Adventures in Unix


Miles O'Neal

(soon to be a major black & white photo)

Pam O looked gaudy, the veritable Fashion Saucer complete with Matching Fashion CraftsmanWare, in her taupe ibex leather microskirt, Teenage Mutant Ninja Sneakers, mauve flannel tube top, and her hair sliding out of a ponytail back to its natural, afro look. Cheap imitation Soviet Tractor Farmgirl bracelets and leftover Star Wars necklaces were set off by the stark styrofoam lip covers glued on to Pam O's lips. She had definitely gone downhill since the AIX Expo. Nobody dared venture any comments, however, as Pam O was prone to chase one around a table with a carving knife at the drop of a NexT.

Besides, Pam O's mere presence could still set many a man's blood boiling no matter how she dressed. In fact, one of her CoWorkers had even taken to filing sexual harassment charges against himself every time he saw her, to save the Comany the trouble.

Having endured nearly endless harassment for her voluminous luggage on the last trip, Pam O had packed lightly. A single black canvas nEXT carrying case comprised all of Pam O's cartage for the trip. She managed to arrive a full day ahead of the rest of the crew, giving her time to shop for clothes, extra luggage, and a van line to help with the trip back home.

As an afterthought, she walked a few blocks around the convention center, which attracted a few sailors. These fine young men were proud to assist Pam O in setting up the Dread Company Trade Show Tent. They were rather disappointed afterwards, when the promised "exciting evening" they got in return was a prepaid cab trip to the nearest Waffle House (sans Pam O), which turned out to be in Winslow, AZ. (One annoyed swab later learned the cab payment had been on his credit card.)

Everyone's trip to San Francisco was thankfully uneventful. With a couple of minor exceptions. After needling Miles O (no relation to Pam O) and Jim Bob to keep each other from doing anything stupid and embarrassing the Company, a certain high level manager who shall remain nameless (Bill Gaze) fell asleep during the flight from DFW to SFO. Perhaps it was the pretzels at DFW; at his age it doesn't take much to bring on a siesta.

At any rate, the Nameless Manager fell asleep. Deeply asleep. His head began to nod, and soon his face was practically in the lap of the passenger next to him. Somehow, the man got his tray down, and was given a meal, but NM's face was only an inch off his plate, so it was going to be quite a tricky meal, unless he started with a delicious helping of well-aged hair.

Jim Bob finally recovered from his laughing fit enough to arouse Nameless, who sat up dazedly, looked around, and in his best take charge fashion, fell back asleep. The man next to him broke the Guiness Record for bolting down an airline lunch, and finished mere seconds before the Fiendish Face of Management returned to its preferred place of rest. The passenger grimaced, but made the most of it by using the head as a bookrest the duration of the trip.

The arrangements called for the NextHeads to stay at a scenic Holiday Inn (with an incredible view of the canyon-like walls of the surrounding hotels), while the Open Systems Gurus were to stay at the [WHATSIS] hotel. As Miles O was a notorious snorer, Pam O had arranged for Miles O to be in a room by himself. Miles O had somehow offended the Fashion Goddess of the Company, however, and under the Aegis of Budgetary Considerations, Pam O retaliated by getting Miles O a room at the hotel with the NextHeads.

Miles O lack's of financial savvy is as sure as Dany's monthly flights to countries the US is at drug war with, but Miles O was assured that his room was prepaid, so, trusting fool that he is, he didn't have the cash on hand for 3 nights at the Holiday Inn, plus deposits for Room Service, Cable TV, the Swimming Pool, Local Calls, Long Distance, Maid Tips, Bellhop Tips, Fire Insurance, Towel Theft Insurance, Towing Insurance (despite his refusal to rent a car in California after the Great San Jose Rental Car Massacree) and Politically Incorrect Texans Causing Gay Riot Insurance.

A kindly Scandanavian Company Guy named Hari Kari offered to put Miles O's first night on his credit card. As the Holiday Inn required a large Out of State Check Insurance Fee and Deposit, Miles O was forced to acquiesce.

