Part five of ‘The man who dated his RL boss (without her knowing it).’
At work, he couldn’t stop looking at her. Once the fear and panic had subsided, a glow of sorts had set in. It wasn’t exactly an ‘afterglow,’ but there was certainly a sprinkling of that mixed in. There was also a strong helping of ‘bizarre’ to be found in those ingredients. This was Vicky Kent he was looking at. Vicky Kent: the most gorgeous and completely unattainable woman in the building. Vicky Kent and he had had sex last night. Vicky Kent!
He looked for some sign that it was on her mind too, perhaps an odd smile here or there, or a stray moment looking out of the window. He found nothing. Immaculately presented as ever, she went about her work with all her normal, everyday exactitude. At lunchtime he decided to send her an email. He did it from his phone. I’ve had a big smile on my face all day. I hope I get to see you again soon. Straight away, he heard her phone do its discreet little double buzz from her booth in the corner. Her typing ceased for a few moments. Then there were a few mouse clicks and a short burst of extra fast typing. Nick made sure his phone was on silent. Two seconds after she’d stopped typing and mouse clicked a couple more times, the new message appeared on his phone. Don’t go getting any big ideas, Romeo: I’m not the partnering kind. That said, last night was fun. Let’s talk about what ‘more’ might look like tonight.
He almost let out a little groan. More! He went to the bathroom to splash water on his face. He came back and found her waiting at his desk.
“Nick,” she said, and he felt a sinkhole open up within his stomach. Oh my God, he thought, she’s found out somehow.
“Yes, Vicky?” his voice came out as a squeak. He cleared his throat. “How can I help you?”
“The legacy audit. Where are we on that?”
“The legacy audit,” he repeated. “It’s in progress.”
“I could do with an idea of when it’ll be completed,” she told him. “I’ve been asked if it will be done by the end of the month.”
“By the end of the month?” he exclaimed. Suddenly, it was Vicky Kent again in front of him – his boss – and Curiosity Redgrave disappeared into the land of distant, abstract concept. “But Vicky, that’s potentially hundreds – potentially thousands – of Excel sheets and macros to be categorised.”
“If I asked you to do only that between now and then would it be doable?”
He let out a long breath. “I don’t know. Maybe. It might need some all-nighters.”
“Is there any way I can help?”
“Not really,” he said. “Actually, yes. Half the work is in describing the function of individual routines. If I put that down in note form, would you be able to tidy it up?”
“That sounds like a reasonable suggestion. I’ll see if I can get the time from Stuart and get back to you.” Stuart was Vicky’s own manager. It was very unlikely that he would say no to her. She disappeared back into her booth to make the call and Nick nearly collapsed into his seat.
Bizarre. It was the only word for it.
The legacy audit was a cataloguing of all the bits and pieces, all the nick-nack Excel macros and Access on-the-fly solutions cobbled together over the years for all those little, non-automated problems. Silently, these scraps of code had grown, multiplied, accumulated, clogged up the flow of information, held the company quietly and unofficially to ransom in the hands of that sprinkling of employees unknown to the system as the keepers of the nooks and crannies of procedural knowledge. IPSIS handled ninety-nine per cent of data movement, but what did you do when its output wasn’t the right format for a new client system or one of the latest government online forms that would probably end up disappearing just as quickly as it had come into existence? Surely no-one seriously expected people to enter all that stuff by hand? Nick was as guilty as the rest of them. One of the first jobs he’d done when he started with the company was to write a program in QBASIC that would rip apart one database and reassemble it in the format of another. It was meant to be a one-off operation at first, but then one of those watercooler conversations had taken place: Nick, did I hear right that you’ve put together something that reads from ELLII and writes to CARD PLUS? Is there any possibility we could turn that into a live system for our Cadwell ordering?
And that was just the algorithms associated with the main business. When you got into the day-to-day running of subsidiary divisions such as Human Resources and Business Support then the number of unofficial fragments exploded. They were everywhere, these little, symbiotic parasites. And now Head Office wanted them all killed off. Every last one of them. The starting point was identifying every single home-made procedure in the company and the function it served. Once the size of the problem was known, new code could then be added to the already bloated IPSIS to take care of those tasks. If the first job was large, the second was absolutely huge.
