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Funny Speculative

“I’m so glad you’re here to help me,” he said, like he was the most grateful person in the world. “Where shall we start?”

“Talk me through it from the beginning and tell me what you know,” I unenthusiastically replied.

I didn’t want to be here. I knew what they were doing – those management nabobs on the top floor, sitting around talking about their golf handicaps and weekend getaways to Monaco. They were replacing me. After twenty loyal years of database management, they’re trading me in for a newer model with more memory retention. Heck, I’m nowhere near legal retirement age, but I am teetering on the edge of the unspoken ageist ledge, wondering which one of the new young bucks will give me the shove. It’s probably this clown I’m supposed to mentor on database access and design.

“You’re a legend,” he said, trying to butter me up. “You know, setting all of this up.”

He was referring to the installation of hardware, desks, and chairs in his new small windowless office that resembled more of a broom closet than a control centre for corporate computing. I was not about to brag about how I single-handedly dragged the company into the digital age when its finance director was still using paper ledgers. That’s the stuff of legends.

Isn’t it funny how the term legend used to refer to someone doing something brave or achieving great things in life. Nowadays, there are legends making tea and coffee for everyone, and fetching a spare chair into a meeting, or they are given the accolade just for agreeing to mentor someone they don’t want to.

The words, You’re a legend, have replaced any sincerity an old fashioned thank you would have accomplished in the past.

You brought me the latest printout of our floor plan. You’re a legend. Two sugars, please, Legend. Hold the elevator door! Yes! You’re a…”

He broke my condescending daydream by asking me a question that triggered my lack of sensitivity.

 “The pre-cloud era must have been tricky to navigate, yeah?” The fresh-off-the-graduate-boat-newbie commented in the shape of a question – I think.

“Yep,” I said, sarcastically. “Back then, it was all on the ground. Then, almost overnight, servers sprouted wings.”

My cynicism was lost on his youthful brain. He’s in learning mode and years away from flippant mode – one of the stages of human mental growth, along with facetiousness, sarcasm, and cynicism. I’m almost at the end of my sarcastic stage, but no matter how much I may have misinterpreted flippant comments from my mentors, I never found myself oblivious to dry humour. It’s sarcasm plus comedy.

Ignorance may be bliss, but his generation think they invented data. Call it what you will, but servers are servers. Nothing has changed except speed and capacity, plus another thousand ways to make those ones and zeroes dance to the iTunes. Sorry, that was glib - not dry.

Why does every generation think they need to reinvent the wheel?

Think outside the box, people! Come up with something new and innovative. The Cloud is nothing more than a bunch of servers sitting offshore somewhere in some foreign land or hidden away much closer to home in a high security building with cameras and sensors and instant armed responders - in case of attack. They’re not floating in the air somewhere up in the stratosphere - as Elon Musk would let you think. Servers are tangible objects of data storage and processing, and undoubtedly reside on Terra Ferma. Hence, the need for physical protection.  

The truth is, if anyone is going to break into a data centre, it won’t be in person – unless they’re stealing coffee and donuts. That’s a fact. What’s the point of guarding every entrance to a building, when some careless engineer can inadvertently - or intentionally, leave your digital back door open to foreign government agents constantly knocking on the door to see if you’re not home – so they can rummage through your digital lingerie draw and leave you with a ransom note to pay up or forever be locked out of your favourite porn website.

No, nothing lives in a cloud. As much as we have conquered the challenge of flight, nothing resides in the air above us, but air.

Thomas Edison’s theory about all ideas being in the air, saying all we needed to do was to reach up and grab one, is only something a successful inventor could say. Hey, look. When you’ve got nothing else to do but invent, ideas come quickly. A clear mind is a greenhouse of invention.

Did you know that Edison held over one thousand patents to his name? However, as someone who is synonymous with power companies, it took someone else to invent the lightbulb – although Edison did try his hardest to take credit for it by expanding on the invention. Okay, so he invented the phonograph, the alkaline battery, and started the trend of saying “Hello” when we answer a phone call. That one amuses me. People back then would say hello when greeting each other in person, but before Thomas Edison uttered those words down a telephone line – and I’m not talking about the telephone he invented claiming it could speak to the dead. I’m referring to the one connected to the land of the living. No, before the customary “Hello” over the phone, people used to say, “Are you there?” Some even used phrases like “Do I get you?” Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, used to shout “Ahoy” to begin his conversations. Yeah, I’ll give praise where it’s due, Mr Edison. Without your telephone greeting, we might all still be talking like pirates.

