George had just escaped from his job, a WTF-laden hellhole where asking for a test database to reproduce an issue resulted in the boss spending hours and hours hand-typing and debugging a fresh SQL script based on an old half-remembered schema.
Initech promised to be a fantastic improvement. “We do things right around here,” his new boss, Harvey, told him after hiring him. “We do clean coding. Our development systems and libraries are fabulous! And each of our programmers get a private office with its own window!” Yay, no more cubicle!
George climbed over the required HR training videos, slideshows, and a Himalayan mountain’s worth of paperwork, then headed to his new desk where a budget small-form factor PC with a single 17“ LCD monitor waited for him. ”Yeah, that’s real fabulous," he thought to himself. But perhaps it was just a placeholder system, quickly dug up from elsewhere in the building, to get him started while they ordered a proper developer-grade PC.
It booted up and George realized he didn’t know his account credentials, so he wandered on down to the IT office to get set up.
The IT Office, from the outside, appeared to be a large corner office, but inside it was cold and dark and of uncertain size, with the windows covered by blackout curtains and hidden oscillating fans blasting a chilly breeze through the office. All the room’s light coming from a single small table lamp situated at the sole occupant’s desk. Piles of unsorted equipment and cabling were scattered across the floor, barely visible in the poor lighting, a veritable obstacle course for any visitors with poor eyesight or agility. In contrast to the rest of the room, the desk itself was absolutely spotless, neatly holding the lamp, a keyboard and mouse, and one nice 40" display–nothing else. Not even a telephone. An empty office chair sat in front.
As he entered the blackness, George could hear a rapid-fire chorus of clicking sounds–the kind that usually meant your hard drive had kicked the bucket–clustered around one floor-based pile of machinery which was only visible due to the incessant flashing of LEDs it possessed–LEDs which blinked in perfect time to the various patterns of clicks emanating from the area.
George coughed to make his presence known, and the IT guy appeared near the desk with such silence that George wondered if he had materialized like a ghost. Due to the placement of their sole source of light, George could not even make out his features.
“Hi, I’m George,” he introduced himself, extending a hand the man did not accept. “I just started here and I need an account.”
The IT worker grunted slightly. He proceeded straight to one formless pile of equipment and sat down cross-legged next to it, right on the floor, moving so silently that George almost wondered if he had only imagined it. He made some barely-discernible motions in the dark, and a moment later a previously-hidden LCD monitor flickered to life, bringing new light into the room which allowed George to perceive that the monitor was precariously situated upon a pile of about five budget PC towers from at least a decade ago, heaped up like a deranged game of Jenga, the entire fixture surrounded by dark, snakelike cables of various types whiched meandered to and fro throughout the room.
The screen came to, and George watched in fascination as it presented a Windows Server 2000 login screen. He then realized in repugnance that this pile of equipment was the very same one radiating the sickly click of dying hard disks. Surely this was not the company’s domain controller!
The IT guy entered his login information, and upon his hitting “Enter”, the violent ticking of hard disks became frantic. The screen froze for a long moment–at the time it seemed like minutes–before switching to the classic desktop environment of an operating system serving well beyond its prime. The shadowy IT guy fished a mouse from somewhere in the darkness, almost as if by magic, and balanced it upon his scrawney left knee so he could use it. He clicked on the “Start” button.
Nothing visibly happened at first, but the frenzied jackhammer of “Clicks of Death” told George everything he needed to know about the company’s IT infrastructure. Many long moments later, the Start Menu itself appeared, slowly drawing line-by-line into the desktop space at a painfully-slow rate. It completed rendering and the brutal ticking sound diminished somewhat.
The IT guy attempted to open up the user manager, but as he clicked on its entry, the screen abruptly flashed to the bluest shade of blue, overlaid by a page of cryptic white text. George’s jaw dropped in horror but the other man remained perfectly silent. He reached a hand into the darkness and expertly stabbed the server’s reset switch with such ease that George surmised this to be a common occurrence, common enough for him to have developed impeccable muscle memory for the task.
The system reset, flashed through its power-on self test, presented a RAID option ROM full of warnings about disk failure (which the IT guy completely ignored), and sat at the Windows 2000 Server loading screen for an eternity as its hard disks struggled from within to escape by the combined force of a dozen demon-possessed jackhammers.
“Um, maybe I’ll just come back later?” George offered.
“NO!” The man nearly shouted his first utterance since George met him, his retort sudden and forceful enough for George to flinch.
And so George waited quietly, half-frozen in place by fear, watching the ghostly form of the company’s IT guy as he struggled through two more Blue Screens of Death on the company’s primary server before successfully opening the user manager and creating a domain account for George. Then he flourished, somehow producing a completed sticky note as if from thin air, and presented it to George. “It is done. Now go.”
George took the sticky note and left the IT office as quickly and quietly as he could, carefully stepping around nigh-invisible pyramids of computer equipment and treacherous bundles of cable, eager to put the experience behind him and never step foot into the IT office again.
As he entered the light outside the office, he peeked at the note which was scrawled with his username and password. But as he returned to his own desk to try the new login credentials, he could not expunge from himself an intense sense of doom, a growing despair that he had left one hellhole and entered a new dimension of pain and WTF-ery…