with just so many hours to work before i left early for new york, i programmed the selection mechanism part of the code. close to noon on this fateful day, alex and katrinka called me into the front office. did i do something wrong? either they wanted to talk to me about how i haven't been performing up to my rigorous standards of excellence, or perhaps they had another freelance coding project they wanted me to work on. whatever the matter, it seemed very serious.
that's when it happened.
instead of reprimanding me or giving me more freelance work, they made me an offer to become a full-time employee of squid country safari. me, tony yang, a chance to become a productive working member of society again.
it came to me as a bit of a shock, really. i they knew were getting a lot of work, and a few weeks ago they were in the midst of hiring a new entry level programmer, but i didn't think they would want to hire me as a permanent, i figured they'd just keep on using me as a contractor whenever they got too much work. turns out the guy they wanted to hire passed on the offer, so they were still looking. they had asked me a long time ago, immediately after i was laid off from screen house back in 2000. news of my premature demise at tsh spread fast, and squid were eager to have me step right in and start working for them. i had other ideas though. at the time, i had deep reservations about working with people i considered my friends, who would essentially become my bosses. i hung out with squid socially, amd i just didn't want to mix my personal and professional lives together. i wanted to find opportunity on my own, and two weeks later, i ended up working at srm. i think i made the right choice, as i met a lot of cool new people at srm, many of them still friends to this day, and i got almost 2 years of educational cd-rom coding experience. they're also responsible for my 1+ year of forced vacation when i got laid off for the second time in my life, back in june 2002. things didn't turn out so bad, i bought a house, i had a good year off, i did bits and pieces of freelance work, i milked unemployment, a lot of running, a lot of cooking.
so squid asked me before, and now they were asking me again. i in turn asked them a bunch of questions, things like health insurance, vacation days, work hours, telecommuting, questions that i, a seasoned veteran with 7 years of work experience, would want answered. i said no back then, but this time around i'm going to say yes, even though i told them i wouldn't let them know my answer until monday ("although there's a very good chance i'm going to accept the offer," i assured them). why the change of heart? to be quite honest, i need the money. i have bills to pay, the most serious of all that monthly mortgage you've heard me mention over and over before. even though i'll be making less than what i made at srm or tsh, it's work (it's money) i can't refuse. i figured i could still do some minor freelance stuff on the side, to supplement my income. the job itself at squid is easy, lingo programming, but mostly for kiosks, so no cross-platform compatibility issues, no multiple cd's to burn, just very straight forward coding limited by one's imagination, the kind of work that comes to me automatically, as easy a job as i can hope for. i still have some reservations about working with friends, but the good outweighs the bad.
my new day as a permanent will begin in a few weeks, when my contract for squid is over. i'm hoping i can negotiate a week's worth of break prior to starting, so i can finally take a vacation, maybe go to costa rica, but pretty much any destination in the world is fine with me.
as if i wanted to test the boundaries even more, i asked if i could take off before 2pm instead of 3pm, so i could catch the earlier 2pm chinatown bus out of boston. this request was granted, so i left at 1:30pm, got to the travel pack bus stop, waited for the bus to show up with all the other people waiting in line. when the bus finally got here, i followed the mob of people crowding the bus entrance. i showed the woman my ticket, which plainly said 3pm. "no, you wait for 3pm bus," she told me. i smiled and walked away, my ploy to ride an early bus unsuccessful. i was still hoping there might be a spare spot left for me, but apparently they sold more tickets than there are bus seats, so a handful of people with legitimate 2pm bus tickets didn't even get on. feeling that it'd be silly to go back to the office after i just left, i decided to wait in a new line until the next bus came at 3pm.
that's when i was approached by a pretty young asian woman speaking with a slight british accent. she asked if this was where we waited for the bus to new york city, and then asked if the restaurant across was the street was any good, then disappeared and came back again, saying that she couldn't find any good places to eat here in chinatown. i wasn't born yesterday, i can take a hint, so i got out of line (which at that point was just me and this black dude) and took her to my favorite vietnamese restaurant. turns out it was just perfect, because she was vietnamese herself, and it was the first time i went to a vietnamese restaurant with somebody who actually spoke the language. escaping from the rain, already seated in the restaurant, hot tea in front of us, that's when i introduced myself. "hey, my name is tony. what's yours?" i said. "cindy," she said. cindy turns out to be a 2nd year harvard business school student (i already knew she was somehow associated with harvard because of her harvard umbrella), who lived in cambridge as well, but just in the student housing. she used to work at unilever in new jersey, but took a leave of absence to go to business school. i ordered a children sized pho (the waitress laughed when i asked her if i could have it in that size), while cindy went with a large. 10 minutes into our meal, that's when i saw the ring on her left hand and realized cindy is married, but i had to make sure. "what're you doing in new york?" i asked. "i'm seeing my husband," she said, who works back at unilever in new jersey. cindy also was surprised when i told her when i graduated from college, 1996. one of the first questions she asked me when we came to the restaurant was, "are you a student?" i always laugh when people ask me that. i haven't been a student in 7 years, nearly a decade it seems. "no no, actually, i work," i responded.
