Thursday, January 7, 2010

Adventures in QA, vol. 1

I recently got a job, which was not really that exciting because unemployment rules. As long as you're okay being poor, which I am. Both okay and poor. I don't mean to make it into a joke (he wrote on his humor blog) because it's a genuinely important social program. It makes a huge difference in people's lives; it did in mine after getting laid off back in May. But after a while, making no goddamn money just becomes a lifestyle. I got a letter from the Social Security Administration informing me of my lifetime contributions and projecting my future benefits. It was one of the funniest documents I have ever received from the federal government. My total lifetime earnings add up to less than the yearly salaries of many of my college classmates. Also, let's be real--I am 25 years old and I am never going to see a penny from Social Security. When I reach the eligible age I'll feel fortunate if our shattered, parched society even remembers what Social Security used to be. As I trudge through seas of radioactive silt, I'll marvel at the time when the elderly got checks in the mail--rather than being forced to wander off into the wastes when their time came round.

Speaking of which, The Book of Eli looks so goddamned awesome that I can't even rationally discuss it. It's Fallout with Denzel killing people (something he rocks at; see Man on Fire) and Gary Oldman as the villain. Sold. See that guy on the right? That's kinda like Denzel.

Adventures in QA!
My job is testing video games. This is called Quality Assurance. As you might imagine, there are a lot of odd people who get into this. Plenty of well-adjusted folks too, but the loons are inevitable. This series will be about them, and their colorful stories that enrich all our lives. Many of these people were known by two names: the names their disappointed parents gave them, and the names we gave them so we could talk shit about them in company e-mails.

Poor Dante. He wasn't a bad guy or a freak, just a dude with some problems at home and some poor priorities (so he doesn't have a nickname). He had the desk next to mine and he was the first person I talked to. His problem was this: he could not stay awake. I'm not talking narcolepsy, he'd just nod off whenever it was quiet for a spell. This is not a good thing to do at work. He got grief for it a half-dozen times a day, got sent home for it twice and still just couldn't stay awake. This man was eventually fired from his job playing video games.

Big Red
Unfortunately not named for the Viking-themed fake toy from the classic SNL ad. Big Red was a giant fat dude boasting a healthy head of red curls. He was very much a ginger. He was that particular flavor of giant fat dude who only wears shorts. I'm not sure why, but my pet theory is that their thick layers of insulation render them impervious to the elements. At that point, why not just adopt a uniform and wear the same thing every day? Makes sense to me.

Here's a fun thing about California office buildings, especially the ones that have been built recently (and are usually in use by tech companies): the floors and walls have a lot of bounce in them. This is by design, as I was reminded yesterday during a small earthquake. But a side effect is this: you can often feel footsteps before you hear them or see their source. This is even true of normal-sized people, but it's pronounced enough with the big'uns that you can actually identify specific people around corners and through cubicle walls. Just by their gait. And let me tell you, Big Red's gait was quite a thing. I always work with a water bottle on my desk and it was like the scene from Jurassic Park where the cars are stopped dead in the night and the T-Rex is coming. You just see Jeff Goldblum's little glass of water...thud. "Man, fuck Jeff Goldblum!"

The best story about Big Red--well, it's not so much a story as an ongoing reality--is that he peed with his pants down. Like, standing at the urinal in a public restroom in an office building. It was fucked up. I don't know how anyone arrives at this practice to begin with, and my female readers will probably not know what I'm talking about, but this is the sort of thing that you would expect from a five-year-old boy. I knew kids in second grade who were still doing this, and we gave them crap for it. It's a weird thing: "what is this strange porcelain altar? I'm to pee in it? Well, then I'd better take my pants all the way off!" So yes, this was Big Red. The most disturbing question: what happens when he's done and it's time to pull them shits up? Does he bend his knees, squat, grab and raise? Does he bend over to do it? If so, would his face end up breaking the plane of the urinal? More to the point, did this process result in the horrifying deaths of co-workers like that first girl in The Ring? I honestly never found out. Big Red only lasted a month or two before his dismissal from the Rock Band team. Considering that the Rock Band team was the general storage for all the worst and most maladjusted losers in QA (seriously, those people were freaks), this is remarkable.

Her name was Melissa. She was one of the leads for another team, and she was one of the most uncompromisingly hideous individuals I have ever beheld. No description I can give of this gorgon will do her justice, but she was an enormous fat woman with a giant goiter on her face. She smoked like a factory and cursed like a factory that manufactures miniatures of sailors and is staffed by former longshoremen. Her personality was awful and abrasive, which is ridiculous. How can you be that ugly and not develop a nice kind demeanor to compensate? Public schools are the closest thing our society has to natural selection, and normally these kinks get hammered out. She had enormous moles on her face and her leathery skin sagged enough to form jowls. She was basically a sea monster. Picture a slightly younger Al Davis.

But how old was she? This topic came up once with one of my managers, who knew but wanted me to guess. I would have said 44 off the top of my head. I figured the cigarettes would make her look older, so I lowballed it with a 35. My manager shook her head. Melissa, it turned out, was twenty-seven years old. Holy shit. I still have difficulty believing it, and if you'd ever seen the beast you'd agree. This shit doesn't just happen, unless you drink from the wrong grail or keep a dark covenant with a painting in your attic.

Shrek was eventually let go, because she was not only a giant bitch but also a terrible worker and inept leader. How did she rise to her fairly high rank in QA? Because it's QA and nobody knows what the fuck is going on. I will leave you with a horrifying parting shot: one fine day not long before her dismissal, Shrek gave one of her subordinates a ride home. His name was Keith and he was a douchey guy about my age who wore a lot of black. At some point on the ride home, they stopped at a bar and had a few drinks. Then they went to somebody's place and had sex. How do I know about it? The same way anyone else knows: either because they were there, or because she told people at work about it. No matter how gross you think this might be, it is nothing compared to how I feel about it having beheld the misbegotten spawn of Grendel with my own eyes. Even hearing about it secondhand, I wanted to descend into a paroxysm of cathartic self-loathing like Ace Ventura after he realized EINHORN IS FINKLE! FINKLE IS EINHORN! No, fuck you, that didn't need spoiler tags. It's already out on VHS!

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