VMware / irrelevance
I did tech support for VMware for a while a little over a year ago. It was Ross who found the job for me, and the thing is that I was in no shape to work full-time and interact with the public like that. I tried to explain this to Ross but he told me that it was time that I got my act together again. The thing is that I never remember a time when I did have my act together. But Ross swears that such a time did indeed exist.
The company was expanding rather rapidly because of the whole cloud computing thing, so they took me on without too much fuss. Ross knew one of the managers there quite well anyway.
My first day the HR people took me into a meeting room away from all the cubicles where everyone was speaking into their little headsets and dropped a stack of forms in front of me, and then left me alone to read everything through. Then someone else came in and introduced himself as Corbett. "I used to work with your friend Ross at Adobe," he told me.
Corbett was older than Ross and I, but not by much. He looked like he never got any sleep. "I suppose I have you to thank for all this," I said as we shook hands.
"We don't officially do anyone any favours," Corbett said. "As far as we're all concerned you went through the normal hiring process."
"I did have to do an interview, for what it's worth," I said. "They took me to a little room near the lobby and wrote down nearly everything I said."
"You have a file started," Corbett said. "To be honest I didn't even look at your interview."
"I'll make sure to keep that to myself," I said.
"Ross told me that you've been out of work for a while," he said.
"That's not really true," I told Corbett. "The thing is that I've been living off of next to nothing for a while. I worked part-time at a coffee shop I could walk to from where I lived. That was before Ross decided that he was going to save me from myself."
Corbett laughed at that. "Back at Adobe there we were working on this project once with the marketing people and there was this guy that Ross could not stand. You know, he was young and full of himself and tried to do all the work for the project himself. So we'd meet with these marketing people and then afterwards Ross would rant and rave about how much he hated this kid. He could go on for the rest of the day sometimes. So I told him after a while that he had to stop getting so angry after the fact and confront this guy while we were still all meeting. So a few days later we all got together again and this kid is shooting his mouth off as usual. So Ross finally snaps, and he gets up and grabs this kid's chair and starts pushing it out of the room. You know, the kid tries to get up and Ross just reaches over and pushes him back into place. Ross is pretty strong. You don't want to mess with him. Anyway, he pushes him right out of the meeting room and down the hall and an elevator happens to be opening up just as he walks by. And of course we're all following him to see what he's doing to. So he pushes the chair with the kid in it in the elevator, and he hits some buttons inside and steps out. And then he walked past us and back to the meeting room as if nothing had happened."
"That doesn't like Ross to me," I said.
"Well, maybe it wasn't Ross," Corbett said. "Or maybe I made the whole thing up. But I think you understand what I'm trying to say here."
"I suppose so," I said.
Ross wanted me to move out of the rooming house once I could afford to find another place to live. He dropped by a few days after I got the job at VMware. "This place is awful," he told me. He was sitting in a chair in my room and I was on the bunk bed. Sometimes I had to share my room, but at that time I was lucky enough to be on my own."
"You get used to it, "I told him.
"You shouldn't get used to it, "Ross said."Once you get used to it, you'll be here forever."
"Maybe that's not such a bad thing, "I said."Look at you. Running around all the time. You won't make it to fifty at this rate."
"I have a life I'm building, "Ross said."Once you stop trying to build a life for yourself you vanish off the face of the Earth."
"So far I've managed to stick around, "I said.
"That's not true, "Ross said."Look around you. You're fading away. I can barely see you even from up close."
Ross spotted the VMware binder I had sitting on a table, the only other piece of furniture in the room."So how are things going?"he asked me.
"I'm still not clear what this company does, exactly, "I said.
"They're going in all kinds of different directions, "Ross told me.
"They've had me playing with a whole bunch of stuff, "I said."I try to remember what I learn. I move the mouse around and click on this or that on the screen."
"Nothing you see is really there, "Ross said."It's stored somewhere else. You hardly even need the computer."
"They keep telling me that sort of thing, "I said."I guess that's the point of what they're doing."