The funny thing is that I find myself asking a similar question about this young underling posturing for my job. “Do I get you?” I mean, I didn’t even know you before today, but suddenly I sense the winds of change blowing down the elevator shaft, dragging me with them through reception and out the large glass front doors, ceremoniously consigning me to the retired corps.

“We’re adding some personnel to your department,” the bosses explained. “What if something happened to you? We’d lose all that knowledge,” they reasoned.

No, they are cost-cutting. He is simply a lot cheaper than me. I may not be up there on the sixteenth floor looking over the city and distant fields, but I can certainly see the horizon of my exit from here.

I get it. My lack of documenting processes and instructions has led them to re-think my position. It’s all in my head, so they’re just protecting their intellectual property. I just don’t like change. Who does? It’s a human trait to resist change.

“What do you know about data?” I ask – kicking off our one-on-one session.

“Well,” he began. “We need data to process and turn it into meaningful information.”

I wasn’t expecting that. Maybe, he’s smarter than his blonde curly surfer-looking locks make him appear.

“And what does meaningful information mean to you?” I pressed on.

“It means numbers, sales figures, stock value, performance comparisons,” he astutely answered – impressing me further.

“And from a technological perspective,” I queried. “What importance does it hold?”

I wanted to test him to highlight whether his junior business degree was void of computer science qualifications or not.

“It’s all about storage,” he answered. “What good is data, if you can’t keep it?”

I must admit, I was warming to him. He certainly pulled a big furry rabbit out of my hat. I started to think that if I was to have a successor, he certainly had the right credentials and demeanour for the role.

I was about to become another legend by offering to make him a cup of tea, when he quickly demolished the great building work just completed, by adding, “And where would Grand Theft Auto be without speed and storage? We’d be back in the days of Windows 7.”

Oh, he’s a gamer. Yes. Why am I not surprised? And he’s made a horrible schoolboy error. In my world, we talk about Windows Servers not Windows 7,8,9,10,11, etc. Windows versions process data, Windows Servers store, crunch, collate, and connect with each other in a digital ecosystem steadily growing at exponential rates of intelligence.

I won’t berate him. He’s from a generation that never leaves the Cloud. They just down work tools to pick up a game controller, taking them on fantasy journeys each night until they drop exhausted from lack of sleep. It’s no wonder they fill themselves up with all those energy drinks during the day. It’s their only way of staying awake when the sun is shining – these young, energetic creatures of the night.

I read somewhere about a young man taken to hospital for overdosing on energy drinks. When the doctors opened his shirt to attach an EKG machine to him, they discovered a massive purple bulge sticking out from his chest. Apparently, his heart had enlarged to three times its normal size - all due to an abuse of energy drinks disrupting his heart rhythm and blood pressure. He told the hospital staff that he had been drinking four energy drinks a day for two years. He subsequently spent nearly two months in hospital, mostly in intensive care. After tests revealed failing heart and kidneys, he was put on the transplant list, but died before a donor could be found. The hospital chaplain – ever the eternal joker, said that he was convinced the energy drink abuser flew directly to heaven when he died, because if the commercials are indeed true, the energy drinks definitely gave him wings… Yeah, I know, but it had to be said.

I don’t think that all the young generation are clueless. I’m sure each generation carries that flag. However, it seems that the more technological our society becomes, the more reliant young people are on it. The super information highway provides instant answers to some of life’s most intriguing questions and challenges. But when we depend on the digital age to decide on things for us, we slowly lose the ability to think for ourselves, and this latest generation of graduates show early signs of that, by repeating what they read on social media and believing everything broadcast to them. However, with so much fake information out there, it’s not surprising to witness many of society’s diverse tribes of people morphing into just two major factions. The first group is the believers who think everything they see is real. The second group consist of the doubters of what the believers think is real. We, as a society, are being divided into an anarchist’s vision of the death of society, and the young are buying into it. Division is the corporate oligarch’s way of control - where chaos and turmoil rule supreme. Where despot-led countries can roll into a neighbouring country and make war without fear of the consequences. I wasn’t a Sixties child, but maybe we all need to bring back the slogan, Make Love, Not War. Our parents and grandparents saw the signs, but their protests were quashed – some violently. Why haven’t we rebelled against corporate greed and power? Because we’re too busy being influenced by lobbyists posing as Tik Tokers, numbing the empathisers into not caring, and clouding the clearest of minds with mistruths.

