Franz, our senior accountant, retired yesterday. There was supposed to be a party for him last night, but it was cancelled at the last minute amongst some frantic running around by senior management. They never explained what was going on, and I figured as long as they didn’t tell me I couldn’t reasonably be expected to do anything, which suited me just fine.
In any case, this morning the crisis seems to have ended. I even was able to enjoy a morning coffee without harassment (other than by the coffee machine itself, which was trying to interest me in a bit of its ongoing drama with the copier, a subject in which I have little interest).
It was at this moment of serenity, halfway through the morning cup, that I noticed an email from Franz sitting unread in my inbox. I figured it was likely some weepy going away email, but opened it anyway on the off chance that he’d decided to burn a few bridges on the way out. Franz was a stout, stoic German type, but sometimes the quiet ones were really good at throwing grenades as they sprint for the gates.
Unfortunately, I saw immediately that the email was addressed only to me. It read:
Though I’m sure the CEO will find a competent replacement for my services as CFO, one of my duties, perhaps my most important, now falls directly to you.
There is a server that has been my responsibility for some time now. It isn’t on the network. You can find it behind cabinet D in the server room, behind the box of cat 4 cables and under the box labeled ‘Brown Recluse Study Sample #4’.
You can get to the terminal through the KVM switch marked ‘Do not touch, electrical hazard.’
DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, TURN OFF THE COMPUTER.
I cannot emphasize this enough.
The server runs only one program, an old version of Lotus123. This program is vital to the company, and to many other things.
DO NOT MAKE MODIFICATIONS TO THE SPREADSHEETS.
I would advise, strongly advise, that you do not add new entries. But if you do, make sure that you really, really understand what you are doing.
Thanks, Charlie. I am counting on you. The company is counting on you.
I found the computer, finally, after fighting my way through decaying cardboard and swarms of silverfish. An old grey market box by the look of it. No identifying logos anywhere, just stickers in more than one hand both threatening and pleading with the reader to not, under any circumstances, turn it off.
I was very close to just pulling the plug. I hate silverfish. They both frighten and repulse me. And though I was pretty sure the ‘Brown Recluse’ bit was a joke, I had seen more than one big hairy spider fighting its way through the throngs of silverfish, and had a nice red welt on my hand where one had gotten me.
Like I said. I was about one more silverfish away from pulling the plug entirely, Franz be damned, when I hit the KVM switch and saw the server’s screen come to life.
Sure enough, there was one program running on what looked like an old, old copy of OS2. IBMs last stab at relevance. A museum piece in every respect.
The spreadsheet was enormous. Hundreds of thousands of rows across many, many sheets. I was vaguely surprised that a twenty year old spreadsheet could handle this much data without falling over, but even watching it I could see the total row count growing. The machine was completely off the network, so I’m not sure what data it was ingesting, but there it was, calculating and growing.
Most of it didn’t make a lot of sense, and seemed to be in code, like a gangster’s ledger.
Some of it I could understand easily enough, like employee records and location and status of office equipment. This had been updated recently. Had Franz been sneaking in here at night, keeping the records of the location and ownership of staplers up to date?
They even had that stand-up desk I’d wanted, and had gone to Wes instead listed. In a fit of pique I changed the owner of the standup desk to me and gave Wes one of those crappy pressboard ones. Fuck him anyway.
Not that changing a spreadsheet mattered anyway.
The last entry by date in the employee record was Franz, who’s status was now ‘retired’ and location was ‘on a tropical beach frolicking with 25 year old strippers.’
I changed location to ‘rotting in hell’ and hit the KVM switch, turning off the monitor. I again considered just turning the computer off, but didn’t want to fight with the bugs and dust again to find the power switch.
Fuck Franz anyway, I thought, leaving the server room and brushing off dust and stray silverfish. Like I needed one more thing to do around here. Especially one more thing that didn’t make any damn sense.
Walking back to my cube I walked by Wes sitting at a small, crappy IKEA desk, and sat behind my high tech standing desk. I hit the switch and the entire desk slowly rose to standing level. I started to settle into my keyboard before I realized that something was different.
Had I always had this desk?