after we finished eating, we raced back to the bus stop. 30 minutes ago in what used to be an empty sidewalk was now swarming with people again, all waiting for the chinatown bus to arrive. cindy and i narrowly made it onto the bus, there was just half a dozen seats left. cindy sat way up in the front, when i found a seat way in the back, right next to the bathroom, which i would later regret. as our bus pulled away from the curb, down below outside in the rain were many people who would just have to wait until the next bus, regardless of what time their ticket said.
on the bus, i sat next to a taciturn boy wearing an inside-out t-shirt and a baseball cap, fiddling with his cd player the whole trip through. across the aisle from me, a tall well dressed russian girl, who asked the young black man with an afro sitting in front of her if he could tilt forward his seat a little bit to accomodate her long legs. in front of me sat a boy working on his titanium powerbook, photoshop and dreamweaver opened to client material. the two on-bus movies that were playing were clint eastwood's blood work and planet of the apes. the sound was barely audible, and both movies were subtitled in chinese. even though i thought the movies sucked, i couldn't stop watching until i eventually fell asleep, waking up intermittently when somebody would bump into me while walking to the bathroom, and waking up again when they came out and engulfed the back of the bus in bathroom stink. the bus made no pitstop and drove nonstop to the new york city chinatown.
i bumped into cindy again when we got off the bus, hastily exchanging contact information, she giving me a harvard business school business card, me writing my e-mail on a mobil receipt. i gave john a call, he gave me a few pointers to how to get to his office in soho. with two heavy bag slung around each shoulders (one filled with my weekend clothes, which was surprisingly heavy for some reason, the other my ibook, naturally heavy), i made my way west on canal street until i hit broadway, where i went north. all that hype about hurricane isabel was just hype: the sky was clear although a bit humid. when i got to john's building, i called him on the cellphone, where i was given further directions as to how to get to his office. scholastic reminded me srm, yet at the same it had the cubicle culture of the boston design center screen house office. john was still working, coordinating some sort of project with a chinese programmer coding in another cubicle. i went to the bathroom, doing my usual business as well as brushing my teeth. i hung out in the office until john was done, looking at the city view up on the 9th story.
we went to the san ganerro festival in little italy for some food, where each of us got a sausage sub ($6). besides food, there was also carnival-like attractions, like clown dunking and sideshow games.
i went in first to save some seats while john waited outside for his friend lionel to show up, which he did, momentarily. a stoner boy briefly danced for the audience onstage, then handed up skittles. i whispered to john, "i so very badly want to fight this guy right now," john has the exact same feelings. it was a pretty packed audience, tonight's improv show featuring the swarms. john was disappointed that it wasn't a full ensemble, that two of the players were missing tonight, although two of his improv teachers were in the group. the rest of the troupe, 3 guys and a girl, did improv sketches about shamu the "porpoise" organizing a zoo break, tweens discovering atlantis with a family submarine, guys using the hands of the clock to scope of chicks, full service democratic movie theatre (audience get to vote for the movies being played, featuring special flavored popcorn like italian and the double bottomless), time traveling with multiple interruptions, and guy who people mistakenly think likes the company of large women. it was one of those "had to be there" moments, like most improv shows i think.
after the show, we walked in the direction of the nearest mta stop; this was until we passed by a krispy kreme, and was drawn into its irresistable attraction. i ordered 4 glazed originals, giving lionel one when i realized it'd probably kill me if i had all 4. john had two filled donuts and a coffee. we both looked at each other and realized we'd probably feel it the next morning when we planned on doing some running, but in the meantime things were still pretty good. we finally made it to the subway, admiring the myriad of defaced advertisements, the creative works of these nameless vandals. we caught an F train heading south, lionel getting off a few stops before us. john and i ended up getting off at carroll street then walking to his apartment, trying to figure out which building looked more like the cosby house.
deanna was already asleep in bed when we arrived, although the television was still on. john unfolded the sleeper sofa and set up my bed for me. exploring with my ibook, i discovered he had a neighbor with an unprotected wireless network ("columbia"), and if i put the laptop in the window (probably the neighbor across the street), i can get enough signal to check my e-mail and surf the news for sports scores. i took a shower and came back to see john asleep on the sofa chair. he woke up and went to bed, i slept on the sleeper sofa soon afterwards. the cold night air blew in from the window. off in the distance, i could see the illuminated spire of the empire state building.
i let out a sigh of relief. finally i was able to stop moving for a change.