On the other hand, thought Nick, it was at least good to know that his job for the next year or so seemed pretty secure. And working that little bit more closely with Vicky could hardly be a bad thing either. She came over to his desk again later that day and asked him to show her the current state of the audit. She sat next to him whilst he scrolled through the spreadsheet (ironically) so far. She was wearing one of her single piece dresses and at one stage her right arm brushed against the skin of his left forearm. It was such a tiny little thing, but he felt the redness rising in his cheeks and goosebumps standing just the same. He hoped she hadn’t noticed. It became clear that the the end of the month wouldn’t be doable even with her help tidying up his notes and they agreed on some weekend overtime that should have been at time-and-a-half, but she managed to negotiate double time for him on the grounds that it was short notice. “This is probably the wrong time to be saying this,” he told her, “seeing as how you’ve just put nearly three hundred quid in my pocket, but you’re a good boss. I’m really glad I work for you. I probably don’t show that enough.” She sat back, a big, surprised smile on her face. “Thank you, Nick! I really appreciate that.”
That evening, he opened up a message box to her with the question, “Good day?”
“Actually yes!” she replied. “One of my co-workers paid me a lovely compliment.” Co-worker, he thought. It wasn’t important to her in the slightest that he know she had people working for her. “It was such a nice surprise. I wrote it down in my diary as soon as I got home.”
“You keep a diary?” he asked her.
“A gratitude diary. I try to put down two to three things in there every day.”
“Does that help?”
“Help? Help with what?”
She laughed. “Well I can’t say whether it helps or not with that. It’s just something I’ve done for a while now. It’s become part of who I am. You should try it. They do say it’s good for you.”
“Gratitude diary, eh?”
“Two to three things every day. Think of them as pieces of psychological fruit or veg.”
“And only things that people say to me or do for me?”
“Or do to you,” she said with a laugh, which got a fist pump from Nick. “Actually, sometimes I might record stuff that’s nothing to do with anybody, such as some lovely weather or a nice walk or a delicious meal or great book I just finished reading.”
“Who are you being grateful to when you write down stuff like that?” he asked.
“I dunno. The author? The chef? The universe?”
“Who do I have to thank besides you for last night?”
“Well actually, that’s a good question. You can thank Philip Rosedale for founding Second Life and Linden Lab staff for maintaining it and all kinds of people I’m sure for the internet infrastructure on which SL stands. Then there’s the people who maintain your internet connection. Then there’s Tim Berners-Lee for inventing the world wide web, without which you would probably never have found out about SL, let alone SL-INK magazine. And you can thank Adobe for the PDF format we upload the magazine in to the ISSUU website. You can thank the ISSUU website. And you can thank Microsoft for the software we use to lay it all out in, and whilst you’re at that you might as well say a thank you to Bill Gates, because whatever people might say about Microsoft, they were a huge factor in the dominance of the PC which led to so much of the standardisation we today take for granted. And no attempt at a comprehensive thank you should miss out Steve Jobs and Apple, because it was the Apple II that arguably resulted in the fast-tracking of the IBM PC, and it was the fast-tracking of the IBM PC that resulted in its open architecture, and it was the open architecture of the IBM PC that led to it becoming so easily copied and therefore the cheap and widespread computer of the masses that has ultimately redefined business and communication all over the world.”
“Should I thank the IBM people too, then?”
She laughed. “That’s just off the top of my head thinking. The point is that few things happen by accident. We live in a world that’s been designed. We have so much to be grateful for. These days we do so little for ourselves: we don’t have to hunt for our food or chop wood to make fires to keep us warm. We can move ourselves around without having to expand hardly any energy at all. And there’s so much entertainment at our disposal the choice is almost overwhelming. When so much is done for us, nothing feels like an accomplishment any more. We lose the sense of pleasure that comes from achieving something. We only notice when things go wrong for us. Think about that. If those are the only things we register then all that happens to us emotionally is we accumulate this massive store of grievance and disappointment and anger. Is it any wonder so many people are so bitter about life? Only when they’re at death’s door – only when they know they have so little time left – do they raise their heads and look around them, and notice just how beautiful the world around them is.”
“By which time,” Cando said,”it’s too late.”
“By which time,” Curiosity confirmed, “it’s too late.”
“Okay. You’ve convinced me. I’ll start a gratitude diary.”
“What will be the first thing that you’ll write in it?” she asked him.
“It will be, ‘Curiosity convinced me to keep this gratitude diary’,” he replied.
Want to read another story by me set in SL? I’ve also serialised ‘The man who had an affair with his wife’ – the first part is here (scroll down past the text on NaNoWriMo to get to it).