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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Issue: Games: Exploitation



A medium time ago I tested for one of the old guard companies. My hair was a nappy brier patch imitating dreadlocks that I hid it under a big grey wool cap. After a while people began to refer to me as "Black in the hat," because I wore the hat everyday as I couldn't afford to get my hair fixed at the time.  But I didn't mind the Dr. Seuss reference much because most people couldn't pronounce my real name correctly anyway.

Our bosses boss was a guy that never smiled and dressed in a manner that would be referred to outside of work environments as a "Cholo." Our bosses were scared of him as much as we were terrified of them. He referred to almost everyone as "Hammerhead." Producers were hammerheads, security personnel were hammerheads, landscapers were hammerheads, e.t.c...

The first time I ever directly talked to him was around the end of my second year there. Temp testers of that working length were summoned to his office one at a time for a raise review. I was led to his office by the temporary staffing onsite rep, it was a new part of the building for me. Everything was dark and quiet, all the doors were closed, but you could almost hear people talking behind them.

When we got to his office the rep introduced me by birth name and excused herself quickly. He nodded toward her without saying a word and waved me in. I put on my best thizz face, a thizz face is a form of disguise you wear to hide your emotions. For instance, at that moment I was very scared. If someone lightly tapped me on my stomach, I would have no doubt shit myself. So I put on my thizz face to fool the guy that was making me scared into thinking I wasn't.

He stares through me for a few beats, not at me, through me, as if he saw a quarter behind me and understands he has to kill me to get to it, but isn't too worried about the killing me part. Then out of nowhere he perks up and says, "They call you Black in the hat, right? Yeah, I heard that name around. Take off your hat." I told him I couldn't, he responded, "What is it stapled on, hammerhead? Take your fukin' hat off."

I took it off. He stared in wonder for a few beats, then began laughing hysterically. After a moment I started laughing too, at first out of nervousness, but then because I realized his laugh sounded like a little girls.

When we both calmed down he said, "Damn holmes, I know your momma would kill you if she knew you were walking around like that, c'mon now, you don't gotta be all three piece suit, but you can't be walking around work looking like a crackhead." I agreed, and he was right, she would.

We started talking about my progress as a tester. He said he had seen my bugs and they were some of the cleanest he had run across. He said that my lead was impressed at how I handled TRC, one of the worst assignments on the floor, which surprised me, because I was convinced my lead hated me. I only took the assignment because I saw no one talked to the TRC guy unless it was important, and I just wanted people to leave me alone.

He told me that I had what it took to get where he was, and that my only problem was I never communicated or stood up for my issues. He said "People out there talk shit on you, they talk shit on me, that's just how it is, but you keep showing up and writing good bugs when most hammerheads check out at the first speed bump, and keep that, but also stop being such a pussy."

He gave me a dollar raise and told me to get out. It was and still is the best raise I have ever received.

I was on vacation (unemployed) for about a month before I received a call to test another title. I showed up to find that the Cholo boss was gone, and his replacement called a department meeting to introduce himself. He rode a motorcycle, smiled constantly, and wore Guile's haircut, which he was constantly preening. He introduced himself and gave a speech about changes and revenue streams and respect for what we do. At the end of his speech he welcomed any input that would help him help testers, he said "Because to me that is the only reason I am in this industry."

I saw this as an opportunity, during the last vacation I had been kicking around the idea of post title surveys, the tester would fill out a form detailing the titles and duties he/she felt most comfortable testing, so returning testers and leads wouldn't have to spend the first weeks figuring out where to put the vets. So I raised my hand and suggested it to him, a lot of people were surprised, as it was the first time they had heard me say anything.

The guy with Guile's haircut looked confused at first, then a bit angry. He said, "I love that idea, but I think it needs some work, write up a proposal and bring it to my office when you are done."

After the meeting let out my buddies congratulated me on getting myself laid off in the most spectacularly stupid way possible. Other people hadn't heard me speak, but people that knew me knew I wouldn't shut up when I thought I had a good idea, and just had to tell everybody around me, with predictable results.

I spent a week writing up the documents he asked for after my crunch time shifts, I went to my old work and bought a manila envelope to put them in, all businesslike. I woke up early and walked myself to his office, I knew the way because he was in the cholo's old office.

The door was open and I saw him talking on the phone, when he saw me he raised a finger to let me know he was on the phone and to shut the fuck up for the duration. He glanced up once during his conversation and noticed the manila envelope. He motioned toward the envelope then to the edge of his desk, so I put the envelope on the desk.

When he finished his conversation he tussled his hair then looked at me. He said, "And you are?" I said, "I pitched an idea in the meeting, you asked me to put something together for you." He put his hands on the folder but didn't open it.

He said, "Listen, I remember what you said, but you have to understand that a business has a lot of moving parts, and what you are trying to accomplish here, while admirable, is just not realistic. Now I don't know if you are making a power play here, or what you are trying to do, but I suggest you just focus on your current job and let me get this department moving forward, because that is what they pay me for. Take Care."

 I think he thought I wanted to unionize, when all I wanted was to have first pick at TRC on new titles. I never heard from him again. But I did see him again. It was much later and I was doing the same job only for another place.

Everybody on my new team had been working the job for years as a career, we had our good days and bad days, but we got by. One day a coworker begins laughing hysterically and calls for the team to come and see what is so funny.

We all huddled around a computer screen and watched a bunch of regular people all jumping and falling and scheming to get the job I had worked so long ago, and cousin to the one we were currently working. It was billed as a "Dream Job." Then I noticed the guy making it happen had a familiar haircut, looked like Guile from street fighter. We couldn't stop laughing.

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