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.
I had a sort of surreal experience earlier tonight.
Earlier this year much of the office at Falstaff became interested in The Office at Dunder-Mifflin. I ended up listening to and watching the entire series while I was at work (the job, for all its faults, was not mutually exclusive with a TV running in the background!).
Tonight was the season premier on NBC and I decided that I really wanted to watch it live. So I did.
Watching television has never been so strange. I am so used to being able to rewind I had to sit there and think for a minute about how I was going to be able to do that before realizing that I couldn’t. When it was over, I couldn’t rewind to my favorite scenes. Worst of all, awkward humor wears thin on me very quickly so I have to take well-timed breaks to alleviate the awkwardness in my mind. Except that I had to take the breaks when there was a commercial break.
These things, which I lived with on a daily basis up until a couple years ago, all seemed so odd and foreign to me.
Unfortunately, the VCR doesn’t pick up TV stations very well so I am going to have to get used to it.
A while back I had a coworker that complained about his inability to hook up with young women. Essentially, it was his point-of-view that he was having difficulty finding a woman because he was shy and unremarkable in appearance.
He was correct insofar as those two things hurt his chances with the fairer sex, but those two things did not even begin to describe the barriers he’d put between himself and a happy, fulfilling relationship. When he wasn’t bitterly ranting, he was sulking. He attached moral superiority in any debate to the side with which he had more in common. That he was generally quiet around new people didn’t hurt his prospect nearly as much as much as what he said when he was ready to start talking to you.
This guy is an extreme example of a pattern that I’ve noticed among a certain subset of guys: their problems with women are not what they think their problems with women are — and their tendency to lay primary blame on that which they cannot change mostly just excused them from making those changes that they could make.
Almost every close friend I have had a good deal of trouble with relationships in high school. We didn’t even set our aims very high and yet we came up short time and time again. Over ten years later, all but a couple are married or living with someone as though they are. It wasn’t purely a matter of lightning striking because they had opportunities before their spouse and had they never met their spouse I am relatively confident they would have found somebody acceptable to them.
All of this despite the fundamental things that we perceived our problems to be (shyness, unremarkable appearance) didn’t change and, in some cases, got worse (years add pounds, it seems). That is to say the things that we could not change ourselves did not actually change to favor us, for the most part. Those things that we could change, however, we did at least to some extent.
I was thinking about this when I read commentary on Half Sigma and 2 Blowhards on the subject of finding women. The moral of the story for many is that there are absolutely no girls out there looking to date geeky, tech-oriented guys and they guess they’ll just go eat worms so there’s not much point in really trying.
It’s a not-uncommon belief that being interested in geeky things (computers, scifi, fantasy, comic books, and anime) is off-putting to women and it’s not wholly without merit. The thing is, though, that these things largely serve as indicators and not generally, and of themselves, a factor in the decision-making of most women that I know.
So what do these things indicate? A stereotype, mostly, but one with enough real-world grounding as to be significant. People that identify with the above hobbies tend to be introverted and socially awkward. They also are very oftenly underachievers insofar as a lot of their brainpower is dedicated to minutae that aren’t particularly helpful in a marriage and family. Very smart people that apply their smarts to their career become lawyers and superstar programmers in Silicon Valley and typically don’t have much trouble with women and to the extent that they may be interested geeky things is usually an afterthought.
So to an extent, geeks have a bum rap in that they are associated with the most problematic of their kind. On the other hand, if you cultivate enough social skill and otherwise have enough going for you, the fact that you’re interested in geeky things is something of an aside, of not much import (except to the extent that the person you end up with must be interested in these things, which is itself a problem) .
For the most part the answer is to improve that which you can. What’s hard about this, particularly for the proud geek-type, is that you have to admit your shortcomings and stop viewing life as unfair that you have them. In a perfect work maybe introversion and lackluster looks wouldn’t hurt you. But what matters is that they do hurt you and if you want to succeed at relationships you have to spend time and energy figuring out how to compensate for them (usually by learning how to meet and talk to new people and improving hygene and attire).
