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Max Barashenkov

Becoming an IT Whore

by Max Barashenkov, illustration by Alastair Laird / 07.03.2011

Chapter 3:

Lynne Clark, the HR Director of Soni(—) Medical Inc., is middle-aged, eats attention like a blonde bimbo in her twenties and is currently shamelessly checking out my ass as I crawl around under her desk. I try not to think about her hungry eyes or the hairy rolls of fat on her neck and keep chanting the saving mantra: “Bukowski worked in a post office, Bukowski worked in a factory”. She enquires whether her printer is now able to receive files from the rest of the office over wireless… I emerge from the tangle of cables, assume the pose and unleash a monologue of utter technological heresy, peppering it with words like “virtual private networks”, “ipconfigs” and “SIP/ALG protocols”. The terms mean little to me, just rubbish I picked up after a few weeks of hanging out with tech-geeks, but to Lynne they are a sermon and I preach my bullshit gospel with zeal worthy of the Great Combinator himself. She unrolls her tongue and begins gently massaging my anus; above her the clock lets out a merciful TICK. Another hour, another hundred dollars. San Jose, California, is the capitol of Silicon Valley, the city of unattractive women, and I am its hooker.

They told me it would be this way, instructed me in the ways of being an IT gigolo, but nothing could have prepared me for the blind stupidity of the clientele – people who have learnt to fly but forgot how to walk, hi-tech giants with their eyes set on the horizon, not noticing the roaches screwing over their feet. We, tech-support, are the bottom feeders, the glamourless cyber-ninjas, warriors of the Cable and the Server, forty-year old men with punk rock hang-ups of not being a part of the “system”, a sad and average lot. The overwhelming mediocrity of this crowd is annoying at first, tasteless later and crushingly depressing after a month, but when cancer is eating the mammary that fed you as a child, it is time to man up and dip into harsh reality. Somewhere behind lies the golden time of hipster squabbles, online bitchfests over who is cooler and the sheltered existence of the Cape Town microcosm where everyone is an artist. It lies there, monstrous and towering in the rear-view mirror, and reeks of the bullshit that it is. Swallow those ambitions kids, the daily grinder awaits, the machine needs new cogs and you’d be a fool to think that you can escape it. All that remains for me is to keep re-reading the phenomenal Hard To Be A God by the Strugatski brothers and stock up on patience and hope…

“…Max, I got this virus and…” Jessica’s voice jerks me back to awareness. I’m in the P(-)yP(-)l offices, four days have drifted by since Lynne’s tongue enema, coloured by nothing. Jessica Horn, one of the three secretaries at this e-commerce bunker, gazes at me with round deer eyes, the look is familiar to me now – a sickening mixture of helplessness, awe and thinly-veiled lust. She and her numerous ilk at the various companies we service are the gatekeepers of the Dollar, guardians of the Timesheet, moronic angels of More Hours. Secretaries and HR personnel are the weak link in the technological armour of Silicon Valley, bored and out-matched by the intellect of their male superiors, they crave visits from IT boys like me – nothing more than cocks wrapped in black silk suits and wearing our best paper smiles, meat dangling in front of starving dogs, cruelly hacking basic female emotions. That is my role at OnSite Tech, the conglomerate of IT dropouts – to be the poster boy, the charming proxy who is invited time and time again for the simplest of tasks, raping the big boys for their dollars.

“So this virus…” Jessica begins again, seeing my attention wander. I put on my professional face, remove her from her station to the soundtrack of excited giggles of physical proximity, launch a remote desktop program and dial Andrew, because virus removal is as foreign to me as the intricacies of, say, the Chinese language.

“Yeaaaaah, what ya want?” Andrew picks up in his usual style. It is noon and he is on his fourth or fifth joint, blazed beyond all acceptance in normal society, but the tech support world runs on marijuana – I haven’t met a single techie who wasn’t a hardcore stoner. I guess it is the only thing that makes their routine, bleak survival bearable. Reality soils even the pleasures of youth, the herb that once was a cause for celebration, is now somehow dirty, low and weak. Andrew, even in his delirium, quickly identifies the virus entry point – once again through a printer server, the bane! The enemy! – and begins the cleaning operation. I do absolutely fuck all except for expertly pretending to be hard at work and trading office gossip with Jessica, earning my pay. She flutters around like a butterfly in heat and invites me for drinks with some colleagues, I graciously decline citing prior, non-existent commitments. It pays off, she calls the next day and I scurry to P(-)yP(-)l again to spend another hundred-dollar-bill-tinged hour swapping two cables. The sweet Cha-Ching! The flawless smile of a legal conman… oh what a puddle of shit have the mighty landed in.

It is on the way back to the asshole of San Jose where my basement awaits, somewhere between the sprawling campuses of Cisco that bleed into the glass towers of Intel and the concrete labs of Apple hiding the much hipper offices of Facebook, the mystique of this place starts to wear thin, split at the seams and drown in the clichés. Silicon Valley is one of the monuments to the American Way, to the ruthless capitalist ethos that dominates this society, to that ever-elusive ideal of success-out-of-nothing-but-perseverance. Fifty years ago there was nothing here, just cherry orchards and rows of apple trees, now it is a world-renown powerhouse, a hi-tech core with a 20-mile radius, a place where the very notions of progress are defined, conceptualized and put into life. Yes, once here, two “red blood American” engineering students from Stanford could start a printing company in their garage and lead it to such prosperity that they can buy a stadium and call it, shamelessly, the Hewlett & Packard Pavilion. Once, perhaps, the American Dream was here, but now faces of colour populate the streets – immigrants from China, Russia, India – people who are smarter and willing to work harder than the superiority-crippled Americans, whose entitlement complex is not dissimilar to that of South Africa. The goldmine has changed hands, the stars and stripes retreat back to their garages to spew venom about immigration laws. A sour race born out of the greatest failed social experiment since organized religion. I pity and strangely understand them, for the same way they surrendered their country, so do I let go of youth, of the carefree years, of abandon. The idealistic idiot finally steps off the rooftop into the Shai-Hulud maw of life.

Oh, Cape Town, you glorious fairytale, you utopian white paradise, oh how much I love and despise you! Your fake San Francisco streets, your delusional upper class, blind in their privilege, your pathetic World Cup orgasm that failed to stain you onto the international map, your circles, your squares, your monuments to your own grandeur, visible only from within the City Bowl, your hidden nests of the ultra-rich, tourists in their own country, your sprawls of shacks that will never taste leather shoes and V-necked shirts. From California, I scream at you: “What have you done? What is there to your name apart from a mountain? When will you stop jerking yourself off and create something worthwhile? Something that will ring out further than Joburg?” Oh, Cape Town, the city of perpetual youth, to you and your empty pyres, I drink, and tomorrow I’ll get up, disgusted at the senseless idealism of these words, put on my suit and go forth to whore my ambitions for gold, and then I’ll drink more and drink heavy, until that fire ignites me again.

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