Origins #6

17 Jan

So, last time, I was telling you about how everything seemed to be escalating. It really was. It was such a strange time for me. Things seemed to be going equal parts good and bad at the same time. The good parts were off the charts in the good way, and the bad parts were off the chart in the opposite direction. There was very little middle going on.

Goodbye to my car

I forgot to mention earlier on that I was now stuck without a car to get around in. That might not be a big thing where you’re from, but in Perth, that means you’re pretty well screwed. The public transport here will get you where you want to go but it’ll take an inordinately long time. As an example, some mates asked me to fill in for their sports team for the night. I’d normally get to the stadium in half an hour. On public transport it took me an hour and a half, and someone still had to pick me up from the train station! So the round trip was 3 hours to play a 40 minute match. See, I was without a car because, just before I went to Europe, I ran into one of those cops who’s just a cop because it allows him to get away with being a dickhead. There I was driving along in my 1970 Ford Capri doing the speed limit and behaving myself when Officer Cock-Knocker decides he’ll show off to the new recruit partner by pulling me over and having a bit of fun with the fact the has a uniform and a badge and I don’t.

Look at that terrifying death trap. Better pull him over.

Look at that terrifying death trap. Better pull him over.

I pull over when the blue lights flash behind me and Mr Plod is on the attack straight away “What are you doing with this Capri?”, “Is this vehicle stolen?”. “Of course not”, I tell him, “I’ve owned this car for 5 years”. I’m pretty confused why he’s asked such an attacking question to start proceeding. Then he fires out  “This is a British car, why does it have an Australian spoiler on the back?”

Ahhh…. It starts to make sense. Between the accent and these questions it occurs to me he’s English, and he likes his English cars. I explain that this is an Aussie built Capri and the spoiler was an option here. He ignores that bit of rationality and continues pointing out things he doesn’t like about my car. Not things that are illegal or make it unroadworthy, just things he doesn’t like. He asks me why I’ve got bigger brakes than standard and I make the mistake of informing him that I’m going to replace the original V6 motor with a V8.

His whole face went red! I thought steam was going to come out his ears!

It turns out this particular Englishman was a huge Cosworth fan and the idea of me modifying an original Ford Capri GT with anything but Cosworth parts was sacrilege to him. He ranted at me about how “You can’t just modify a piece of motoring history however you want!”, and “You’re disrespecting the British legacy of the Capri!”. All the while I’m just thinking, “Mate, this is my car, I’ll do what I bloody well want with it.”

I was slowly converting the Capri into a race car but the changes I’d made at that point were all to improve safety of the car for the road. Bigger brakes so I can stop in shorter distances, wider tyres for more grip, new seats that actually go further than half way up my back, a limited slip differential to reduce traction problems, etc, etc. All those changes will come in handy once the car is relegated to track use only, but in the meantime I had a car that was much safer to drive on the road than it was when I bought it.

Mr Uniform didn’t give two shits about how much those changes improved the car from a safety perspective. He was unnervingly irate at the fact that I had dared modified a classic Capri and was being weirdly aggressive in his posturing. His rookie colleague seemed a bit put-off by it all too but said nothing. Mr Blue Lights tells me he’s heard enough and tells me I’m getting a Yellow Sticker.

A Yellow Sticker is a defect notice which requires you to take your car to the licensing department for an evaluation. It costs a few hundred dollars to and you only get 10 days to have it done. If you don’t get it done you can’t drive the car on the road anymore. The awesome part was that this happened about 2 days before I was going to Europe and I had absolutely no time to get the car to the pits for the check, so when I got back from Europe, I had a car I wasn’t allowed to drive.

Once I got back I did take the car to the pits but the guys there are really pedantic and you’re not going to get a car from 1970 past them without a shit-tonne of work being done on it. It’s difficult enough to get a modern car past the pits, and even though the mechanic that was looking over my car was quite complimentary about the condition of it, he pointed out things like the headlights not meeting modern brightness requirements and things like that, and it just worked out that it would cost more money to keep the old girl on the road than it would to get the new engine in and get all the other work I’d been planning done. Doing it that way I could kill two birds with one stone by getting it all done at the same time. I sent the Capri off to my mates to get the work done but it was going to take months.

