Previously on Lost The Daily WTF

He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. He should just say nothing. Smile and nod. Keep his head down.

But he expected more from himself.

"I would have thought a sort subsystem like this would just be an afternoon job," he repeated, finally meeting her eyes-- eyes that cut into him like scalpels. His heart tried to pound harder in his tight chest. "It isn't that complex of a subsystem."

"You useless-- you clueless--" she let loose a string of profanities, some of which Aargle had never heard, and he played Counterstrike online.

Tye marched away, threw open the door hard enough that the doorstop left a dent, and stormed out of the office. Her presence lingered in the form of a very uncomfortable silence, broken by Mack at the computer.

"I ain't touching nothing without explicit orders," he said, folding his hands in his lap, "We're down until she cools off." He turned to Aargle. "And since that means we'll be down all afternoon-- you really think you could do the sort subsystem in an afternoon?"

Sure he could. But he shouldn't. He already stuck his neck out too many times today.

He shouldn't-- but he could. Aargle nodded. "Yeah."

Mack looked out into the hallway, paused, and then fixed Aargle with a huge grin. "Make a branch. Do it."

#

Aargle was wrong about it being an afternoon job. It only took him two hours. Mack gave him a 'good work' and a pat on the back. It was the first time in two months he'd been complimented on his work.

He hesitated-- then checked in his branch for review, and went for lunch.

Aargle spent his lunch break in the office kitchen with a cup of coffee and an uneaten sandwich. He pushed the bologna around, but wasn't hungry. His stomach was in just as many knots as his chest. A simple code change like this shouldn't bother him so much. Hell, it wasn't even a change, it was just an experimental branch. A proof of concept.

A proof of defiance. Sure, Mack was the team lead and technically his supervisor, but they hadn't cleared the project with the higher ups. And by that, he meant Tye.

He should just get Mack to delete the branch-- it was a nice idea, but he should just keep his head down. Right?

No, it was more than just a nice idea. His code was cleaner, easier to maintain, and far more scalable. It was the right way to do it. It's what he would expect a professional to do.

Then why did he feel like he'd done something wrong?

#

As soon as got back to the department, Tye burst in. "You two, in my office, now!" They followed her across the hall, and Tye slammed the door shut behind them. The frame creaked. "Sit!"

They sat, but she didn't. Instead she pulled a printout from her binder and slammed it onto the desk.

"I saw your sneaky little attempt at undermining me," she spat, "You have no concept of how things actually work in the real world, do you?" She pointed at the printout-- a performance result of one of the major reports that used the sorting subsystem. "I ran some tests. With 1 million records, MY program is still faster by a millisecond!"

She glared between the two of them. Mack just shrugged. "I guess you're right, Tye," he said softly, then looked at Aargle.

He looked at Mack, then down at the paper, then back up at Tye. She was right? Maybe-- but only if you completely missed the point.

He took his words and started to swallow them down. But his chest was just too tight, and there was no more room left for them to stay buried. With a deep breath and a sigh, he let them out.

"Was it really worth paying someone $80 an hour for a month for a millisecond gain off 5 seconds?"

Tye stammered, but could not reply. The silence that followed was pleasantly deafening.

#

The next day, Mack was waiting for Aargle in the front lobby. He had an apologetic look on his face, and a cardboard box of Aargle's stuff in his hands.

"I was informed this morning we're letting you go," Mack said, "I'm sorry."

"I'm not," Aargle said. He shook Mack's hand, thanked him, and took the box. Though it was heavy, it was like a burden was lifted off him. In an instant, all the tightness that had been building up in his chest these past months vanished.

He walked away, head held high-- looking forward to learning what he could expect from a new, better job.