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"Come on now, Celeste, let's keep it positive. We're all working hard here..."

Positive. Right. Is this what it had come to? You couldn't even call a problem a problem anymore. Corporate PC verbiage was so rampant, you practically needed an acronym dictionary and a team building handbook to translate. It was fortunate that Mike happened to be miles away. His languishing voice was coming over the conference call line like he was taking some sun by the pool. That way he wasn't able to see the look on her face. He always talked like that, as if he'd made a conscious choice that it was the perfect blend of condescending apathy and 'corporate' integrity.

All alone in her dot-com-esque hexagon (the feng shui experts had deemed hexagons much more productive than cubes) she narrowed her eyes, adjusted her headset and swallowed. She knew that if she didn't take her time now, the knot which had predictably formed in her solar plexus would make itself known in the most scathing of upbraidings. She was, after all, a bitch... no denying that. This is what she'd been reduced to. This was her life. Seduction by the man. She had willingly held out her hands, wrists extended together, for those golden handcuffs. The corporate conglomerate, not wanting to miss the dot-com bandwagon, had heavily recruited her. They caught her attention, waiving thirty percent bonuses and paying twenty thousand more than market salaries. She really did know what she was doing, but it didn't matter. And this... this was just another of the many battles which she would lose, utterly without grace.

"Mike, I understand where you're coming from, believe me, I do. I know we want to keep things positive, and we are trying very hard to move forward here. However..." did she really have to say it? Was she really saying this?

"A defect is just that. A defect. Not a delta, not an opportunity, not a challenge. We have specs, we have site maps, we have use cases. Hell, we have the entire site mocked up in HTML. When we have a deviation from that, it is called a defect. And we have more than eighty. And for every one that gets fixed, two more crop up in their place. I'm dealing with a hydra here, and I'm supposed to ship code for security review in four days. I know that the development team is doing their best, but it is simply unacceptable for me to be testing and finding defects that anyone would find from simply checking their work." She could hear Mike exhaling laboriously.

"All I'm asking, is that before we take the time to promote any code into test that the work is checked. It's that simple. We're drowning in rework."

"Well, Ben, what do you have to say? Are we cleaning up these..." and here he hesitated for effect, "deltas? You know, Celeste is the gatekeeper, here... what can you do to set her mind at ease"

Oh, that was rich.

"You betcha, Mike. We really appreciate Celeste's patience, we know she's the one we have to make happy... and we're tryin' to do that. My team's been working all hours to get through this as quickly as possible."

Ah, Ben, the schmooze man, the bullshit artist. He wouldn't know a clue if it jumped him while taking a shot for birdie on the ninth hole at his country club. He was the perhaps the finest example of middle management in the group. Polished, positive, punctual and passionate, he was everything the executives loved in a mid-thirties WASP. He could do no wrong. Whenever he tripped, and he did this often, the mystery shroud of IT engulfed him. That ethereal impenetrable cloud enfolded him in a blanket of the unknown, and the upper eschelon clucked in appreciation as he single-handedly fought the hideous demons that dwelled there. Never mind there were no such demons, never mind that he relied on his superiors' naivete. Never mind that he was clueless and spent more time on his country club's golf tournament spreadsheet than anything else during work hours. Never mind that his project manager, a quiet, capable, Indian contractor who got paid peanuts did it all for him. That is, until he'd somehow 'forgotten' to extend his visa and sent Shridar and his family packing back to New Delhi with less than a week's notice. Things had gone to hell after that. Yup. Ben was a prince.

"Well, Celeste... Let's give it our best to keep up with Ben's group and get these deltas resolved. We're looking for one... hundred... and... ten... percent from everybody, right now, okay? Riiiiight. Keep 'em going Ben, eh buddy?"

She couldn't help but wonder if he was seriously attempting to mimic the boss from Office Space or if the universe was playing a cruel joke on him of which only she seemed to be aware. While he droned on about the 'impact of the project on the business' saying for the umpteenth time 'we've got a best practice here', she smiled faintly. At times like this it was therapy to remember the volunteer event from just a month before...

Hundreds of employees had ditched work for a day to board chartered buses and be taken to various halfway houses and shelters to do whatever needed to be done. The 'outside of work' dynamic was fascinating. You learn a lot about the people you work with them at these things. The pecking order evaportates, and you get a new perspective on your peers. The corporate diva, Ms. 'I'm a ball-buster from Wall Street and now I'm the token female marketing VP' worked on the same three feet of hedge for two and a half hours... being careful not to spoil her acrylics. Celeste and two of the more hard-working females decimated three walls in the basement with crowbars and hammers, and the gleam in their eyes was probably not unlike a maenad's after a dionysian feast. They obviously had prodigious wells of frustration just under the surface and were in serious need of a little destruction therapy. The men who actually did something were the same ones that actually did something at work... they dismembered a water heater and dragged it to the curb.

Five or six of the cockier men stood around watching each other sweat, taking turns trying to dig up a tree trunk maybe eight inches in diameter. It was corporate male bonding at its finest. Right in the middle of it was Mike. Mike was in heaven. Mike was in high-waisted blue jeans that cleaved his ass. Mike was in the closet. His brand new workboots (purchased specifically for this occasion) gleamed in all their camel-coloured newness. Celeste and the girls had ducked and giggled uncontrollably when he had turned around on the bus to sit down. It was just too much...

Now, Celeste and her girlfriends loved a gay man just as much as the next 'swell girl', but Mike not only suffered from little man's disease, but he was a hopeless closet nelly and he was loosing his hair to boot. No wonder every conversation was a battlefield. When someone disagreed with him, his pitch would elevate, and he would gesticulate excessively to an ever-increasing verbal cadence. His condescention would turn to outright queen bitchiness. No one could stand him when he was like that and it was well known that his peers suffered him like an overly excited puppy. Unfortunately, he was the owner of Celeste's project, and after months of it, her patience was as thin as his caesar. Picturing Mike in his faggy jeans, beaming at his cohorts with his hands placed just so on the shovel handle was her last resort. She was convinced picturing him naked would just induce vomiting. He was still droning on...

"So... let's go ahead and regroup here this afternoon. We'll level-set and see where we stand. Celeste, why don't you go ahead and send out the meeting minder, mmmkay?"

A hundred K plus a year and this was her duty for the day while she waited for new code, "Will do... I just want to thank everyone again for calling in this morning... we'll get that defects list down as fast as we can."

She listened to everyone ring off, one by one... It was eleven-thirty. It was time for carnitas and margaritas. Not tacos and beer, not enchiladas and bloody mary's. What was so wrong with calling the damn thing what it was?

She took a deep breath, and let it out, slow.

"Do you believe that crap? What do they want from us, to slap some Mr. Rogers code word on every piece of shit so nobody gets their feelings hurt?" His voice came over the line in an acrid burst.

"Apparently... Let's split."

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