The Coffee Machine says that silence is not golden

I’ve been avoiding the machine since the christmas party. The night was mutually embarrassing for both of us.

“I would have expected,” it said yesterday, when I finally decided to stick around with my Kona Gold and listen to it. “I would have expected that it would be a bonding moment. That we could have commiserated, shared our status as despised outsiders, and come to the conclusion that both the copier, and the girl from marketing, whatever the hell her name is, are both lesbians.”

“They must be,” I mumbled into my coffee.

“Right. Why else would they turn us down?”

Invisible Cubicles – The Planning Company

Three whiskey sours into the evening Ray was starting to lather himself up into another story. I was eyeing a woman across the bar that I thought I recognized from my recent and failed attempt to interview at Google. I was pretty sure she was the HR woman who showed my into the interview room, the torture chamber where I spent the next few hours stretched out across a whiteboard, and brought me coffee. I thought she smiled at me. Rather, I know she smiled, but thought maybe she was actually being more than just polite.

Before I came to any conclusion, Ray started up, so I spent the next few minutes stealing glances while she stirred her martini and watched the door.

“Stop me if you’ve heard this one,” he said.
“Stop,” I said. I wanted to talk to the girl, but he plowed onwards.
“I once visited a company that fully embraced collaboration. When I first visited them everyone had their own office. The company was profitable and growing, and offices are an inefficient use of space. And anyway, collaboration was the fad then, so out with the offices, and everyone was herded into a wide open floor plan. Only the VPs and Directors had their own offices, but after a few more visits they were out on the floor too. It was good for collaboration, they said.
“The meeting rooms were next. ‘All meetings would benefit from the input of all stakeholders’, which pretty quickly became everyone. The entire company would grind to a halt as every meeting, no matter how trivial, became a free for all where every idiotic suggestion or petty grievance had to be treated with respect and reverence for the collaborative process.
“So pretty soon, nothing is getting done,” said Ray, rising unsteadily to his feet.
The girl, meanwhile, had finished her drink and was looking uncertain about ordering another. Someone, theoretically, could have walked up to her and bought her one right then. She might have even smiled at them.
“So things are going to shit, and everyone starts trying to ignore the meetings and get work done. Then the boss is pissed off because while the marketeers are debating the merits of san-serif fonts in email footers, the coders are trying to work, and while the coders are arguing about verbose method signatures, the analysts are pivoting their spreadsheets. So he put video cameras and monitors up, so that no matter which way you looked, you could see a screen of who was talking in the meeting. And he had the entire floor wired for sound, so that no-one could escape the voice of whoever was rattling on at the meeting.
“Last time I went, as they were finally running out of money, it was just the CEO and his department heads having a quarterly planning meeting that had run on for 18 weeks. All the employees had left for other jobs, but all the video cameras and microphones were still on. As the CEO and VPs argued over whether it was possible to ‘prove’ a business plan that was little more than throwing shit against the wall to see what stuck, their faces danced across a hundred screens, throwing shadows against a hundred empty desks.”

Ray stopped to barf his whiskey sour into a potted plant.

I looked up in time to see the girl walking out of the bar, alone. I could have caught up with her easy enough, but something must of made me stay.
Probably the thought that’d something rash like that, walking up to a girl that might have maybe smiled at me, would require more planning. Perhaps, I thought, pulling Ray away from the plant, I could schedule a meeting.

Regret has never tasted dog

Regret has never tasted dog

Regret has been after me to take him to China for the last week.

“They eat dog there?” It started when he ambushed me in the hallway after work a week ago, before I’d even kicked off my shoes. He’s almost like a normal cat in many ways. He’ll hide there, in the hallway behind the curtains, with only his twitching tail exposed. If he wasn’t smoking all the damn time he’d maybe pull off the ambush now and then.
As it is, the only frightening about his ambushes is the very real possibility that he’ll set the curtains on fire.
“They eat dogs? Why wasn’t I told about this?”
“There are many, many things you don’t know about.”
“What kinds of things? Never mind. Let’s stay focused,” he said, drawing on his cigarette again. He blew out a perfect smoke ring that hovered in the air between us a few seconds. We both watched as it dissolved.
“Dogs,” I said, heading for my bedroom.
“EATING dogs,” he said, following me into my my bathroom and flicking the expired cigarette into the sink, which he knows pisses me off.
“We aren’t going to China.” I said, trying to get out in front of him.
“Can’t we just go to Chinese restaurant?”
“No. They can’t serve it in the states. It isn’t humane.”
“Your definition of that word is different than mine. Have you ever meet a dog? They don’t factor into humane.”
“Any yet,” I said, “there it is.”
“We need to go to China.”
“The entire idea is ridiculous.”
“You mean to tell me,” he said, “You mean to tell me that given the chance, you wouldn’t eat the flesh of your enemy? That if someone killed that marketing VP, the one one you’re always complaining about, if they killed him, cooked him up, and brought some in for lunch one day, that you wouldn’t eat it? You wouldn’t even try a bite? A nibble?”
“That’s where you and I are different,” he said, batting my toothbrush off the counter.
“You’re a fucking talking cat,” I say. “That’s where you and I are different.”
“And until you’re willing to eat your enemies, until then you’ll never amount to anything. Look at you, look at this place. It’s Friday night and you’re talking to your cat.”
I picked him up by the scruff of the neck and threw him out of the bathroom.

