Hit Coffee is the story of Will Truman (trumwill),
transplant in the mountain west with an IT background who bides his time
substitute teaching while his wife brings home the bacon.
This site is a collection of reflections
on the goings-on in his life and in the world around him. You will probably
be relieved to know that he does not generally refer to himself in the
third-person except when he's writing short bios on his web page.
Greetings from Callie, Arapaho, a red town in a red state known for growing
red meat. And from Redstone, Arapaho(Aw-RAH-pah-hoe), a blue city with blue collar roots that's been feeling blue
for quite some time.
Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though
if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character
and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.
This website is maintained by Guy Webster (web),
who also contributes from time to time.
Web hails from the midwest and currently lives
in Truman's home city of Colosse, Delosa. He works as a utility IT person at
Southern Tech University, their alma mater.
Also contributing is Sheila Tone (stone) a West Coaster, breeder, and lawyer
who has probably hooked up with some loser just like you and sees through
your whole pathetic little act.
Programmer Martin Richards and I have quite a bit in common and it’s no surprise that we get along. One of the ways that we differ, however, is in how we treat work. Work, to him, is simply a job done for money paid. He never sticks around past five. He never thinks about work when he’s not at work. He’s a good Mormon guy, but he wouldn’t have a problem working for a tobacco company or alcohol distribution center or anywhere else, so long as the job was legal.
Once upon a time I tried to be that way. My friends and I had a knack for coming up with business ideas that were profoundly immoral. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I need more than a job in the longer term. More than a career, even. I need a relaitonship with my employer. If I’m going to spend 1,600 hours a year doing something, it has to be something I can at least somewhat buy in to. So when Martin left work without a care, I would leave brimming with anger… even though we both had the same basic criticisms of company policy.
Friday was my last day at Falstaff.
A lot of employers do not allow their employees to take “two weeks notice.” Once it’s announced that they’re leaving, they just assume that the person go because their productivity will go down considerably. It’s the professional world’s continuation of senioritus. I didn’t really start feeling it until this week.
It’s a funny thing. I set up this blog in many ways just to complain about my job. And yet… and yet I can’t think of a job or a company that I have cared about more. I have never been so emotionally invested in a position. Half of the time when I am angry I am so because I want the best for this company, or expect the best… or something. I gave roughtly 4,410 hours of my life to Falstaff. It cannot not matter to me. It’s why I simultaneously go home angry with the company and yet also defend it vigorously. Part of me really wishes that I had been able to just “turn it off” the same way that Martin does.
But it’s soon going to be coming to an end.The numbness finally set in. The realization that this particular battle no longer matters to me has finally taken hold.
As jobs so often mirror relationships in our lives, it makes me think of when my relationship with Julie was winding down after I realized that it was going to come to an end. I didn’t stop caring for her and about her. I didn’t stop loving her even. But something was gone. I went through the motions and made our last few months the best I could. I realized the sense of loss that would take place once it finally ended (that part never really happened because I acquired Evangeline and lost my mind, but I expected it to).
Maybe the strangest thing was how civil everything remained. Once she accepted it was over, there was a smoothness that explained to me why everything had managed to work for over four years. Even as our relationship was being destroyed, we managed to get along. That may have been the most haunting thing about the whole ordeal. Seeing what I was losing as I was about to lose it. Too late to actually do anything about it, but then too late to care to
A strange thing happened at Falstaff over the last couple of months: things started improving again. The Internet policy that drove us all batty was reversed. People that should have gotten raises got raises. Bad ideas started getting shot down. The company continued its streak of getting all the big things right and little things wrong, but I guess it became a time of bigger things… or maybe I have been better able to see the bigger things since I know all the little things will go away once I leave.
Within the last month or so I became sorry that I was leaving. Just in time to leave. I don’t know if I should look at it as leaving on a high note or as Falstaff’s last and greatest revenge for my abandoning it.
We never officially announced the openings in our department. We never really had to. There had been openings in Software Support and IT recently and we got the resumes of those that didn’t make the cut there. We also had a couple of referrals. One resume stuck out above and beyond all the rest: Amy Harrell.
