Saturday, November 23, 2013

Co-Workers with Kids

I am retired now with my wife, Deborah, and miss that jovial banter between co-workers in the office.  I have always seen the humor in most things and it has gotten me into trouble at times.  We are living in a co-op RV resort in Southern California now.  I highly recommend retirement and our resort.  You can check out our resort website at Thanks goodness most of the folks in our resort have a good sense of humor.  I never know what I will do next.
In the 90's I was working as a contract programmer at Haverty Furniture Company in Atlanta, Georgia.  We were developing their sales and inventory system on the AS400 platform.  I was one of the first programmers contracted and, over time, helped to bring in several of my contracting friends.  It was a great place to work.  The people were friendly.  We were right slab dab in the middle of downtown Atlanta, right next to the Georgia Tech campus and a few blocks from the Varsity.  If you know Atlanta, you know this is awesome.  I worked here on three occasions, each lasting about two years.  We produced a lot of really good work and that's probably why they kept bring me back.  Well that, and my winning personality. 

The incident I am  recalling at the moment occurred spontaneously, as usual.   I shared a cubical with two other co-workers, Jack Travis and Billy Smith, both of whom I had worked with at other companies.  Billy, one of the smartest analyst I knew, had a very dry sense of humor.  Without saying a work he would give you the most deadpan look that spoke volumes.  He was very quick witted and clever.  Jack and I both had kids and whenever one of us mentioned anything about the kids being sick, Billy would slip on this air filter he kept by his terminal, the paper kind that a medic might use, and give us that look.  It was winter and because of the wind, cold and wet of Atlanta, I was nursing chapped lips.  I was usually the first one in because I liked to get to the office early to avoid as much traffic as possible.  This particular morning, I was coating my lips with Vaseline to help out with the chapping when I spotted the air filter.  It seemed like a good idea at the time so I took a handful of Vaseline and coated the inside of his filter.  When we were all there and working I began talking to Jack about my kids having some illness.  I kept a watchful eye toward Billy and, like clockwork, he did the expected.  He plopped that filter right over his nose and mouth and gave us that deadpan look.  I laughed so hard because he had no idea what he had done.  When he pulled it off, Vaseline was all over his face.    Then Jack realized the joke and was laughing as well.  Billy was not! 

In retaliation, Billy later pulled a prank on me where stupid messages started appearing on my terminal and no matter what I tried, I could not make them go away.  After long frustrating attempts on my part and eventual capitulation, I sought the help from the system techs only to discover the problem was no longer there.  I suspected the brightest guy in the room who happened to have that famous deadpan look on his face at the time.  Later, when he was gone, I surveyed his terminal and, using a little used history facility he was unaware of,  was able to isolate the origin of the messages.  He had run a background job that pushed the messages to me every few seconds without identifying their source.  The job was still there.  I left the job there but changed the message and recipients to be everyone around us except for the two of us.  I sort of thought he might give it another go at some point.  He did.  A couple of week later, the employee in the office next to our cubical shouted something like, "What the hell is this, Billy".  We both ran to see what was up and when he saw the message, "Billy, not so smart to try this on me twice".  He immediately rushed back to his terminal, as others in the office started asking him what was going on, and cancelled the prank job.  I gave my best gloating deadpan face look and did not get any more annoying messages. 

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