There was something that seemed a bit off kilter about Victor C’s new boss. He was a nice guy and all, but his social skills seemed to be somewhat lacking. There weren’t any glaring red flags, but Victor noticed a few things in the interview – nervous leg bouncing, awkward small talk, and a way-too-frequent throat-clearing – that weren’t exactly typical. Then again, it was Victor’s first real job, so he hardly had a frame of reference. Maybe all programmer-turned-CEO’s had a few quirks like that?

Although the company was relatively small (about twenty people in total), the pay was very reasonable and it was exactly the position that Victor was looking for a web developer with a tiny bit of network administration on the side. His first day was pretty normal as far as first days go — paperwork, acclimation, source code setup, etc — and he even got a friendly text message from John on his way home from work.

Hey Vic, glad to have u on 
board! How is everything 
coming along?

Victor felt it was a nice gesture and responded in kind.

Hi John, thx for asking. So 
far, so good! Got good start 
on things in 1 day. Have a 
great night, c u in the AM!

Thinking nothing more of it, Victor was surpised to see another message from his boss.

Good to see. So what did u
get done today?

Nothing wrong with some chit-chatting, Victor thought to himself, it's good relationship building! He responded back.

Aside from paperwork, got 
the codebase downloaded and
running; also started to
look at the buffer issue.

And then another text came from John.

Nice. U take any breaks thru
the day?

Before Victor could even formulate a response, another message zipped in.

I mean, good to take breaks
and all. Do u find you made
good use of your time?

Victor was a bit taken aback by the messages and carefully crafted a response.

Agreed. I think I struck a 
good balance today.

Over the next hour and a half, the messaging continued. John quizzed Victor on almost every aspect of his day, from what he thought of the current codebase to whether he had thought of a solution for the buffer bug. And then he requested that Victor install an Instant Messanger client on the admin’s workstation. There was a good forty back-and-forth messages that evening, ending with Victor’s at around 8:00PM.

Well, I'm off to dinner with
the family. We'll catch up 
in the morning. G night!

As Victor was leaving for work the next morning, he looked at his phone for the first time since dinner the previous night and found twelve new messages in his inbox. They were all from John, and started with a simple question.

Hey, so do you think we can
set up a new virtual server
for testing 64 bit?

The next few messages were a simple follow-ups.

Get msg about 64 bit srv?

Dunno, could be worth doing?

Hey, u there?

The next few messages got progressively more unbalanced.

anyone there?

how come ure not replying?

what are you dooooing?

finish dinner yet???

They crescendoed to the final message of the night.

Have you run away?

Victor was hoping — nay, praying — that John had a truly strange sense of humor. His hopes were quickly quashed the moment his phone rang. It was John.

“Vic, buddy,” John said in a relieved tone, “where have ya been? I was up all night fretting! You can’t just disappear like that!”

In retrospect, Victor should have responded with a restraining order. But alas, it was his first job and he didn’t want to lose it on his second day. He tried explaining to John that he had gone out to dinner, shut his phone off, and then came home and went to bed.

“Of course,” John said in an agreeable tone. “We really value communication here, and you’ll need to restructure some of your home time to accommodate the needs of the company.”

Again in retrospect, there were a lot of things that Victor should have said, but he said he’d try his best. Victor added, “in the future, just ‘check out’ with me before going to bed for the night, and to ‘check in’ when I got up in the morning. I mean, I’d hate to wake you up!”

Fortunately, the night-time messaging mostly died down after that, though it was replaced with even more bizarre behavior. During the day, John would “make his rounds” a few times each hour, which consisted of him going to each and everyone’s desk to get a status update. It was never in a harsh, why-aren’t-you-done-yet manner; it was more need-to-know-every-detail-about-everything and keep-up-the-great-work.

Leaving — whether for lunch or at the end of the day — almost always prompted the same response for John: “now don’t forget to come back!” To the casual observer, such a statement could easily be mistaken for a mild joke, but Victor was convinced that he was sincere. On several occasions, John asked Victor if he was “planning to run away.”

It may have taken a couple months, but Victor eventually did run away. Far, far away. And he never looked back.

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