Amy was a thesis away from getting a master’s degree in computer science at the local university. Her undergrad GPA was a 4.0. She was teaching classes both locally and in their distance learning program. She’d done one internship at the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory and another at the NASA installation in Florida. We knew that there was little chance that she would sign on, but we had to go for it.
Amy turned out to be a pretty timid young lady, but we came away very impressed. We always make a point of asking off-topic questions to see how their minds work. The question this time was why manhole covers were round. She gave three possible answers, one of which we’d never heard before. Then, when she got home, she looked it up on the Internet and reported her findings. She said that she enjoyed meeting us and was very interested in employment.
We were absolutely floored. But excited. Melvin had just gotten a promotion into Software Development and we were going to need someone to take over Falcron. She would be perfect. We probably wouldn’t get to keep her for very long, but we didn’t care.
Then we got word from Bill Darden, our CIO: we were not to offer her a penny over $9/hr.
I was furious. For months they had been telling us that recruiting and holding on to the best people was a priority. They’d been saying that we wanted quality employees instead of just people at desks. And here we were with a dream candidate… and she was going to come in making less than than anyone had started at with the company for three years. Darden was lowering the starting wage. When he told us about this, he glowed at his own ingenuity.
I was expecting Amy to tell us to go to hell. Actually, I was hoping Amy would tell us to go to hell so that we could get this inane decision reversed. That afternoon I had an interview with a guy named Nate Bricker, who was also overqualified (although not as much so) and I had to ask myself how I was going to interview someone that I was hoping would tell us where to shove it? I was disappointed the afternoon that Amy said yes. That lasted until the next Monday when she started, when I was as excited as all get out.
She was everything that she was cracked up to be. She caught on quick. Her contributions were immediate and impactful. Within a month she was offered a promotion in to the more prestigious Software Development with a 35% raise… and she declined it. She said that she liked working with us and within our team. None of us understand that.
Nate Bricker also took a job with the team. He was considerably less impressive both on paper and in the interview, though still very overqualified. When it came time to start talking money, Darden had not mentioned the cap yet so Willard decided that he was going to unilaterally push it back up to the usual starting wage of $9.50.
So the lowered starting wage began and ended with the best candidate it has ever seen.
I was listening to NPR the other day and they were talking about Pellican Bay, one of the toughest prisons in the country. Inmates there can literally go weeks without seeing another living person. One person interviewed said that he had not seen a woman in fourteen years. One in ten inmates will end up in the psychiatric shoe of the building.
Pellican Bay is reserved for the worst offenders. It does not, however, delineate based on what offense landed them in prison. Rather it is there for the most uncontrollable cases inside prison, meaning that you could get caught selling pot, run in with some bad folks in jail, and end up in relatively permanent isolation.
I understand why these prisons exist and the function they serve. There are a lot of folks that you have to separate from everyone else. And unlike regular prison, it’s nigh impossible to land there by the mistake of a false conviction. It costs the state $50,000 per year to house them there, it’s not a decision they are likely to make easily.
What bothers me most about the set-up is that, because it is not related to whatever crime landed the inmates in prison to begin with, it is not reserved for those with life sentences and the people that end up in these prisons in many cases will rejoin with society. People who spent five years without even irregular human contact will be joining those on the outside whenever their time is up. One of the people they interviewed was due to be released in a couple of years.
I’m not sure I can think of a better way to train a sociopath. I mean, I guess theoretically it would serve as a deterrant because they wouldn’t go back (assuming that marbles weren’t lost in the process), but even with that logic they can commit crimes and not go back to Pellican Bay. All they would have to do is behave wherever they originally land, which after having served in Pellican Bay, is bound to be a cakewalk.
When I originally got the promotion to programming team leader, it was supposed to come with a raise. To no one’s great surprise, the raise evaporated the second I took the job. It became a 90-day probationary period. By the end of the 90 days I had already announced that I was leaving.
For someone with my education and experience doing the job that I do, I get paid quite little. I am worried that when Clancy and I get to Estacado, it will reflect poorly on my time here.