The good news for now, though, is that if you’re a geek, it’s relatively easy to stand out from the pack with even marginal social skills and hygene habits. To wit, the average guy-girl ratio at anime conventions when I used to go was about 4-to-1 or so, 7-to-1 if you don’t count girls under 15. Yet despite these long odds, three of the four of us that used to go to these things together managed to meet someone at a convention.
But it seems that a lot of geeks have very little interest in self-improvement. They seem to feel that the world is stacked against them, to an extent, and would prefer to leave it that way than risk their pride by admitting the the problem may not entirely be society’s and that, on the whole, the system may not be merely as unfair as they had previously suspected.
One of the less fortunate byproducts of consumer culture is advertising. A lot of advertising makes me angry because it is built around people spending money they don’t have for things that they don’t need. I was reminded of an exception today that is worth noting.
I stopped by the bank to deposit a couple of paychecks. The advertising campaign of our bank, which may be familiar to you, is a person holding up a sign outlining something that they want.
Example: A woman in a laundrimat holds up a sign that says “Someday I will have washers for all of my customers.”
Example: A woman in a living room full of boxes holds up a sign that says, “Someday I won’t have to assemble the furniture that I buy.”
I really like these ads for a couple of reasons. First, they are almost uniformly after reasonable things. They’re not talking about fast cars or plasma televisions, they’re talking about expanding their business, making their home a more livable place, or going on a vacation. In fact, I would say the furniture one above was the most questionable of the aspirations.
The second thing is that they usually begin with “Someday…”, which means that they are goals to work towards. I think that impatience is one of the bigger problems that our countrymen have today. We don’t just want it, we want it now.
It’s been well covered that our society is producing a lot of debt. We don’t save and we spend more than I make. The debt that a lot of people I know carry with them is astounding and, student loans aside, largely voluntary. The problem is actually worse for those that were raised in the middle class than those I kn0w in the upper-working class.
A good part of the problem, I believe, is that young people get out of high school and particularly college with a sense of entitlement. They have often had a pretty comfortable life up to that point, and though they haven’t gotten everything they’ve wanted, they at least have a workable (if not desirable) car and a good deal of stuff.
They got all this without actually working for most of it.
But then they get out of school and have a job. For the first time they are earning real money. Naturally, they believe that they are entitled to the lifestyle that they were afforded when they were younger. The logic makes a certain amount of sense. Parents + work = stuff, me + work = stuff. What’s missing from that equation is that the parents usually worked for over twenty years building the kind of career that they could afford to buy the nice car, the nice house, and so on.
But the young people want it immediately. And often are willing to go into debt to get there. It seems backwards to have to work ten years just to get to where you were when you were sixteen!
I am now more grateful for the things my parents did not give me than the things that they did. When I was getting my first apartment, my father cosigned and I was stunned to find out how much he made. Flabbergasted. It was over 50% more than I had thought.
But I didn’t get what I wanted. I had to make tough decisions. I had to delay the purchase of some things and forego the purchase of a lot of things. And, more importantly than that, I saw my parents do the exact same thing. A lot of my peers thought it was unfair that they couldn’t get what Johnny got. I didn’t (as much, anyway, kids will be kids!) because I saw that my parents didn’t get to go out and buy what Mr. and Mrs. Jones did. Now that I know they could have I am all the more impressed.
Did you know that you can dramatically shorten someone else’s project schedule and then make up for it by simply telling them to “get it done” (or words to that effect)? Managers pioneered this brilliant practice but you, the “busy” developer can exploit it to the fullest. The iron rule of corporate scheduling is that if someone else’s project tasks come after yours, their timeline becomes your buffer. Go ahead, take off early from work on Friday, even though you aren’t near to meeting your deliverables you’ve earned it, big boy! Those bars on the timeline marked “QA” and “testing” don’t involve any real work. In a million years you would never be dinged on your performance appraisal for fucking them over. (Also, send out your pidgin-English messages over IM instead of email so that important information can’t be easily tracked down. Thanks!)
I laughed at this for two reasons.
