Dave and I have gotten into a lot of fights since we’ve known each other, culminating in the “Mother-Of-All-Arguments” during what he calls his Bad TimesTM. But we’ve weathered them, and we’re still friends.
In many ways, we’re polar opposites. He’s a techie; I’m an artsy. He drinks beer; I drink “girl-drinks.” He’s a chauvinist; I’m a feminist. And he likes classic rock, of all things. A while ago, I heard these intensely cerebral lyrics when I brought the bike to the shop, and I immediately thought of Dave in high-school: hockey hair, wearing one of those black metal shirts with short white sleeves, cigarette pack stuck up the right shoulder sleeve, drinking Labatt 50 in the back of a pickup truck…
“Infamous butcher, Angel of Death
I ended up sending him a copy of the lyrics via e-mail, earning three middle fingers from him on a scale of five.
Dave hates my music. “Christ man, there’s nothing more I hate than that yoyoyo-homeboy Hip Hop garbage you love so much.”
“Breaks is not Hip Hop, Dave.”
“Whatever. It’s almost as bad as that industrial-alternative stuff you play at your station. I mean, how the hell can you listen to that shit?” He says the last bit emphatically, as if he were at a diesel fuel buffet or something. “What are you, a masochist? Why don’t you listen to something, like, you know, normal?”
“Dave, I hardly think that the crap you listen to is considered ‘normal’.”
“Them’s fightin’ words, Stick.”
Eggman had holed himself in his office for most of the week, but Jase was still reasonably accessible, fixing bugs from behind a pyramid of empty Jolt Cola cans. I popped my head into his office, aware of the vague sour male smell, but I decided to be tactful about it (for once).
“Delivery,” I said curtly, and dropped the McPie in his guest chair, the grease immediately staining a pile of technical documentation.
Jase mumbled his thanks, face lit up by Microsoft Visual C++ running at about a bajillion miles per hour.
“So, how’s it going?”
He mumbled again, incoherently. I shrugged; I guess if he wasn’t running around naked and tearing his hair out, the bugs were getting taken care of.
Like many other software companies, Praxus has a casual dress code and a stressful atmosphere coupled with developer’s hours (ie. 11 am to anywhere after midnight, including weekends). And, of course, crushing delivery cycles, coupled with regular clothes-rending and wailing and gnashing of teeth. The office was a mishmash of machines, technical product T-shirts, Dilbert comics, Nerf weapons, fridges stacked with grapefruit juice and Jolt Cola. No ultra-lame fabric partitions like in other companies, thank god, but none of the offices had windows, except for Shogun’s and some of the higher level managers. What better to prevent en masse suicides from this place.
My own space was across the hall from Jase. Despite its lack of windowage, it’s a pretty good office - one thing I don’t complain about. It’s larger than most of the others because of the large number of machines for my QA’ing duties... and, of course, the legions of lethal radiation-emitting monitors that come with them. A solid year in this room could probably roast a pig. Greg, my manager, offered to get Shogun to buy a lead apron for me, like the ones pregnant secretaries use, but I said no. I figure that no one lives forever, and a great tan is a fair trade for slicing a few years off this carcass. That, and the extra arm I’m growing right under my chin.
Passed by the Catholic school again. I can’t believe this it’s so cold, and they’re still wearing those little kilts. This time, I averted my eyes. I have a girlfriend now, you know.
That evening, I received a call from Luke. He called inconveniently after I’d, uh, retired with Kathy for the night.
“So how’s it going with your woman?” he asked.
“Great, great,” I whispered, cradling the receiver with my chin. Kathy was sleeping beside me. “She’s sleeping right now…”
“Oho.” I could almost hear Luke’s eyebrow arching in interest. “Being true to your religious principles, are we now?”
“Dude, I have a solution for you. Just convert. Then you can do the nasty all you want.”
“Convert? Convert to what?”
“I tried to get Mike to become an Anti-Buddhist, but he didn’t go for it. How about Agnostic?”
“Er, what’s that?”
“Agnostic: you worship the god Agnos. No, just kidding. Agnostics aren’t too sure about the existence of a god, and generally prefer not to think about it.”
“Nice direct approach,” I commented.
