Let me tell you about one of my proudest moments. Our story begins on a snowy evening in Washington DC.
I was working as a computer and network engineer for the US Senate. Our office was in the basement of the Russell building, and it was time to head to Union Station and catch my train back to my home in West Virginia. I grabbed my coat, and headed down the hallway and turned to go out the door, past the security station.
As I turned to say goodnight to the Capitol Policemen who were manning the station, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a couple I knew well. They were coming down a different hallway, bundled up in coats and scarfs and clearly on their way out as well.
To understand this story, you need to understand a little about life in the support of the US Senate. Rob and Becky were both working at the HelpDesk when I started, but had since moved to other jobs in the Senate – and had also become husband and wife. The HelpDesk environment was a little, shall we say, loose. You would show respect for someone by insulting them in the grossest and most scatological way possible. There was absolutely no respect for personal space, human decency, dignity or privacy. About 40 or so techs all were headquartered in the same room in the basement of the Russell Building in a large and open bullpen, so insults and putdowns were heard and appreciated by all.
In short, it was great fun.
To give you an example, as the new guy I was on probation for a while. I could tell my fellow techs respected my skills, but I wasn’t one of the guys yet despite wrking there for a month or so. Then one day, I returned from a particularly unusual problem, and I was a little pre-occupied with writing up the summary so I could close out the ticket. So while I’m typing away, one of the techs yells to me from across the room, “Hey Santos, what’s that ugly thing on your face?” You realize of course, that after the appropriate pause he would say something like, “Oh, never mind – it’s just your nose”.
But, like I said, I was distracted. I heard the setup, and replied just as loudly without thinking – “I don’t know, but last night it was your mother.”
I gradually become aware that the room was completely silent. I look up, and my would-be assailant is standing with his mouth open, a look of admiration and a weird kind of joy on his face. Suddenly, the room erupts with laughter and shouts of encouragement. “Whoah, Santos goes nuclear!”, I remember hearing. “Well, I was busy and didn’t want to waste time,” I said humbly, but I couldn’t help but feel great – I was one of the guys!
So anyway, back to our snowy evening. I knew, just knew, that the happy couple coming down the hall would want to sneak up on me, and either goose me with an umbrella, pinch my ass, or something similarly witty. That’s the kind of sophisticated humor we practiced in the Senate. So I slyly pretended that I had not seen them, and continued out the door.
The snow was light, but there was about a quarter of an inch on the ground. There’s a beautiful park area between Russell and Union Station, and the sun was just down with the lights coming on. The trees were all outlined in white – it was really quite beautiful.
Almost as beautiful as my plan for the happy couple!
After a few minutes, I could hear them walking behind me and talking quietly. They must have been 15-20 feet behind me, whispering to each other and thinking themselves oh-so clever. I’d soon show them!
I walked on as though I was lost in thought and unaware of their presence. They stopped talking, but I could hear them walking a little faster on the snowy sidewalk, about to catch up to me.
It was really beautiful. I listened with the heightened senses of a true super-villian, and waited until I judged they were just a few feet behind me. I could hear their whisper-giggles, anticipating what they were about to do to me.
With perfect timing, I stopped suddenly and spun around, lifting my arms in the air so my black trench coat spread out like an evil cape. “FOOLISH MORTALS!”, I yelled, practically in their faces.
Their reaction was perfect. They stopped in their tracks, eyes wide, and instinctively tried to jump back. They both lost their footing on the slippery sidewalk, and fell in perfect sync onto their asses in the snow! Oh, the looks on their faces!
One small problem – it wasn’t Rob and Becky! I had just scared the living shit out of a couple of random innocent tourists.
I tried to apologize and help them to their feet, but they just scooted away from me. Perhaps my apology would have sounded more sincere if I could have stopped laughing. And of course, the reverse crab walk through the snow was just making me laugh harder.
What could I do? I gave a slight bow and told them, “My apologies, foolish mortals”, and went to catch my train.