Meanwhile, back at the Muscodyne Convention center, Lorne, recalled from a skiing vacation to assemble the Company computer network from some old CP/M systems and TV cable, performed nothing short of a miracle. Unfortunately, he was not able to finish keying in the 120MB of source code for X before the show started, so he spent the rest of Uniforum hiding inside the literature case, using an IBM Selectric and a clapped out joystick to emulate X on the several computers.

Jim Bob, Kiwi, and Miles O all had to give presentations, as well as wear suits and pretend to be NEXtPerts. Jim Bob and Kiwi adapted well to their roles, once it was explained that Jim Bob's wife's freedom and Kiwi's residency depended on it. Miles O, however, attempted ritual suicide by baring his breast to one of Pam M's pet snakes, but got only a mild case of tetanus for his efforts. In the end, once it became apparent the alternative was playing recruiter, Miles O submitted gracefully, and spent the remainder of the show demonstrating to prospective customers the advantages of playing the X version of pool over the neXTstep version.

Jim Bob's talk on SNA Over TCP/IP Over 2400 Baud Modems Via Old Phone Lines went well. Dozens of antiquated programmers, analysts, and managers so devoted to Real Computing they were blue even with no clothes on came to revel in the revival of Real Communications and reminisce about the Good Old Days, when Punched Cards were Cheap, and Handtoggled Hex Bootstrapping was a real test of virility.

Kiwi's talk on Interconnecting Unconnectable Computer Systems was also well-attended. The finale, in which he demonstrated news, email, ftp, and remote power down of the competition's system, via a network consisting of all the watches, calculators, and hi-tech tie pins in the room, had the crowd hurling job offers at an amazing rate. This ended when Lorne climbed out from under the podium with a mouse and a Tadpole, asking if the farce was over and he could get back to work now.

Miles O, meanwhile, was not fairing as well. Many in the audience had misunderstood; expecting Pam O to be giving the talk, preferably in a Neon Booth Bimbo Bikini, Miles O in an ill-fitting gray suit was such a let down that several men were carried, crying, from the room. His talk, switched at the last minute by the Committee to Foster Open Systemization Via Proprietary Methods, had changed from "Migrating FORTRAM Programs From Old, Useless Operating Systems to Miami for the Winter" to "Buy NEXTs or Die".

Within minutes, all attendees had signed up for billions of dollars of Next hardware and software from the Company. Miles O, as the apparent architect of this nefarious plot, at least to the outside world, knew his career was in ruins. Slowly he plodded back down to the show floor, where he began soliciting resumes from Beemers for Company positions.

That night at the hospitality booth, the Company Lawyer sensed Kiwi and Miles O were deeply depressed. Hoping to get rid of the gloomy ones once and for all, he sent them on a suicide mission to check out a competitor's hospitality booth. Amazingly, the Despondent Duo pooled their brain cell, and thought to cover their much-admired, dayglo grey Company Polo Shirts before they went. The competition, being even duller than the Despairing Ones, overlooked the Company name on the proffered business cards, and the spies were In Like Flint.

Once they made it past the obviously rented Booth Bimbos, the two perked up as they saw the food. Between mouthfuls, they managed to pry (with great effort) a few details out of the recruiters, who were far more interested in bragging about how great they were than actually assessing skills or talking opportunity. Every few minutes Kiwi or Miles O had to fend off the embraces of the BBs, both of whom were scantily clad and reeked of DOS. After being sure they had their free gifts (keychains with boxes proclaiming to have Everything Related to Unix Covered) they returned to the Company Suite for ice cream and fun.

After fending off five Company recruiters (not counting Tommy M's three separate attempts to hire them), the Aussic one and the M dude finally removed their sweaters, freeing their Company Polos once again. "Oh, so THAT'S why you looked familiar!", ET #1 hollered. After being debriefed on their mission, Kiwi opened the little Proudly Covering Everything box to discover (yes, he did) that it contained a rubber.

Laughter and gasps of amazement drowned out the singing of the Mad Apple Hackers, who were busy throwing Cray gliders and Apple Managers off the balcony at unsuspecting drunks, hookers, and cops. "That's really disgusting!", noted Christine. "Even we wouldn't stoop that low!", cried ET #1. Tommy offered Miles $5 for his, but finally managed to trade the last A&W for it instead. Kiwi showed his to Pam O, and got a slap for his efforts, at which time he realized that seven beers in nine minutes is not conducive to telling one redhead in a crowded room from another.