So that left me without a car.

I love that car. I love that she’s a conversation starter. I love that people smile when they see her coming down the road, and that kids get wide eyes and ask their Dad what it is. I love that some bloke literally tried to negotiate buying it off me as we drove down the freeway as he yelled from his car through my passenger window telling me that he’s always wanted one. I love how well that 40 year old engine sounds as she out accelerates more modern cars with ease. But more than all that, I just loved being able to get around and it really, really sucked to have to go without my own mode of transport.

Goodbye favourite band

Ever heard of the band Powderfinger? If you’re not from Australia, the answer is probably a big, fat nope. That’s a damned shame because they were an absolutely fantastic band.

For a long time there, Powderfinger was my favourite band. They dominated the charts here in Australia for over a decade by putting out 5 #1 albums in a row, and by taking out Triple J’s Hottest 100 2 years in a row. They even got 4 albums in Triple J’s 100 Australian albums of all time, including getting 2 albums in the top 10 and taking out the top spot. That’s right, Australia voted Powderfinger’s album Odyssey Number Five as their favourite Aussie album of all time. Personally, I don’t even rate Odyssey Number Five as their best album and I don’t really care about all the awards they got, I just love their music and I was completely gobsmacked by their ability to reach in and touch that indefinable thing that is being Australian.

I can’t explain it. I just know they captured something intangible about Australia and that era and somehow translated it in a way that hit me in a way very few other bands have managed.

My favourite Powderfinger album is Internationalist. It came out in 1998, when I was a little 19 year old pizza delivery boy. It might sound strange, but I learned a lot from that album. One of the common threads on Internationalist is that of people falling prey to watching their lives slip away, day by day. Internationalist hit me right in my head and stuck there.

Because I was working 60 to 90 hour weeks delivering pizzas at the time, I had a lot of time to listen to music, and Internationalist was in extremely high rotation on my car’s cd player. I think that’s a big part of why I took so much from that album. It influenced the way I thought about the world and how to live and still does right through to today.

I’m a musician myself, and in addition to influencing the way I see the world, Powderfinger has also had a massive influence in the way I approach making music and the sort of music I want to make. It was pretty sad news then, when Powderfinger announced they were calling it quits midway through 2010. As is the way with the retirement of musical acts in Australia in recent history, though, they decided to do a farewell tour. It was particularly disheartening for me at the time because they weren’t over the hill, they’d put out a stellar new album called Golden Rule just a few months beforehand. Anyway, I was really disappointed they were calling it a day, but at least I had my ticket to see them one last time. I’m not sure if anyone else will relate to being so horribly bummed out by their favourite band breaking up, but it was big deal to me.

Hopefully it’ll make sense why I’m telling you about this as the story progresses.

Goodbye great manager

Before Gus the devil monster, demon manager came on board, my team had been lead by a really nice bloke. His name was Mike Monarch. Mike’s a bloody champ.

Under Mike’s leadership we’d developed a system that was bringing in about $2,000,000 a year for Everlong. That’s a pretty damned good outcome considering our team was only 5 people at the time. After that project, Everlong decided to chase a few ‘big leads’. One of these big leads was a tender for a massive contract with a mining company. Getting all the documentation in for a tender like that is a massive amount of work and Mike was shifted over to that project and my team was left twiddling our thumbs.

There were good points to being left to our own devices. One of which, was that I had the chance to write some software to make maintaining that million dollar system much simpler. Another was that there was very little stress at work. The downside, however, was that our team couldn’t work on the projects we wanted to (projects which we believed would help make the company money) because we nobody in the team had any authorisation to lead us.

I would often lead the team to do simple little projects. They were just little proof-of-concept projects to show that we were able to create things that we believed were able to bring in an income and we could knock them out in a few days, so I wasn’t concerned with getting in any trouble for taking over the team. But to really do anything worthwhile, like redeveloping the system to work properly on mobile devices for example, we’d need to spend months in development. I wasn’t getting paid to lead the team and I didn’t want to be blamed for taking over the team and doing whatever I felt like, so instead of being unified and progressing projects, we each worked on whatever we thought would be useful.

