Monday, December 15, 2008

From Mundanity to Metafiction: An adventure in Meat Space (Part II)

If you missed it, check out Part I


Enough of this traveling shit. I am happy to shake the pins and needles down my khaki's as I pull into job #2. Five seconds in the door and I have identified my first problem, the office manager

It's not something personal, furthest thing from it, she's just playing an archetype. Hell, they all are. Having a big personal stake in something that's inherently problematic and without a heavy lid to keep the outbursts down always leads to trouble. Trying to manage an office either leads to futility or tyranny when dealing with employees. I do not envy anyone charged to this responsibility.

In this case the OM wasn't the root of the problem, the problem's true name was Carl.

Carl is not clever. Carl is just a dumb fucking voice attached to some pitiful short timer shackled to a desk in a big room full of cubicles doing thankless tech support for a single shoddy product over and over until his own fiends and subcon convince him to leave or blow his brains out the side door.

Misinformation abounds in my line of work. This retard made the mistake of selling a one-time configuration change as something the office would have to do every time they wanted to look at an x-ray. It was total bullshit, we just needed to activate some license keys. Five minutes later and I am done with problem one. Fuck Carl, he can suck the devil's cock in hell.

Problem #2 is the occupational equivalent of misinformation. We'll call it Sleaze. Consider your desktop's Ethernet cable. Whether you know it or not the exterior cladding conceals exactly 4 pairs of twisted wires. 10/100 Ethernet only uses 2 of these pairs for data transmission. Gigabit Ethernet uses all 4 pairs.

Now here's a dilemma for the guys who ran the office cable. One of the network drops needed to accommodate an additional computer. The normal protocol demands running an additional wire from the upstairs patch panel, down to the existing drop, and adding a 2-port plate instead of a 1 port. This is necessary so that both devices have their own jack, their own wire and their own connection to the patch panel, and from there the switch, router, modem and finally the Internet.

It's a pain to run the cable so you might be tempted to cut a corner and just slice open the existing cable and split the wires so each new jack uses two twisted pairs instead of the full four. You COULD do that but if you actually DID do that then you'd be employing Sleaze and guess what.

A little screwdriver work confirmed it. I showed the OM what was up and got to listen to a shrill and piercing phone conversation. Joyful.

Problem #3 was the Big One and it depended on a Switch that was, as yet, undelivered. While the OM worked on filing I retired to the upstairs lounge computer and remoted into the server to do some maintenance and check on the general network status. Packets were colliding like proton streams in the LHC for no sensible reason.

Hammering on the network turned up little hope. I would need the switch. That meant waiting. It seemed like a perfectly acceptable time to drop one on the deuce bowl.

I often reflect, when excreting waste of the solid or liquid variety, how strangely humans react to this sort of endeavor. Despite it being a normal part of everyday life the simple process of entering a bathroom to drop trow to relieve some biological burdens changes things. If someone watched my life all day and all night this part of my day would have gone from G-rated (barring internal dialog) to X-rated in two shakes. Literally.

I attribute this, perhaps too generously, to simple physics. After all exhalation is a form of waste management not so different from urination or defecation. However exhaled air, as with burps or flatulence is easily dispersed. I wonder if we were an aquatic species if taking a leak around others would cause any sort of offense or discomfort.

Too many imponderables to consider.

It wasn't that big of a shit, only 3 main pieces and all floaters. I absentmindedly reached out to flush and . . . (click)

Imagine you've spent your whole life tracking down the guy that killed your dad, raped your mom and burned your whole town into smoking cinders. You grow up consumed with hate, training your body and mind into killing implements and hunt your prey over the seas and across the mountains. And then, villain's head planted firmly in the iron sights, you pull the trigger . . . (click)

Panic doesn't come naturally to me. I deal with bits and electrons and something so crude as water and pressure, despite being infinitely simpler, still baffled me. I applied troubleshooting methods to see what I could do. The water was turned on but not refilling the empty tank.

Something ticked off in my brain from a previous install. Most dental offices shut down their air, water and vacuum lines when the office isn't in use for safety reasons. I stepped cautiously back and strolled downstairs as casual as can be.

"Say, do you mind if I turn the water on I need to use your restroom," I say to the OM. Easy money, just turn the water on and problem sol . . .

"We can't," she tells me. "They are working on the pipes this weekend and we can't turn the water or air lines on. You can try next door if you want."

