Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The confession; Chistmas party

Kathy S. was Steve’s last manager as an employee at the State of Michigan. Recently Kathy sent us an email saying that she is retiring before the end of the year. This sparked Steve’s memories of the three years he worked for Kathy, and in particular, one incident which he has shared with no one except Marcia.

When he first worked for Kathy, Steve’s job was installing new servers at the three Lansing-area computer centers. They would arrive in large boxes from Dell and HP. He would unbox them, place them into preassigned racks, and hook up all of the wiring necessary to prepare them for the computer techs who loaded the software and put them online. The majority of the installations were done at one site, so Steve was given a computer and space to more-or-less set up an office in a room across the hall from his delivery storage room.

To understand “the rest of the story,” it will help to have some background. At the time we were very familiar with the Jerry Seinfeld Show. We’d seen the reruns often enough that, when talking with other Seinfeld fans, we could make one another laugh simply by mentioning an incident from one of the episodes, such as “calzones,” “serenity now,” or “toothbrush in the toilet.” Some of you readers know exactly what we’re talking about.

There was one particular episode in which Jerry had a man install new cabinets in his apartment. As it turned out, Jerry hated them and had them ripped out. However, George Costanza was inspired to have the handyman come to his office in Yankee stadium, where he was an executive – that in itself is laughable if you know George – and he had the man build a bed underneath (basically into) his desk. George spent his days sleeping right in his own office, and whenever anyone came to the office and didn’t find him there, would assumed he was hard at work someplace else. Eventually George was discovered in his hideout by the grandchildren of Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, but the kids kept their mouths shut and he did not get caught.

One day, after seeing this episode, Steve was in his tiny converted storeroom “office” and the thought occurred to him: would it be possible to set up a sleeping area right there? He was sitting at a desk like those that have become so popular, the ones where modular walls and cabinets and drawers and desks are set up in huge office spaces, creating mazes of virtually identical boring cubicles. However, in Steve’s case he had just enough pieces to hold up a desk with a cabinet above it, but not enough for an actual cubicle. To the left as he sat at the desk was the door, and beyond that another desk, also of modular design. The space under the second desk was empty except for the carpet. Because of all the trash created each time computer servers were unboxed, a large rolling trash box was also kept in the room. It was as tall as the desktop and slightly shorter.

So the idea hit him: if I could get under the desk and manage to pull the box up next to myself, I would have a perfect little hiding place. Now before we go any further, Steve just wants to assure Kathy and his fellow State workers that he had no intention of actually using this as a place to shirk his duties and take naps, but he just had to see if it would work – must have been that voice in everyone’s head that says, “Go ahead, see if you can do it.” So that’s what he did. It was winter, so Steve was wearing his cowboy boots and had his winter coat with him. He kept his boots on, since if someone came in and saw them ‘unoccupied’ he would know Steve must be very nearby. He took the coat, rolled it into a pillow, and crawled under the desk. He was able to roll the trash bin into place, and for a couple of minutes he lay there in semi-darkness just kind of laughing to himself, thinking that indeed this might work.

Moments later, just as he was about to get up, Steve heard Joe C., the computer room manager. Joe was talking in his usual loud voice, and he was obviously with someone. Steve could hear him say, “We’ll get Steve to help you.” Steve froze, thinking, “Oh, crap, now what?” Sure enough the door opened – Joe was one of the very few who had a key – and in walked Joe with someone whose voice Steve did not recognize. He thought, “What am I going to do if they spot me under the desk?” The box was a good foot shorter than the desk space, so his cowboy boots were visible past the end of the box. He couldn’t curl himself more tightly because any movement might have given him away. Fortunately his boots were against the far wall and Joe had no reason to go that far into the room. Steve could actually see Joe through a slit between the desk and the box. Steve held his breath as Joe said, “I just can’t understand it, Steve is usually here.” Then they left the room to look for him elsewhere in the data center. Steve quickly scrambled up, went quietly out of the room, and walked in the opposite direction from the one which they had taken, managing to soon be found by Joe and companion.

As you can imagine, Steve never again crawled under that desk. But it still makes him smile to think of himself hiding under there, hoping that Joe would not spot him, and wondering what he would have said if Joe had.

At least here on Corregidor, if Steve needs to hide from Marcia there are hundreds of caves where she’d never find him…but who knows what else might be hiding there?

We wish Kathy S. a very happy time in retirement, and hope that we can visit with her and some of the gang next summer. Our best wishes also to Al S., Steve’s good friend and co-worker, who also recently took advantage of a State of Michigan early-retirement offer.

In answer to last week’s question of how a beam of sunlight that passes through a round hole could project an apple-shape, two of our readers got the right answer. The wall on which the light fell is not smooth, but seamed and curved. If you look at the enclosed picture, “Parachute Dome,” you can see the exterior ribbing on the dome. Indented seams on the inside correspond with these ribs. Looking at the interior, each panel has a recessed spine which splits into curves going right and left at its lower portion. Thus the light has to travel further into the spine, and this causes the apple-shaped distortion in “Sunspot one.” In “Sunspot two” the sunlight is centered near one of the indented seams, so the sunspot shape is elongated at the top as it covers the curves of the two panels, resembling a shield in shape. So far, no one has proposed a better word for the projected sunlight which we called a sunspot.

Finally, last night was the annual all-island Christmas party. School is out, so many of the staff-members’ children are here. A good time was had by all, with plenty to eat and drink as well as games, music, and dancing, with some dances led by a professional instructor from Metro-Manila who came with our friend Beth. We’ve included a few pictures from the festivities.

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