"Scott, is your passport up to date? We've got a big contract in the UK that fits your skillset."

Scott worked for a US-based consulting firm. The company generally didn't do business outside of North America, but a satellite TV company wanted a WAP-based, data-driven application for their set-top boxes. They also had a check with a large number of zeros in it. Scott went to England.

It was raining when Scott landed. He hadn't even had a chance to get properly soaked by the miserable weather when his UK contact dragged him into a deep-dive technical review. Jet-lagged, unwashed and unshaven, Scott just nodded at anything that was said. The meeting ended when someone declared, "Right, well, let's get Scott set up to work."

The open-plan, "Silicon Valley"-style office was spacious, but it lacked certain amenities. Like a desk for Scott to work from. Or a chair for him to sit in. Or a network. What they did have was an expensive espresso machine and a dozen phone lines. The former fueled the programmers, and the latter was their "network". Developers dialed into the central server and transferred code in that way. There wasn't a spare phone-line for Scott.

"No worries," someone told him. "We'll just have you break in our new facility. It's not quite finished yet, but it's going to be rather nice, I hear. It's only a mile away, and that should do you."

The next day, Scott reported to the new facility as instructed. As promised, it wasn't quite finished. The walls were up, if unpainted, and the roof was finished on the northern side of the building. Maybe there wasn't any carpet, and maybe the water wasn't hooked up, and maybe the windows weren't installed yet, but it was a building, with four walls and most of a roof, and it had spare phone lines and electricity.

Scott didn't have to suffer alone. Robert was a regular employee with the company sent along to supervise. Together, they improvised chairs and desks out of cinderblocks and spare plywood. They set up a television and set-top box for testing and balanced it on an old milk crate. Then they settled in for work.

Robert was a harsh task-master, and for the next two weeks, he held Scott to a grueling schedule.

9:15AM Start the day. Robert ties up the phone line to chat with his girlfriend. This precludes using the modem. Scott can update his Minesweeper skills.
9:17AM Rain usually starts about now. Scott must scramble to make sure none of the electronics get wet as the wind blows rain in through the open windows.
9:45AM "Stand-up" meeting with the main office.
10:00AM Mandatory "Team Meeting" for Scott and Robert, held at the local pub. This round of drinks gets expensed to the company.
11:00AM Scott finally is allowed to use a computer. Scott works while Robert browses Internet pornography.
11:30AM Robert vanishes into the restroom. He returns 15 minutes later, his mood much improved.
11:32AM It starts raining again. Scott must scramble to make sure none of the electronics get wet as the wind blows rain in through the open windows.
11:45AM Robert calls a break for a lunch meeting. It's held at the local pub. This round of drinks gets expensed to the company.
2:00PM Robert and Scott return from lunch. Scott works while Robert browses Internet pornography.
3:00PM Robert calls for another break to pop out to the pub. This trip is shorter, so they only have one pint each, expensed to the company.
3:45PM The ice cream truck drives by. This cannot be expensed to the company, but Robert is more than happy to treat Scott. "It's the least I can do."
4:15PM End of the business day. Robert closes it out with a mandatory meeting at the local pub. This round of drinks is expensed to the company.

Free beer and ice cream made the terrible working conditions slightly more survivable, but Scott was painfully aware that he needed to get work done. His consulting company handed out placements based on customer satisfaction; if this project was a failure, that could impact Scott's future prospects. Fortunately, Robert had already estimated out the cost of the project based on what it would take him to complete the task alone. Scott had no trouble completing the project on time and on budget. And hey, ice cream and beer!

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