Monday, August 13, 2012

Hey, Where's Joe?

Many years back, I interviewed and was eventually hired by Joe.  He told me later that the tipping point to his decision to hire me (aside from my meager salary requirement) was signing my email Geekus Maximus.

Joe (not his real name, but then again, it might be) was a great boss.  His sense of humor and job knowledge were superb.  He knew sarcasm but wasn't as accomplished as me so we traded skills.  Every department he walked through waved and snickered.  He was an unholy terror with sexual harassment, moreso than me, but knew what he could get away with.

Joe also schooled me on learning to speak to vice presidents and other assorted vermin up the corporate chain.  He told me to just think about what I would be like with about ninety percent of my brain removed and phrase things accordingly.

It turned out that Joe was inaccurate: it was closer to ninety-five percent.

That aside, we were a small, closely-knit band of IT operatives.  We were the lowest of the low.  One day we heard an overhead announcement for the IT Password Committee.  I turned to Joe and asked him what that was about.  He looked and me and offered that he had no idea.  No one had thought to consult the IT people about the IT Password Committee.  So it was in the Twilight Zone (and so it shall always be).

Joe had chronic pain from a back injury.  He also liked certain substances to help with the pain, as the prescribed medicine didn't work very well.  In fact, Joe liked certain substances on general principles.  People who had been to his parties all testified to this (although not in court, thankfully).

The work atmosphere got even more interesting when Rob joined our merry little band.  Rob was a classic underachiever: he would whine for three days about going on the road in order to build up the steam to actually go on the road and do his job.   Rob also enjoyed certain substances, including certain other substances.  He would show up for work in sunglasses and sit at his desk, mostly asleep, after his many nights of amusement.  He was our departmental DUI champ with a total of one.

As Joe's pain got worse, he became absent a bit.  Then a bit more.  Then a lot.  He began actively seeking certain substances for the pain.  It actually got to the point where he could be missing for an entire week.  Needless to say, work became interesting.

Manglement grew weary of absences and started making unreasonable demands like `come to work a few days per week' and `please bring a doctor's note'.  This did not work for Joe.

At about this point I started being defacto manager, as there was no one else.  One day I was minding my business, driving myself to work, when the phone rang.  It was Rob, calling to let me know he got popped for his second DUI (a new departmental record), and btw, he had an eight-ball with him at the time, so it looked like he wasn't going to be coming to work for about eighteen months.

I pride myself on my ability to go with the flow.  I'd simply figure out a way to accomplish more with less of us.  The next call, which I debated upon answering, was Joe.  He said he was going away for treatment for a few weeks; he was addicted to medicine.  And wasn't I proud of him for admitting it?


After that, I decided to drive to work with the phone off.  At very least I would never receive any more bad news.

Unfortunately for all of us, Joe kinda lost touch.  We'd call and he wouldn't get back to us.  His employer called and he wouldn't get back to them.  Eventually they grew tired of the routine and terminated his employment.

The building was in shock, as were the denizens.  Everybody loved Joe.  We heard he was a proud man - too proud to return.  It was not like he couldn't return, even socially, yet he disappeared.  No matter how people tried to contact him, he did not respond.  We obviously had to respect his decision (even though we knew where he lived).

Every now and then people would ask "Hey, have you heard from Joe?"

Rob never returned either and the company moved on.  It's been over five years.  If Joe walked in the front door today, he'd still be stampeded by his friends, running up for a hug.  We often lamented his absence.

Today I discovered through the grapevine that Joe died last month or so.   He became a victim of his addiction.  ThermionicEmissions sends out best wishes to Joe, his wife, and his sons.

Joe, you stupid mf-er.


  1. I know lots of "Joes" as well. What compels good people toward self-destruction? Few things are sadder.

  2. What are we missing that drugs seem to fulfill (but don't)?
    We certainly seem to have a problem.