Random song: Bound 2, Kanye West
Is there an Ancient History department in IT? Dana felt that she should major in it before tackling this mess. The contract paid well, but next time, when someone told her that she’d be working on an older program, she’d demand to know exactly HOW OLD.
That’s not actually fair. There are still a lot of people that use the pre-.NET Visual Basic, which is why Microsoft keeps extending support for it. But oh my Zod, what a pain…
“Could be worse, sweetie,” Neil said, his sexy voice coming through the speaker. “At least the OS is fairly recent.”
She laughed, not realizing she’d been speaking out loud. “I’ll thank you for all your annoying optimism once I finish researching archaic ways of binding two properties.”
That made her laugh even harder. “Like you’d know!”
I worked, though. Neil hadn’t always known that humor was the right approach to unknot her mental muscles, but he’d learned more with every job.
She stretched, rolling her shoulders while keeping her eyes glued to the articles. “12. The four magic constants of the apocalypse: Nothing, Null, Empty, and Error. “ Oh Verity, you understand my pain! Speaking of, her shoulders were seriously knotted. She did the ‘chest circles’ that she’d learned in bellydance class. She had a whole repertoire of exercises to keep her from cramping up, without having to stop working.
Dana didn’t need to look over to get to her beef jerky & Coke Zero, either. She didn’t admit in polite company the longest time she’d ever sat in front of her monitor all at once, but it was the programmer’s version of a pissing contest. Coding is the ultimate “I’ll stop just as soon as I finish this one thing…” activity. She couldn’t explain it, but she wasn’t alone; she went to school with people who quit coding completely and switched majors because they’d sit down to code and not stop for days. Seriously. Days.
She wasn’t that bad for most of her career. She’d worked in an office, had regular hours, and they couldn’t take client projects home for security/privacy reasons. Not having to study at night anymore, she could get out, meet people, have a life. Of course, that life mostly consisted of computer talk over wings & beer, but it was “out”, it was social, and it was fun. No one seemed to object but her mother, who’d been hoping for the type of daughter she could go mall shopping with. Dana would jokingly offer to take her mom with her to Fry’s Electronics, and Mom even went once, for laughs. Of course, the last laugh was on Dana when her mom thought the stick-on ‘skins’ for her computer were awesome, rather than stupid. She threatened to not stand at the register with her mom. Mom reminded her of how often Dana had said that in her teen years. They laughed & grabbed a couple of impulse-buy chocolate bars.
“You still there, Dana? Did VB win? Do I need to avenge you?”
She managed not to spit the mouthful of Coke Zero she’d just taken onto the keyboard as she laughed. “It’ll never take me. I shall be victorious. THIS IS SPARTA!”
“Oh, Dana. You know that the Spartans were wiped out.”
“It was a stupid movie anyway.”
“I see that you have the very short ‘A History of Sparta’ right here. Don’t make me read it to you.”
“Actually, I’d like that. You know that music just distracts me; it would be nice to not sit in silence.” She wasn’t sure why she hadn’t turned on the TV tonight, but it was working out nicely. “You’ve never read me a story,” she teased. “Very romantic.”
“Yes,” Neil replied, sarcasm intended. “A very romantic textbook.”
“Mmmmm. You know just what I like.”
She grinned as he started reading, minimized the tabs containing her research, and dove back into the lines of code.
“Already?” she sighed. Time went too fast. “What other books have I got in there?”
“I’m not real, you know.”
Her mind was yanked out of the screen and back into the room, her eyes automatically shifting to the clock. She remembered what she seemed to forget every night – her alarm. While customizing her cool new NIIL operating system with the deep, sexy tones of a voice-over actor, she realized that she needed an alarm to let her know that 10 hours out of a 24 hour period of programming was enough. Bells, buzzers, songs … all annoying and intrusive, and she was more likely to hit it like a snooze alarm and just keep working.
“I know, Neil. You’re still my favorite person to talk to.” She stretched her arms up for real, letting her eyes close. She’d tried a variety of phrases to get herself to stop. One day, joking around, she’d called him her ‘work boyfriend’, and he’d reminded her that he didn’t really exist. Slightly disappointed, she’d logged off and went out. It had worked ever since.
“Don’t forget to eat something.”
Dana smiled at the screen as the auto save-and-shut-down started.