Ray's life was out of control, but not in a bad way – it was just that everything was happening all at the same time. His wife was in her eighth month of pregnancy, so they were back and forth at Lamaze classes, babyproofing, and converting the spare bedroom into a nursery. Not to mention that Ray had received a better job offer and accepted, meaning that he had two weeks of transition at his old job and would have to hit the ground running as an admin at the new place.
Neither Ray nor his wife had a spare second to just sit down and catch their breath, which made their anticipation for their upcoming trip even greater. The idea was to drive from the south to the north and back again, showing off their baby to friends and family. It wouldn't have been a problem since Ray had accrued over two weeks of vacation time at his previous employer. His new employer, however, wasn't terribly understanding of the request when it came up. Ray begged and pleaded, and eventually worked out a compromise – he could take his trip as long as it started after he'd been there for a month.
Things started as smoothly as they would at any job. The work was reasonably interesting, and the coworkers seemed reasonably normal. That is, until Ray had to work on a Saturday. Being at the office on a weekend is always a little bit surreal – hardly anyone's there, most of the lights are off, and it's eerily quiet. The dress code is decidedly more lax over the weekend when there are no clients to impress, and this is something that Ray's boss, Spencer, took full advantage of.
When Ray came in that day, he had to stop by Spencer's office for a quick question. Spencer spun around in his chair, revealing his outfit – a tight sleeveless undershirt that was too short to fully cover his sizable, hairy stomach, beneath which sat the shortest Richard Simmons-style shorts Ray had ever seen. The gruesome sight made Ray immediately forget the question he was going to ask, in addition to permanently etching the scene into his memory.
The reason Ray was there on a Saturday was that one of the servers had gone down. The issue sounded like it was a dead power supply this time, but it could have been any number of things – there was no redundancy for the drives, no reasonable cooling system, and, well, no reasonable equipment, really. The "servers" were all repurposed home desktop systems purchased from Costco – many of which still had the stickers on the case advertising a handful of free MP3 downloads and free ISP trials. For whatever reason, though, they didn't come preinstalled with SQL Server, IIS, or directory management tools. Ray was able to salvage a power supply from an old, unused workstation, and he made a mental note to stop by Costco next time he was in the area.
It was while working on this task that Ray learned the corridor usage policy. The reception area was near the area with the rest of the staff, and down the hall were the executives' offices. Employees could only use the hallway if they were meeting with executives. If you were in a room that had two or three doors and you didn't choose the door closest to the office you were going to, you'd be forced to reenter the room and leave from the closest door. In fact, if there was a closer door in the building, sometimes the employees would literally have to leave the building and walk outside for a bit to get to the closest door. The first time Spencer corrected him for choosing the wrong door and told him to leave from another door, Ray continued on his way, thinking he was kidding; but he wasn't – in fact, Spencer was completely aghast at Ray's blatant insubordination. That was the day that Ray's boss began to dislike him.
After a few weeks on the job, it was finally time – Ray's wife was in labor! Ray frantically started calling friends and family, and made sure to call the office to let them know he was going with his wife to the hospital. The time from leaving the house to his standing by his wife's side in the delivery room was a blur. While Ray was in the delivery room, his heart beating out of his chest, his cell phone rang. Probably one of his wife's family members that were in town to help with the baby, he thought. Without letting go of his wife's hand, he answered.
"Ray." It was the office. "The mail server is down, are you all wrapped up there?" Spencer spoke in a tone usually reserved for asking if you'd like fries with your order.
Ray was usually pretty laid back, but this was ridiculous. "I'm in the delivery room! My wife is in labor! Don't call me on this line today unless it's literally a life-or-death emergency!"
"It is an emergency, we have no email! When will you be done?" Apparently he and Ray were operating on different understandings of what "literally" means.
"Look, you can try rebooting, but I really can't talk now." *click*
Many intense hours passed with Ray's wife having frequent contractions, but the baby wasn't coming. She and Ray were getting more and more worried with each passing hour, until finally at around 2:00 AM, the doctor advised an emergency C-section. This didn't ease their anxiety much, but they agreed that it would be best. And at over 16 hours after arriving at the hospital, Ray and his wife finally had a healthy baby boy!
Ray's body was telling him he needed to rest, but sleep refused to come – he was still coming down from the whole ordeal. Several hours later on that same morning, Ray's phone rang again.
"You're coming in, right?"
Ray buried his face in his hands and sighed deeply. He couldn't bring himself to respond. Spencer went on to explain that the mail server was still down, that Ray was really on thin ice especially after showing disregard to the corridor policy, and expected to see him at 8:00. "Oh, and stop by Costco on the way." And despite all Ray had been through and the lack of sleep, he figured he could break away, fix the mail server, and be back in an hour or two. Ray went in to the office, fixed the server, and wound up working a full eight hour shift.
Two months later, Ray and his wife left on their trip. As they slowly worked their way north they were having a great time and everyone loved the baby; not just their loved ones, but basically everyone that crossed their paths. Only one thing slightly diminished their joy – about halfway through the trip Ray noticed that his bank account wasn't showing any new deposits. He cursed himself for not ironing out whether it was a paid vacation or not with his employer; it had just slipped his mind during the interview. Oh well, he thought, my mistake. I'll just have to check with them when I get back.
As their whirlwind trip came to a close, Ray returned to work as normal for two days just to make sure that no one had broken anything while he was out. When he'd fully settled in again, he stopped by Spencer's desk. That is, after leaving the building, walking around to another entrance, and taking the shortest path to his office.
"Hi, Spencer. I just wanted to double check with you about my vacation. I know we didn't iron out the specifics ahead of time, I just wanted to know whether it was supposed to be paid or unpaid time off."
Spencer's eyes widened. "I can't believe you're coming in here asking for more money! I let you have time off when you had your baby! I could have made you come in anyway!"
Ray's jaw dropped. The only thing keeping him from lashing out at Spencer was that his brain was busy trying to forget the memory of him in his "Saturday" outfit.
Ray quit on the spot, after which Spencer threw his hands in the air in frustration, calling Ray a "money grubbing kid."
Fortunately, Ray didn't have to look far for a new job, since his previous employer was looking for a systems administrator and was happy to hire him back with a higher salary.
The other company had a harder time finding a replacement, however. Ray belonged to a local tech workers' mailing list, in which a job ad had been placed by Spencer. For whatever reason, Spencer had thought it prudent to include a complaint about Ray, specifically "The previous guy took lots of time off and left without notice." No mention of the Costco PCs or the corridor policy, though.