I found a floppy disk that said "Story 1" on it, but there was no files to be seen. I knew what had been on it, so I grabbed a demo undelete program off the net and undeleted the document. It's a story I started writing back in 1998 about a developer like myself. I took the scene from a trip I took to Florida once back when I was working in Atlanta and changed a lot of details, but the core is actually only very thinly disguised.
I'm not sure what I had in mind with the plot, which is why I stopped. I hadn't read Stephen King's "On Writing" when I wrote this, so I just started but didn't have far to go. The best advice that King gives - which is quite opposite of every other writing book - is to not try to get the plot all worked out in advance, but to think about your characters first, then think of a situation to put them into, then write what happens. That's the problem with this story, then and now I still don't have anything exciting to happen to them. :-) I think I had something to do with Rebecca not showing up at the convention - she flirts with a higher up and gets herself involved in something she shouldn't. I remember wanting to write something like Disclosure meets Microserfs, which are all about corporate politics with no one getting killed or other "artificial" plot points. I've never seen anyone use a handgun in person, and I wanted to stay away from that sort of storyline.
I've actually written more than this, but I have no idea where that bigger file is, which is why it was a discovery to see that old floppy disk. It's actually not important since the story isn't particularly interesting or well written, it's just that I have an outlet for my writing now, so it'd be nice to throw it all out there. So with that introduction, here's the story:
By Russell Beattie
The plane touched down with a multitude of bumps, vibrations and a final deafening roar as the jets hit the spoilers to slow the plane down the runway. As the pressure from his seat belt let up, Ben Brooks slowly opened his eyes, released his grip on the armrests and leaned down to get a better look out the small jet window. His first view of Sunny Florida slowly rolled by. It was raining.
"Not too fond of aeroplane travel are you, bud?" his neighbor asked as he nudged him in the side. "I thought for a second we was gonna have to whip out the ol' barf-bag for you."
Ben turned to see Jimmy grinning at him, as he usually was for one reason or another.
"Kiss my ass, Jimmy. It's just the landings that get to me," he said, forcing a small smile. Hell, he thought, I'm on the ground now, relax. Then he really smiled and said, "So much for your golf game, huh?"
It was Jimmy's turn to frown as he looked past Ben out the window at the pouring rain streaming down the side of the plane. Jimmy Haring, Ben's co-worker and an avid golf player, had been looking forward to this convention trip to the Doral Country Club in Miami for months.
"Gaw-damn rain," he drawled. "Maybe it'll let up later."
After a while, they disembarked the plane with several dozen of their co-workers and headed towards the exit of Miami International airport where a chartered bus waited for them. Several smiling tour guides politely yelled orders for everyone to put their bags on the left where Jose would take care of them and to board the bus. The whole process took a long while and though Ben was happy to be standing after the long flight from SFO, the humidity was something he just hadn't felt in a long time. Or was that ever?
"I'm sweating just standing here!" someone said aloud. And he was. They all were. It was the sort of heat and humidity that most of these Northern Californians rarely, if ever experienced. The only person looking even somewhat comfortable was Jimmy.
"Ya'll need to be in Atlanta in August, then you'd really feel some humidity. This here's nuthin'!" Jimmy said with a worse than usual Southern accent. The assembled throng groaned.
"Jimmy," Ben said, looking over his shoulder as he entered the air-conditioned bus. "If you like the weather so much, maybe you should just ride on top."
Jimmy actually looked up before deciding to ride inside.
The Doral is a somewhat famous country club complete with a yearly PGA tournament to prove its fame. It had been chosen by XLCom's upper management as good place to come for what was to be four days of yearly manager meetings and technical classes. Hundreds of employees from all over the country had been gathered for the meeting, though only a rare few would be able to afford the astronomical greens fees to actually play golf at the posh club.
Ben, however, could care less about the greens fees because he didn't play golf. Though he had had plenty of opportunities to learn, he pretty much held the sport as one of the many elitist corporate activities that he must avoid at all cost. Intellectually separating himself from the masses of lemmings who go to work every day- the cubicles, the meetings, the lunches, the golf games - was a high priority in his life.