In hindsight, I really should have taken over the team but I’m just not the sort of guy to go trying to steal power. Everyone would always come to me for guidance anyway and I’d been in the industry long enough to know the right moves. The years that have passed since have well and truly proved that I was on the right track, but hindsight is 20/20 and there ain’t much I can do about it now.

Mike realised we needed someone to lead the team while he was away, so Everlong advertised for a project manager, and in came Gus. What a talented imposter he must have been to get that job! I didn’t like him from the get-go but everyone thought he was ok, so I tried to convince myself I was wrong about him and just get on with my job.

Man, was I an idiot to not trust my gut! It wasn’t long before Gus had started manipulating everyone in the office. He was triggering in-fighting by making underhanded comments and blaming them on other people. He was sucking up to Tim Everlong. He was sneaking his way into the Everlong family’s trust and quietly bad-mouthing Mike and complaining about how little we had to show for the recent months. He was blaming Mike specifically for the lack of productivity and he must have done a pretty good job because Mike was ousted from his job as Gus’s boss, and Gus was given the higher position, leaving Mike in some bullshit demotion job where he was in charge of very little and bombarded with enormous amounts of stress on a daily basis.

Mike went from being a happy, easy-to-talk-to guy who was in good shape and good spirits, to slowly becoming an out of shape, glum, quite, ghost of himself who would occasionally try to force the edges of his face upward into a smile, but was otherwise an automaton with red eyes and a defeated expression.

That was really tough to watch happen to such a nice guy. I would have liked to have done something about it, but we were now under Gus’s complete control, and that was such an unpleasant situation that I was relying on my reserves of patience and ‘just put up with it until Gus actually learns how to do his job’-ness that I didn’t have much time to do much to help Mike.

Goodbye great job

Losing Mike as our manager and having Gus in his place was the key thing that turned my great job into a chore, then into a punishment, and eventually into a torture, but more on that later.

Goodbye Flash

Steve Jobs screwed me over! Well, really Adobe screwed me over and Steve Jobs just chose not to let them screw Apple over too.

See, I was a Flash Developer for a very long time. I did (and still do) work with Javascript, PHP and various other technologies but I had found that Flash was the best technology for the majority of projects I needed to develop in the early years of my career, so I focused on become very, very good at Flash.

At the time I was focusing on Flash development, Flash was available on 99.5% of all internet enabled devices. That made it a pretty safe bet as far as I was concerned. In addition to that, Flash was the only way to achieve all the fancy shit I was trying to build. Back then, if you wanted audio, video, interactivity or animation in your project, your project was going to have to be built in Flash.

For a long time I reaped great rewards by specialising in the use of Flash. I cranked out a lot of work that nobody else in Perth seemed to be able to get anywhere near. At one point I built a complete web browser in Flash! I know this is all nerd-talk but it was really quite cool being one of the top specialists in such a useful technology.

And then the iPhone came out.

The iPhone was the first phone to give you the real internet on your phone. Before that you could maybe read a bit of text from a few specific websites, but the iPhone showed you the actual internet! It showed you the web the same way it looked on your desktop.

Well… almost.

One thing the iPhone didn’t include was Flash. For a while there, that meant that you couldn’t view any videos or animations on your iPhone. Everyone just assumed that Apple would put Flash on the iPhone sooner or later but the iPhone was such a huge deal that many developers were clamouring to make sure their websites could be viewed properly on the magical new devices.

I became quite interesting in the idea of building apps for the iPhone and was trying to chase that up, but Apple won’t let you develop software for their systems unless you use a Mac. I didn’t have a mac and they weren’t keen on buying one at work, so the best I could do was try and find a way to output a Flash app as an iPhone app.

It was right in the midst of this when Gus decided to make us work like maniacs on stupid, useless shit all day everyday. That left me with no time to learn different technologies at work, and so exhausted and dejected when I’d get home from work, that the last thing I wanted to do was more work at my computer at home.

In early 2010, Steve Jobs goes and puts out a letter about why Flash is shit and will never go on any Apple mobile device. The shitty thing about it is, he was absolutely right about those things. And the reason Flash had all those problems was because the company that distributes Flash, Adobe, was more concerned about having Flash everywhere than they were about having Flash be any good. Adobe had bought Flash from another company called Macromedia a few years earlier, and everyone involved in Flash development had pretty major concerns at the time.