"Oh," I say. My poker face cracks a little as my left eye begins to twitch. "No big deal, I can wait until lunch." Inside my mind alarms and sprinklers are spraying wildly. The Fiend reminds me of a nearby gas station and its well advertised cigarette prices. I trod upstairs thinking wild thoughts of how to fix this problem.

There's a couch so I sit. The upper floor is a lounge/attic/storage space/meeting area. I do a mental inventory and spy a sink. Taps turn out nothing but a slight creak. There's a stove nearby, some kitchen miscellanea and an unopened case of bottled water. That's a start, I think to myself. I just need to get a hold of about a gallon of water.

Therein lies the problem. I can't very well go breaking into the bottled stuff, the doctor's tight enough to know that would cause trouble. I notice a side door that leads to an outside stairwell. Peaking out my head I see that the snow's really picked up. There was a light dusting when I rolled in and now about three inches of the pure white shit are all over everything. Water is running down the hood of my car, feeding the icicles around the base.

Bingo. I step back inside and find a few useful implements then get to work. I yank the bag out of a small plastic trash can and head out into the flurry. Shoveling the loose, powdery snow brings me to the brink of frostbite in seconds. I alternate hands trying to fill as much of the can as possible. It takes about 3 steps and some fist packing to add some solidness to the trash can. Once inside I can look for further help.

There's a big glass bowl full of moldering chocolates on the table. I empty it and beeline for the microwave. I know that I need to make the snow as compact as possible before I add it. Some more digit-chilling work yields about a dozen small snowballs, each as close to solid ice as I can make it.

It takes two trips and some leftover snow to fill the tank. Finally I have enough tepid slush to do some damage. Finger twitching on the trigger I depress and . . . (whoosh)

Fucking aces, I think. The poo is gone and I have one less problem to worry about. Now once the damned switch arrives I can put this place in the rear view. Twenty minutes later and I can't stand the waiting a second longer. I hit the Chinese buffet down the road, I don't even need the GPS to find it.

Now Boone's a pretty small town and less than a linear mile separates the office and the eatery. Along the way I witness one of those 'if only I had brought a video camera I could have taped this shit and it would have gotten 9 million hits on Youtube.' Alas, I have but memory to replay the event.

Some dip shit kid, maybe 16, is sitting in the passenger side of his friend's car. At a stoplight this wonder boy waves to an acquaintance across the intersection and then reaches up to the rooftop to harvest some snow for a snowball. The crafting of the spherical ice missile goes well and dandy, the execution falters a bit.

As wonder boy launches his snowball he has to lean out the open window. Some aspect of the throwing process causes him to lose balance and he slides out the window up to his waist. As this is happening the friend behind the wheel notices that the light is green and the car jumps forward. Wonder boy, still out the window, screams and tries to climb back in. His driver stops and the smart, smart boy decides he'll just climb out the window and then get back in.

I watch wonder boy fumble for the exterior door handle, he pops it and the door swings out enough for his feet to come crashing down onto the road. As he shimmies backwards out the window he slips and fall backwards into the road which is covered in an inch think slurry of dirty-as-shit snow, dirt, salt and buddha only knows what else. I laugh at the retard all through my lunch. Kung Pao chicken, excellent.

Back on scene we have a 24 port gigabit switch still warm from the truck!

Another run in with sleaze, the cunts who installed the existing network hardware used the cheapest shit on the market and it shows. That's the main reason why I am here. Also I don't have any screws that I can attach to the plywood sheet holding all the other stuff. I have to do some harvesting.

Ten minutes later I am done and out the door. There's just the question of the shipping box.

"You got a dumpster around here?" I ask.

"Oh you can leave that for the maid," says the OM. Right, like the maid's life isn't sad enough without a fucking IT guy that can't take a box out to the trash. I press her for info. "It's out back," she finally says.

Around the building I dump the box. Everything is lousy with snow, real fine and loose shit that flies off at the slightest gust. I am thinking of taking a picture with my phone when a real blast takes about 8 pounds of particulate ice off the roof. I catch a shower right at the neck and face. Sweet bleeding christ its like getting hit with a spray from a sea of liquid nitrogen.

"Should have left the shit for the maid," I grumble.

I say goodbye and ask the requisite 'last' question.

