Miles of code before I die.
I'm sitting here, at this quiet bubble of a social equinox called a cafe,
with my laptop perched on this table, coding my fingers to the bone. I have
to get this physics engine complete. Actionscript drives me crazy. One of
these days Macromedia will make up its mind on whether or not their code base
will be full Java or something else of their own making. Right now, this incomprehensible
mish-mash of two languages is becoming unacceptable. I hated math when I was
in school. I got into this business for the art of it, the design and application
of interfaces- not to do math. Complex math, at that. What does Q equal again?
Damn. I've lost it. Gotta go back and re-read the code to find it again.
While perusing the cryptic lines of code in the window my mind drifts and reminds
me that there is a world outside of myself. In particular, there is a soft, lilting
voice across the room. She is talking to some guy, asking him what he does for
"Oh," he says off-handedly. "I'm a systems engineer."
My ears perk up. There is another geek in our midst? Intriguing.
"Really?" she asks innocently. "You'll have to forgive me. The
world of computers is a complete mystery to me. My dad used to work for IBM
when I was a kid, but I guess that gene didn't get passed on to me. What, exactly,
does a systems engineer do?" I lift my eyes from my laptop's screen and
glance in their direction. She is young, perhaps in her mid twenties, and she
has light brown hair that dances across her shoulders. Her makeup is light and
precise, applied in such a way that it is almost unnoticeable. She is wearing
an olive green tunic and blue jeans and I cannot help but notice that she
has a nearly perfect figure. She reaches out to pick up her mug of hot tea
and sips it lightly, her pale white fingers holding the cup gently for its heat.
He shrugs and smiles warmly, as though to give her a sympathetic appeal.
"It's not all that complicated," he begins to tell her. He is wearing
a button down flannel shirt of a thin material and blue jeans adorn his legs,
too. I notice with a quick downward glance that he is wearing brown shoes, the
kind found in American Eagle or Banana Republic. His close-cropped dark
brown hair hides the ever-so-slowly receding hairline that will most likely
leave him balding by the time he reaches forty years of age. He has the appearance
of someone who works out regularly, though not rigorously. Already I am growing
suspicious of him. He does not look like your average geek. He has the look
of middle management and the air of a credit-taking prick. "Mostly I
just sit around the office and answer emails from my bosses," he says.
"They're always asking me to how to set up a new email account or why
their Internet connection isn't working. I guess you could say that I'm their
ace in the hole when it comes to management functions. When things break on
their systems, they call me."
The girl's eyes glaze over instantly at the words "system", "email"
and "Internet," like they hold a Holy power that one must bow to
the superiority of. These words she has heard in passing and she probably affixes
some sort of digital mysticism to them, too deep for her to comprehend. "Do
you know a lot about computers?" she asks him.
"Well, it's all subjective," he informs her. "Most of my knowledge
comes from personal experience and just playing around with them. I can't begin
to tell you how many times I've broken my own system and had to fix it myself."
I read the translation clear as day: he's a dunder-headed idiot and is trying
to play off his past mistakes (What does "deltree C:\" do again?)
as though he was an intuitive genius. "Over the years I just sorta gained
a knack for working with computers." Bingo.
"Mm-hm," she purrs. "So did you go to school for it? I mean,
you had to learn about them in school to get the job, right?"
He smiles wolfishly. "Actually, no," he says. "I went to school
on a business major. I got the job on a fluke. I was working for them at
a low-level position at the time, when I was in college. Some computer virus
got into the CFO's system. The tech team wasn't around, so I took some initiative.
I've installed a few OS's in my time, so I just wiped his system and reinstalled
the OS. By the time the tech team got back from some convention or another,
I got the computer up and running on my own. The CFO figured that I knew what
I was doing, liked my attitude and promoted me." He shrugs. "I guess
I was just in the right place at the right time."
"Oh," she says dejectedly.
"What?" he asks as though he's been slighted. "Isn't a guy
allowed to move ahead in the world?"
It's her turn to shrug now. "Sure," she answers. "As long as
he earns it."
"Ah! But I did earn it. I fixed the guy's system. On my
own." He says it like it was a major accomplishment, a feat worthy of not
even Hercules himself. I feel the urge to jump up and call him a blithering
idiot, call him out completely in front of this innocent doe.
"What bullshit," she retorts sharply. It catches both him and me
completely off guard. What did she just say? "When you frag a system,
any idiot knows that you're supposed to do a full backup. Did
He stutters for a second and now I'm the one smiling wolfishly. This babe in
the woods isn't so lost after all. "W-well, no," he stammers, "but
She cuts him off with a sigh of exasperation. "So you wiped the guy's
system totally, all of his important files and everything, and
didn't even do a backup? What OS was it? Ninety-five? NT four-oh-one? Was it even backed up on the Intranet?" I'm
almost ready to pounce out of my seat and propose marriage to this fox!
"Huh?" he sputters out. "The what?"
"Oh, God!" she exclaims. "You got the job of systems
engineer and don't even know what an intranet is? What kind of
moron are you?" I'm just sitting there, my laptop long forgotten
as I witness this blinding attack on the guy. She's filleting him right there,
on the spot. Who is this chick? Does she have a twin? "Lemme
tell you something, pal. Truth is, I'm certified across five different platforms,
Mac included. I was perfectly willing to let you prattle on about your dinky
little job until you blew it. Bonehead. Wanna know what I do
for a living?" He just stares at her blankly, like an animal caught in
the headlights of an on-coming Mack truck. She doesn't wait for him to ask,
she just charges on. "Network Admin, BeatCom. You mighta heard of us?
We wired the state capital building, my first project, back when I was a plebe. I've bundled more CAT-5 cabling than you've got nerve endings in your woefully empty head.
Tell you what, why don't you do yourself a favor and try your line of BS on
someone else? I got better things to do than listen to some jerk-off opportunist. People like me email-bomb people like you for shits and giggles.
Take a hike, pal. My girlfriend's gonna be here in a minute and I'd like for
her to sit down in a warm seat."
His response is classic. "Huh?"
"You," she says in one-syllable words that he can better understand.
"Up. Now. Done. Thanks for keeping the seat warm.
"You have a girlfriend?" he asks, like he's just now catching up.
She glares at him. "Ever heard the term 'bi-sexual'? Look it up sometime."
She is no longer cute to me. She is outright fucking gorgeous. I'd kiss her
feet in a hot second. She shoos him away like he's a pigeon. "Go on,"
she adds for spite. "Git."
The guy stands awkwardly in total bewilderment. Not ten minutes ago he was
under the impression that he was about to score with this young woman. Now,
not only has she shot him down, she shot him full of holes. His ego is deflating
like it's been hit by buckshot right before our eyes. He glances at me and
I cannot help but to smile at him. The smile is not a pleasant one. He leaves
quickly after that, like a dog with its tail between its legs.
When he's gone, she mutters, "Fucking asshole." And then she finally
notices that I'm even in the room.
"You know," I say, "Ninety-five couldn't do a backup
on its own if it was connected to an Intranet. That was a function dictated
only by the sys admin with that OS. It's unlikely he had access to the sys
admin's password to do a backup, even if he'd thought of it."
Her face brightens when she hears this. "I know," she says happily.
"You in the biz?"
I shake my head and answer honestly. "No. I couldn't afford the MCSE
tests. I studied a little, but didn't really delve too much into it. Fell in
love with web design instead. More entertaining."
"Really?" she asks. "Whatcha workin' on?"
I shrug. She's a network admin. Chances are that she doesn't know any more
about Flash than I do. "A Flash app. Trying to figure out this damn physics
"Which version?" she asks instantly. "Four or five? If it's
five, my heart goes out to you. I hate what they've done with
the new AS. Drives me crazy."
From then on, I know that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
A woman walks into the room. "Karen?" she asks.
The fem-geek of my dreams looks up at the newcomer and smiles warmly. "Hiya,
Brit. I kept the seat warm for you, just like I promised. You got here just
in the nick of time. Wanna help this guy out with some actionscripting?"
Brit doesn't miss a beat. "JS, ASP, CGI or PHP?" she asks
I look from Brit to Karen and back again. "Neither," I answer. "Physics
Brit waves it aside. "Oh, no sweat. Fifth-year calc and physics."
She strides over confidently to where I am and peers over my shoulder. She
smells like apricots.
I'm in heaven, I conclude. I have just died and gone to heaven.