First, it is my fervent and oft-vocalized belief that at least one course in the MBA curriculum is less a business class and more of a theater or hypnosis class. The whole point of said class is to get the student to be able to believe and project the belief that however impossible it is to get something done in an unrealistic timeframe, these obstacles can be overcome simply by stating “Just get it done” over and over again with increasing firmness in your voice. It’s a brilliant strategy that makes you look good when it does get done and yet also allows you the ability to deflect blame when it doesn’t get done because they declined to do what you asked them to do.
Second, having spent the last couple years of my life at the middle-to-end of a project, I have been expected to pick up the slack (either myself or someone on my team) for late requests so often that once I was secure enough in my job I started making a point of not getting those things done on time so that others would be more responsible about getting things to my (and/or my team) sooner rather than later. Then again, apparently the former QA director at my new employer was sacked because he couldn’t pick up the slack for development’s delays. The new guy only took the job when he was assured that he would have the authority to declare how long something will take, rather than when it will be out of QA’s hands.
I’m not sure how I missed this, but a couple of months ago Austan Goodsbee wrote an op-ed ($) about how starting at the bottom may not be the best strategy:
The recent evidence shows quite clearly that in today’s economy starting at the bottom is a recipe for being underpaid for a long time to come. Graduates’ first jobs have an inordinate impact on their career path and their “future income stream,” as economists refer to a person’s earnings over a lifetime.
The importance of that first job for future success also means that graduates remain highly dependent on the random fluctuations of the economy, which can play a crucial role in the quality of jobs available when they get out of school. That is good news for this year’s graduates, who are entering the work force with the economy growing, but rather disturbing for recent graduates who were driven by recession into taking less-than-ideal first jobs and are now aiming to work their way up.
This reminds me of a related phenomenon.
At two of my most recent three positions, I took a job for which I was at least nominally overqualified. as were at least half of the staff. In both cases, the progession was such an uphill climb that we would have been better off spending our time smoking pot and listening to The Pixies.
There seems to be the attitude at the company where if you hold a low position, you are not holding it because you have a good work ethic but rather because that is your station.
The most recent example is at Falstaff, my most recent employer. People that were OSI Programmers, you really had to prove yourself to be able to move on to bigger and better things. It was generally the idea that you had to “pay your dues” before getting a better position with the company. Even when positions would open up above, they would often prefer to take someone from the outside. Nevermind a low-rung employee’s understanding of the company and nevermind what qualifications he or she brought to the company originally, they would frequently take less qualified people from the outside. In more than one case, they would take someone that was a couple semesters away from a degree over someone that actually had a degree and had been working for the company for two years. They viewed the former as someone that is about to get a valuable degree and the latter as someone who was working a wage-job for $9.50 an hour.
What’s particularly frustrating is the element of chance involved. For instance, Carol Goddard was hired to be in Legal Standards & Compliance and was put in programming as a temporary measure that became permanent. Had she shown up a week earlier or a week later, she never would have had to spend two years trying to work her way out of a department she was never supposed to be in into a department that she was hired for. If Carol had demanded that she take the job for which she was hired, she probably would have ended up there to begin with. It seems that once you demonstrate a willingness to do gruntwork for a grunt’s wage, you have to earn your way to do anything else — however qualified you were for it before you agreed to do the gruntwork.
The situation improved before I left. Not because they realized that people at lesser jobs may be overqualified for them or should be viewed on their merits alone, but because the prestige of the department as a whole improved.
There have been a couple of occasions in which I passed over a better job opportunity for the security of the position that I had. Each time that I have done this, I have been screwed. In the first case, they kept me aboard by assuring me that the position at the other company was temporary. I got my roommate the job and sure enough it did go away, two years after mine did. The second time I stuck with the job I had and then lost shortly thereafter.
So the lesson in this is “screw them, take care of myself.”
I may be in a similar situation now. I accepted a position at Monmark yesterday. I have an interview today. Thus far it looks like the job I am interviewing for at Unnamed Thus Far Company is better than the one that I have accepted. I’ll outline the pros and cons at the end, but the question is what ethical right to I have to accept a position, but before I start to change my mind.