So I came up with an idea: I get a raise for my last week at the company. That way I have a significantly higher ending wage worthy of the two promotions I’ve gotten. It still won’t be much in city-dollars, but it will be something for those employers that want a salary history. That would cost the company very little (they could do it on the last day, for all I cared) and would give me leverage when it came to any job offers I got down south. Win-win!
I figured that since they have now broken two promises for raises that I might be able to guilt trip them in to what would really be a nominal amount of money. I pitched the idea to my boss Willard and he thought it was great. Besides, he pointed out, I was only a quarter above the minimum in the payscale for my position. I should be able to get even more than the $1.50/hr raise I was requesting. Willard explained the situation to Bill Darden, the company’s CIO.
The good news is that I got my raise. The bad news is that even for one week they couldn’t give me what I asked for, giving me $1.00 an hour instead. Apparently Darden started at $.25 and Willard had to work him up for there. For one friggin’ week. I was almost furious. But he said that the money simply wasn’t there. I honestly thought about asking “If I were to accidentally leave $100 in cash over in payroll, think maybe I could get $75 back on my paycheck? $200 for $150 maybe?”
Here’s the kicker. I got my last paycheck and my raise had already taken effect… two weeks early. Darden said that as a token of appreciation, he put it a word with payroll to have it implemented early.
I appreciate the gesture, but he missed the point entirely.
Logtar has a post on whether it is education or experience that matters more in the IT world and comes down somewhat on the side of experience. More people than not in the comment section agree.
Functionally, I have to agree with the consensus. The eighteen months of experience I racked up while in college proved almost as useful as my college degree. When I left Wildcat (my first post-collegiate job), my three years of experience was probably worth more than my degree when it came to getting a job. Even now, with five years of experience under my belt, I suspect that I would be better positioned had I spent the late nineties in the workforce rather than in college.
As far as whether or not that should be the case, I’m not so sure. When it comes to doing a particular job, such as network administration, experience does count more than education. In the broader scope of things, however, I find that my college degree has helped me as much as my work experience. Part of that is that I have become a “utility infielder” of sorts and am not very specialized. I have a couple of years of XML programming experience, a couple of years of SQL database experience, a couple years as a network admin, and a couple of years as a network technician. So my experience hasn’t carried over as well from one job to the next.
However, I find that having a college degree is ideal for working a more general position at a smallish or medium-size company. Small companies are always changing, as are job-responsibilities. It’s less about “doing a job” and more about “helping the company.” You don’t just have a series of responsibilities, you try to find new ways to contribute. It was college, much more than the work-world, that gave me the versitility to excel in these kinds of environments. And these are the environments that, despite my constant complaints about the chaos, I much prefer over the corporate alternative.
On the other hand, this versitility wouldn’t mean much of anything at a larger corporation until it was time to move into a more management position, by which time there is a good chance I would have forgotton most of what I learned by being in the narrows for several years.
Hit Coffee has been hit with a flurry of comment spammers lately and unfortunately action must be taken. I’ve looked through the options for WordPress and found what I believed to be the least intrustive, most effective way to cut back on bot-comments. Hereforth, to post a comment you will have to answer a very easy math problem.
Back when I was in college, IHOP was an institution both to those of us that were going to college and those of us that were not.
Clancy and I ate out tonight and I was reminded of an IHOP tale. My best friend Clint had a particular interest in young ladies with the following criteria: skinny, pale, young-looking, dark hair, glasses.
So when we had a waitress at IHOP one night that fit those criteria to a tee, it was no surprise that she immediately garnered her interest. In fact, she had so much going for her that it seemed impossible that she could leave without getting his number whether she wanted it or not.
It seemed impossible, but it was not. During the course of the dinner and general hanging out, Clint tried and succeeded starting up some rather casual conversations with her. During these sporadic conversations, he learned all about her three suicide attempts, her abortion, and her miscarriage. He learned about her former anerexia and former bulemia. He found out that she dropped out of school when she was twelve to move in with some 30-year old guy in Louisiana with a kid only two years younger than she.
