Tunnel Rat posted on November 14, 2006 18:07

Mr. Whiteboard came back from Hawaii. It was my third week, and the Online Inquiry app was still a mess.

“So what do you think? Can we go live this week?” He smiled weekly.

Far from it, bozo, I thought. But I had to break it to him gently.

“There are a lot of open issues. The code is badly designed and not easily maintainable.” I tried to spin without getting too technical. “But I did find a way to get these fixes in and not do a total rewrite.”

“Really. That’s good to hear.”

Cool, I thought, now I have a dialog with this guy. He has confidence in my technical skills, and I’m bailing him out of this jam he got himself in by mismanaging this project. I can bring up the nasty topic of Charlie.

“Did, uh, Charlie expect to take over the position you hired me for?”

He stared at me, blank-faced. “I told him I didn’t think he was ready.”

“’Cause, he’s kinda, uh, adversarial. Like, not very cooperative.” I didn’t want to lay it on too thick and take the risk of looking insecure.

“Maybe he’s just young. A little immature.” He quickly changed the subject. If anything, he was deft procrastinator. “How about the other guys?”

“Oh, they’re fine, real good folks,” I lied. I thought they were lame. “Can I take a look at their resumes? I want to get a handle on their strengths.”

“Uhmm, well, their kinda dated, I mean these guys have been here a few years.” He was dodging. I knew for a fact Charlie had only been there a few months. What was he hiding, I thought?

I moved on. “It’s just taking awhile for them to get some stuff done.”

“Like what?”

“I’ve got the TAC and Burning Man getting me a report on all the production jobs so that we can get the code archived in SourceSafe. I just think it’s taking awhile. I think it just may be the culture.” Your people move like slugs, I meant to say. Like the folks at the DMV. Slooooowwwww. They code like old people fuck. I resisted the urge.

I realized he might take offence at my use of the word culture – as if I was talking about their Oriental culture. I, know I’m not supposed to use that term, Oriental, but fuck it. Asian is getting old.

"To Asians steeped in Confucian concepts, time is an endless river flowing from an infinitely regenerative source. It is a commodity to be valued, but because it is of such unlimited abundance, one can hardly use too much of it. Time to Westerners is always precious; to the Oriental it is something that can be spent with generosity"

-- The Tunnels of Cu Chi


I was dealing with people who were completely lacking a sense of urgency, all because of how they perceived time. No wonder there were no deadlines.

But I wasn’t talking about that culture, I was talking about the corporate culture, the organizational mindset, the company DNA. The hands-off, move at your own pace culture. And I realized that I was talking to Mr. Hand-Off himself, the high-priest of benign neglect.

“You know, I am somewhat protective of my staff. If you have any problems with them let me know.” It was a threat. His boys were made, untouchable. His blank face glared at me.

I was fumbling. “Sure, I understand.”

“Good. Let’s agree to meet weekly. Are Thursday’s good for you?”

“Sure. That sounds great.” At least I would get some face time, I thought. Blank, oblivious, vacuous face time, but face time none the less.


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