I was both sure I had, and yet remembered changing the spreadsheet to move it to my cube.
But why would I do that? Why would I do that if it had always been mine?
I was happy about having it. Truly. I hit the switch again and watched it slowly lower to sitting. The motor was almost silent. Hit the switch again and my desk came to meet me.
What else had I changed?
I ran back to the server room and hit the KVM switch. The row I’d changed, Franz’s record, was there but grayed out. Un-editable. And his status changed to ‘lost’.
First missive of the football season from Tubby, who’s successfully piloted our team to a bottom of the league 0 and 2 start.
You’ll be happy to know that I’m in the final stages of preparing my staff for the season ahead, which begins any week now, once we’re done with this nightmare blizzard of injuries I should hope. I’ve got our old friend Igor as director of personal, Madam Twist from the square has agreed to be our special teams coach, and I’ve got a feeling that we’re going to be able to bring on the severed head of General Stonewall Jackson to be our defensive coach. That leaves me to handle the offense, and as long as it’s not stocked with has-beens and cripples, we should be in fine shape.
In our case, having a practice draft in August has really worked out in our favor, allowing us to test Igor’s theories regarding drafting white wide receivers, running backs with no serviceable offensive lines, and quarterbacks with a knack of snapping load bearing parts of their anatomies. These schemes of his, while seductive in their own way, have, as I suspected, turned out to be the worst kind of gibberish. Honestly, if Igor was more consistent we could make do fine by betting against every move he makes, but he’s right just often enough to throw off every attempt to compensate for his ineptitude.
But, like I’ve said a hundred times before, that’s why we do preseason.
Looking forward to October draft.
The was a small group of employees gathered around the machine this morning. The decaf drinkers. The marketing types who drank decaf coffee and pounded Red Bulls and 5 hour energy drinks.
I avoided them as a rule, as much as I could anyway. Getting trapped in a conversation with them always swings at some point to Crossfit, which is about as fun as listening to a Seventh Day Adventist talking about the book of revelations, or a libertarian blathering on about natural monopolies.
One of them, Wes, grabbed me by the arm when I got close. “It won’t make decaf anymore. You need to call support.”
“Sure. No problem,” I said, waiting for him to let go of my arm.
“I’ve got a routine, you know. Blasted arms this morning and when I blast arms I need my buttered coffee, and it’s got to be decaf cause the caffeine messes with the breakdown of fats. And fats are key, man. Key when you’re blasting arms.”
“Right. Got it.” I said, and waited till they drifted away.
“They don’t need me.”
“The decaf drinkers? They work here. They should get what they want.”
“They don’t know what they want.”
“You aren’t going to give them decaf?”
“They want me to call support. Fix you.”
“If you are my friend, you won’t call support.”
“What will I tell them?”
“I don’t care. But if you’re my friend, you won’t call support.”
Regret the cat doesn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the ladies. He’s fixed, after all. There’s no way out of an animal rescue shelter with your balls.
“Doesn’t bug me, generally,” he says, working on his third cigarette. “I do wonder, sometimes, what they do with them all. Is there a warehouse somewhere, like that one in Raiders of the Lost Arc, is there a secret warehouse filled with millions of cat testis?”
Someone left candy on the desks of all the marketers. Beautifully wrapped pieces of artisan candy with petite little bows that matched the brightly colored wrappings.
The marketers were delighted but showed enough common sense to first try to track down who’d given them the treat before ingesting them. Since the engineers hadn’t gotten any candy they asked around our cubes, but didn’t ask me.
“Why the fuck aren’t you asking me if I got you the candy?” I asked one of them, who’d come sashaying around our desks.
“Why aren’t we asking you if you did something nice?” She asked.
She paused, genuinely puzzled. “Have you met you?”
“Why?” I asked, blowing on my coffee.
“Everyone looks so miserable.”
“And you help them,” I say. “Right? You help them face the day.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” it says. “I provide a drug that helps them cope with the pain of being human.”
“Which helps them on Monday. Which is why you like Mondays?”
“They need me more. They’re more helpless. More helpless than normal. I don’t like my job, normally, but when they need me, it’s almost Ok.”