Turns out, we were right to be concerned because Adobe really drove Flash into the ground and left Steve Jobs with no choice but to choose not to include it on the iPhone, and in the process completely smashed my specialised skills.

So I owe Adobe a big ‘Fuck you’ and I owe Steve Jobs a punch in the face, because that left me without a specialised skill only a year and a half after the Global Financial Crisis kicked in and ruined the world economy. I therefore owe a lot of shitty bankers a punch in the face too.

The outcome of that situation was that I was pretty stressed about not being able to find another job if that situation was to arise. That’s not a good situation to be in when you’re working for a guy like Gus.

Gathering steam

All of these things had happened in the lead up to the end of September, 2010. All of these things, and everything else I’ve been yapping on about in my previous Origins posts were all coming to a head in September 2010.

September 2010

As I mentioned previously, Rene Everlong had been communicating with me a lot. So much so that her dad, my boss, had mentioned that she brought me up in conversation at family dinners. He pointed out that Rene had challenged me to a match of Wii Tennis and thought I had no hope of beating her. I had, of course, already told Rene that I would demolish her. I’d been playing that game a lot and I was damned good at it. It’s funny thinking back, Tim even seemed a bit perturbed by the fact that Rene and I had been communicating out of work but at the time, I was certain I’d done nothing wrong, so I was in no way concerned about that.

The invitation

Rene had been working at a job her father had gotten for her at a company not too far away from my office. That’s part of the reason she had become a regular visitor at my office, and more specifically, at my desk. Part of Rene working so close by meant that she was being included in any social invitations that were going out to my work crew.

I invited everyone out to see The Expendables, for example, and Rene said she’d come along. I was a bit excited at the prospect of hanging out with her in that scenario and she had been telling me how much she was looking forward to it. Then the night comes and she sends me an sms half an hour before movie time saying that she can’t make. Whatever. I was a bit disappointed I guess but I still got to see all those 80s heroes bumble their way through a terrible plot while stuffing my face with choc bombs, potato chips and soft drink, and laughing my arse off at the ridiculousness of it with the other 7 people from work who had made it along.

Now, I’m sure I mentioned earlier that we had a few social traditions amongst the crew at Everlong. One of them was Tuesday Steak Night at the local pub, and the other was Friday arvo drinks, also at the local pub. Often we’d go for dinner after a Friday afterwork drinks session and take up plenty of seats at any of the many awesome restaurants surrounding our local pub.

The pub we went to was called The Chesterfield. It was a brilliant pub. Cruisy atmosphere, cool staff, cool patrons, great food, great restaurants nearby, easy to get to from work and walking distance from home. What more could a guy ask for?! Rene was well aware of our Friday arvo drinks tradition having come along a few times with her sister for a quiet drink before heading off to whatever fancy evening affair they had planned and leaving us to continue in our merriment sans their company.

One particular week in September, Rene sends me an email from her new job explaining that, while she had only been there about a month, a new guy had come on board, and she thought he was a bit off. She said something about thinking he was suspicious or weird and that she was hoping that, if she brought the people from her work down to The Chesterfield for Friday drinks, I could suss him out.

I don’t know what she expected me to do as far as sussing out this bloke, but if your boss’s daughter implies that someone is making her uncomfortable at her job and asks for your help with that, you say yes, don’t you? I mean, shit, we were going to be at The Chesterfield anyway, what harm could it do to agree to give this bloke a once over and check for any psycho tendencies? So naturally I told Rene telling that her and her colleagues were welcome to join us at The Chersterfield for a few post-work bevvies and that I’d let her know what I think of the new guy she mentioned.

And that was the start of one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made.

Next time…

Alrighty, maybe I didn’t quite make it to the night the pin was pulled to the grenade this time, but all of this stuff is really important to the story. Things are really going to start cranking up In Origins #7.

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3 Responses to “Origins #6”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. Origins #13 | how not to be a crazy bitch - 2015.04.08

    […] my car wasn’t allowed on the road and we’d walked/trollied our way back to my place from the pub and leaving Rene’s car […]

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  3. Origins #22 | how not to be a crazy bitch - 2016.02.17

    […] the software I specialized in was under direct attack from Steve Jobs, […]

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