Seeking the new job
Last time we left off where Piggs Peak was about to close down. I had mixed feelings about it… They had given me a chance despite knowing about my addiction, although I lied to them in the second interview, maintaining that I was clean and in recovery when I was not. However, I performed well enough on the job and was well liked there. (As opposed to some jobs in the past, where I was taken aside and given the “You’re a nice guy. We like you but…” treatment.)
The mixed feelings were not so much guilt as a feeling that they had to some small extent taken advantage of me. I was offered a salary a bit less than ideal with the promise of an increase in a year, and after a year the company was in trouble. But we were all given two months notice and generous severance packages. They paid me out as if I’d worked there for a year even though it was just under that. Before that, they’d given away lots of things. My old home PC was given to me by them, and I’m still using the office desk I got from them for free.
Two months was loads of time for me to find a new job. Everyone there was given the opportunity to have a “free” interview at a rival online casino, Osiris Trading (to whom they’d sold given the Piggs Peak brand), but I really wasn’t interested in working for another online casino. They’re all the same, all use Microgaming software and all probably have the same horrendously designed relational database. Of course all such casinos have different web sites and other software, but I really wasn’t interested in working for another casino where I might have anything further to do with the Microgaming backend. I figured that one year of stumbling around their database was enough, and if I worked for another casino I’d get roped into more of the same, so I put myself on the market and went for interviews arranged by recruiters.
In less than a week, after several frustrating interviews, I received the call from a company called GoldenRule. (A company to be avoided, by the way.) They were recruiting for a team to start at Multichoice the following month, April 2013. The “resource manager” (their fancy name for a recruiter), Charmaine, just about told me that I had the job already, over the phone without even meeting me. Also, she offered me R10 000 more per month than what I was asking for, and I was asking for R3 000 more than I was earning.
Of course I was high, so I didn’t register that something seemed a bit fishy. Anyway, I went to meet her and got the job. The money was good, but seriously, starting as a member of an entirely new team, actually two teams of fifteen people, where nobody is interviewed properly, was not the best decision I ever made. (Then again a salary jump of R13 000 per month was welcome. Thanks for that, you stupid, unethical cunts.) At the time, I figured “R13 000 more meth per month. Hell yeah!” (Stupid, I know. But that’s what it came down to at the time.)
Those crazy people I worked with
So I showed up for work, and found my way to the office where thirteen of the other new contractors had gathered. If you’re keeping track, there was supposed to be fourteen. Lester was late, so he missed the entire introduction. But that was only the first of many things that Lester missed. With all of us gathered, it came time for us to introduce ourselves. As we all sat around a large boardroom table in a circle and introduced ourselves, I was reminded of NA meetings. I thought it would get a few laughs if I introduced myself as an addict. So when it came to me, rather than saying something about what I did or where I came from, I announced, “I’m Jerome. I’m an addict.” And it did get laughs. (Little did they know, I was as high as a satellite when saying it. But those were the kinds of things that amused me then.)
Two people really stood out that morning: Lester, notable for his absence, and Muhammad, the SCRUM-master who wouldn’t shut up. He even asked inappropriately if we’d all get free DSTV. So we were supplied with our notebooks and split into two teams. Unfortunately for me, my team included both Lester and Muhammad.
Introducing the team:
- Muhammad, the fake SCRUM master with verbal diarrhoea, who was also both a racist and misogynist. Not to mention an idiot.
- Jerome. (That’s me.) Senior developer. Lead developer who was high on meth every single day. (For the first six months there. Thereafter, I cleaned up and have remained clean ever since.)
- Lester. Idiot. Also an addict. High on I-don’t know-what. Possibly crack cocaine and alcohol. Tries to pass himself off as a developer occasionally. Title is Senior Developer.
- Edwin. Developer. Lazy as all hell, and did not understand what he was doing most of the time. Title is Senior Developer.
- Suzan. Tester. Also an idiot.
- Tsholofelo. Senior Tester, and one hell of a sense of humour. Lazy as sin.
- Tondi. Business Analyst. Hard-working and honest, plus she baked the best cakes. I love Tondi. (Well, I love her baking.)
Let it be noted that Lester was a class of idiot that I have never encountered again. But for the first month, he had to play second fiddle to Mohammad, whose idiocy almost had the whole team fired.
After we settled into our office, I spent a few minutes alone with the ladies. For whatever reason, maybe because I was too high to think straight, I told them all about my addiction. But I lied and said I was in recovery. I still feel bad about that. It was a pointless, unnecessary lie. (Even if it did come true in a few months.) But they believed me and respected me for it, and it started the friendship. The lie turned out to be a good move, even though it was bullshit.
We did no work for weeks. And Muhammad, he drove us all mad! He’d give these ridiculous lectures about SCRUM, the same lecture every day, 4 hours of listening to the lunatic drone on. He also had run-ins with the ladies, accusing them of stealing from him, and he told us a bunch of nonsense such as, we could not speak to anyone in the business about requirements; it should all come via him. Then he fucked it all up because he couldn’t understand the requirements and everything he told us was wrong. Also, that’s not how things work there. Not at all. The SCRUM master is just supposed to run the morning stand-up meetings, raise impediments with the other teams and management, and do whatever the fuck SCRUM masters are supposed to do – not what he was doing.
