No doubt about it - I was getting burnt out driving a minimum of 3 hours every day for my commute to and from work. I would start work early like 0430 so it would only take an hour to get there. The drive home was a game of chance - how many accidents would there be? Did the road flood from the rain? Is there a chance of snow?
I found a new job that was local. I wondered (not for the first nor for the last time) if this would be the right fit for me. In truth, this was easily the most pointless job I have ever had.
The Team (Plus FRED)
The first day I met Louie*, I had a horrible cold. Not the best impression to sit there with a chalky throat, watering eyes, and a runny nose. This did not derail the formidable friendship we would form (and still have to this day).
Louie and I immediately bonded over the alarming inaccuracy of the vague statement of work we had to try and build a lab from. Sure, I could write a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) based off of best practices and create some reporting templates, but the whole point of our lab was quite a mystery. The other two people working in that lab would also prove to be a mystery.
Let me tell you about Tweedle Dweeb and Tweedle Dumbass.
The program manager had an acne ridden face that he used to pick at constantly and his face would bleed. We are talking major face craters that will never, ever heal because he wouldn’t stop picking at his face. Tweedle Dweeb had other quirks besides having zero forensic experience outside of a vendor classroom and picking his face bloody. He used to take naps at his desk. Full on slumber. At first he would sleep in his brand new blue Mustang out in the parking lot but as the months went on, he started catching shut eye at his desk. He also kept detailed notes on every conversation he overheard in the lab and how long people were away from their desk. He used to ask if we were going to the restroom. He didn’t bother to try and keep the notes to himself - they were on his desk for all to see. He would evaluate everyone’s mood and make comments to himself on paper. Oh, you thought I seemed aggravated when I left the room? Maybe, Pimple Face, I would like to be treated like an adult and to be able to stretch my legs without a hall pass or wooden ruler attached to the bathroom key.
Pimple Face was not the only one in desperate need of a reality check. Tweedle Dumbass was a whole other special case. He had quite the artistic side, for one. And what better place to work on his craft than in a government lab? While using government resources? Here are just some of his contributions to society:
He sketched nude women on his legal pad with his forensic “notes”.
He considered himself quite the author. He told us about his published book of poems where he self-proclaimed to be “dodging bows and arrows from Uncle Sam”. (Really? Did you time travel back to the time of Custer? How hard are you “dodging Uncle Sam” if you signed up for the Navy Reserves? But I digress.)
Douche Canoe was also crafting a new masterpiece of literature that was going to be a how to guide for dating…and how women are like cars. A true classic in the making. (As an additional fun fact, he would write this inspired missive on his forensic workstation, burn the draft to a disc, take it home, bring the disc back, and cut the CD with scissors to store in his desk drawer. Not suspicious behavior AT ALL…)
He had his own vlog that he would record in the morning before work in the parking lot. I never listened to it (self-preservation) but it had one of the dumbest titles ever. To protect the guilty, I won’t write it here, but trust me…it was eye-roll worthy.
He also had a website where he sold merchandise of his own design. Most logos were racially inspired and proclaimed him as a “king”. My favorite part was the home page, which was essentially a giant picture of his stupid, giant face inviting the site visitor to “come with him on a journey”.
Standard of Excellence
The job was so unimportant that it did not take Louie long to not give a fuck. Pimple Face would try to act all serious like an important boss man and drag us into the side conference room for meetings about nothing. (For context…the lab itself was a tiny room with four desks, basically a shoebox. Why we would have to sit in a conference room to talk when we all sit on top of each other remains beyond me.)
During one of these team meetings, Louie brought a My Little Pony from his desk and sat there braiding her tail. When Tweedle Dweeb stared at him and asked about the pony, Louie answered in a voice for the pony. It was one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed in my life. Louie was dead serious talking in this high pitched pony voice. Pimple Face sat there gaping like a goldfish.
Pimple Face's idea of a forensic report was absurd. No context. Just a file listing - for pages and pages. The report review process was equally as absurd. So absurd that I used to insert clip art over parts of Louie's reports that needed work. Format was wrong? Lightning bolt - shit is trash. No way anyone in their right mind would read a 100 page report of file names and time stamps. No way in hell.
The equipment was not immune to the standard of uselessness. There was no network connectivity to anything so we would have to constantly save and swap external hard drives. The workstations (or FREDs) that we had crashed constantly and had to be rebuilt at least every other week.
The stupidity reached beyond just the individuals on our contract and our shoddy equipment. The security officer in charge of maintaining the secured area was the “Barney Fife” of operational security. He walked right into our area one day to “chat” when his cell phone rang. The phone that he shouldn’t have in that room. EVER. You would think someone would silence the call or quick turn it off if they forgot the phone was on them. Nope, not this guy. He picked up the call and said “Hi, can’t talk right now, I am in a SCIF.” I put my head down on my desk in disbelief.
Another Day, Another Fantastic Lunch
Because of the pointless nature of our everyday tasks, Louie and I really relied on each other to make it through. Our cubicles shared a wall so we started passing notes through the crack to make each other laugh like something straight out of a teen rom-com. The most memorable notes starred FRED (our computer) and his search for the perfect port docking (aka romance). Mostly we tried to pass the time by eating.
There was a small shop on the bottom floor of the building where we got breakfast sandwiches almost every day. And what better way to truly enjoy breakfast than ordering double the meat? Some of those creations were truly a work of art. Greasy as fuck. But art.
Breakfast had no comparison to our lunch game though. Around 1030, Louie would ask the inevitable question: "What is your culinary desire?" From there, we would pick someplace in close vicinity for our dining and wine consuming pleasure. Seafood towers, Chinese buffet, the Palm, valet parking, the Ritz. Nothing was off the table (pun intended). We would come back feeling fancy, full, and slightly tipsy.
One day, after Pimple Face said something particularly asinine, Louie angrily yanked up on his socks with such force that he tore the sock apart at the heel. Perfect excuse to go to another fabulous lunch and shop! It was during this shopping venture that we encountered a dinosaur (and I don't mean a really old person). As we made our way through the cloud of perfume and makeup counters, this fashionable woman with her hair up in a tight topknot looked in our direction and emitted what can only be described as a roar. Literally. It was like a gasping yell battlecry burp. And she simply carried on walking like that strange noise never occurred. Louie and I could simply not stop laughing and looked at each other and said "eau de fuck?!” The absurdness of that moment dissolved us into giggling schoolgirls for weeks.
Louie lasted only a couple months before he couldn’t take the boredom of such a pointless endeavor. I mean, who would think a pile of hard drives, that were about to be destroyed anyway, would contain anything worthwhile? The presence of certain materials on all of these drives was already known prior to us receiving them. The hard drives were just going back on the truck to the incinerator… Just pointless. To this day, I would still love SOMEONE to be able to tell me why that contract was necessary.
I waited out the contract until the end of the 9 months but it was a penance. It was a REALLY good feeling to leave that hole in the wall of an office.
Epilogue: The Car and the Minion
I did not expect that this job and Tweedle Dumbass would come back to haunt me 2 years later. I was exiting my new office and walking through the parking garage when I stopped dead in my tracks, flabbergasted. There he was. Douche Canoe’s face in larger than life form form on the side of car with his website listed below. His stupid face attempting to be sultry and talk about the “journey”. On a car. To horrify the masses.
The whole tableau was perfected by the presence of life-size stuffed Minion in the passenger seat.
Speechless. I have never seen a face worth forgetting more than his.