What went on later that night was never discussed openly, but from newspaper accounts, Chris did the conga with three buxom Watusi Women on a ricepaper counter top in a bar somewhere in Chinatown. After besting the locals at pizza hurling and distance beer spitting, Chris won the Grand Prize for the night: the three Watusi Women, as Wives. When he explained his Miata would not hold them all, they gracefully dropped him to second place (with the attendant prize of three Soviet Tractor Dancers as dates for the rest of the evening). Police are still searching for the missing Sumo Wrestlers. Later that night, a bomb scare occured in a punk club when the NEXt in Chris's pocket set off a metal detector. The Tractor Dancers paid his bail, after which they all took a quick trip to LA. The results of that trip were apparent months later when riots, blamed on the aftermath of the Rodney King trial, shook LA to its quake-weakened foundations.

Christine was apparently abducted by the notorious Dykes on Bikes gang, who were interested in her jacket as well as her. Eyewitness accounts indicate she quickly won her freedom using techniques sharpened in her daily interaction with the Company hackers; she left the gang leaders writhing in agony by a cablecar with a few swift kicks in the privates. A man fitting the description of Ned Lee kept the rest of the gang at bay with his PenSword as he and Christine made their getaway. County records indicate she married her savior only moments later in gratitude, but that this was immediately nullified by the state "to discourage rampant heterosexuality".

The nExT (sic) day passed much as the previous one had, except that the show ended. Miles and Kiwi, drafted for exitation duty, began taking down the Dread Company Trade Show Tent, which took several hours as neither one recognized any of the knots the sailors had used. The problem was finally solved with the machetes of their PenKnives, which also hushed Pam O's shrieks at what they were doing to the ropes, the tent, and the leftover tee shirts.

Kiwi picked up a corner of carpet to move a wire, and was promptly arrested by a representative of the Trade Show Union of Speedily Motion Challenged Handypersons Police Squad, for Interfering with My Guys Right to Make a Honest Living off Rich Capitalists Like You. Kiwi was freed when Pam M (no relation to Pam O), seeking help to move the AAUG (auugh!) booth, clubbed the Copper Wannabe with a Frozen Python she kept in her dress for various emergencies.

After several more hours of pointless, but unrewarding, arguing with TSUSMCH members, half of the shipping crates were still missing. Pam O left to pack. The rest of the gang settled in to read the local papers, yesterday's WSJ, and all the Company literature for the first time.

The cute girl from the adjoining booth, obviously lonely, was soon reduced to chatting amicably with Miles O, who managed to remember he was married despite her considerable flirting. The more eligible types were all busy, Chris practicing the Soviet National Anthem, Ned Lee impersonating an OSHA official to hound the unioneers, the Kiwi daydreaming of hot, melting styrofoam scalding his lips. After several hours of this, they decided to go for a pizza. Kiwi decided to go help Pam pack, and hopped, wallaby-fashion, quickly away.

Upon meeting Christine at the hotel, they were informed that plans had changed. They were going to meet Jamie for a nice dinner, and take her to one of the clubs Jan Vultura had recommended. A quick call to each of the clubs revealed that most of them were Gay Mens Bars, Gay Womens Bars or Gay Lefthanded Punk Sheep Who Like NeXtSteP Bars. Chris got excited about the last prospect, but the click of Miles O's PenStiletto calmed him down.

"What," pondered Miles O, "did you ever do to Jan?" Christine merely told him to shut up and keep packing for her. Chris and Ned Lee chased down an interesting restaurant for them all. It advertised the Doobie Brother's airplane had crashed-landed in it, and had since become part of the decor. Since the alternative was the Gay Shriners Communist McDonalds, the Crew of Lonesome Straights headed for the plane, hoping it didn't serve airline food.

The cuisine turned out to be decent, although Miles O had to fend off several octogenarian bar flies of indeterminate sex to get his down. Pam M, meanwhile, dumped her plate down the front of her outfit, as an excuse to go the to womens room and check on her snakes. While she was gone, Chris, a bit tipsy from his Johnny Walker Meatloaf and Hash Browns, ordered a round of Molotov Cocktails. Pam M returned just as they were served; our feckless crew managed to escape during the resultant melee before the arson squad arrived. Jamie had yet to show up. Christine called and left a message noting the club they had chosen.