Make Love, Not War, is all lost on the new, young and green questors for life’s answers. They now rule the corridors and hallways of commerce – coerced into standing firm against generational advice about being systematically fooled. But they’re missing the opportunity to take action and remove the fat cats from their gilded recliners – where they watch their supersized computer screens racking up the profits. I was once offered the opportunity to claim the key to the executive washroom, but I ungratefully declined. I would have lost touch with the day-to-day issues of managing data. I thrive in the trenches. I thought, let the Generals watch from their perch, while I storm enemy lines. How wrong I was not to infiltrate them, to manipulate their decisions, and to convince them to share the wealth.

Maybe it is my time to step aside and let tomorrow’s sheep take the reins. What damage could they possibly do? They just need the right kind of guidance to handhold them until they’re ready. But as much as I am enthusiastic about data, I hate having to explain it. Isn’t that what college is for? To learn the basics. Life is the true classroom.

“I’m heading out to lunch,” my young charge announces.

“It’s not yet Noon,” I point out.

“Yeah, I know,” he responds. “But I’m out of here early today to go home and change for your leaving drinks, later.”

I didn’t know what to say, except blurting out an expletive followed by “No-one told me.”

“Yeah,” he insists. “There’s a goodbye Bob banner getting erected in the board room, as we speak.”

I look at him with a dumbfounded expression on my face.

“My name’s not Bob,” I say.

“Oh?” He lingers confused as to who I really am.”

“You’re not Bob?”

“No. I’m Sullie. Head of Data Analytics, the secret subversive,” I joke - in a vain attempt to ease his embarrassment.

The humour still too dry for comprehension, he glosses over it with a foreign language.

“My bad,” he says – using one of the most annoying terminologies the Yanks have ever sent our way. What’s wrong with just saying, I’m sorry? Why does each new generation move away from the simple elocution of our language.

“Got you mixed up with Old Bob,” he added. “I blame it on bad data that HR provided me.”

His first week and he’s already bad-mouthing HR. He’ll do well here. Plus, he has a point. Human Resources no longer do inductions. It’s now called, Onboarding – as if we’re all about to set sail across the oceans of corporate greed on a big and bold adventure called employment. Ah, I realise. Cynicism is finally kicking in. Perhaps, it is time to disembark from this cruise and terminate my employment at the next port of call.

“I hear Old Bob is a legend,” he comments while exiting the office.

I let him leave with his ignorant tail tucked between his spineless legs. Thinks he’s acquired twenty years of my knowledge in one day. Wait until he has to battle with artificial intelligence – when he reaches my age. His expected wealth of knowledge and experience his future self may hold, will be acquired in microseconds. But if you ask me, it will have already been captured, stored, processed, and analysed by then.

Got me mixed up with Old Bob and his termination day, did he? I guess there goes my new legendary status into the annals of whatever…

 

September 28, 2023 06:15

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19 comments

Amanda Lieser
03:55 Oct 20, 2023

Hi Chris! This story is a fascinating portrait on two different generations. I appreciated the narrator’s frustrations and fears about the world. I also liked that he acknowledged the fact that every generation before has felt the same way in one form or another. Perhaps it is simply our human nature to never understand how the young function. It’s also a fascinating portrait of the modern workplace, because so much of that has changed over the past few decades. Most individuals are no longer incentivized to stay dedicated to one employer fo...

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Chris Campbell
05:42 Oct 20, 2023

Thanks, Amanda. For a while - back in the 80s. I discovered that changing jobs every couple of years, upped my salary above the standard cost of living pay raises. Restless and uninspired, I repeated the practice through the 90s. I now find myself earning less than I did in 97, but I have a much bigger sense of accomplishment, more freedom, plus I'm no longer bored. I did try the self-employed path for a couple of decades, but that just got me into trouble with the tax people. I'm happy to be where I currently am. As for the generational div...

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Belladona Vulpa
12:24 Oct 04, 2023

The grumpiness, the sharpness, the humor sprinkled on the story. The reflection on different generations and the flow of thoughts of the character were interesting to follow. Amusing story and with some wisdom. Nice!

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Chris Campbell
12:29 Oct 04, 2023

Thanks, Belladona. Glad to have tickled your funny bone with the grumpiness.