Clint has a history with some rather unstable ladies (he and I always competed for the best — or worst, depending on how you look at it — stories about meeting and dating the strangest people). Clint himself has never really had his act together. He was as surprised as we were that he had found somebody so transparently and loudly twisted that it didn’t matter what she looked like.
We were all impressed with his newfound depth of character.
A few years ago, our family was hanging out in Surfenberg. My brother Mitch had made the trip down from Kingsland, where they were living at the time, to join us on our annual trip. His wife Brynne joined us a little while later and flew in to the Beyreuth Regional Airport, roughly half-an-hour away.
We met her out there. It’s no big deal that she didn’t express any appreciation for making the drive out there to pick her up, but it did grate at us that her main response was expressing discontent at having to sit in the car for half-an-hour after having had to sit in a plain for three hours. We were in the middle of an airport. A small one at that. What were we supposed to do? She never really specified. She had no alternative. The solution was that she may have been required to get in the car, but she wasn’t required to be nice about it.
While I was visiting with my folks a week or two back, after Clancy and my father had gone to bet, Mom asked me if I would stay up for a bit for some Mommy/Will time. I said “sure” and we continued our tradition of staying up late. These things would be a lot more worthwhile if she weren’t drunk, but I take what quality time I can get.
The main subject was, as it often is, of my sister-in-law. Brynne, the Palestinian Princess.
When we first found out that my brother was dating and would later marry an ethnic Palestinian, most of us were most concerned about how Mom would react to a brown-skinned in-law. To Mom’s credit the problem turned out not to be the “Palestinian” part of her nickname, but the “Princess” part.
Of the Truman boys, I have generally been the most blacksheepish of the bunch. My oldest brother was the athlete and my middle brother was the genious, but the oldest was smart and the middle was also athletic. I, meanwhile, was never particularly athletic, and though I may be smart my intelligence was mostly concealed into relative mediocrity until I got to college. On top of that, I’ve always had an eccentric (and perhaps even rebellious) streak that they never shared.
My parents ceaselessly loved me, so that was never an issue. It’s just that they didn’t always know what to do with me. I pushed their parenting skills in ways that my siblings never did. The general consensus among my parents and family friends was that when we married, Ollie would bring home someone that they liked, Mitch would bring home someone that they loved, and I would bring home someone that would baffle them.
When I did get married, however, that didn’t turn out to be the case. Ollie was divorced, Mitch had brought home Brynne, and they all loved Clancy. Nothing turned out quite like predicted.
The fact that Clancy fit in so well with my family, that I fit in so well with hers, and that our families get along so well, was not irrelevent. I think that it’s generally true that families of a similar cut generally produce more compatible kids than those of different backgrounds. I’ve noticed that children of divorced parents disproportionately find partners with divorced parents. Clancy and I came from conservative and traditional families, and both of us somewhat reluctantly took to the structure and appreciated it later on in life.
But more than in the abstract, family background played a relatively small but specific role in a choice I had to make once upon a time. When things were developing with Clancy, a former love named Evangeline made her way back into my life. Evangeline comes from a very different background. Her mother had some deep psychological problems and her father left her for someone significantly younger and has been having a midlife crisis for over ten years now. Even before that, he wondered the streets of Colosse dressed as Elvis from time to time.
I’m not sure how fair it is to judge someone by the family that they come from. Brynne’s father is a Palestinian and her mother is Austrian, but she is All-American — in many of its more negative connotations. If you watch NBC’s The Office, she reminds me of a Kelly Kapour with more apparent brainpower. But she comes from a nontraditional family. She doesn’t have the roots that Clancy and I have. My family is one-part southern and one-part midwestern. Hers are Ellis Island and she moved on to Manhatten.
Evangeline’s family in comparison to Clancy’s did play a role. In part because I could see some of her father and her mother in Eva, and it disturbed me. And I could see Clancy’s father in Clancy and I could see her struggling against the more negative aspects of that the same way that I struggle against the more negative aspects I share with my mother. So it’s not solely where we come from, but also how we feel about where we come from. There were a lot of other factors at play, but the fact that Clancy would become a part of my family — and vice-versa — in ways that would not be so with Eva was important.