"Is there anything else I can do for you today?" I hate this question because 99% of the time there is something and it's always painful. I would rather suck botulism through a lead straw but in the interest of job security and not being one of the fuckheads that makes life difficult I feel compelled.

My lucky day, she says no. I get to leave, sleaze free and ahead of schedule.

On the way back I take a little more care through my shady spot where I decided to write all this down. Lucky for me a quarter of the cars on the road are trucks sporting ice blades and there's enough salt on the roads to pickle everyone driving on it.

The drive home begins pleasantly enough. I pass Tweetsie Rail Road, it doesn't reopen until May. That's probably for the best, no one wants to see cowboys and indians shooting blanks in sub 20's weather.

Another ten miles and I realize I need to stop for gas. If I had been smart I would have topped off during my cigarette run. Singular purposes fail sometimes. This is one of those times and the Fiend moves to capitalize on it.

Every gas station on earth sells cigarettes. The Fiend knows this and he's already scratching at my cranial bumps. I have to stop, but I don't have to go inside. That's what I tell myself. Right on cue the Fiend reminds me that I have to take a mad leak. So I do have to go inside.

Fucking nagger!

The refill and defill go pretty smoothly, I decide to grab a drink while I am in the store. Maybe having something to suck on (fuck off, Freud) will keep the Fiend docile. The place is a wreck. They only have the weirdly narrow necked 20oz bottles of Diet Sundrop. Figures.

The guy in front of me is even more of a wreck. He's got to be somewhere in his 80's, a tiny old man wearing a fur lined leather bomber's jacket. It's so flaked off and crusty that he must have worn it every day since the end of World War II. I feel a stab of pity as he transacts his business.

The bombadier shakily hands the clerk a lotto ticket with a bar code. She scans it, nothing pops, he buys a few more tickets and shambles out the door. I buy my drink with no fuss. The clerk gets a real big smile from me. It wasn't that she was nice or pretty or anything so pedestrian. She's got to be 70 years old, face looking like the old man's jacket but her name tag says it all.


Every time I try to rankle the wife with a story of hanging out with another girl I mention Jill. Jill's not a real person just a recurring name to let the wife know I'm kidding. It's not an uncommon name but I only run into real Jills rarely. I don't like to dwell, there's too much road left for pleasantry so I resume the trip.

Twenty minutes from home and I am besieged with misery. This has been a long slow buildup stemming from the Fiend's ever increasing agitation and a bad road habit. I have a huge bladder, think mini-keg sized so I go long periods, normally. However when I remarked about getting a drink I really meant getting 2 drinks because I am a fucking diet soda addict. There is probably a Fiend for that but I don't even fuck around when it comes to the caffeine supply.

So I have to piss, my eyes are practically watering, and the Fiend won't shut his squawking beak. But I am only twenty minutes away and that makes it too close for me to stop. Just a few more miles on 77 and it'll all be over soon.

The last five minutes are excruciating but I manage to hold it together without feeding the Fiend or wetting my pants. It's a pretty close race but I manage to get inside and unzipped without incident. For about three minutes even the Fiend shuts up and just savors the sweet feeling of release. Two shakes and he's out to get me again, fuck. I walk upstairs, not running or jogging, just pacing deliberately towards my nicotine gum. The Fiend whispers about how its not the same every single step of the way.

I bite through the absurdly fruity tasting shell right down into the peppery meat of the gum. Only a minute later I feel the Nicofiend starting to get drowsy and sluggish. He pulls up a foot and dozes, not asleep but at least contented for now.

It's been a long day and knowing that the Fiend is finally off my back I can relax.

"Better get used to it, bitch." I tell him.

"No surrender," the Fiend mumbles back. He's right of course, but tomorrow is another day. Saturdays mean a lot of time with the wife and the little one. Familial disapproval is a powerful ally against the Fiend.

Going it alone through unfamiliar territory is when the Fiend wins. I sigh and sit down at my computer. There's writing to be done.


dilly said...

A masterful example of perking up what is really an undoubtedly mundane existence. Bravo!

I know that bitch of a fiend... you do realize that reading this pretty much guarantees I will not make it the entire day without offending my lungs. Thanks...

Seth said...

Appy polly logies, Mr. Dilly. I certainly hope you're beaten your fiend to death with something blunt and rusty by now.

Give him a hearty huzzah when you pee on his grave for me!