This whole convention, he had already decided, was a farce. The technical meetings were all low level or meant for networking guys - not developers like himself and the business meetings were all for the managers. Regular employees like Ben will have little or no say in those proceedings. Upper management had basically decided that they wanted to play at the Doral and figured this would be the best way to get the company to pay for it.
It was like Dilbert goes on vacation.
The managers got to meet in the upper level meeting halls where if it wasn't sunny, they could at least look out the window. Most of the technical meetings were on the lower levels of the hotel like buildings that surrounded the main lodge. The dark rooms stuffed with chairs, computers and a variety of geeks going over passwords, database sizes and other boring administrative duties.
Ben knew before he stepped on the plane that this trip was going to be one of intense boredom and frustration. Of course, Ben also knew that if he was going to get ahead in this company, he needed to be down here mingling with his co-workers and high level managers. It was a constant effort to battle the corporate mindset, and yet also trying to succeed in that same organization. Ben was never really sure if he was winning the war.
Everyone had convened in the main convention hall for the opening ceremonies. The first hour consisted mostly of the top brass congratulating themselves on a fine choice to hold a convention. The second was dedicated to several technology vendors - who had been conned into paying for this junket - getting an hour of our forced attention. And the third was given to some sort of corporate motivational speaker; a lower cost Stephen R. Covey who had only three keys to success instead of the prior author's seven.
Eventually the throng was dismissed and allowed to go to their rooms and unpack before everyone regathered in the the banquet hall for dinner and more vendor pitches. The company was quite willing to prostitute it's employees attention span for a meal on a vendor. After waiting in line to get his hotel pass-card at the registration desk (Why didn't he sneak out during the opening ceremonies and get all this taken care of? Stupid!) he and Jimmy headed out into the rain and down to the third lodge where their room was located. Their luggage was thankfully waiting for them in the room.
They proceeded to go about the normal business trip routines: Choosing sides of the room, unpacking a little, watching TV, making calls back home and scanning the fridge for beverages they couldn't resist (these, they've been told would not be taken care of in the final bill, thus at $2.35 for a can of Pepsi and $4.50 for a can of Bud, they decided to wait until there was a dire need for a liquid refreshment.)
Ben went out onto the porch and watched the rain fall into a spotlight and waited for Jimmy to finish calling his wife and making cooing noises to his three year old. Ben wasn't dating anyone at the moment, so he used his phone time to call his roomates Abigail and John and tell them that he had arrived safely. They weren't home, so he left a somewhat rambling message on the PacBell voicemail and hung up.
Jimmy had pulled out his Toshiba and was starting to look around for plugs.
"Are you kidding me?" Ben asked. "What are you doing with that computer? We're going to be spending the next four days locked in small, dark rooms with our only source of light being the flourescent glow from our monitors. Can't you take one night off?"
Jimmy just sort of looked at Ben awkwardly like he hadn't thought of that, and then continued fussing with his cables.
"I just want to check my email and the market." he said in a muffled voice from behind the TV stand. Jim, being 6 years older than Ben, actually had some money tied up in stocks and he watched the market like a hawk. Though Ben was an aggressive anti-workaholic, he sort of respected Jimmy's zeal and just grunted approval. Both knew that it wasn't just the stocks that Jimmy wanted to get online for... he just needed his internet fix for today.
Ben continued to watch re-runs of MTV's Real World Miami.
"See, it's sunny here on TV. I told you the show is rigged."
"Maybe it'll be sunny out tomorrow," Jimmy said over the chirping sound of his modem connecting to the net. "I'll check it out at Weather.com."
"You do that," Ben replied.
The next morning, Ben awoke from a deep sleep to the blaring sound of their eight o'clock wake up call. Though his body screamed that it was five o'clock in the morning, Ben, an early riser anyway, got up and headed to the bathroom. He looked over at his roommate. Jimmy hadn't even moved.
When Ben finished his morning routine a half hour later, he went to the windows and opened the shades to let in the morning light. Surprisingly, it was a clear, beautiful morning. They had predicted rain for their four day stay. He kicked Jimmy's bed.
"Okay, beautiful. Up and at 'em!", Ben yelled.
