Lee B. was ready to impress. The night before his first day on the contract he laid out his outfit for the day, ironed his clothes, and made sure to get a good night's sleep. He wanted to leave a great impression, and had planned and visualized exactly how he would do so.

On the drive to the bank where he'd be working, he couldn't help but smile. The radio said that it would be cold and that there was stormy weather ahead, but that didn't phase him — he had a feeling that everything would be coming up Lee.

His optimism, admittedly, wasn't unrelated to the fact that he'd be billing close to $300 and hour. Or that his project — setting up monitoring software that would analyze traffic on some $5M worth of servers — would look fantastic on his résumé. Plus, it was a project that he found interesting.

All Lee knew going in was that he'd be reporting to Clark, who he'd only talked to before over the phone. Lee had the receptionist page Clark, and a few moments later, Clark emerged from the elevator and introduced himself. "Come on," Clark said with a smile, "I'll show you around and then we can get you started."

Clark led Lee to the datacenter and pointed at a beat up old PC sitting in the corner. Lee smirked, thinking that must be what they're using for analysis now. Thank God they're upgrading.

"So that's the server we set aside for you," said Clark.

"Excuse me?" Lee coughed. "Oh, will I be migrating the... I mean..." He stopped himself and cleared his throat. "I mean, will I be remoting in to that system for setup?"

"No, you can just set it up right there." Clark smiled cordially and left Lee to his work.

Lee was dubious that the server they'd set aside for the task would be enough. Discovering a 1.0GHz processor and 256MB RAM confirmed his suspicion. When he later asked a network admin that was in the room about it, his reply was "oh yeah, I think they set that one aside because it was having a hard time running Office."

Fortunately, this server was in no danger of running too hot, since it (and Lee) sat directly above a vent that pumped 50° air into the room (and up Lee's pant leg). Shivering and miserable, Lee sent an email to Clark. This took a while because, unfortunately, the system apparently did have a hard time running Office. In his email, Lee firmly (but politely) suggested that it was time for an upgrade. Lee indicated that the system he was on probably cost about 3/4 of his hourly rate and wouldn't be up to the task.

After sending the email, Lee had to get out of the server room for a few minutes to warm up. He took a trip to the drinking fountain and came back, only to be locked out of the server room. He knocked on the door to no response. After 10 minutes of beautiful, beautiful warmth in the hallway, a passing colleague let Lee back into the arctic datacenter. Returning to the cold of the server room, Lee had received a response from Clark. "Oh, I didn't know it was that bad. I'll have to try to get us some newer equipment. For now, though, let's just work with what we have. Also, I'll see if we can get you a security badge in the next few weeks."

While the bank had handed Lee a whole heap of rotten lemons, Lee was ambitious — he'd make the least putrid lemonade he could out of them. For the next two weeks he persevered. He'd spend all day typing with numb, trembling fingers. He'd wait for some kind soul to let him back in the datacenter any time he had to leave. He learned to deal with the computer crumbling under the crushing hardware demands of two simultaneous Notepad instances.

But it was all for naught. The budget dried up and Lee's work was disposed of.

Lee did learn one major lesson on the project, however — where about 12,000 of those $2 ATM fees went.

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