, I have that new contractor down here and he seems to have an issue with taking out the grants in his stored procs.”
“What’s the problem?” he asked. He was a level-headed guy, really sharp, and I liked working with him.
“I thought we weren’t going to put the grants in the procs!” she yelled into the phone. God, she was ugly when she was mad. Hell, she was ugly when she wasn't mad.
“Marge, we’ve been through this," he told her. "The DBAs are forgetting to grant the rights when they deploy the scripts, so my team is putting them in the procs.”
“Fine!” She hung up and glared at me. “Here, go make these changes. I’ll take this up with Greg’s boss and the head of the DBAs.”
“So do you want me to run these in QA?” I asked.
“You will not do anything until we straighten this out!” she snapped.
“Fine. Thanks.” I left her office.
From that point on, I stayed out of her way. She had a habit of using design meetings to go on long rants about how important she was and all the things that people were doing wrong in the shop. If you tried to reason with her, she would stand up, fold her arms, and say crap like “I am going to stand here until you decide to listen to me!” Total grandstanding shit.
But as usual, I got even.
After I turned down an offer to go perm at the place, my contract was up and I had to move on. I had another gig lined up, but for some reason, I had to do an exit interview, which is odd for a contractor.
My boss took me aside and asked me what I planned to say to HR at my exit interview. He was a good guy, retired Navy, EOD I think, and I didn’t have to bullshit him. I get along great with ex-military folks – its all about the mission to us. Screw the politics, ego trips, and phoniness; we get it done, and we couldn’t care less about the delicate feelings of the pansies, hippies, purple-haired geeks, over-pierced morons, and ditsy bitches we are forced to work with. We find a way to go through them, around them, or over them. Or we just frag them.
He wanted me to frag the Menopausal Bitch DBA.
“Look,” he said, “You’re the second guy who turned down a good offer to work here in the past year. The last guy said the same thing – he couldn’t work with that cunt Marge.”
“Yeah. That’s it’s a big reason.”
“Ok, do me a favor. Let that HR lady know that. I am sick of this cranky bitch getting in my way. What she needs is a good fuck.”
I thought about her dog pictures and laughed. “I don’t think that’s going to happen real soon.”
“I ‘preciate it.”
We shook hands. “No problem,” I said. “Consider it done.”
That was six months ago. Last I heard, the Menopausal Bitch DBA was still working there, stomping her feet, moaning in meetings, and making life miserable for the rest of the organization.