One time I almost got into a fistfight with a Russian programmer named ‘Vlad.’ We were working on the same project, and he kept saying ‘programmers are lazy’ to defend his actual laziness. His actual laziness included repeatedly engaging in poor coding practices that had been pointed out to him repeatedly.
Programmers’ lives are supposed to be devoted to eliminating repetitiveness, so the ‘lazy’ aspect comes from the idea that the better you are at this kind of laziness the less you will do long-term. You think a little upfront toward automation and re-use and then later there’s less to do. He was the opposite of this.
So he said it for the millionth time about something particularly egregious, and I erupted. My eruption involved my walking around the office pointing to individual people and pointing to a person and yelling, “[Person’s Name] doesn’t seem particularly lazy!” and then giving one or two ways in which said person wasn’t lazy, while the entire office was silent while they instant messaged each other on AIM and tried to pretend there wasn’t a crazy person in the room yelling about how they weren’t lazy. The ranting seemed to be going on for a long time so I said, “So I don’t know, maybe you shouldn’t be so proud of being so lazy?!” and then sat down at my desk and tried to calm down again.
Thirty seconds later Vlad was standing two inches from my desk with clenched fists and clenched teeth saying in a quiet voice, “C’mon you fucking piece of shit” repeatedly. What can I say, he liked repetition. So of course I jumped up and started yelling something and suddenly the IMing coworkers sprung into action to separate us.
Afterward we were each talked to by the CEO alone, then together. Then the CEO made us shake hands, and while doing so Vlad smiled and said, “Sometime, we should drink vodka together.”
Oh, my excuse for this ridiculous eruption at the time was that it was a week or so after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and our office was on Bleecker and Broadway and we had to do things like go show identification at an army checkpoint with tanks on 14th and Broadway to be able to get to the office, so of course I was just extra stressed because of that la la la.
Fast forward 13 years, and I almost snapped like this on a similar guy with similar attitudes, while living in Santa Monica where the weather doesn’t even really change much and I work in my home and there isn’t much wrong except what I manufacture in my head. Plus, people I know tell me that I’m very exacting of myself and other people, and I’ve also heard from same people that I’m not the calmest person they know. My excuse was probably not valid.
I wonder how my life would be different (see butterfly effect) if I had gone and had vodka with Vlad after work one day, and maybe many more days, and didn’t take this programming thing so seriously.