Today’s story is from longtime WTF contributor, G.R.G....

Long ago, I needed a little spare cash, so I decided to look for an extra consulting gig. A friend of a friend pointed me towards the University’s job board. Apparently, there was a consultant programmer job posted.

It seemed a bit off at the time – the University never hires consultants through the job board – but I figured I’d check it out anyway. In retrospect, I should have listened to my gut.

A few days later, I met up with a professor in the Sociology Department. Apparently, he was the poster of the job opportunity. “Actually,” I remember him saying, “this doesn’t *technically* have anything to do with the University. I just need a programmer to help out another programmer I have working on a little side project.”

I asked him what kind of side project it was, and he admitted that he “took a job as a part-time software developer.” And since he wasn’t very good at writing code, he hired another guy – Greg – to help him get caught up. By this point, all kinds of little voices in my head were saying all sorts of things – “weird,” “hmmmm,” “waja wanna bet…, ” “hmmmmmmm” – but I needed the cash, so I signed up for the job.

It turned out the professor’s side job was actually a contract with a big computer company to build a cross-platform Logo-like language and an online tutorial. Greg was a little weak in coding up the language, but was “more than comfortable” creating the tutorial. All I had to do was write the Logo interpreter.

A few weeks later, having mostly finished my part, I met with Greg for the first time to see how his was going. Trying to make for some friendly chatter, I asked what kind of background he had. He said that he had mostly worked in a language called “Micro-Futile,” or something like that, which was some crummy mainframe language where “programmers” merely point-and-click and connect flowchart boxes to write very simple programs. In other words, a completely useless skill for the project. Which explained why he hadn’t made any progress.

Well, there was that and, and after looking at Greg’s eyes and speech patterns, it was more than apparent that he had a considerable intake of non-conforming inhalables. There’s nothing too wrong with that in moderation I suppose, but showing up glazed over for meeting to discuss coding and integration wasn’t a road to high productivity.

I continued to meet with Greg month after month, and kept presenting more and more refined versions of the Logo interpreter. And after each meeting, the professor mentioned that Greg needed a little more help. So I ended up building a skeleton for a cross-platform on-line tutorial program. All Greg would have to do is change the text files which stored questions and answers.

Another month passed and my code was finally ready to be integrated with Greg’s. However, since Greg wasn’t able to figure out my program, he went off and found a fellow named Arthur to do it. Despite having a fully working tutorial program, Arthur decided to write his own program. It wasn’t quite cross-platform as the requirements demanded, but it worked well enough for the Apple ][.

Surprisingly enough, the big company accepted the code. The paid the professor, who then paid me and Greg (who then paid Arthur). No one was more surprised than me.

About two years later, I got a call from the company. They had a bit of a problem with the Logo program: they lost the source code to it. Fortunately, I just happened to have kept a copy of it and offered to mail it to them right away. But that wasn’t soon enough: the manager insisted upon driving to my place to pick it up right away.

I agreed and gave him my address. While I waited for him, I wondered, what kind of a car would the manager drive? He did, after all, accept our really junky project (except, of course, for the occasional brilliant part of my devising) with a terrible tutorial (it said recursion was when one function called a different function). I figured it would have to be the dumbest car in existence.

I was right. Sort of. It was the most-expensive yet dumbest car ever made. He pulled up driving a Chevette, the very car which Tom and Ray of Car Talk ranked as “the fifth worst car ever.”

But it wasn’t just any Chevette. It was the “Sports” model, which meant it had all sorts of plastic trim, gimmicks, and an all-red paint-job. Which is rather ironic. The Chevette was one of the lousiest and slowest cars ever made. In fact, the Diesel-powered version was the slowest car of the 1970’s.

I handed him the diskettes and, thankfully, never saw him again.

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