I don’t know if there is a grand truth to this post. To the extent that I viewed family as an aspect of my decision-making process may horrify some or all of you. Or maybe you understand where you’re coming from (and maybe we’re both horrifying).
I try to steer clear of political issues on this site. I don’t consider this a political issue, so I would appreciate some restraint when it comes to approaching this from a “liberal” or “conservative” standpoint. It’s general thoughts on our country, race relations, and more generally the ability to change the way that things have been for generations.
Over the weekend leading up to July 4th, I took a brief trip back home to burn off some vacation time.
As odd as it sounds, one of the strangest things about my return from the south is black people. Deseret is not bereft of minorities generally or blacks in particular, but most minorities are either Hispanic or tribal and that is not as much the case down here.
Blacks are America’s most peculiar minority, which I guess makes sense because it is a legacy of the famous “peculiar institution” that brought them here. An overwhelming majority of blacks have been in the US for generations and those that are immigrants are vastly different from those that have been around. Unlike most immigrant groups in our history ranging from the Italians and Irish of yesteryear to the Mexicans and Asians of more recent, their upward mobility is, for a handful of reasons from all fronts, limited.
I liken it to two people that have known too much animosity for too long for things to ever truly be comfortable. There is a lot of talk from both outside and inside the black community that their current position is a result of their poor personal decisions and there is much truth to that. There is also a lot of talk from both inside and outside the black community about the persistent raw deal that they’ve gotten for at least 3/4 of their time here and it’s difficult to “start again” at a place that you’ve been.
I’ve read somewhere that one of the reasons that America is so optomistic is because it is young. Our history is bloody and brutish, but not on the broad scope of that of our more dour European contemporaries because we have not been around as long. Our concept of citizenship is not determined by bloodlines or geographic boundaries. Your citizenship is almost* the same whether you are born here or if you come somewhere else. As such, we have taken and assimilated different cultures better than most. Our immigrant pockets start disappearing after a couple of generations, while it looks like some of Europe’s may never do so.
Except, of course, the blacks and the tribes. Both are caught in a destructive cycle that people in all circles see but no one knows what can be done on a cultural level. I’m not sure there are any policy perscriptions that can do this for us. Nor am I sure that leaving it all up to individual choice — when social pressures so consistently run in the wrong direction — is a viable option, either.
Sometimes a relationship has worn on for so long that the more people try to “fix” it, the more tangled everything becomes. The welfare programs that were intended to help them all in the Great Society arguably did more harm than good. Whites telling blacks what the problems with black people are (their work ethic, their music, their language, etc) is also most unhelpful.
I have friendships that have turned like that, as well. We reached a point where no matter how much one of us tried to “repair” things, it only seemed to make things worse. Then, out of frustration, both stop trying. But when two people have to live together, it adds to stress rather than alleviates it.
I hope that America turns out better than those former friendships did.
(*- The exception being that immigrants cannot run for president. All the talk of flag-burning amendments aside, I figure this one is more likely than any other to become a Constitutional amendment.)
Since taking over as the head of the Software Support Group early this year, Clem Hartford is one person short of 100% turnover. So naturally they are hiring. Since we are hiring, too, we’ve been comparing notes on applicants. One such applicant was Terry Nelson. Terry had previously worked with Martin, Simon, and Melvin at the Kimball Group. They had nothing but great things to say about his skills, experience, and competence.
There was a catch, however. Terry had a punk schtick going, involving some tattoos and piercings. The piercings could be taken out, but the tattoo was a bit more of a problem. We figured, knowing uptight Clem, that he wouldn’t pursue Terry any further. We thought it to our advantage because if they didn’t snap him up, we could.
Much to our surprise, and much to Clem’s credit, he evaluated the candidates, determined that Terry was far-and-away the most qualified candidate for the job, and began negotiations. If he would be willing to take out his piercings and wear long-sleeved shirts, he was in. Terry agreed and started the next day. By all accounts, he took to everything almost immediately and lived up to the hype. Clem and his boss Erich were both quite pleased.