Anyway, he was fired after about a month, at which point we started paying attention to Lester. Like, why does this guy show up for work at 11AM every day, three hours late?
The Lester Chapter
Lester was a special case… He showed up frequently smelling of alcohol in the first month. Then after that, he didn’t stink anymore, but he’d arrive for work dead tired, go for a three hour lunch, and return full of energy. Let’s put this into perspective: I was high. Lester was on a whole other level. He’d arrive five minutes from the end of a meeting, then respond with aggression if anyone tried to talk to him about work. Instead he’d browse dating sites and other trash, occasionally laughing out loud and telling me something incoherent about whatever nonsense he was reading. The man was a menace, and it didn’t help that I was also high and paranoid, and this imbecile was drawing attention to all of us.
I was glad in a way when Lester was late. It meant that I could “steal” most of the development tasks in our morning meetings, rather than risk him doing any of them. The one time he managed to get hold of a project deliverable, I had to reject all his code (which was downloaded and didn’t work at all) and rewrite it myself from scratch. He then argued with me, saying that all developers download code. (They do not!) This was for a simple job that had to back up some files on the file system, a trivial programming task that took me five minutes, for which he had taken three weeks. Somehow the other developer, Edwin, did less than 10% of the work, but I was OK with that too, because he wasn’t terribly competent either. Edwin was a smoothy who spent much of his time on the prowl looking for girls to cheat on his pregnant girlfriend with.
We’d have meetings with teams that had to explain their implementation of an API, which we then needed to use, and Lester would interrupt them every 20 seconds with questions that betrayed a distinct lack of understanding of even the most basic tenets of software development. (Calling them stupid questions was a major understatement.) Then he’d argue with them, get up out of his chair and aggressively take over the meeting – standing in the front of the room while writing on the whiteboard and babbling gibberish. Did I mention that Lester was a menace?
At one stage Lester didn’t have a car. (Actually he never had one, but after the first couple of months he moved closer to work, within walking distance.) So for a while I used to give him a lift. In trying to get him to admit what his drug, or more likely drugs of choice were, I told him all about my fondness for methamphetamine. But he didn’t open up to me, and I regretted informing him of something that he could use against me. One day, as I drove him to the taxi-rank, he explained his great idea to me. We, as in him and I who wrote line of business software in C#, could build intelligent androids, which could be prostituted out… You know, like the ones in the movie AI? And he was serious. What do you even say to that? What?!? I didn’t say anything… I just stared at him, dumbfounded, and thought to myself, “You fucking idiot! You’ve got to go.” Did I mention that Lester was a menace?
Lester also had some peculiar beliefs. The one that really stood out was his belief that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS… The Peter Duesberg madness. Though Lester didn’t actually know the details of the conspiracy he believed in or the name of Peter Duesberg, that didn’t stop him from talking about it. He’d get excited and talk about the “world’s most famous biologist” and his “discovery” that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS. Actually this was the first part of my plan to get Lester fired… just bring up the subject. It was too easy to trigger him into giving his speech about it, so I did it several times right before going to lunch. I’d return in an hour and sure enough, he was still going, telling the whole team that HIV isn’t real. And they’d be arguing with him, which just made him even more excited about his pet subject. He was oblivious to the insensitivity of his tirades, which turned out to be highly upsetting to one of the ladies, who presumably had lost someone she cared for to HIV.
Step two of my plan to get rid of Lester was to approach Elmar, one of the Multichoice employees who was our “build-master” and in middle-management. I asked him how best to gather evidence and prove that a member of the team, namely Lester, wasn’t doing any work. I also mentioned that I believed Lester was using drugs at work. Of course Elmar’s answer wasn’t important; all I wanted to achieve was to bring Lester to the attention of management.
I must admit, in retrospect, that my behaviour was not normal for me, simply because I was high on crystal meth every day. Getting rid of Lester, rather than getting myself the hell away from that extremely dysfunctional team (and maybe get some help for my own addiction) became a game. It was fun, and it kept me amused.
Step three was to confront Lester, to throw every stupid thing he said back in his face, which meant verbally attacking him every time he opened his mouth. He had the verbal skills of a retarded child that had been dropped on its head repeatedly and was more aggressive than anybody I’d ever met, so anything he retaliated with would just result in him drawing more attention to himself. The whole team hated him, Multichoice management were aware of him, and finally the incompetent GoldenRule key account manager became aware of him, and there really was no choice but to get rid of him.
I went into a meeting with the key account manager and Multichoice 2nd in charge for that department, and opened up with “You know, a few years ago, I also used to show up at work at 11AM every day, but I was high!” A report was done on the whole team’s TFS history, all our code check ins, and it became quite clear that I’d done all the development work apart from a tiny bit done by Edwin. All Lester achieved in his three months there was some code churn… Modify a project file one day, revert the changes the next day, and so on.
And so dear Lester departed.
In retrospect, I don’t regret getting that idiot fired. He had it coming. But the way I did it was wrong. Making it into a game where I manipulated everybody for my own entertainment was pretty fucked up, but I was high…
This post is getting too long, and we’re only up to around June 2013. I’ll have to end it there. In the next part, I’ll write about life after Lester, an anecdote or two about some fun and some not such fun times with that team, and what it was like when I finally cleaned up. I hope you’re enjoying reading this as much as I’m enjoying writing it.