"Come on, Jimbo, time's a wastin'"
Jimmy covered his head with a pillow to shade his eyes from the preternaturally early sun..
"Let's go, Jimmy! You know T.J.'s going to be counting heads at breakfast and just waiting for you to show up late."
"T.J. can kiss my ass" Jimmy growled from beneath the pillow.
That was a good sign. He was at least cognizent. Ben knew that just the mention of Terry Jones would get Jimmy's blood boiling. T.J., as they called her behind his back, was the assistant manager of the San Francisco branch of XLCom and a notorious micro-manager.
Ben straightened out his side of the room as he continued to goad Jimmy out of bed.
"Yep," Ben said. "She'll be saying, 'James, you'd be much more productive if you started to go to bed earlier and come to the officer early like myself.'"
He was doing his best Terry voice, "'The morning is the most important time of the day. When else can you go over your day timer and carefully organize your meetings and...'"
Ben had played this game before. Jimmy was, like many programmers, a night owl. Getting out of bed before noon on the West coast was hard enough for Jimmy. Three hours of jet-lag and it was going to be an up-hill battle. Ben knew if he just left and said he'd see him at breakfast, he'd be lucky if he saw him before dinner.
"'...What? James, you don't have a day timer? What happened to the Franklin Planner XLCom provided you?'"
Finally, Jimmy had enough.
"Alright, alright! Gawd, ya'll as bad as she is... I'll get up!" But he didn't.
Ben, however, saw his opening and went for the kill, "Come on, Jimmy, get up now and maybe we can still catch Rebecca before she goes to her first session..."
Jimmy looked up from under his pillow squinting in the morning light, "You think we still got time?"
"If you get your ass moving... let's go!" Ben said.
Jimmy layed back down for another micro-second of rest before he popped out of bed and started getting ready in a flurry of activity. Ben flicked on the T.V. and caught up on the morning news before switching over to MTV. He was watching another episode in the Real World marathon when Jimmy came out of the bathroom.
"Do ya always gotta watch that garbage?" Jimmy asked. Good. He was his usually surly morning self. Several diet-Pepsi's would be needed before he was even halfway civil to those around him.
Jimmy was a smallish man with a stylish beard (if beard's can be considered stylish) and his thin blonde hair showed signs of male pattern baldness. And though he was a programmer, he wore cooler rounded glasses instead of the traditional squarish engineers glasses with the double bridge over the nose. He got dressed somewhat shabbily in Dockers, a striped button down shirt and a pair of old boat shoes that were the fashion in 1989.
Ben continued to scan multiple T.V. channels as Jimmy quickly got dressed. If they were to catch Rebecca, they would have to hurry.
Rebecca Haring was a 23 year old Cal graduate and one of the newest additions to XLCom's San Francisco office. She had taken a liking to Jimmy and spent a great deal of time buttering him up. And though Jimmy was happily married, Rebecca's attentions were something of a secret joy. Secret to everyone except Ben, who most likely spent more time with Jimmy than anyone, including his wife.
Not that Ben and Jimmy hung out socially. Ben was 25, almost 26, and single. When they parted at night after what were usually long hours in the office, Jimmy went home to his wife and daughter and Ben went home to Abby and John. Despite his best efforts, Ben rarely left the office within 10 hours of arriving and thus was adamantly opposed to even the mention of work outside of the office. Jimmy however, rarely talked of much else.
The reasons for Rebecca's attentions were a mystery to both of them. Ben assumed that it had to do something with the Old Spice that Jimmy wore, or maybe she was hoping for some programming tips, though she seemed more likely to be on a management track. She was beautiful and charismatic and her parents were somewhat wealthy which allowed her to look and dress the part of someone much higher up on the corporate ladder. In a company like XLCom where image often prevailed over substance, hers was a perfect formula for climbing that ladder quickly.
"I wonder what her deal is..." Ben asked aloud. They were rushing to the main lodge and he was lost in thought about Rebecca.
Jimmy, however, assumed he was talking about T.J. who was standing at the doorway to the lodge like a school teacher before the morning bell.
"What a bitch!" Jimmy hissed in a low breath.
"Hey T.J.!" Ben smiled and yelled over to the school marm. "How are you doing this morning? Sleep well?"