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.
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.
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.