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Today’s


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Lightning Rod

In case you haven’t guessed already, I hail from the world of IT. No, I’m not talking about the pronoun. —No such luck for you. Instead, I speak of that freakish world of programming, network administration, and all things web. Yeah, that’s right—I’m talking about the primordial pool of Star Wars want, untoward Dilbert fascination, and socially-inappropriate references to anything math that I so willingly jumped into twenty years ago. Twenty years of my life that I will never get back, by the way. —It bears mentioning.

Did I say “freakish world?” Why yes, I did. And for those readers who are slow on the uptake, hence the category designation.

Before I venture out onto a self-loathing rant detailing my directionally-challenged career path and apparent free-willed self-integration into aberrant human sub-cultures,  I will, instead, right my path and talk of Bill “the Chinese Dude.” Now, before you get all up in arms and scream “racist,” take a flippin’ chill pill.  And for the love of God, remember where you are.  Now we can’t describe people using their notable physical traits and obvious racial lineage?—all in an effort so that others may get a visual image of those whom I speak? Piss off! I can and I will. Feel free, however, to shackle yourself to the forever doldrums of abject stupidity. Bury your head into the timeless whitewashed sands of surreality where despite your claims of diversity orientation, you still bitterly cling to your want for homogeneity. That’s your call. I’ll have no part of it. And by all means, get the f*@k off my site. Go here instead.

For the rest of you who still remain, sit back while I unravel a story of surreality upon you that will leave you rocking in a corner, sucking your thumb, and ruing the day you ever sat your butt down behind a computer. And since I willingly prostituted myself to serve in the world of IT, I promise you that there will be many more to follow.

Bill was (or still is, I suppose) a diminutive man of maybe 5′ in height a nary a pound over 105. Of course, I may be exaggerating his Lilliputian demeanor because I am a robust man of size, character, and personality. But tough, that’s the way it is. You’re living vicariously through me at the moment, and if you can’t handle that, go here.

I digress…again. For the sake of brevity, let’s just call him “Wee Bill.” There, that’s not offensive. And so we roll on.

It was a dark and rainy day at the hut…

“The hut?” you ask. But of course. This was one of my first assignments after I left my “permanent” staff position. It was 1996 and I was now a “consultant.” There were millions of us. We infested the IT sector like geeks waiting for William Shatner to put his drunk down and make his appearance at a Star Trek convention. Together, we crawled along the floorboards sucking up whatever excess hours would come our way. Most wouldn’t generate anything that even resembled a “deliverable” —an industry term for a product; something tangible that could justify our existence. Being the consummate man of character that I was (and still am), I always did present my deliverables in a timely and exemplary manner. And that, by the way, is how I won my first assignment at “the hut.” But that’s another story for another post. Be patient for God’s sake. And get off my flippin’ back. I’m starting to hate you.

Anyway, it was a dark and rainy day back at the hut. The socially-distressed lemmings were all huddled back behind their computers, selflessly allowing their retinas to become permanently damaged by their unwavering desire to create more and more pointless code. After all, in the end nobody gave a damn. When a company is acquired by a bigger fish, the small fish’s code is obsoleted and surreptitiously switched, keeping only the pretty company logo on the disk. That was start-up America in 1996.

Again, I have to digress. But don’t take that as an apology. I go off on tangents. Get used to it, or visit one of those other sites I gave you the links to.

The hut was ablaze with the maddening clamor of keys ceaselessly being clicked away by their masters of all things code. Or, at least, that’s how the sheepish misanthropes of the digital realm would prefer to think of themselves. Ultimately, the cruel truth of their lot would prove too burdensome to bear. Reality sucks, after all. Anyway, the mindless f@*k chimps were clanking away at their keyboards. To be truthful, it was actually pretty quiet. But who cares? It sounded good on paper. I was perched behind my computer working on my third mountain of ne’er-to-be-read system documentation. The infernal “user guide,” as they refer to it in the business. As an aside, the IT manager—a jittery little man who made himself lashless by nervous habit—once summed up my existence there as fulfilling his need for thud factor. That’s right, the weight of my words could be measured in both substance and physicality. He was quite happy with it. The manual I was writing was the typical dry, dislodge-my-orbs-from-their-sockets-lest-I read-another-word bastardization of the English language that I am embarrassed to call my own. Fortunately, I can take solace in the fact that no one had ever read it. The thud factor was just much too great.

Anyway, I was just finishing up chapter 10 of the manual, “Kill Me Now, This Software Sucks,” when I got an email. Everybody in the hut, actually, received that same email. Well, if it was addressed to all—from the lowly receptionist all the way up to the self-important network engineer with hair growing atop his nose—surely this must have been important. Oh, and indeed it was. Bill “the Who”—or Li’l Whoville Bill, if you will—was the sender. An accomplished software engineer to be sure, Li’l Whoville Bill, if you will had made a name for himself with his unrelenting tenacity, polished charm, and brilliant engineering acumen. Or not. But nevertheless, the email was from him. Again, it was a dark and rainy day at the hut and Li’l Whoville Bill, if you will was deeply concerned about the safety of his coworkers and their possessions, more specifically their automobiles. You see, along with the rain, lightning was striking all around. It was a veritable electrical storm. Lightning lit up the sky like camera flashes at a Mary-Kate Olsen movie premiere. Okay, maybe not Mary-Kate, but you get the idea. This unnerved Li’l Whoville Bill, if you will greatly, prompting him to send his ominous warning written in his native Chinese-English vernacular (and I paraphrase):

“You need to put your lightning rods away in your cars to protect them from the storm.”

A hellfire mandate from one of Satan’s minions, to be sure. Nonetheless, there was a long pause while all in the hut engaged in their own personal translation; a quiet transitory period that all had experienced when speaking with almost anyone from the software development staff. Slowly but predictably, realization settled on the hut and its bereft inhabitants. For Bill the Learned, Bill the Masterful had thought that the radio antennas on cars were, in actuality, lightning rods. You know, because cars need lightning rods. Just ask Ben Franklin. But even if they had come equipped with lightning rods, why put them away during times of…lightning? Wouldn’t that defeat their purpose? Well, I guess we’ll have to ask Bill that question.