A Pillar of Adequacy

I spent the better part of the afternoon looking through my recent status reports, bugs in the ticket-tracking system, anything to prove that I was an employee worth keeping around.  There was no shortage of accomplishments but mostly trivial code fixes a trained monkey could do.  Those are the sort of tasks I usually get assigned.

I’m not a bad programmer.  It’s just that in my current job, my colleagues are a lot better than I am.  I’m OK with this.  I manage to pull my own weight despite my comparative limitations and try not to think about how my neck will be the first on the block when the time comes for the axe to fall.

Shortly before lunch, I received an email from the VP of engineering scheduling a one-on-one meeting with me.  It was to take place in two day’s time and no explanation was given.  I could only guess as to what it was about.

So fearing the worst, the rest of the day was devoted to putting together a case for my continued employment.  What I assembled would surely vindicate my performance and in a healthy economy my job would be secure.  However, these are troubled times.

After work, I went to the bar to talk to my friend Alex about what he thought might be going on.  Alex is a fairly high-ranking boss at another company and so I thought he might have some insight.

He shrugged.

“Who can say what they’re thinking,” he said.  “The important thing to remember is that no matter what happens, it’s too late to do anything about it now so you’re better off not worrying.”

I’ve never excelled at not-worrying and Alex was mistaken in assuming there was nothing I could do.  I could get drunk.  I’m very good at that.

First came whiskey, then Jagermeister, then more whiskey.  After a while, my job worries didn’t bother me, at least not for the moment.  All I wanted was to have a pleasant evening and engage in witty conversation.  I turned to a friend of mine who was eating her dinner at the bar.

“I see you’re eating a pupusa,” I said.  “A poo-poo-sa.  Have you ever heard of the website ratemypoo.com?  From the name alone, I don’t think any explanation about what the site is about is necessary.  But let me elaborate.  Every kind of corn-studded, worm-ridden butt loaf you can imagine is put online for people to vote on.  How about that?”

“Would you mind changing the subject?” she asked.  “I’m trying to eat.”

I took the hint and switched gears, launching into a detailed description of the painful bowel movement I experienced after eating conch fritters in Key West.

She then asked me if I wanted to get smacked.  An interesting proposal given my proclivities, but I decided to play it cool by giving her a Sarah Palin wink and saying that there were plenty of guys who pay top dollar for that sort of thing.

I put on my jacket, bid her goodnight, and left.  On the way home, one of my feet got in the way of the other and I fell flat on my face.  My knee hurt like hell from where it hit the pavement but I didn’t care.  I was feeling jaunty.

When morning came, the worries I had drunk away returned along with a sore knee and a formidable hangover.  I got up, showered, and went to work.  On the way to my desk, I said hello to my boss and a coworker who had been out yesterday at a conference in Santa Cruz.

“Hey, do you know anything about this one-on-one meeting?” my coworker asked.

“Yeah,” my boss said.  “He wants to get a feel of how the tech team is doing.  He’s scheduling them with everybody.”

Jive Turkey

One November back when I was in college, my Mom decided to start a Thanksgiving tradition.  Each of us, family and guest alike, would have to say what we were thankful for before we got to eat.

My brother Gordon got wind of this development ahead of time and tipped me off earlier in the day.  I believe my response was something along the lines of “Fuck that shit,” to which he gently reminded me that this was Mom we were talking about and it would be better all around if we humored her.  Of course, our humoring duties did not prevent a lot of eye rolling between Gordon and me when the dinner was served and the moment to be thankful came.

There were four of us seated around the table.  In addition to Mom, my brother, and me was my mother’s ex-boyfriend Tom, a man whose expanse of head and facial hair inspired Gordon to refer to him as “the Wookie.”  Mom had dumped his hirsute ass a couple of months prior but invited him to Thanksgiving dinner for reasons that still elude me to this day.

We let Tom go first.  He expressed gratitude for being invited and danced around the whole being-jilted issue by using the word “friendship” every time there was a lump in his throat.  That was great fun.  Next came Mom, who made affirmations about how life was more wonderful than reality would suggest.  As for Gordon and me, we gave stock snarky answers about how we were grateful that being thankful only came once a year and we managed to get through it before the food got cold.

“You are your father’s children,” Mom said, as she often did to comfort herself when her kids were behaving like swine.

It could have been worse.  None of us were expected to thank God almighty for the feast that lay before us.  Gordon and I were both atheists and neither knew nor cared about Tom’s religious beliefs.  Mom, although spiritual, didn’t put much stock in a Judeo-Christian diety.  Hers was more of a magic-crystal, new-age higher power who required no more gratitude than she gave my father after receiving his monthly alimony check.

Looking back, the decent thing to do would have have been to simply thank Mom for cooking us dinner.  It’s funny how I only realize such things in hindsight.  Common courtesy is not a strong trait among Jennings men, especially when youth and the sense of entitlement that comes with it are thrown into the mix.