Estacado, like Deseret and Delosa, are employment-at-will states. That means that they have the right to fire anyone for any reason that they see fit. Termination without cause means that they must pay benefits, but it also means that there really is no such thing as job security. The other side of employment-at-will, though, is that an employee is free to leave. If I live in an employment-at-will state, should I not take advantage of those laws when it is to my advantage? I mean, after all, most employers will.
On the other hand, the idea of taking a job just to leave it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. I’m not even sure why, to be honest. We had a person do that at Falstaff and it didn’t hurt too badly. We just went down to the next person on the list. Right now Monmark has a list handy. Heck, they’re still looking at candidates. On the other hand, they did sink some money into a drug test for me. On the other, other hand, they haven’t sunk any money into training me yet. It would be much better to leave now than to leave two months from now, when the candidate pool is cold and they’ve spent two months training me.
There are some companies that I would not think twice about ditching at the first opportunity. Monmark has some big, big money behind it, but for the most part it appears to still be mom-and-pop in nature. I get a good sense about the people there. I’m not sure they’re people that I would be friends with, but they are seem like good people to work for. Maybe that’s why I’m so hesitant.
Anyway, here’s the breakdown:
The UTFC job:
Is a better match for my skillset and career goals. Database work is what I like the most. I’m already three years or so removed from actual database work. Another year would hurt quite a bit. The UTFC job is database work, through-and-through.
Gets me back on track for the career path that I ultimately would prefer to be on.
Has a more flexible schedule.
Would probably let me listen to music while I work. This is instrumental in keeping me focused and making the day go by quicker.
Is actually in Santomas, where I live. The Monmark position is in Almeida, which is 50ish miles away.
Pays the same, but I would net more because of gas.
Appears to be staffed with people that are more like myself. It could be a great social situation like I had at Falstaff. Monmark is half-staffed with foreigners (which simply means that I do not have as much in common with them).
Would give me a better job title. I don’t know what the title would be, but it wouldn’t have the word “assistant” at the end of it like the Monmark one does. This may sound petty, but it matters to me.
On the other hand, Monmark:
Has been nothing but warm to me throughout. These strike me as very good people. The manager I talked to from UTFC was very nice to me, but strikes me as the type that might not be very understanding if things go wrong.
Is more likely to listen to me when it comes to policy. I think I might have gotten drunk at Falstaff with my ideas being implemented (when they were worthwhile) and it may be tough for me to go back to being a peon.
Has a very generous benefits package. I don’t know what UTFC has.
Strikes me as more stable. The UTFC guy kept stressing pay-for-performance and mentioned that the weaklings are weeded out. If they don’t have a good system for gauging performance, that could be very bad.
Interviewed me as a group. UTFC is having me undergo a rally-interview. It will be 90 minutes total, with the 1-on-1 interviews. Generally speaking I think you can tell a lot about a company by its hiring process. This tells me something unsettling. Jobs where I have a series of interviews have not tended to work out well.
Would probably help my job-marketability more. Next to database administration, QA is my second-place career path choice and not-too-distant a second. The experience I would get at Monmark would probably take me further in QA experience the other job will take my DBA experience.
Pro: I am overqualified as it is an “entry-level” position, but it pays 150% of the starting wage at my previous job.
Con: Cost-of-living eats that right up.
Pro: I was able to alleviate any concern they brought up from the commute to my overqualifications.
Con: I forgot to take a shower. I realized during the interview that I hadn’t taken one the night before.
Pro: I seemed to get along with the group. I was able to get through a couple of their heavy accents.
Con: The undershirt I was wearing was even the same shirt I had exercised in the night before.
Pro: After I left the interview I tried to smell myself and I couldn’t. Though I have a poor sense of smell, I can usually smell myself when I really need a shower.
Con: The job is not in Santomas, but a nearby town. Again.
Pro: I’m from the big city. Anything under an hour is not a long commute in my book.
Con: They were more concerned about my commute than I was. The reason they had vacancies was that two others in the department also commuted from Santomas and left because they were tired of the drive.
Pro: I’m only going to be here a year.
Con: I can’t tell them that.
