Soar (1)

I forgot to move my car on street-cleaning day, it had gotten towed, I was out two hundred bucks as soon as I went to pick it up. Had to ride my bike into work. Left my house three hours early to get to work two hours early so I could leave two hours early and get my car. Dawn had just risen, and already Saturday sucked.

At least I beat rush-hour. I rode through the streets of Boston, dodging puddles from last night’s rain. I chained up my bike in the garage underneath the convention center. Waited for the elevator to come down from the twentyseventh-floor observation deck. Rode it up four flights. Ten minutes to seven: starting work.

We didn’t have cubicles. Just a bunch of desks one next to another, and a whole mess of different chairs at the far end of the room. You checked out a laptop, scanned your thumb and typed your password and pin, and while it downloaded your settings you went and picked out a chair. I liked to start the day on hard chairs to keep me awake, move to comfy for the ride through noon, then switch over to really uncomfortable ones at the end of the day. That’s how I made it through six twelve-hour shifts a week. That’s how I got enough overtime to afford to live in Boston.

Fun with chairs and flexible overtime. That’s what qualified as hip at a defense contractor.

Kelly-Johnson Aerospace is the fourth-largest defense contractor in the world. Ninety thousand employees in thirty countries. Skyscrapers in Tokyo, Delhi, Durban, Riyadh. And one in Boston, so the MIT kids can have someplace to go when they graduate.

I had a degree in folklore from UMass Amherst, I was lucky just to have a job. But I was good with computers and I took a few programming courses, online, over the summer. So I got a job doing IT. Helpdesk. Manning a phone. Telling board-members to powercycle their routers, telling computer scientists I had no idea how to help them, and apologizing to the guys in India for having to deal with my accent.

I grabbed a laptop, took a desk between Gerhard and Jane. They were both waiting to catch a call. Gerhard spent his wait-time reading pirated fantasy novels. Jane was always doing these little coding challenges she found online. She wanted to program her way off the helpdesk and into a career. I just wanted to make rent for another month.

“You’re all wet,” Gerhard said.

Jane looked over. “Did you forget to move your car again?”

“Both of you can die forever,” I said, and went to get a very uncomfortable chair.

I caught a call from a Thai military attache who couldn’t get his email to synch. I caught a call from a guy six floors up who’d forgotten his password, I went upstairs with a biomet kit and got his retinal and thumbprint and let him set a new password – one capital, one lowercase, one letter, one number. I caught a call that I forwarded to Pete The Guy Who Knows About Fiber Optics, another I sent to Saryu The Girl Who Knows About Linux. And in the interim I played a flash game which pitted flora against the undead.

We were given half an hour for lunch. We were strongly encouraged to go out, stretch out legs, get some sun. The only restaurant within a fifteen-minute walk of the office was a raw bar with a view of the ocean. None of us in IT really wanted to spend half our day’s salary on a plate of oysters. Also, none of us really ate oysters. So we ordered in from this Filipino place in Chinatown that we ordered from every day, and which was so happy with this arrangement that last December they’d sent us a Christmas card. In a bag with leaky barbequed pork.

I took my Manila tokwa’t baboy and Mexican coconut soda and I went up to the observation deck. I stood by the edge and looked up at the clouds. It was going to rain. A lot. I was going to have to take a cab to the car impound. And then drive back to work for my bike. Maybe I’d just park in the garage and work a few more hours, make some more money. Maybe one day I’d remember how much the garage cost per hour.

They were very pretty clouds. Then ten minutes later they were just one big cloud, and I went to looking at the people below.

Twenty-seven stories gives you quite a vantage. Not too high to make your eyes strain, not too low to make you cringe when you see three cabs try to simultaneously right-on-red. It made me feel like I was getting away from the office but not so far away that I was abandoning my post. Throw in coconut soda that I was getting paid to drink, and life really wasn’t half bad.

I don’t know quite when I noticed it. I was looking down from very high up where everything looks like it happens slowly. I realized that a bunch of large black cars had come out of the parking garage and parked themselves around the entrance to the building. Not blocking it off, but very near. And guys were standing outside of the cars. Spreading out. Walking around the building, and then stopping, just standing on the sidewalk, at regular intervals just standing there. And cars were coming into the garage but none were going out. A few tried, and one got waved through – and the rest went back to the garage.

I realized I’d finished my lunch. I always eat fast when I’m excited.

I stood there and watched. Three minutes later my phone buzzed. I thought it was the alarm I’d set for myself, my thirty-minute lunchbreak time-to-go-back-to-work. That was still ten minutes away. It was a text, to everyone in the building, requesting that all of us go to our desks. Requesting, ever so politely, that we stay there.

Then I got another text, this one just to IT, telling us to get to our desks and not to answer any phones and await instructions.

I took the elevator down. I was the only one in it the whole way down. I don’t think that had ever happened before.

I sat back at my desk. Gerhard was looking around wildly. Jane was staring at her desktop pattern. I sat down and waited along with them.

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~ by davekov on 12 June 2014.

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