We all called him Angry Bear, but his name was Mike.
Angry Bear was a family man, and Angry Bear was here because of family. His brother in law worked for the company - had been hired on at seventeen. After a year or two of late night fiber rigging and Internet building, Mike was looking for something with less stress. Had I known him better at the time, I might have sent him to go ride ambulances or something.
A big, burly man with the mouth of an MP and the alcohol tolerance of a Brit, Angry Bear - Mike - had seen some shit. He cared about a lot of things. Maybe too much. When Mike saw things going wrong, Mike wanted to fix things. It quickly became apparent that there was no fixing the NOC. And so Mike got frustrated.
Angry Bear had the dubious pleasure of sharing the twelve hour overnight shifts with me. They never took him off for the same reason I never came off - we were too good at our job. Besides, we were the only ones who never slept. I downed Penguin Mints at a rate not recommended by the Surgeon General. Mike, having done this shit before, drank coffee mixed with the cheap cocoa packets every data center inflicts on their staff.
He had a temper on him. Maybe still does. If Angry Bear thought you'd fucked up, he'd let you know in some blunt, harsh terms - most often, the lazy-ass fundamentalist Christian with a taste for Hogan's Heroes got hit with this. It was a slow burn, generally - a genial smile followed by a "what the fuck is wrong with you" lecture that lasted for maybe five minutes. Thankfully, I only got this once, after I had the man drive twenty minutes to my site with the wrong part.
Anyway, Mike drank. God did Mike drink. He drank like it was communion and penance for his sins at the same time - and the more he drank, the louder he got. Mike drank a lot as things got worse in the NOC.
Things were always shit, you see. There was no fixing everything in these football stadium-sized warehouses full of servers and routers. Mike took to the clever route of gaming the metrics. He learned Perl. He did tickets in bulk. He resolved out duplicates - hell, we all did - to inflate our own worth in the eyes of the company. But the faster Mike worked, the more shit we installed, the more projects we completed, the more we built more.
We didn't hire very many folks. We hired a few good ones here and there - maybe 3-4 good techs a year while we bled talent and disaffected NOClings all over the landscape.
So Mike drank. Mike drank and got increasingly pissed off and stressed out. And there was nothing anyone could do. His brother in law was absent a lot - he was busy working on his XBox metrics - and his drinking was causing stress in his marriage. Or maybe that was the DUI.
Whatever the reason, alcohol was soon mixing with tranquilizers - or something meant to keep the stress induced arrhythmia from killing the man.
Being a good little codependent, I went drinking with Mike and the other NOC monkeys. I didn't say a word about mixing meds with alcohol. None of us did. It was a moot point - half the crew was on SSRIs and and other drugs meant to keep us from unloading firearms into the core network gear.
The company taught me about hard liquor, and hard liquor taught me about leaving my truck somewhere for the night and having my skeptical uncle or father drive me back to the bland suburban parking lot the next day. It taught me about DUI, the strategies and roads my coworkers took to avoid police checkpoints, and other problems that Angry Bear ran into.
Those were loud, riotous nights. We drank with our boss, who was fond of getting trashed and driving from Northern to West Virginia - two hours out - with his license suspended for an incident with pyrotechnics. We heard more about corporate politics over the sticky table at the bar. We were fixtures there - every Thursday or Friday night, the tab was well over $200 for the lot of us.
Even so, the last time I went drinking with Mike, he almost got us thrown out - Angry Bear was out in full force.
Three beers and two tranquilizer in, he started yelling. "Shit! Look at the nose on that Jewess! Shit! I've got a boner the size of goddamn Manhattan! Hey, you! Come over here!"
It took all four of us to get him the fuck out of the bar that night
A year or two later, Mike stopped drinking as much. The next week he put in his two-weeks notice. When Angry Bear left, he left in style: a Perl script resolved all ten thousand of the hardware fixing tickets at once.