Simultaneously attending an EverQuest wedding and a job interview is not a trivial exercise. Fortunately, I always have a backup plan.

When you spend a couple of years maintaining mission-critical database systems for Fortune-500 companies as I have, you learn that most of life's problems can be efficiently solved through superior planning. Hell, I don't need to tell you that -- we've already established that I always have a backup plan. That's certainly how it was yesterday, although I still can't believe how wrong things turned out in the end.

Lemme start at the beginning. Lyle, my best friend in the world since the seventh grade, was finally tying the knot. In EverQuest. I know that an online wedding doesn't sound like a big deal, but Lyle fell in love with this girl playing Diablo II, and an online marriage was probably the next step to a real one. Me? I was the best man. You can't miss an event like that.

Except I had a job interview that very day.

Now, for you non-system-administrator-types, that would be a major conflict. But me, I've always got my options open. You see, I figured that, being an online wedding, I didn't technically need to be there -- only my avatar. While I was busy owning up at the job interview, I could have my roommate logged into my EQ account spewing out pre-scripted macros at the wedding. Nobody would know the better. Easy!

First I had to get my roommate to owe me a favor, but that was a trivial matter of buying a squeaky hamster wheel and a fake dead hamster -- kind of a long story, really, I'll tell you about it later. Anyways, the problem is I didn't trust my roommate to act like me at the online wedding. He's a few fruit loops short of a complete breakfast, you know? I knew that sooner or later he'd stop using my carefully scripted macros and he'd start speaking d00dspeak, blowing my whole scheme and revealing that I wasn't at the wedding after all.

But again, I always have a backup plan. I had another friend who would also be logged in to the server, a high-level mage who seemed to always be playing EverQuest. He understood my situation and we worked it all out. When I beeped his pager, he would jump forward and playerkill me in front of the online wedding party, which pretty much gave me an airtight alibi for not sticking around for the reception. I had his pager number on my cell phone's speed dial so that I could order my own execution at a moments notice. Meanwhile? I'd concentrate on the job interview.

It all seemed like the perfect plan at the time.

So Friday afternoon rolled around. I drove up to the office building, checked my watch, and give my house a quick call on the cell phone to make sure all was going according to plan. So far, so good. Nobody suspected I wasn't at the wedding. I strolled into the office, where I was greeted by a guy so wired on caffeine that his clothes were smoking. He took me to see the boss, a wiry guy in a sweatshirt who was frantically playing Asheron's Call and EverQuest simultaneously on a pair of laptops while a game of Dark Age of Camelot idled on a nearby desktop.

He turned to greet me. "So you're applying for the new IT department position?" he asked, quickly shaking my hand. He had a weak grip but talked fast and seemed, for the moment, to be in control of his surroundings. "Let me cut to the chase, my friend. As you can see from this organizational chart, I've spent the last two years weeding out the last vestiges of management in this company in order to build an organization that does nothing but play online RPGs all day. After the recent market crash, it turned out that illegally selling rare game items on auction sites is the most profitable business for us to be in."

I was floored. I had just found my dream job.

"Now, it may sound like a blast, but it's hard work," my hopefully future boss cautioned. "For instance, look here at my monitor. I've got to sit through this damnably boring online wedding ceremony so that I can hit up some schmucks at the reception afterwards -- I'm trying to find some buyers for my extremely rare Rubicite Breastplate. Look at these stiffs! I'd swear the best man was just spitting out macros…"

I feigned disinterest and nodded authoritatively, but in reality my stomach did a few somersaults. You see, on his monitor at that very moment was my character, attending my friend's wedding! "I'm going to guess by the slight lag you've got on your screen there that you need to upgrade your infrastructure," I said. "30 people playing EverQuest from a single office is going to tax all but the most robust of Internet servers and connections. I can help you with that -- I'm your man." I adjusted my seat. So far, this interview was all mine. And the online wedding seemed to be going smoothly as well. See? It pays to always have a backup plan.

"Sounds like you know your stuff," the manager in the sweatshirt beamed. "Let me introduce you to our current technical lead. His is the final say for any new hires, of course. He's a little eccentric -- you know those Unix guys."

As he lifted up his phone to call in the technical lead, my blood chilled within me. One of those Unix guys? As a Windows NT administrator, I knew there could be some friction here. Instantly I saw why this job had lingered in the paper for so long. Some insecure Unix guy, in control of all of the company hardware, didn't want to cede any power to punks like me. I was gonna have to fight for this job.

Suddenly the door to the room burst open and a menacing figure loomed on the other side. He was an old man with a long, yellowed face and curled beard. He dressed all in black and carried a gnarled staff. The Dreaded Unix Server Administrator glowered at me from the entrance to the room, his long shadow stretching from the doorframe and into the office where it draped over myself and my interviewer like a thick dark blanket.

"I'd like you to meet our next candidate for the IT position," the man in the sweatshirt said, cordially.

The administrator neither nodded nor acknowledged me. He simply floated over to his chair and sat with an audible creak. He set his pager on the table between us. "Windows NT?" he asked me after a pregnant pause.

