CoffeeBeer >> Warts & All >> Present Tense


Wednesday. Another status report turned in. I decided to have lunch. A tuna sandwich. Same as any other tuna sandwich. And so it goes.

I logged on, fixed a couple of bugs. Only one bug left till I can start working on that new routine to list groups. I should be excited; but I just feel like driving home, popping open a beer. The system is crawling today, crawling like it has all eternity to run a job and not even God has priority. The system chugs like the city, like my bloodstream: it reeks of people on the sidewalks, processing, never stopping to reboot their lives.

Thursday. Seems like such a non-day: not hopeful like Friday, not poignant like Wednesday. A day without a face: a day in a void.

My program's final bug was in a void: group all groups grouped all group labels but left the members in the lurch, stranded at the altar, outcasts. The milk in my coffee flaked onto the sides of the cup as I gazed despondently upon my ink-scarred printout. It seemed futile to dive into it with all of my life's weight simply to be reeled back to shore at ten o'clock for a staff meeting. I gulped my cold lumpy coffee which melted into my rocky stomach like glaciers on a volcano. The meeting was unmemorable.

Lunch. Couldn't stand the thought of another carton of cottage cheese. Brie and banana for a change: French tropics. My head throbbed as though my ears were going to explode as the last concerto was played on my eardrums. GROUP0 plodded on atop my desk, offering no clues to the mystery surrounding that one last, torturous bug. I suffered from defeat, the kind of defeat that rests humidly like a blanket on itching desires, smothering them in its materiality.

Friday finally arrived. And I arrived at work, renewed. My head felt clearer than the day before. My program lay in wait upon my desk, crouching in the early morning shadows like a puma patiently awaiting its prey. I cornered it, caged it, and dragged it to a terminal, determined to tame its demented spirit. I pried its mouth open and forced write statements down its throat, working myself into a frothy fervour as I rushed from terminal to graphics display and back again, my sweat-drenched mind craving the answer like a junkie's body.

By midmorning a change had taken place. No longer did GROUP0 group only labels, but now it would group only the first group in the model. A step forward. I gnawed at my carrot, adrenalin pumping through my veins from the thrill of the hunt.

Friday afternoon: thoughts of weekend freedom obsess the minds of average workers. My mind is obsessed with the kill. I must find this bug. I must find it and tromple it to death with all of my weight and stamina. I must smell the blood as it splashes from the sides of the inhuman exoskeleton. Monster blood on my knife!

I was ready for the ultimate test. At 4:40pm I submitted a compile. I was ready! Suddenly my carpooler showed up: "Come on, let's go! Now! It's Friday!" He grappled with my fingers as they tightened their clutch on the keyboard. "No, no! Just ten minutes more!" I shreaked. But it was too late. The system dragged, its arteries clogged by the cholesterol of a million last-minute batch jobs. I submitted and crawled home, defeated.

Monday: victory! The bug was gone: Group All Groups worked! A minor adjustment, a page in an encyclopedia, and I'd be starting on a new program. The bugs are dead. Long live my mind!

The day started noisily, the inertia of the weekend slowing pedestrian traffic and heating cauldrons of conversation near my cubicle about lobster and smelly feet. I can't think I can't think can't think, I heard my brain scream. Another cottage cheese lunch. Lunchtime already. I found myself lying back in my chair thinking of fancy names for dog excrement. People passed by and asked me about the recent burglary at my flat. No place to concentrate. I daydreamed.

My ears finally closed: I started on the routine to list groups. The logic became a maze: my mind was becoming boggled. Inching along, I estimated I would be ready for a first compile by Tuesday. I wasn't going to worry at this point. To feel constructive I put two old routines into the Out Box, SYMGP and CHNFLP, which were doing nothing but gathering dust in my catalogue. I felt relieved that I no longer had to stare at their vowelless names.

Tuesday. The heat threatened. The sadistic sun sneered upon my car from behind its false mask of clouds. Once indoors I logged on and played around with a fortune-generating routine I had devised. "If you are not hungry you will obtain coupons." "If you are a petty and useless person you will never make it to Kansas City." "A Scottish terrier in a tuxedo will become passionate over you." Looked like one of those days.

I input the first part of LISTGP, my new routine, and compiled it. There were twelve thousand NFORT nest levels. Not bad. As long as I make sure the printout paper is ten feet wide I should be doing okay.

Pizza under my fingernails; Italian food for lunch tattooed its odour into my fingertips. I played Scarlatti concertos on the desktop as I drummed upon my flowchart, contemplating the reason why I began this forsaken project. I flogged my intestines with coffee in the hope that their screams would disturb my brain into action.

It worked! I finished the first draft of LISTGP and obtained a successful compile. Late Tuesday afternoon: the average peons began stampeding the parking lots in anticipation of participating in rush-hour traffic jams. My fingers feverishly worked on the keys; the LJs and submits piled up in volumes; my back glued itself to the chairback in staunch resolve, the resolve to succeed, to win, to conquer, to climb to the top of the mountain. My compiles were done; my links were done. I submitted an NCAD job.

I floated into the graphics room like a demented zombie, sightless and mute. The sweat blurred my tunnel vision. I slammed into my chair for the test, the ultimate test. My hand trembled with ecstasy as I picked up the lightpen. Pick.

It abended.

© 1983 JC Mitchell

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