Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A sad day at HappyTech

I do technical support for a software firm. We're a tiny branch (eight employees) of a larger offshore company. My friends all know I love my job because I can spend a large part of my day web surfing, blogging, emailing, chatting, and so on. It's a dream job for a web junkie. Gordon Bennett, our boss, is the sort of hands-off manager who doesn't care how much we screw off so long as we get our work done. I'm not boasting when I say I get my work done with more skill, speed and accuracy than anyone else on the help desk; it's a fact. I'm a valuable employee. I get things done that no one else would do unless they were assigned, and only grudgingly then. I have also initiated policies that will save the company tens of thousands of dollars in the coming year. The boss has responded favorably and I'm up for a big raise soon.

But today everything I love about the job came crashing down around my ears. A large cache of porn was found on one of our little-used network drives this morning. No accusations were made but Gordon sent out an email decreeing all recreational web surfing is now forbidden. Headquarters has instituted measures to monitor all internet traffic, something we never had to deal with before. Big deal, you might think, so you can't spend all day at your job surfing the web, but you don't understand. We do have terribly busy spells periodically, but for the most part there is so much down time that the job would be nigh on unbearable without web surfing.

The whole situation was handled poorly. Gordon fired off his angry email without thinking and the guilty party immediately deleted the offending material. A smarter manager would have instituted monitoring unannounced and caught the culprit in the act. Then again maybe not, because they know who did it and he won't be punished. Irv is the pornmeister.

Irv started out as a regular help desk grunt like me but soon took on expanded roles in sales and training. He is the golden boy endeared to the higher-ups and beloved by our customers. Thanks to Gordon's laissez-faire management style, Irv has made himself indispensable to the company. He knows things no one else knows and performs functions no one else can. Bigger companies have safeguards against this sort of thing happening, but not us.

Our interactions are uniformly pleasant and cordial, but Irv has always bugged the shit out of me. For nearly a year, he had a habit of bumming several cigarettes from me every day. I think nothing of tossing a friend a few smokes, but come on. He smoked twice as much as me, and giving him a cigarette usually meant putting a customer on hold and digging out my backpack or going to the coat rack to fish them out of my jacket. It was hard not to get irritated, but Irv is a necessary resource on my job and I did not want to risk straining relations. Finally I just started leaving them on my desk. Once in a great while he would buy me a payback pack, always the wrong brand. Finally one day I told him to keep the proffered pack for himself since he always seemed to be out. He stopped bumming after that.

Then there was the milk. Since I drink a lot of it, I had a habit of keeping a gallon jug in the office fridge. Irv helped himself to my milk all the time and never bothered to replace it once. There's nothing like going to make your morning cereal and finding, once again, that someone has drunk the last of your milk. Great way to start the day, right? I never said a word to him about it, but I finally bought myself a bigger lunchbox so I could pack just enough milk for the day.

Aside from the annoyances, there is much about Irv that never quite added up. Most of us talk openly about our families. Everyone knows about my partner and one coworker has met him. Irv is notoriously private. I always thought he was a closet case. I wasn't alone in this suspicion and you'd think so too if you met him. All the signs were there: the effeminate voice and fey mannerisms, the overgrooming and designer wardrobe, the secret girlfriend nobody ever saw even though she supposedly shuttled him to and from work daily. Irv was always saying he almost had enough money together for a car but it never quite happened. When he was needed offsite at a customer's business our office manager had to drive him. Curious, that. Why couldn't a man who wore Armani sweaters and Prada shoes to the office afford a car? He started out in a humble position but he's certainly making good money now. That's another thing- why did a guy with years of highly marketable programming experience take an entry-level tech support job? Basically Irv is a mystery wrapped in an enigma with a creamy riddle middle.

I didn't know the extent of his odd behavior until my help desk supervisor spilled the goods today after everyone else left. There were several occasions when Irv appeared to have stayed at the office all night. Often he has come in bleary-eyed and barely conscious. A substance abuse problem was suspected. Irv spends lots of time in his office with the door closed. Dawn, our office manager, has walked in a few times and caught him with NSFW material on his screen, but she waved it off as "boy stuff" and never told anyone. Then on a recent business trip Dawn brought along a girlfriend. On the plane they observed Irv watching porn on a company laptop and making no great effort to conceal it. Later, out of the blue he asked Dawn's friend what her favorite sexual positions were. Later still he hit on Dawn with remarks so filthy she won't repeat them. Dawn is far from a prude, in fact she has shared some pretty raunchy stories about herself, so I can't even imagine what he must have said.

It's a relative certainty the porn was Irv's, based on the inappropriate and bizarre behavior as well as the fact the rest of us would have neither the inclination nor the stupidity to save porn on an office PC. On a drive we all have access to, no less. But it makes no sense for him to do it either. He's an intelligent guy. It's almost as though he wanted to be caught. But since the whole incident was bungled by the boss there's no proof it was him. Even if they wanted to fire him they couldn't. Nobody else can do everything he does and losing him would be disastrous. Unless he trained his replacement first (and none of us wants the position) the company would fall apart without him

So now I'm stuck working ten feet away from this perv who ruined my perfect job, and I have to be nice to him.