This story was originally written in response to a writing prompt at Hair Brained Press. The prompt was “Good manners will do that; turn a situation around.”


Brett, why do you always have to be such a fucking asshole?

I bang the words out, clicky mechanical keys echoing like the staccato of machine gun fire. It’s satisfying.

The cursor blinks at me.

[Control][A]

[Delete]

Brett, it would help if you had something constructive to say, instead of constantly making snide remarks and implicitly questioning my intelligence.

[Control][A]

[Delete]

Brett, I appreciate your feedback, but

[Control][Shift][Left Arrow]

[Delete]

and I understand your concerns.

[Control][A]

I hit the Delete key so hard it flies off the keyboard.

My eyes shift over to the wall of comments plastered on my code review. Forty hours of work in two days and not a single positive word.

Maybe it is shit.

Could be.

I sip the last cold dregs of coffee from my mug. I’m so tired I can barely think.

[Control][L]

I have to peel myself out of my chair. Grabbing my mug and coat I shuffle down the hall to the kitchen and over to the automatic espresso machine. I punch the button labeled “Two Shots” and watch with glazed eyes as the machine spits out sweet hot nectar of the gods. I hit the button again, this time letting my fingers linger over the Braille dots affixed as an afterthought under the label.

A gaggle of Millennials stand between me and the fridge. I run the gauntlet and grab a jug of milk. They’re talking about whatever Millennials with too much money, too much free time, and too much education talk about. I don’t understand half of it. Maybe I’m too old. Maybe I just don’t care.

I pour the milk into a stainless steel cup and put it under the steam wand. The milk swirls and froths, slowly thickening. When the cup is almost too hot to hold I turn off the steam and carefully pour it into my mug. I try to make a leaf with the foam, but it looks more like the aborted fetus of an elder god.

I want to [Control][Alt][Delete] my life.

Throwing my coat on, I punch the elevator. Then it’s four floors down, looking intensely at my boots and trying to be invisible to the other humans occupying the cramped space. I’m the first one out, first one to the door. I hold it open for the others, because why be a dick?

It’s forty degrees and raining. I find some shelter under a tree and pull a cigarette out of the pack with my teeth. A flick of the Zippo. That satisfying click as the lid slams shut. I inhale deeply and relief washes over me.

I put my mug down on the curb, pull out my phone, and text my wife.

Brett just shat all over my code review.

<thumbs down emoji>

I’m going to have to rewrite the whole thing. Over a thousand lines of code. I have no idea what he wants. Zero constructive feedback. At least he could draw some fucking boxes and arrows or some shit.

He won’t tell you what he wants?

It’s all just vague design theory crap. He’s hung up on the purity of the design. I just need to get it working. This is an extremely complicated service and I’m already balls to the wall against the deadline.

Sounds like you need to get all Dale Carnegie on his ass.

I don’t even know what what means.

Make him want to help you by showing him how it will help him.

Ugh.

Nothing wrong with some ass-kissing, either.

Double ugh. I don’t think I can turn this situation around. I’m convinced he thinks I’m an idiot. I’m going to have to rewrite the whole thing and I don’t even know where to start.

Be nice. You’re Canadian. Use your manners. Good manners will do that; turn a situation around.

I’ll try. Thanks, sweetie.

<face blowing kiss emoji>

I stub the third butt out in the gutter and light a fourth. Pick up my coffee and sip some life back into my exhausted body. Forty degrees and raining. This weather sucks. It’s been like this for months. Will be for months. Fuck Seattle.

I think about Kauai. I try to imagine the sound of the freeway is ocean waves and the rain is warm instead of bone chilling cold that seeps straight through to your bones.

It doesn’t work.

Flicking the fourth butt into the bushes, I walk back to the office, badge my way through the door, and hit the elevator button. A cheerful sign on the wall invites me to coffee hour with Womxn in Programming. I’ll pass, thanks.

Four floors up and down the hall to my office. I slump into my chair and key in my PIN. The empty email stares back at me, cursor blinking. I pick up the delete key and pop it back onto its Cherry MX Blue switch.

I shotgun a Coke Zero.

Brett, thanks so much for taking the time to give my code such a thorough review. I could definitely use some of your expertise with the design of the service at a more granular level, because I’m having trouble translating the high level concepts into functional code. Could we carve out an hour or so tomorrow to hit the whiteboard and walk through the problem areas you highlighted in your review? I want to make sure I get this right with the architecture you have in mind. Thanks!

[Control][Enter]

Dale fucking Carnegie.

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