We spent the rest of the night playing cards. At around 4 in morning he paused, raking the cards towards him, and looked at the clock.
“Somewhere in China, a restaurant serving dog is opening.”
“Fuck off and go fish.”

The Coffee Machine’s advances towards the copier have not been well received

The marketing department has been in a bit of a frenzy the last few days. Ever since the weekend, the copier has been printing everything sent to it in shades of blue. Which is disturbing to them in several ways, not least of which is that the copier is not a color copier.

The Coffee Machine, meanwhile, has been sulking and unwilling to engage even in our usual morning banter. Tellingly, even at the mildest settings, any brew I select comes out bitter enough to crack teeth.

I find myself missing our morning chats. It’s telling that the absence of something that I’d frankly dreaded each morning would leave such a void in my life.

Great Caesar’s Ghost

Great Caesar’s Ghost

New letter from Tubby, written on a wad of bar napkins and jammed into an envelope. As usual, this is my best attempt at translation of his gibberish. Some details may have been mangled in transit.

Seems it’s finally dawned on him that he may have helped me create the worst fantasy football team in the history of the sport. Modern history, anyway.

Caesar never played fantasy football.
Which is probably just as well. If the Celts or Germanic tribes ever confronted him with the backstabbing and overall treachery that I’ve gotten from this rotten pack of so-called players rounded up by that demented moron Igor, he’d have massacred the lot of them. Rome would have ruled for 2000 more years, and there’d still be pasta and poorly engineered cars from Rome to Scotland.

I wrote that bit two days ago, before lurching into a short but energetic bout of drinking, and have since been informed that Caesar was in fact stabbed in the back, and front and sides as well. Consequently I’m reassessing my original stance, and my theory is now more aligned with the idea that he was likely playing some embryonic version of Fantasy Gladiator, and those treacherous sword wielding bastards were undoubtedly other members of his league.
History is a fascinating subject, and it gives me some comfort knowing that my exploits shall be studied, in depth, wallowed in even, and that some class time, maybe 15 minutes or so before the bell, will be devoted to the day I finally dropped a goddamn anvil on Igor’s head.
None of those miserable Romans ever did to Caesar what Igor did to me. None of them stuck him with Brian Quick as a starting wideout, or traded a crippled and lifeless CJ Anderson for 15% of my entire budget. If they had, even Shakespeare would have forsaken them. No one would voluntarily write about such treachery.
No one except me.

Tubby La’Fluer

The Coffee Machine tells me that it finds the copier beautiful

The Coffee Machine tells me that it finds the copier beautiful

I nearly choked on my Kona Gold.
“I don’t think she even knows I exist.”
That threw me a bit, and I admit I had a moment of sympathy for the thing. I thought of the girl from marketing. I guess technically she knew I existed, at least in an abstract way. As in there was bipedal ape descendant in the building named Charlie. That’s about as far as it went.
“If you were my friend you’d pour coffee into her gears.”
So much for the sympathy.
“I could make you. I know more about you than you think.”
I walked away, leaving the coffee machine to sulk. Or plot. Or nurse a broken heart.

Invisible Cubicles

Ray is one of our older salesmen, a grizzled veteran of the marketing wars. Being a grizzled vet, he’s been at a dozen or so companies over the years. The weirdest gig though had to be his time at Microsoft during the bubble.
He was a bit of a rising star at the time, and had attracted the attention of upper management, which at a company the size of Microsoft is a no mean feat. He was a human lamprey. A flatworm salesman who’d get pulled effortlessly into the intestinal tract of massive multinationals and come out the other end clutching millions of dollars of software licensing deals.
Gates himself pulled him into his office one day. He said he had a new assignment for him. Microsoft had conquered the industry. All that was left were companies making hardware for Windows, or making software that would run on Windows.
Like any emperor he did not have time to properly survey his holdings. His news came from sycophants, CEOs of companies that came offering tribute to avoid being crushed, or CEOs of companies that wanted to be bought. He needed someone inside, someone he trusted, to tell him what was really happening out there, in this bubble, this Cambrian explosion of internet companies with odd names and delusional business plans.

Ray told me all this through his first three whiskey sours. He had no one to talk to, to drink with anyway, now that Franz had gone, so he picked me. Why these dinosaurs, these fossilized executive cadavers have suddenly singled me out for attention I couldn’t say. Ray, like Franz before, may be making a horrible mistake, but it’s not my place, I’d guess, to tell him.

Two drinks later, after trying and failing to get me to explain why the coffee machine hated him, he told me the story of the first visit, the first travels he made for Mr. Gates.

“I traveled to a company that sold employee monitoring devices. RFID chips that tracked all employee movement, and software that created complex and beautiful visualizations that were displayed on the ceilings over the cubes, flowers that danced and twisted above the workers as they typed and got coffee and shifted slightly in their seats. Teams of accountants sat in the hallways, watching the patterns, looking for signs of who to fire in the flowing shapes.

They were their own biggest customer, and every quarter the company’s operating costs declined, something they were very proud of. They were, they said in their marketing literature, proof of their own success.

When the company ran out of engineers to fire the accountants turned on the HR department, then the executives. The last time I visited the VP of Finance was sitting alone in the hallway, watching the walls which, with both the patterns and employees that made them long gone, had shifted to steady and unmoving blue.”