Pro: It’s the exact sort of company that I like to work for: small, but poised for great growth.
Con: I won’t be here for the growth. Again.
Pro: The positions won’t be filled until they finish interviewing all of the applicants. The last interview takes place on 9/12. After that it’s a week-and-a-half for the background check to occur.
Con: The positions won’t be filled until they finish interviewing all of the applicants. The bank account is hurting right now.
Pro: They were apparently so impressed by me that they offered me one of the two slots the next day. I start Monday.
Con: I really should have taken care of more of the “moving” stuff.
There’s another aspect to all of this “Self-Hating, Passive-Aggressive Male Pop.” As many women find out, lots of men use self-loathing as an effective tool for deflecting female anger. Women very often express profound exasperation with their boyfriend or husband, only to have him hang his head and say “You’re right. I’m a worthless piece of shit. I’ve always been shit. I can’t believe you stay with me.” If he fought back (not physically, mind you), a constructive discussion might take place. But if the fella says worse things about himself than his wife or girlfriend would ever say about him, then he cleverly tries to steal her thunder. She’s forced to either agree with him or to bite back her own anger and begin to comfort him. Many women find out sooner or later that male expressions of self-loathing are usually a passive-aggressive technique designed to avoid conflict. It’s a technique that invariably undermines and eventually destroys the relationship. It leaves both partners depressed and exhausted. And it has no place in a healthy relationship.
The only issue I take with the post is that this is not a distinctly male phenomenon (and by extension disagree that this has much to do with feminism and the increasing confidence of women. In fact, the James Blunt song is more expressive of the female manifestation that I’ve witnessed than male behavior. A sense of not impotent anger but pitiable helplessness. I’ve actually run in to more females that do this then males, but then considering that I am a straight male it would be the female manifestations that capture my attention.
The basic idea is this: He/she is a broken person. They have a cafeteria of weaknesses to choose from. You are good for them because (when they’re doing well) you bring out the best in them and (when they’re not) you help them through like no one else can. By this point they usually have you sufficiently ensnared that they do not have to explain why they are good for you.
Young ladies are susceptable to this logic because their self-esteem is often tied up in service. It’s the whole “you complete me” line from Jerry Maguire. For that line to work, he has to be incomplete. An incomplete male provides a romantic job opportunity. A use.
Young men are susceptable to this logic because their self-esteem is often tied up in protection. If the damzel isn’t in distress, a knight has no reason to suit up. There are very few wicked godmothers and evil kings have better things to be doing, so we take opportunities where we can find them.
Ultimately, though, these confessions are little more than a pre-emptive strike. On The Wire, a character by the name of Wee-Bay copped a deal assuring that he would get life in prison but not the death penalty. He was told to confess to every murder he’s done because if he leaves one out, he could get the death penalty. So he confesses to anything and everything he can think of so that he doesn’t get burned.
Which is sort of how the relationship confessions work. Like Weebay, they think (consciously or usually subconsciously) that they can’t be punished for anything that they admit to up-front. And if they find something else and leave you, even then they are not accountable for all of the time, money, energy, and love of yours that they wasted because you were warned.
If you’ve never heard that line at the end of a timultuous relationship that you carried most of the weight for, I wouldn’t recommend it. You’re angry because you now realize it as the cop-out it always was… and you’re angrier still because they were right and you were warned.
And of course if you are the one that leaves, everything changes. If you’ve ever tested someone’s theory that they don’t deserve you and that you’d be better off leaving, you know how quickly the tune changes once you actually do try to leave. Nothing they’ve said is untrue, mind you, and they are usually aware of that on some level. But though the evidence doesn’t change, the second you seriously contemplate leaving, the verdict changes almost immediately.
My best friend Clint has a tendency to do this (the James Blunt, feminine manifestation). His current girlfriend was the first that I recall that actually called him on it. She apparently said “I don’t want to hear it” when Clint would open up about his varied weaknesses. She believed, as I do, that the first several months of a relationship are about setting expectations (of your own behavior) high so that you have the goal of living up to them later.
So whether your male or female, beware of anything that is enthusiastic about telling you all that is wrong with them.