After a thrilling taxi ride around the same three blocks six times, they were dropped off at the chosen club, the only one from Jan's list which had seemed, well, normal, to this Westcoast Impaired collection of people desperate to dance. Christine and Ned went in to check it out first, as it was surrounded by Harleys, and the name had changed. Naturally, it was now a Gay Biker Mens Bar and Pool Hall. Christine escaped unfazed, but Ned Lee had to pull his PenMachete three times to escape being drug off to the nearest pool table and water bed by some truly excited bikers suddenly interested in all the subtleties of Easy User Interfacing with the Ned.

Seven clubs and seven music tastes (ranging from Donny Osmond on Downers to Perry Como on LSD to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Speed meets the Clash and Metallica to Do Lunch) later, a very bedraggled crew found a club with two styles of bands they could stand. They paid their cover charges, and went in. Both bands chose that time to take their breaks. While Pam M took a break to check on her cobras in the ladies room, the C & M show snarfed copies of several gay magazines, planning to leave them on ET #1's desk whenever customers were expected. [1]

Ned Lee and Christine decided to go call Jamie and tell her where they were. During their absence, the local blues polka folk band began to play some loud, bad, rock and roll. Pam M and Miles O decided to use the time to get better acquainted in this intimate setting where no matter how loud they had to scream to hear each other, nobody else would even notice they had spoken. Chris just quaffed enough brew to believe REM was playing, and crashed out of self-defense.

Several hours later, Christine and Ned Lee returned with several assorted, sordid Company Folk, but no Jamie, who had apparently been so excited by the prospect of an evening with her friends she had crawled into a hole and pulled the lid over herself. They drug Pam M and Miles O (who drug Chris by the feet, leaving holes where his head bounced on the aging sidewalks) out in search of Yet Another Club. During the ensuing argument over which club to hit, Wade thought he saw Jamie, and chased down the car she was in, only to face some very big, very ugly, handguns. He waved sheepishly at Jane Fonda and her bodyguards and returned to the ever-growing horde of People With Nowhere To Go.

Miles O suddenly realized he had left his bag with his suit at the Muscodine. Christine and Pam O, among others, had planned to return to the center that night or the next day to finish packing, so he didn't worry about it.

Various people wondered off in various directions, soon leaving the Three Stooges standing alone on the corner (Chris having recovered enough to want to argue GUI builders with Miles O). They decided to take a taxi back to the hotel, thus missing by seconds an invitation to Eric Clapton's birthday party at Sting's nearby condo, which the others all somehow managed to find. "What is it with this town?", Pam M muttered. "There's nothing to do here!"

The next morning, a groggy gaggle of guys headed towards the airport (the women having either left, or been left behind to clean up, as usual). As the taxi passed the Muskodine, s bell rang in Miles O's head. Kiwi eyed him suspiciously. "What was that? Sounded like a bell."

Miles O thought for a minute, and exclaimed, "Oh! A reminder that my suit was with the booth stuff! Should I stop the taxi, thereby endangering our arriving in time for the flight? Nah, the cleanup crew said they'd pick everything up." Little did he realize that amidst the union mayhem, the general lack of sleep, and the traditional confusion of cleaning up after a trade show, the black canvas Sun bag his suit was in (looking no different from dozens of other black canvas Sun bags scattered about) would attract no attention. The suit was never seen again. Miles O did not complain, however; it was his ace in the hole.

After all, it was his only suit. And without a suit, you can't work a Company booth at a trade show (even one where nobody in their right mind wears suits, such as Usenix).

Miles O slept well for the first time in months.

[1] Shortly before ET #1's Spawn #2 was due, Chris arranged for Liz to find one of the newspapers in her hubbie's car. After the car was surgically removed from his mouth, ET had the paper dusted for fingerprints. Chris spent the next 6 months writing an optimizing COBOL interpreter in awk for the nExt on a Timex-Sinclair ZX/81.