"This is the latest thing in technology, "Ross told me."You should be keeping up with these things. You should be subscribing to magazines. There are still some good ones out there. Everyone thinks that everything is online, but that's not really true."
"There's no point in reading anything if I can't remember it, "I said."That's the problem here. I move the mouse around and click things on-screen because they're little booklets tell me to do so. You know, they have their whole training package. I take notes and I put them in that binder you were eyeing. But I'm only going through the motions."
"You're doing fine, "Ross said."You're remembering more than you think, I'm sure."
"Corbett was telling me stories about you from back when you were both at Adobe, "I said.
"I never liked Corbett all that much, "Ross said."I have to admit that to you. He's a good person to know. Don't get me wrong. But you can't really trust him."
"That's the impression I got of him as well, "I told him.
"There are some people you have to put up with because you can get things from them, "Ross said."That sounds like a terrible thing to say. But we have to accept the world as it is."
"I can't even remember how long ago it was that you worked there, "I said.
"I left about three years ago, "Ross told me.
"Three years ago, "I repeated."So what was I doing then?"
"I couldn't tell you, "Ross told me."It's not important."
"Of course it's important, "I said."I just can't remember."
"If you can't remember, it's not important, "Ross said."That's the way it goes."
I squeezed my forehead, as if that would help the process of recollection."I was living in San Mateo for a while, "I said.
"You never lived in San Mateo, "Ross told me.
"Of course I did, "I said.
"I know for a fact that you didn't, "Ross told me.
"We've lost touch for long stretches sometimes, "I said."Probably I lived there during one of those periods."
"We've never been out of contact for more than a few months since I've known you, "Ross said.
"That's not true, "I said.
"I'm afraid it is, "Ross told me.
"Everyone's lying to me, "I said."I can't figure it out. It's like some secret plot you're all in on."
"You're tired, "Ross said."Or living here is making you paranoid. There are some strange characters about."
"They're harmless, "I said."Everyone here is harmless. You're the outsider. They're afraid of you."
"Well, I have to go anyway, "Ross said.
"You're always coming and going, "I told him."I don't think we've ever had a conversation that lasted more than twenty minutes. I don't remember how I even got to know you. Where do you come from?"
"You're talking nonsense now, "Ross said."Rest up. You don't want to sound that way at work."
My training went on for another week or so. And then one morning Corbett dropped by and told me to come to his office. There was a chair set up across from his desk.
"This isn't going to work out, "Corbett said."I'm sorry."
"That's it?"I said."I haven't even tried a phone call."
"I'm not comfortable with you doing that, "Corbett told me."It's better to end things now."
"I know I'm having some trouble with the training program, "I said."It's a lot to learn. I'm doing my best."
"That's not the problem, "Corbett said."There's a lot to learn. You've been doing fine. To be honest with you, I don't even know what this company is up to half the time. So, you see, maybe you're better off by going."
"Does this have to do with Ross?"I said.
Corbett was silent for a moment."You shouldn't trust Ross, "he then said.
"So I'm right, "I said."He's pulling the plug on this."
"I didn't say that, "Corbett said.
"Of course you wouldn't come right out and tell me, "I said.
"This has nothing to do with Ross, "I said."What I'm saying is that you shouldn't trust him."
"We're not exactly close friends, "I said."He just did me this favour."
"How do you even know him in the first place?"Corbett asked me.
"It's a funny thing, "I said."I've been trying to figure that out myself."
"So you can't remember, "Corbett said.
"I've been living around here for nearly a decade, "I said."I've met lots of people."
"It doesn't sound to me like you know anybody, "Corbett said.
"I know plenty of people, "I said.
"You know Ross, "Corbett said."And you don't even know him that well. You don't know him well enough not to trust him."
We were both quiet for a while after that."Can you help me find something else?"I finally said."Something I can actually do?"
"I couldn't recommend you to anyone in good conscience, "Corbett said.
"At least you're honest, "I said.
"You need to stop listening to Ross, "Corbett said.
"I'm starting to realize that now, " I said.