“Isn’t it though? So how about it? Might provide you with some useful leeway at this moment…”
“I don’t think so, Luke…” I said, gingerly sliding my arm from under Kathy’s head and shaking off the pins and needles. “All those years being an altar boy kind of drums the Catholicism in you, you know?”
“Hey, I didn’t know you were an altar boy.” He chuckled. “So did you ever, you know, get violated by a bishop or anything...?”
I don’t make work my life like the way most young professionals do. I don’t need to. I find work to be easy. I always have. The hours are long, but as long as the results are there at End of Quarter, your actual presence isn’t required. A meeting here, a phone call there, properly distributed e-mail, faxes, some tech-speke and branding: “You like this juicemaker. You want this juicemaker. You would sell your kidneys for this juicemaker...” And your presence is virtually established… even if you’re not there. It’s all about maintaining credibility. Opportunities in the field are increasing hyperspatially with each mega-merger, each IPO, each e-Business Interaction. New clients are practically kicking down the doors of the senior partners. Every client I sign on makes me contacts, some of which, with the right flesh-pressing and proper legal advice will one day become mine.
Pinky: What are we going to do tomorrow night, Brain?
The Brain: Same thing we do every night, Pinky… try to take over the world!
The Toronto office itself makes an interesting sociological study in modern dysfunction. The marriage rate was 18 out of 63 - a remarkably dismal 22.2 per cent, with two divorces in the works. This is great news to the partners: the firm is particularly fond of career-minded singles, driven to work by the difficulty of maintaining permanent relationships. The backbone of the firm is an unsolid marriage.
The elegant office décor belies high-levels of stress and clashing egos, not to mention deviant personal practices. Mike Lau, for example, is a body-builder who is an expert in data warehousing systems design… with approximately five years left to live thanks to steroid abuse. Steve Langlois is a genial Blue Jays fan and a monster at financing technology IPO’s… and a practising sado-masochist.. Elissa Jaeger is a blonde bombshell who is a whiz at executive corporate headhunting… she hated men and had a frightening predilection for handguns. And, of course, there’s myself. The slickster Rickster, master technology consultant and deal-closer extraordinaire.
And behind that lay… what?
I can’t seem to remember.
I must be doing a damn good job, then. Carry on, MacDuff.
There she stood in the doorway... I heard the mission bell...
I don’t know her name. She is sitting here at the Second Cup, sun shining on her unevenly, through the window past the salt-and-slush streaks. There’s some light jazz - Betty Carter being piped in, and she is unconsciously bopping to the beat.
She looks about my age, maybe a little younger, although (and I hate myself for subscribing to the stereotype) you can never really tell when it comes to Asian women. She has long, lustrous black hair that caresses her green turtleneck sweater in a rich vein of black gold, Texas Tea. She has a pale, graceful, elfin look about her, one that alludes to interesting blood... descended from Manchurian princesses, perhaps, from days long past, nobility, aristocracy, royalty. She’s an accountant, I think.
She dresses in smart, office-type clothing, set off by the commuter’s brightly-coloured slouch socks and runners. She is concentrating on a dossier of some sort, a cup of Amaretto Almond cooling in front of her, sitting with her right leg crossed over left, idly flicking her pen over her thumb, brow slightly furrowed. She is truly an upwardly mobile vision.
I don’t know her name.
She brings to mind one of my mother’s Chinese proverbs: “Chum yue lok ngan yung bei yuet sau fah jee mau.” The beauty of a woman causes the fish to sink in fear, the birds to drop from the sky, the moon to hide behind the clouds, the flowers to hide their faces in self-consciousness. The beauty of a woman strikes fear in the hearts of men. Like me.
She only started to invade my Second Cup regularly, obscuring even the beauty of Ingrid, and posing a particularly problematic concentration problem for me. I thought about approaching her, but how? There’s a serious lack of precedent for me in that sort of thing. I started thinking about how my father met my mother. Apparently, dad courted mom for seven years, beginning at the age of sixteen. He would bike two hours to her house every day back in Hong Kong, just to sit at the curb for hours, staring at her house. Her father would look out the window and ask, “Jee doh guh soh jei? (Do you know that idiot?)” My mom would, of course, deny it.
But that wasn’t particularly useful information for the here and now. That sort of thing may have once been considered devastatingly romantic, but these days, you’d be slapped with a stalking charge faster than you could say, “What’s your sign?” A Sign of the Times.