Sunday, January 30, 2011

Now, Harvey. . .

In the course of 30-plus years of my engineering career (which, perhaps surprisingly, has yielded a funny story or two over the years), only once have I ever interviewed a candidate for employment, when I was at my previous employer.

A young hotshot named Andy, fresh out of college, was applying for a job with us. I'm not really sure why they asked me to interview him; I wasn't in any kind of supervisory position. It was probably because the job he was applying for had something to do with computers (although not really with anything I was doing at the time), and in those days, computers were still mostly mysterious to boss-types, and they wanted someone to talk with him who understood what he'd be talking about. We talked for twenty minutes or so, and my main impression of Andy was that he was more than a little, uh, cocky. Arrogant, even. He was certainly not lacking in self-confidence.

At the end of the day, I told the guys who'd be deciding whether to make him an offer that, if he was even half as good as he thought he was, he could be a decent hire. And they did hire him (how much of that had to do with my recommendation is doubtful).


Over the ensuing few years, Andy and I bumped into each other with some regularity. And I came to see that my initial hints of his exaggerated sense of his own importance were not, alas, mistaken. Again and again, Andy showed himself to be all about one thing - Andy. One time, I didn't reply to one of his emails promptly enough to suit him, so he sent a scathing email to my boss, decrying my 'egregious lack of professionalism'.

Fortunately, by that time, Andy's schtick was well-known, and my boss told me I had nothing to worry about from Andy. Which was a relief. But Andy showed, on many occasions, and not just to me, that he had no qualms about throwing anyone and everyone under the bus, if he thought it might be to his advantage.

And so it was that, a while later, I found myself in a meeting with Andy, and his boss Anwar (a Pakistani; which fact might add some 'texture' to the story as it develops), and a guy named Harvey. Harvey and Andy both worked for Anwar, although their duties didn't really overlap at all. Harvey was pretty much the stereotypical 'crusty old Navy guy', complete with the former-sailor's vocabulary. If he cussed you out, it just kind-of rolled smoothly off his tongue, and you knew it really wasn't anything personal; it was just Harvey.

And, you might well imagine that Harvey, the 'crusty old Navy guy', and Andy, the cocky new-hire, might clash just a bit. And you'd be right. And you might well imagine that, when such clashes occurred, they might provoke some, uh, colorful language from Harvey, directed at his young puke of a co-worker. And you'd be right about that, too.

So, then, as the meeting began, and we were sitting around the table, Anwar turned to Harvey, raising an admonitory finger, and with a thick Pakistani accent (it really does add to the story if you can sort-of imagine it in your head), said one of the funniest things I've ever heard in a corporate setting: "Now Harvey - you must not be calling Andy a c*cks*cker."  Because, you know, Andy had pissed him off, and Harvey had done just that. And Andy, in his turn, had gone and whined complained about it to their boss. . .

Harvey sat there, getting redder by the second, exercising every ounce of self-control he could muster not to jump across the table and choke the young twerp his co-worker.

And everyone else around the table nearly blew their eyeballs from their sockets, and snot from their noses, trying to hold back the howling laughter they wished they could let out. . .


  1. Yikes! Although my career was short-lived, I never got used to the amount and intensity of swearing that occurred in the workplace. Not that I'm adverse to choice words myself, but it's the lack of professionalism that always shocked me.

    But yeah, I can totally hear the Pakastani saying that!

  2. That's funny stuff. Have you sen the GEICO commercial wherein the ex-drill sergeant is working as a psychotherapist? That's how I picture your Harvey.

  3. Interestingly this kinda hits home. Much of my career has been based on cleaning up the scraps after one 'Andy' or another was either removed or chose to move on. Ugly stuff, but then I never had a Pakistani to make the situation tolerable! :-)

  4. Bijoux - Anwar was also famous for giving a presentation to the president and executive staff, in which he made reference to (cue the Pakistani accent) "our fondest wet dream". . .

    Suldog - Harvey was a genuinely decent person. But he did have a good share of "Stop whining!" to his personality. . .

    Xavier - Yeah, we kept waiting for Andy to decide to move on, and leave us losers in the dust. He finally did, but it took him a painfully long time to do it. . .

  5. I found it rather ironic that until one has been around a 'crusty old Navy guy' it can't be appreciated just how broad their vocabulary is and how well they refrain from using it.

  6. Skip - Oh, I hear you. . .

    Some of my favorite people in my life have been crusty old Navy guys. Heck, if it wasn't for the whole 'Navy' thing, I might be one myself. . . ;)

  7. bwahahahaha!!! i can totally picture the scene. thanks for letting us be a fly on the wall

  8. I put my fly-swatter away, just for you. . . ;)

  9. I can totally hear it in my head. I don't think I would have been able to hold in my laughter, though!

  10. Hi, Flutter!

    Oh, I hear you; it wasn't easy for any of us. . .

    Actually, what strikes me as maybe even funnier (in a pathetic sort of way) is the mental image of Andy sitting in Anwar's office earlier that day, saying (cue sniveling voice) "Harvey called me a c*cks*cker. . ."

  11. I've had to interview interns at my job before, and at my previous job I had to interview a handful of people. I always find it odd, because I've been in the interview-ee chair so many times before, and the kinds of questions people ask often drive me crazy.

    Yet I find myself asking the same type of stupid questions when I interview people, because I don't know what else to ask.

  12. Numb-er One - It's funny, but I remember virtually nothing about the interview, beyond the fact that I did it, and it was the only one I ever did, and that Andy had a very, um, strong sense of himself. . .

    In my mind, we talked some about his college classes, and the kinds of problems he'd worked on that had some bearing on what we were looking for. . .