On his first day at his new job, Sebastian wasn't particularly excited. He'd been around the block enough times to have grown a thick skin of indifference and pessimism. This job was destined to be like any other, full of annoying coworkers, poorly thought out requirements, legacy codebases full of spaghetti. But it paid well, and he was tired of his old group, weary in his soul of the same faces he'd grown accustomed to. So he prepared himself for a new flavor of the same office politics and menial tasks.
It didn't faze him much when he walked into the IT office to pick up his credentials and heard the telltale buzzing and clicking of old Packard Bell servers. He simply adjusted his expectations for his own developer machine downward a few notches and walked back to his new office. Yes, this job came with a private office, and pay to match. For that, he could put up with a lot of BS.
His login worked on the first try, which was pleasantly surprising. He expected Windows XP; when Vista loaded, he wasn't sure if he should be pleased that the OS was newer, or horrified that it was Vista. He could pretend it was 7 for a while at least, once he finished getting admin privileges and nerfing UAC. It'll take more than that to scare me off, he thought to himself as he fired up Outlook.
Already, he had mail: a few welcome messages with new employee information, as well as his first assignment from his manager. Impressed with the efficiency in assigning work, if nothing else, he opened the message from his new boss.
That first email went a little something like this:
Hi Sebastian, welcome to our super-clean environment. We do everything right here. You will use Bonk-Word (a IBM documentation web app) for design documents. Remember to save your work often! If Bonk-Word crashes, you'll need to send an email to IT to have it restarted.
We do design documentation right here. Be sure to write everything in passive voice, use Purple for chapter headings and Green for section headings. We have document review with the company president every day at 9AM so be ready for that. It's a black mark on your permanent record to have any headings wrong.
Please start designing how you are going to fix our 4-year old Macintosh font issues. We need a six-page design document by 9AM tomorrow. Thanks.
Six pages by tomorrow? worried Sebastian. Maybe I rejoiced too soon on that efficiency thing. Well, at least I won't be bored. He cracked his knuckles, opened Bonk-Word, and set about examining these so-called font issues.
The first thing he learned was that his manager wasn't kidding when he said to save often. By the end of the day, he was mentally betting with himself on which would crash first: Bonk-Word or Vista itself. They both crashed approximately every half hour. But it was somehow soothing to keep count, making tally marks on a post-it note. It reminded him that something in this world still worked. Basic math wasn't impressive, but it was reliable. Steady. Solid.
Maybe he was a little lonely in his office. But it was quiet, and private, and even if the crashing was frustrating, he made progress. He stayed late to turn out his treatise on "Delving into the diverse and varied literature that exists on the subject of font rendering, including but not limited to the Postscript specification, accompanying literature indicating the best practices for the use thereof, and extant informational centers within the World Wide Web that have been created to gather wisdom from the best minds the industry has to offer in a familiar and comforting question-and-answer format." Lather, rinse, and repeat for "Writing a Python program to render each character." He took two pages to explain the fact that he would, essentially, eyeball the results.
If they want six pages, they're getting six pages, he thought.
A strange first day, but Sebastian could see himself sticking this out for a few years at least. He took his time as he walked through the building (which smelled suspiciously of old leather undergarments) to his "free assigned ramp parking spot" (another perk he told himself made the job worth it). Walking slowly was a good idea anyway, as the ramp had terminal rust-rot and there were many places where the concrete had completely fallen off, exposing the rebar in the floors and columns.
The next morning, at 9:00 sharp, Sebastian found himself in his manager's office for his first design review with the company president, held via conference call. Sebastian was uneasy about meeting with the president directly, given the company had sixty employees, but he took it in stride.
I did as they asked, wordy as it was. Probably this is a formality and then I can get to work.
A humiliated, exhausted Sebastian crawled back to his office an hour later, his ears ringing from the nonsensical yet harsh critique he'd received. According to the president, his headings were merely "greenish" instead of the company-mandated Green, and his chapter headings were unforgivably "reddish" rather than the expected Purple. Furthermore, he'd been informed in no uncertain terms that it was "impossible" to debug the font using Python. Instead, he was to work in C++, using the company's "marvelous" software libraries. Sebastian's manager had praised the document while they were waiting for the president, but had failed to utter a single word once the review began, his eyes fixed firmly on the brick wall behind his desk.
Sebastian closed the door to his office, blocking out the rest of the company. He sat in his plush leather chair, staring at the machine that barely worked. He opened his document again, then rebooted his machine once Vista decided to crash. When the machine came back up again, he checked his bank balance, thought of his mortgage, and gritted his teeth.
"All right," he said aloud to his empty office. "Let's see about those libraries."
The first thing he looked for was documentation. Surely, in a company as document-focused as this one, the documentation for the "marvelous" libraries would be exactly the right shade of exactly the right font, with exactly the right chapter headings and section names. Instead, it appeared to be ... missing. There were design documents galore, and their greens were more green and their purples showed far less red. But they only spelled out the methodology behind the development of the library, and said nothing of its proper usage.
Am I going mad? Sebastian asked himself as his machine restarted for the third time. Maybe the code is self-documenting ...
To his horror, but not particularly his surprise, the libraries simply consisted of poorly thought out wrappers around basic string functions from the standard library.
Sebastian gave it his all despite the setbacks. Every day, he was summoned for another round of verbal browbeating. The company had made no progress in the past four years with this font issue, and yet, nothing he did was good enough for the president. Sebastian gave up on the custom library, sticking with the Python he knew; after all, if he was going to be berated anyway, why bother trying to do as he was told? But no matter whether he used his own font tester in Python, or Microsoft's tester, or Apple's, or Adobe's, the font was an absolute mess. 488 intrinsic, unfixable, unkludgable design errors.
The president flatly denied the truth before him. It had to be Sebastian's fault for not using the wonderful C++ libraries.
Out of options, Sebastian left the key to the rusting, collapsing wreck of a garage on his manager's desk along with a letter of resignation. He kissed his lovely office with its decrepit pile of crap they called a machine goodbye. He took a deep breath, letting that disturbing leather smell permeate his nostrils one last time. Then he left, never to return.
Somehow, he doubted he'd miss the place.