Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The horrible first chapter of my horrible novel

“Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii’m a programmer, programmer is my career, I’m a programmer ‘til I die!” Nathan's full, warm bass in song cut through the noise of the 7th floor, the “basement” of Infinite World Marketing of Spokane. Nathan stepped out of the elevator and toward his work area, four small tables pushed together with a set of black roller drawers underneath.

“Or, alternately, until the Chinese eat our lunch and all of our programmers' pie?” Jim responded not in song, but in wry, rapidfire speech. In rhyme, but not nearly in rhythm. “Oh, speaking of, djaget th'email?” There his Chicago dialect came through, like the representative of some crime family (or the Governor's office) asking the mayor, Djaget the papers, boss?

“No, I haven’t checked my email, I just walked in.” Nathan sat down and powered up his computer.

“Big Chinese client has a meeting upstairs today, so, um, don’t display any Tibetan flags.”

Nathan laughed his quiet, thoughtful laugh. Every time an important client visited they had to hide any competitors’ products or logos. This had nearly come to blows last year when one of the data-entry guys had refused to cover a Budweiser t-shirt for a visit from the local Miller distributer. Anyway, there probably wasn’t a big Chinese client. The company, like its home city, had been growing, but ultimately wasn’t of more than regional significance. A spark came across Nathan’s bright blue eyes, behind the metal rims of his glasses. He slid his hand into the top drawer of his desk (bending his knees, always lift with the legs) and pulled out a stack of Post-It notes. He stuck one over the front panel of Jim’s computer. The CD drive popped out.

“'Ey, wut was that about?”

“Nvidia sticker.”

Jim pushed the CD drive back until it got the hint and receded back into the tower. “So?”

“Incorporated in Taiwan, tax purposes. I guess it’s the Delaware of the Pacific Rim.” Infinite World wasn't big enough to be a Delaware corporation, but Jim had read Cryptonomicon, so it landed. “Also, mostly fabbed in Taiwan, board-makers in Taiwan. But, to be fair, they do good business in China, too. A little nationalistic saber-rattling won't get in the way of that.”

An Outlook window popped up on Nathan's screen, then three pop-ups for meetings and tasks coming due. Nathan felt a surge of rage well up from his gut, though his neck, out through his ears. He stetched his arms out and down, extended his fingers (and toes) into wide fans. The stress flows out through your fingers and toes, he’d heard that 25 years ago in high school, and if that was the case, best to shape them like a heat-sink, maximize the surface-area to volume ratio. “I wonder who it was that coded up these alerts. I could drive my ass over to Redmond and...” Nathan's voice lightened. “I wonder if he knows he's the most hated man in the world.” A pause. “Well, the white-collar bougie world with nothing real to complain about.” A laugh. “Seriously, though, Redmond eats its own dogfood, it’s probably one of its own biggest clients, if anyone hates this shit as much as me it's probably someone at the big campus there”

“Microsoft doesn't know shit, can't do shit,” Jim snapped back. “They hire the smartest people outta school and teach 'em ta suck. Forget fucking Outlook dialogs. I got two words for ya. Two-hundred-sixty character path limit. Four words. Twohundredsixty. Character. Path. Limit.”

“Depends how you count them,” added Joe, sitting at the next clump of desks over.

“Every fucking project I run into it. Imagine the poor fucks coding real software. Like at, uh, Microsoft, fer example. Tell me they don't get sick of it. There’s gotta be thirty-thousand individual people at Microsoft that could fix that shit in a day, and working together they can't fix it in twenty fucking years of Windows. A fucking joke.” Jim normally spit out his words in a quick monotone, but when he said, "fucking," he said it deliberately, with a rise and fall, giving his fucking sentences an additional climax. A fuck-ing joke.

Nathan, who had been listening with his eyes closed and breathing deeply, put in softly, “Did you ever read Raymond Chen’s blog, The Old New Thing? That’s the sort of thing he’d write about. There’s probably some —”

“Raymond Chen!?! Fuckin'oly fucking fuck, dude, Raymond fucking Chen. Raymond Chen is smarter than you and me put together, and add in, what, another fucking pod of us code monkeys?” Fuckin', on the other hand, was mashed into the beginning of a word, like a prefix.

“If we’re in pods, aren’t we code whales?” Joe put in.

“All that power in 'is fuckinbrain, workin ferwat should be th'most importan'n' capable software company onthe planet, and whaddoes 'e do? 'E writes a fuckinapologetics blog for their fuckups!”

“I’m not sure I’d call him an apologist exactly. Perhaps an historian.”

“Plumbing the depths of bullshit code from the eighties, like it's less important that it’s bullshit, 'ere today, in two-thousandeight, than why it stinks. You know, pissin' in the street is a longstanding tradition. And, damn, wouldn’t it smell better if we used toilets? But this way his fuckingrandpa doesn’t have to learn how to piss all over again.”

Joe, by this point swiveled around and facing Nathan and Jim, said, “Heh, that sounds like more of an excuse than an apology.”

Nathan turned his chair away from his monitor, through a 270-degree arc, past Joe to face Jim. He paused for a few seconds, smiled serenely, and said softly, “Shut the fuck up, Donny. That’s V.I. Lenin. Vladimir Ilyich Ulianov.”

No comments: