thoughtwisps One commit at a time

all the t's

Fiction. Part of “a god in glass” series.

Other parts of the series in order:

prologue, or the end of all things



I rarely worked with other women. Instead I worked with lots of men named T[redacted].

My direct line manager was T. He wore a suffering expression, avoided all conflict and confrontation. His lukewarm personality extended, it seemed, into the pale colour of his skin and the weak handshake he gave me when we first met at the interview.

The second T I met was the complete opposite. If the first T, my manager, was a pale pencil drawing, this T was the embodiment of the words “smooth operator”, in love with his own handsomness, his well-fitting suits and crew-neck sweaters.

He filled me up with hot air and got me to accept and offer that underpaid me severely in comparison with my colleagues on the same team and with the same job titles. More to himself than to me, he justified this glaring discrepancy with a half-mumbled “We have to be fair to the people who have been here longer”. I realised he was an expert at massaging, twisting and turning the truth - a fact, that no doubt had made him excellent at his job and earned him the VP title.

In fact he was so good that even he himself believed those beautiful sentences that sold the corporation as some kind of techologist heaven to stupid naive girls like me.

All I else, I could forgive, except the fact that he had somehow made me accept an offer where I was at a disadvantage and then spun it as some great accomplishment.

“It would be good for your career to spend the next five years at the same company, here”, he said as he shepherded me out of the door.

The third T was in a class of his own and an unlikely character on the floors of the corporation. He reminded me of a gruff, scruffy old sailor. He didn’t take well to people. His first words for me were “How’s your programming skill”. He thought he was all about the no-bullshit, but all he ended up being was a rude asshole.

Sometimes I went to speak to him about work and he didn’t even look at me. Just continued typing at his workstation as he uttered an answer in short, curt sentences.

He had favourites on the floor, of course. Up and coming, career-hungry public school boys from the Home Counties. He held them in great esteem, appointed them to do important, prestigious tasks, let them speak to stakeholders, lead meetings and meet clients.

Sometimes in his mannerisms I detected racist undertones. They were never overt, maybe perhaps even subconscious, but they were there nonetheless, in the way he spoke, in his body language.

At Christmas, I burnt the midnight oil, while all around me the cubicle farm was nearly-empty, littered with half-eaten Waitrose mince pies and boxes of Christmas chocolate. I was in my chair, working with a debugger, determined to prove myself in a thorny investigation of a bug that afflicted the booking of a certain class of European financial instruments. The bug caused a painful downstream issue that had to be manually rectified every time by a small, very stressed assistant, Jennie.

I felt bad for her, for all the stress she had to endure, because our technology was so unstable and unreliable.

In the tech department, the men complained about her incompetence and then compared her to Jimmie, a young man who they went out drinking with and with whom they constantly traded small favours in the hierarchy of the corporation.

Gruff T’s protege came up to me one day. We were working on a new functionality that would hopefully make Jennie’s life easier. He sat next to me and said, in a matter of fact voice as though the matter was solely up to him and already decided, as though he was somehow privy to the internal workings of the cruel machinery that made some have more money than god and trampled others, that Jennie would never become a trader, but Jimmie would.

Jennie got stressed and made mistakes, Jimmie didn’t. I wondered how much of his assessent was based on, was clouded by, the fact that he regularly went out drinking with Jimmie, but I held my tongue.

In those words, in miniature, was the whole cruel hierarchy of the corporation.

I doubled down. I put in extra effort in investigating the bug for Jennie, because, you know women supporting women and all of that, not that it made much of a difference here.

I imagined myself in her shoes, that small, stressed woman, being yelled at by testosterone and entitlement with a good-measure of emotion-stripping British public school education or polo-playing American Ivy League education, dressed up in a white collar shirt, tight dress pants and Italian leather shoes.

I had the pleasure of meeting the particular specimen that Jenny worked with a few weeks into the project.

Gruff T himself, in an unprecedented act of generosity or maybe a desire to throw me under a double-decker, took me downstairs. He had listened to me, with increasing irritation, as I explained what I had uncovered in my investigation of the bug, then said “come on”.

I had already been on the trading floor a few times and found it a noisy, racuous place, where boys (for they were still mostly boys) got to play at being kings. In some places, this vast space had a vaguely male smell, the same kind that lingered on my bed and pillows after a night of rough sex.

There were gym bags and sweaty, smelly sneakers and t-shirts spilling out of the said gym bags onto the stained, carpet floor, abandoned coffee cups, by the dozens on some desks, rows upon rows of them. Miniature blue mold blooms sprouted in the curdled remains.

Large TV monitors played Bloomberg on repeat and every now and then the chatter in the room was punctured by a loud ringing of a bell or a cartoonish yeehaw cowboy sound. It was very fitting for the general tenor of the place. This was a wild west where the hopeful and the ruthless who believed in grabbing the oyster and tearing it to shreds went on to win millions (or at least, so they made it seem).

So gruff T took me downstairs to where the dragons were, marched me past rows upon rows of desks and monitors to the front of the floor and deposited me in front of P - the man whose capricious software was responsible for this whole debacle. P held two boxes of sushi in his hands while talking to someone and gesticulating wildly.

I watched the maki and the nigiri jump around the box. Then after a good five minutes he finally noticed us, placed the boxes on the table, wiped his hand on his dress pants and offerred his hand to me.

I tried my best to explain to him what the problem was, but very soon he grew bored of listening to me, opened up the window and started showing me the bug while complaining. I tried to interject feebly and gruff T, sensing that I was about to royally embarrass myself and the whole department, promptly thanked P and carted me off back to my own floor.

He sat down next to me, called over a colleague and began discussing the bug as though I wasn’t even there. After half an hour or so, satisfied that they would not notice my absence, I slunk back to my own desk, wrote up my findings in an email and sent it off. A week later the bug was fixed, I had earnt some respect in the eyes of my colleagues, but more than ever I felt like an outsider.

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