The first time I was ever fired

There was an online discussion not too long ago in which a young lad of about 19 was lamenting that he had just been fired from his job, and he thought he was a total failure and his life was over. Always one the help out the Youths Of Today, I jumped in with A Helpful Anecdote.

I have been fired at least half a dozen times in my life– although fortunately all of them fall under the “young and stupid” category of Life Lessons. You never forget your first time, though…

I was, I think, barely 16. It was only my second job ever, and my first “real” job in that I went to an office and worked with a bunch of adults. I was a help desk guy for a large healthcare company, and one of my good friends managed to score me the interview. I was pretty excited about it because I was really into computers and I had no real conception of just how soul-sucking corporate America could be.

Back in the Bad Old Days of Windows 3.1, it was pretty common practice for big companies to set up their employees computers such that it only displayed one group of icons, under the belief that if Patty in Accounting ever saw there was more on her computer than a spreadsheet program everything might go completely sideways. God help us all if they ever discovered there was Solitare.

What moms did on the computer before Facebook was invented. Image via

So I sit down for my first day of the job and log into The LAN, which was pretty fancy. The first thing I notice is that my main administrator application group wasn’t opened on login, instead the business user application group was. I had to close one to open the other because. Worse, my settings were erased on every login by the network policy, so every time I tried to fix it my work was undone.

I cannot begin to explain how frustrating this is.

Let me begin to explain how frustrating this is.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try imagining using an iPhone with one app per page, and every time you hit the home button you went back to the first page, and you couldn’t task switch or ever change the order of the apps, and there’s a hundred apps and you regularly use app number 73.

Or to put it another way, imagine leaving the house for an hour only to discover that an invisible tormentor has broken in and made everything hanging on the wall just slightly crooked, and does this whenever you leave the house.

Being a tech savvy guy I immediately determined that problem was that my network account must not have sufficient privileges, because if I was an administrator I would be able to save my settings. I was not one of the lesser ordinary users, and given my job as help desk intern this was clearly an oversight on their part. Fortunately for me, one of the Old People left his administrator console logged in and had just stepped away to get some coffee. Using his account, I gave myself administrator rights, and sure enough my desktop was now remembering what it looked like when I logged out.

Satisfied with my superior technical skills, I whistled as I walked with the team to my welcome lunch at Bennigans.

I had a Monte Cristo. It was delicious.

Who knew deep-friend lunch meat dusted with powdered sugar could be so darn tasty? Image via wikipedia. Yes, the sandwich is so good it has a wikipedia entry.

I didn’t even pay for lunch!

The next morning my manager, an Extremely Pregnant Black Lady, asked me to accompany her into a conference room where I was joined by an Extremely Frumpy White Lady, who I discovered worked for Human Resources.

Then I discovered that Human Resources did more than just hire people.

Despite all protestations to the contrary, I was being asked to leave. Immediately.

It seems like a “security violation” was a fire-able offense, even the first time.

I’m pretty sure I cried like a four year old with a skinned knee.

By the time I got to the parking lot I had chalked it up to a Extremely Pregnant Black Lady over-reacting and went on about my way, obliviousness intact.

I was able to stay oblivious for a good number of years, but as my father said to me so very many times, reality has a way of biting us all in the butt sooner or later.

As I retell this story 20-some odd years later, I find myself siding with the Extremely Pregnant Black Lady… that young knowitall kid really couldn’t tell his head from a hole in the wall for many, many years after that.

He turned out all right in the end, though.

Which is better than the Monte Cristo sandwich ever did. Shudder.


How My Tomato Plants are a Perfect Metaphor for This Summer

I aspire to be a gardener in the same way I aspire to be handy: first I borrow a bunch of stuff from my neighbors, then they end up taking pity on Mrs. Nostrikethat when it’s been two weeks without load-bearing walls and finally they end up doing most of the work while I am entrusted with operating the Keurig.

Every year, with glasses firmly rose-colored,  I try to take on a simple vegetable garden. Every year I manage tomatoes that could be called “tomatoes” in the same way that a Twinkie could be called “food”.

To make matters worse, I am surrounded by green thumbs. My mother relates to vegetables on an almost instinctual level–although I am sure being married to my dad has given her plenty of practice. My neighbors all have several successful well-established garden plots. My Facebook feed is ripe with Gaea’s Bounty, too:

Oh I have too many tomatoes this year, does anyone want some salsa?”

My peppers just won’t stop growing!”

Gardening is so easy and fun!”

Dutifully I watered and fertilized. My gifted starter plants actually grew and started to flower. I Believed.

I can totally survive the End of Days now. Who needs a grocery store? Man I am amazing.

Then my plants stopped responding to light, water, and nitrogen.



They looked like Thursday night after a week of double shifts working to close.

I tried giving them coffee because that always perks me up and I get my vegetative qualities from my dad so I thought the reverse might be true.

Still they wilted.

It’s as if they said “It’s August, I’m tired of life, let me leave you with a sampling of anatomically ludicrous fruits to taunt you with what might have been.”

“P.S.- you suck.”

Now let me introduce you to my mums. Despite not even the slightest amount of concern from me regarding their well-being they have come back every single year, bigger than ever. They are the ordinary Homedepotus Onsaleacus variety bought 4 or five years ago because we needed some “fall color” or something equally womanly. I think decided to plant them in that little spot because it was a nice day and I was avoiding doing the dishes.



We have had by all accounts a pretty fantastic summer. We’re luck enough to have friends. Some of those friends like us enough to invite the travelling Nostrikethat circus to go places with them. Our kids have amazing grandparents, near and far, who shower them with attention. We did swim team. We swam in a lake. We got lost in the woods. My most favorite moments, though, always seemed to just happen.

Sitting in camp chairs on the driveway drinking beer with the neighbors on a Tuesday night.  

Listening to the kids tell jokes at the dinner table. BANANA SANDWICH! HAH!

Sharing a quiet glass of wine with Mrs. Nostrikethat after the kids have exhausted themselves from playing outside all day.

Staying up late with my oldest to play video games.

I’m sure there’s a metaphor in here somewhere.

Or maybe I just need to remember to ask someone to water the plants when we go away for a long weekend.