Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bad Timing

One of my favorite bosses was RP. I worked for him as a student and he gave me my first full-time job when I graduated. He's one of my favorites for many reasons. He held a similar position to one my father had once held so there was some familiarity to that. Because of that similarity he knew my father. They had each earned an EdD and worked in instructional media so they had traveled in some of the same circles. In his own right, RP had a way of asking for things and dealing with situations that didn't make me feel like I was in trouble with the principal. He had a way of telling you to do something that let you discover the deficiency on your own and make the decision what to do about it on your own. I had a measure of respect for him - I still do.

I had worked for RP for a few years and had a student assistant, CS. One day CS and I had been busting our humps all day long. We were lugging equipment around, visiting multiple locations, taking care of work at the office, etc. I think there was a conference going on and we were handling the AV support and videotaping (yes, we actually used tape) different sessions. It's the only thing I can think of that would have kept us so busy and so mobile.

At one point I recall that we had a break in the action. We had gone back to the office to get supplies and swap out some video duplication runs. Once we were set, CS and I realized we had about 10 minutes before we had to schlep back to the location so we decided to get off our feet for a bit.

This was the early 90's and seeing a computer on almost every desk was not such a rarity but we were just starting to figure out how to get them to talk to each other. Everybody had a different way of stringing two or more computers together and email was still mostly relegated to mainframe systems. Because of the nature of my job, I happened to have two PCs (and one Mac) in my office and they were strung up to talk to each other (getting the PCs to talk to my Mac and the other Macs in the department was no small feat then). Also because of the nature of my work, I had a sound card in one of the PCs (an expensive rarity/luxury at the time).

The hottest game going was something called Doom. It was using the same system (we didn't call them gaming engines back then) as one of the first, if not the first, of the first-person shooter genre, Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. One of the reasons it was so popular was because if you had networked computers, you could play with another person on the same network and basically frag the hell out of each other with pistols, shotguns, machine guns and rocket launchers.

I happened to have a copy of Doom installed on both of the PCs. CS and I decided we needed to relieve some of the stress of the day and fired up the game. We started chasing each other and shooting each other during those precious few minutes we had been able to grab that day. It was quite therapeutic.

I don't know if it was the sounds of battle or some other business that prompted a visit but we heard the door to the office open. One of us paused the game and we both turned around. It was RP.

I looked at RP expectantly, wondering what I could do for him, whilst thinking to myself, "It figures. The only ten minutes we've had to sit all day long and the boss has to walk in and see us playing a game. Perfect." He stood there for a moment, hand still resting on the doorknob, looked between the two of us, and closed the door without uttering a sound. CS and I looked at each other with, "I wonder if we're in trouble?" in our thoughts, shrugged because if we were busted we were busted, and immediately resumed the game until it was time to grab our gear and head back out.

RP never asked about it and he never mentioned it. To this day I don't know if he was upset, confused, or understood that we were just taking a break.

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