That was until Don Fallon happened to see Terry. He immediately stormed in to Erich’s office and demanded that Terry be immediately fired for his “outrageous hair.” I didn’t mention Terry’s hair along with his tattoos and piercings because there was, in my mind as well as most everybody else’s (including Erich and Clem) there was absolutely nothing outrageous about it. Yes it was gelled and somewhat spikey if you looked at it closely, but it was short and conventional enough that we all had to remind ourselves what exactly his hair looked like.
Erich and Clem convinced Don to let them ask Terry if he would be willing to go without the gel. That was the last straw for Terry, who up until that point had been a very good sport. It wasn’t the hair, Terry explained, but that he had done everything they asked of him up to that point, and his first day he was yelled at by an irate company president CEO and had his job threatened on the spot. This was not an environment in which he wanted to work.
Clem had to start sifting through resumes again. He settled on a candidate that we were also considering. Neither of us were particularly excited about the guy, but he was there, was somewhat qualified, and seemed really enthusiastic about getting a job somewhere. He wasn’t as naturally gifted as Terry, and he would take considerably longer to train, but what was important here is that he had a conservative haircut.
After this whole incident, Don, who just a couple weeks before announced that he was stepping aside in the day-to-day runnings of the company, combed the rest of the building looking for anybody and everybody else with unacceptable hair.
The next employee in his crosshairs was Melvin Giles. Melvin Giles that had taken the lead on an application within the department that has assisted in an 80% increase in productivy with little more than half the personnel. The Melvin Giles that was given a previously unheard of bonus for his contribution. The Melvin Giles that just got promoted into software development, making him the first employee in the history of our group to make that direct jump.
None of that was important. What was important is that Melvin’s hair was unacceptable.
Now I don’t actually disagree that Melvin’s hair was questionable. The issue that I might have with it is that he colored over his naturally red hair with black dye. He was inconsistent about the maintenance of it so it was sometimes an odd mixture of red and black and besides, red hair doesn’t generally dye very well in the first place. Oddly enough, the issue was not that so much as it was the length, even though he kept it pretty neatly tied back in a pony tail. Don called our HR person Carla, who called the director of software development, who had to pull Melvin into a meeting and say that his job was in jeopardy if he did not cut the same long hair he’s had at the company for the past year to above the collar, which is apparently the unspoken guideline.
The policy in the almighty employee handbook that we signed in January uses quite vague language. It bans “extreme, unprofessional or inappropriate styles of dress or hair while working” and proclaims “Hair should be clean, combed and neatly trimmed or arranged. Shaggy, unkempt hair is not permissible regardless of length. Sideburns, moustaches, and beards should be neatly trimmed. Extreme hair colors or shapes are not acceptable.”
So it all depends on one’s personal definitions, which given the givens is not a surprise that they consider just about anything that deviates from a standard business cut unacceptable. Luckily for the company, Melvin was considering cutting his hair anyway. Ironically, he cut it just above the collar on all sides. So the hair that was once neatly held back is now in on his face, with the same receding dye that he had before.
And unsurprisingly, he just stepped up his job-search a couple of notches.
That’s okay, though. In true junior high fashion, it’s not important how smart you are and what you can do. What really matters here is what you look like doing it.
I got an email from my father yesterday, reminding me of about $1,500 I have stashed away at a bank back home in Colosse. Apparently, my folks got a letter from the state informing them that it was about to confiscate my funds for inactivitity. There is apparently some law on the books that any bank account that has not been touched in two years (money put in or taken out) must be turned in to the state. I suppose that the holder is presumed dead or something.
That’s actually kind of inconvenient, though, because I have rather enjoyed keeping that money out of my mind. It has been my last resort money if all other accounts have been exhausted. It’s the one bank account that never got put in the pot when I got married. Not because I was hiding it from her, but because I was hiding it from myself.
I wasn’t actually aware of this particular law until now, so I suppose I’m going to have to change my gameplan.