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Danie Holland
10:11 Oct 04, 2023

Chris, this was a buffet of entertainment. I work in information technology and dare I say it, I AM of the younger generation. I still found this to be amusing on many different levels. (Although my drug of choice is coffee and not energy drinks). It's so on the nose with how I have seen many of my favorite skilled and knowledgeable coworkers kicked out for a younger cheaper version. Many times, at the cost of the quality of our product... but you know, money rules the world and all that. A few points you made that I thoroughly enjoyed - ...

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Chris Campbell
12:25 Oct 04, 2023

Danie, What wonderful feedback, thank you. I started in IT in 1983 and have seen great changes in technology, but not so many in how data is processed. I too, was a young and ambitious person trying to climb the corporate ladder. After being laid off several times over the years, I found the best way to increase my income was to contract out my services. I have found that each new generation of IT workers are smarter. The technology proves that. I've managed to stay with the changes - thank goodness. So glad to have hit the mark with so...

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Joe Smallwood
21:18 Oct 03, 2023

LOL: Without your telephone greeting, we might all still be talking like pirates. Then food for thought: Division is the corporate oligarch’s way of control - where chaos and turmoil rule supreme. What I genius idea to have the unwilling mentor be the one being replaced. I must say that prompt drew a blank with me. But if I had thought of your storyline, things would have been different. Enjoyed this. Thanks.

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Chris Campbell
12:27 Oct 04, 2023

Joe, Thanks for your great feedback. This prompt took me a while to produce something. So glad it got you to stop and think and laugh.

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AnneMarie Miles
13:07 Oct 02, 2023

Great story, Chris! It read a bit like an essay with the extended internal monologue/rant, but it worked for this MC. It told us a lot about him and his knowledge as someone who's been doing his job for many years and watching it evolve. The generational discord was presented well this way, too. I'm glad Sullie isn't being replaced. The new generation definitely needs the older ones to keep them grounded. Funny... I dreamt about something similar.. showing some young kids how cassette tapes and VHS's worked - HA! Anyways, this was an enjoyab...

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Chris Campbell
14:18 Oct 02, 2023

AnneMarie, Thank you so much for your great detailed feedback. It is my belief that experience counts for everything; however, the knowledge must be passed on, whether enthused about it or not. I think "Old" Sullie was just exercising his grumpiness that advanced years can bring on. So glad you liked it.

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AnneMarie Miles
15:02 Oct 02, 2023

I would agree - experience matters over anything else, but enthusiasm makes everything a little easier. And there is certainly something to be said for positive thinking!

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Mary Bendickson
17:05 Sep 29, 2023

Legendary, indeed! Think I'll have my hubby read this one. Reminded me of him the whole way. I let him read it. He chuckled all the way through. He has been onboarded so many times in his contract world he has sailed the seven seas. Thanks for liking my Where the Wild Things Aren't

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Chris Campbell
02:05 Sep 30, 2023

Thanks, Mary. He must be of my era. 🤣 ...And a legend.

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Tom Skye
21:14 Sep 28, 2023

Great work. You clearly have a very broad knowledge of many things which really props up work like this well. It can be exhilarating reading at times. I really enjoyed this, ya legend!

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Chris Campbell
05:26 Sep 29, 2023

Thanks, Tom. I've been around a bit and lived on three continents, so that has helped. The Internet is also a great educator - whether good or bad. Thank you for your kind comments.

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Michelle Oliver
13:22 Sep 28, 2023

Two Chris Campbell stories in one week, a smorgasbord! This story has a very interesting internal monologue that reads almost like an essay. I love the stages of human mental growth… learning mode, flippant mode facetiousness, sarcasm, and cynicism. And the moment when the narrator realises that they are moving to the next stage of cynicism, this metaphor is so apt. “It’s now called, Onboarding – as if we’re all about to set sail across the oceans of corporate greed on a big and bold adventure called employment” An entertaining yet strang...

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Chris Campbell
14:46 Sep 28, 2023

Thanks, Michelle. I had this one wanting to come out while writing the other. Yes, it was a little bit of a running commentary with a bit of satire added, but I wanted to see how far I could grumble about not wanting to mentor someone. 🤣

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Michelle Oliver
14:51 Sep 28, 2023

I forgot to add that then ending is priceless. Hahaha all that time begrudgingly invested, and it was the wrong person. I did chuckle.

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Chris Campbell
14:56 Sep 28, 2023

Thank you. Once a legend, then a legend no more. All in the space of a day.

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