tunnel rat posted on October 5, 2007 18:58

I liken my career path to Cool Hand Luke’s experience. I am either on the run (freelancing), on the chain gang (contracting), or in the box (working as a full time employee).

Every waking day of my existence falls into one of three categories:

  1. On The Run: Enjoying my freedom while I make my own hours and call the shots as an independent consultant (much as Paul Newman’s character cavorted with whores and gamblers after escaping from the prison camp).

  2. Chain Gang: Doing my time as a hired hand on a contract job (like Luke toiling on the chain gang).

  3. In The Box: Sucking hind tit as a full time employee (when Luke gets caught running and gets thrown in a hole in the ground).

Unfortunately, it’s hard to make a consistent living On The Run. The market changes, the economy retracts, and suddenly there is no more work to be had as a freelancer. First the off-site gigs dry up. Then the Dice postings matching your skills get reduced to a trickle. You end getting caught by the Captain’s hounds and slaving away in the proverbial Chain Gang – as an hourly contractor on a shit project in a big company.

And then the contract works dries up, you make a break for it and get caught. You end up in the box – as an FTE. Full Time (Fuckin’) Employee. As the Luke says:

And you make a bad enough mistake and then you gotta deal with the man - and he is one rough old boy. OK?

You see, working as an FTE is like dealin’ with the man. One real mean son-of-a-bitch. You see, it ain’t man’s nature to be confined in a cube, taking orders from the Cheap I.T. Bastard, or the Clueless, Gayish CIO, or dealing with the Menapausal Bitch DBA or the narcoleptic network guy. Or folks like Charlie. It just ain’t right. It was like being in the Box.

So, I have to admit – I am one arrogant bastard. Like the fine ale brewed in SoCal, I am hated by many and loved by few. I am especially hated by the small-minded netizens that have been brainwashed into filtering everything they read through the prizms of sex, race, class, and gender.

Thus I have a hard time as an FTE.

But as the market turned south one summer, I had to look for a full time job. I resigned myself to going back in the Box. Like Luke, I protested…

You ain't dealt me no cards in a long time. It's beginning to look like You got things fixed so I can't never win out. Inside, outside, all of them... rules and regulations and bosses. You made me like I am. Now just where am I supposed to fit in?


But I answered the ad for a Senior .Net Developer that was posted on Dice. I knew it was full time, but my daughter was growing, and the mortgage payment was due. And the wife liked to vacation in Cabo.

“We need a solid developer. It’s a small, growing company in Laguna Beach,” the guy told me. It was spring in SoCal, I had just got fired from the Sweatshop in a Nighclub, which was also in Laguna. I liked Laguna.

“And the compensation?” I asked.

“I can pay what you are asking. 110 is no problem. Plus we have medical and –“

I cut him off. “That’s ok, my wife has a good plan. When are you looking to fill the spot?”

He got excited. “Well, uh, well, as soon as possible.” He was panting.

“I have to give at least a week’s notice,” I lied. I couldn’t let him think I was unemployed.

“That’s fine, when can you come in for an interview?”

“How about today at 2?”

“Great! See you then.” He hung up.

I found the place in South Laguna Beach. Barely. It didn’t look like a medical claims clearing house. Two stories, facing the ocean. Dumpy. I walked up the side stairs and opened the door.

The place was packed, all assholes and elbows. A rat’s nest of cubes and computers. Network cables where hanging like vines from the ceiling.

A middle aged lady was sitting at a desk pilled high with paperwork. She smiled at me. “Can I help you?” she asked.

“Yeah, I have an appointment with Bruce.”

“Down the hall, to the left.”

I found Glen in an office with a beautiful ocean view, talking on the phone. He waved me in.

I sat and waited for him to get off the phone and did a little recon of the place. His desked was pilled high with paperwork. Checks to be signed, NDAs, timesheets. He was dressed neatly, beach-business-casual. 17” flat panel monitor. Everybody else had 15” CRTs. I mentally logged the discrepency.

Finally he got off the phone. He got right to the point.

“Ok, I own this company and we do medical claims processing. We have a web site where doctor’s offices can send their claims, and we send them to the insurance companies. Get it?”

He rattled off those facts in a high-pitched tone. My gaydar went off. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I was in Laguna, after all. The BoomBoom Room was just up the road.

“HIPAA stuff?” I asked.

He grinned. “Yes. Now, I’ve got this programmer that has been working here for a few years, and he is giving me problems. He says he’s not happy.”

And what the fuck does that have to do with me, I wanted to ask. I hate bastards that start an interview by bad-mouthing their staff.


“So,” he continued, “It looks like you have some good .NET and SQL-Server experience.”

“Yes, I’ve been working on the Microsoft platform for over ten years.”

“Yeah. I worked at IBM for years. Wrote a few compilers. Built my own operating system.”

“Really? So are you running SQL-Server 2005?”


“32-Bit or 64-bit?” I asked.


I paused. “What version of .NET? 2003 or 2005?”

“Yeah.” He started fiddling with his mouse.


I continued. “Ok, so what is your code written in, C# or VB.NET?”



He was getting excited. Typical ADD combined with OCD. “So what do you think? Can you start Monday?” he asked.

“I have to give at least a week’s notice,” I reminded him. He started shuffling through his papers. His attention span window was closing.

“That’s fine!” He got up. The interview was over. I was hired.

I was going back in the Box.

To be continued…

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