RogerBW's Blog

The Job From Hell 01 June 2014

It seems that everyone who's worked in more than a few jobs has had one like this. This one was mine.

Obviously I'm not going to name the company. The director did the interview himself, and was more interested in the scholarship I got at school than in anything I'd done since. That should have been a warning sign.

They mostly sold Netware to big stupid clients like hotels that didn't know any better. Actually it was a full tech package, everything from replacing toner in the printer to rewiring a building for cat5. But they liked Netware.

They didn't like things that didn't fit into the Netware paradigm, like SMTP mail. Netware seems to have encouraged this approach. One of the customers called up to ask why he was only getting about 128K out of his 2M leased line. I had a poke at the edge router and discovered that the rest of the capacity was being taken up by spam. Turns out that Netware had a feature called "road warrior", letting salesmen on the road send email through a company's main server. It used no authentication or security; it was in fact a good old-fashioned open mail relay. I raised a bug, and was told "working as designed, nobody else considers this a problem" (though it was fixed within a month in the next Netware maintenance release).

The company had brought me in, in theory, to build intranets, because intranets were going to be the next big thing. They didn't know what an intranet was, and their clients certainly didn't.

The sales guy claimed to be an Ac-Tor. I think he must have been retired rather than resting; he never seemed to be on the phone to his agent. His idea of getting a sale was to cold-call someone off an out-of-date list, then swear at them when they didn't want to buy the service. I don't know what happened to him; first I heard of his departure was when I found a note for the cleaners telling them not to let him into the office.

The techie (boss' fair-haired boy) was a Linux God. Just ask him. Being fair to him, he did know his way around Netware, and he'd been the only Linux guy before I turned up. He could set up a RedHat box to get PHP and MySQL running (as long as it had a grunty enough video card for his preferred desktop). Remote access was a deep mystery to him. One of my jobs was to teach him stuff; unfortunately, when he asked "how do I do X", what he wanted was not the way to learn to do X ("read man pages Y and Z") but a list of instructions to follow, with no branch-points or feedback. I privately thought of him as the Human Batch File. I don't suppose he liked me much either.

Tags: anecdote

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More Job From Hell


  1. Posted by Michael Cule at 10:54am on 01 June 2014

    Cha! Indoor work, sitting down, no heavy lifting... Young people today don't know they're born!

    Mind you that was what I used to say to myself when I was stuck in the Civil Service and trying to avoid noticing how much of my soul was ablating away.

    My worst jobs tended to last very short periods of time. The temp job at the bakery only lasted a day. The one where I was playing Thor with a foam rubber Mjolnir only a week though it seemed like an eternity at the time.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:03pm on 01 June 2014

    This was worse than the Civil Service job I did briefly, that everyone involved knew was completely pointless.

    Did the hammer come back? (Did it need a cord to do so?)

  3. Posted by Michael Cule at 10:48pm on 01 June 2014

    All right: the story of me playing Thor. It was in the 80s and all the professional work I'd had up to that point was in Childrens' Theatre, going around schools and Being Entertaining and Educational at the same time, which is a neat trick if you can manage it.

    I got this gig for a week working for an Icelandic Childrens' Theatre that was coming over to do a turn at the Arts Theatre in Soho who had a kids subsidiary. For some reason they had left their Thor behind in Iceland.

    Thing was the big schtick of Thor was throwing his hammer around the world. Throw off one side of the stage, catch it coming back the other. And this may have worked well enough in the smaller venues in Iceland but not on a West End stage, even one of the smaller ones.

    And the hammer was,as I said, foam rubber. Not even slightly weighted. I pointed out the problems implicit in this but they quoted Health And Safety Issues at me. Such a thing is not naturally aerodynamic.

    Can you count the ways this can go wrong? Hammer fails to reach the exit side. Hammer fails to reach me when it comes back again. I fail to catch it. Sometimes a combination of these. All of it seemed to happen at one performance or another in front of a horde of deeply sarcastic and riotous London schoolkids. I have seldom had more cause to be grateful for the fact that being an actor involves jobs that don't last forever.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 09:21am on 02 June 2014

    The hammer comes on at one side before it's gone off at the other...

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