"Yes," I answered.

"BESOTTED!" screamed the administrator, pointing at me with his staff.

Storm clouds gathered outside while I tried to take stock of my position. Meanwhile, on the computer monitor, I watched as the wedding ceremony ended and my character started walking around and talking to people. Bit by bit, he was lapsing into d00dspeak, ignoring the macros I'd set up and talking with numbers instead of letters. I knew that my time was growing short, and soon I'd have to page my high-level playerkilling friend and order my own execution. Meanwhile, I had this jackhole in the black robes trying to crush my chances at my dream job. His green and yellow eyes fumed at me through red-rimmed lids. Somehow I had to take this guy down. Server administrator vs. server administrator. Mano a mano.

But as my interviewer tried to make smalltalk, things moved faster than I had anticipated. Within the EverQuest game I watched in horror as my character removed his pants and began to sing, "I'm l33t! L33t!" No time to lose! I had to have myself killed! You see, THIS is why I always have a backup plan.

"Excuse me," I mumbled, withdrawing my cell phone. I quickly speed-dialed the number of my friend's pager, then turned back to the interview. "I'm sorry, what were we talking about?" I asked. Now I could focus on crushing this Unix punk.

Suddenly the Unix Server Admin's pager went off.

The room seemed to come crashing down on my like a ton of bricks as I made the connection. Sweat began to pool atop my brow. It all made sense … my playerkilling friend, the high level mage who seemed to be able to log unlimited hours of game time every day… he was sitting right across from me. EverQuest was his job. Suddenly, my arch enemy and my savior were one.

But would the Server Administrator make the connection? I turned and peered at him across the table, and his yellowing eyes met mine. He looked at the monitor, then at me, then at my cell phone, and finally at his pager. The little device beeped and rattled across the desk like a living, snarling animal. At last the Server Administrator looked up at me again, then grinned a toothy grin. He knew it. The bastard knew it!

"Are you gonna get that?" the manager asked, pointing at the pager.

The Administrator didn't take his eyes off of me. "I dunno," he said. "Am I?"

Meanwhile, on the screen, my character strutted over to one of the bridesmaids and said, "1 h4v3 ph4t l3wt 1n my l01ncl0th, w4nt 2 f33l?" I faced a terrible dilemma, one that even I -- the master of backup plans -- had not planned for. Do I sacrifice my dream job so this Server Admin could go back to his desk and mercifully kill my character? Or, do I take this guy down, get the job, and sacrifice my friendship with Lyle forever when word gets out that I skipped out of his online wedding? Well, jobs may come and go, but you can't repair a broken friendship. I had no choice.

I stood up. "Fine, fine! You win! I can't take this job. I'm sorry."

The Server Administrator continued grinning and shut his pager off with a bony hand. The manager crinkled his face in disappointment. "I'll show the user the door," the Administrator croaked. "The one that shall hit his ass on the way out."

As we walked down the hall, my nemesis barked an order down a row of cubicles. "EXECUTE HIM!" he called out. One of his cronies scurried over to a desktop and killed my character with a hail of magics.

Outside, the darkened sky started to rain in big heavy droplets. I stood at the front entrance and before returning to my car I turned to face my hated enemy. "You're lucky," I said, pointing a finger. "That job was as good as mine, and had it not been for that online wedding, I would have overcome!"

The Administrator took my challenge personally. He reared up, straightening his hunched back just as a chill breeze swept his black clothes. "Listen closely, WINDOWS USER," he spat. "To the uneducated server jockeys among us, today's mishap may have appeared to be a string of unfortunate happenstances, but mine ambitions suffer not the willynillisms of petty fate. Ask yourself this: How do you know it was your friend Lyle getting married, when you spoke only to his online avatar to make arrangements? Perhaps -- my three-finger-saluting neophyte -- in your amateur planning you failed to acknowledge that a rival genius Server Administrator -- ME! -- may have dug up your resume shortly after you submitted it to my company only to track you down, hack into all of your friends' EverQuest accounts, and stage the entire wedding using a room full of laptops and an elaborate series of macros. That's right, end-user! You are but nosemeat in machinations the depth of which your windowed brain cannot possibly comprehend! Years of running mission critical database systems have taught me one thing and one thing alone…" Lightning flashed and his last statement was punctuated by the crack of thunder as he rose his staff high above his head: "I ALWAYS HAVE A BACKUP PLAN!"

The howling storm failed to drown out his hideous, cackling laughter. But as the door closed slowly before him and the rain cascaded down my hair and cheeks, I vowed revenge. Someday. Oh yes. Someday. He would be mine.

But it was going to take one hell of a plan.

Victim Pic Small

Quiet down. It's for just such an occasion that I've got my contacts in the Korean Game Mafia on my cell phone speed dial. Let me tell you, something big is going down. BIG.

Score: 9.39; Total Votes: 8135 as of 2009-12-09.

It's sad but true that a hamster's squeaky wheel can drive a gamer to the brink of insanity

I can end troublesome lens flares Forever!

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