The Marathon Man

This is the third of my series of ridiculous people and happenings that I have come across in my career.  If you have been following along, you know that my career (at least paid career) started at a large company I refer to as Ubber-IT Company.  My first role at Ubber was in a support group working with jcl mostly but generally performing the tasks that nobody else wanted to deal with.

I had moved into a new role with a group that developed document imaging systems using that crazy new technology paradigm called "Client-Server".  I enjoyed working in this group because everything new in tech was what we were working with.  What also made the role interesting was the group of developers I worked with.  They were real programmers.  I have never had the chance to thank this group of developers for the inspiration they gave me, but I am convinced that I would never have accomplished what I have without working early on with a group like that.

However, my group back then is not the focus of the discussion today.  My team members and I sat in a huge cube farm and a few rows over was a group that worked on a project for Huge Government Agency.  This group was well known in Ubber for working obscenely long hours.  Calling what they did a death march doesn’t seem to capture it well because a march implies that it will end at some point.

There was one individual in particular who seemed to go beyond what the others on the Huge Government Agency project did.  I will call him Marathon Man.

I have always been an early riser, getting in to the office around 6 am.  Back then, with no wife and family, I also stayed quite late.  On occasion, I would even drop by the office on weekends and sometimes very late.  Even at these odd hours, I do not recall every being at the office when Marathon Man was not working diligently in his cubicle.

I came to the office early one Monday morning to find that Marathon Man was not in his cube.  Next to his cube was a window that had plywood covering it.  I walked over and wires were exposed from his desk, where his tube and keyboard used to sit.  I looked out the window (we were on the second floor) and below were parts of what used to be Marathon Man’s terminal.  Ubber maintenance had attempted to clean up the mess but there were far too many small parts to get it all in one pass.

Nobody said anything about this.  A few days later, a new tube appeared in Marathon Man’s cubicle and a new window replaced the plywood.  Still no sign of him.

A few weeks later, I saw one of Marathon Man’s teammates in the coffee room and quietly asked what had happened.  He said, "The guy just snapped.  He had a bug that absolutely needed to be fixed by Monday morning and he wasn’t going to make it.  He finally tore his tube out and threw it out the window.  Nobody has heard from the guy since."

I walked out of the coffee room stunned at what I had heard.  I knew then that Ubber wasn’t the company for me and started planning my departure.

I never saw Marathon Man again.  I think of him every now and then and I envision him at a tropical resort, sipping a drink with umbrellas in it, watching the sunset.

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