Stories, Mostly True

I just read Steve Yegge’s latest blog post and loved his little stories. I also discovered Davesecretary stories, especially this collection and I thoroughly enjoyed every single one of them. You can probably see where this is going, no?

I figured I might as well jump onto the bandwagon and offer some of my recollections from the past for your entertainment. If you guys like it, I can make it a recurring feature since it would be a great way to knock out quality posts whenever I’m scraping the bottom of the tank where I keep my creative ideas for this blog. So here is a story for you – and it’s mostly on topic since it deals with technology.

Let me set the stage for you. It’s Poland, late mid 90’s and I’m a freshman in High School. Being the total dork that I am, I befriend Misiak, our school’s IT guy who is actually a 20 something dude who is studying CS at a local university and is doing the IT stuff as a par time job. Our school is underfunded, so he is pretty much the only IT resource we get and thus he gets to be a total BOFH and he loves it. He tolerates me though, cause I have some clue in my head, and also he and my friend Swingu used to live like next door to him, their moms used to BFF’s or some shit like that. The point is that we are on friendly terms and whenever we want to use the schools computers for stuff that is less than educational he is usually down with it.

It’s probably worth mentioning that our school is also low on staff clue-full enough to actually teach the Information Technology course. Their regular guy hands in his two weeks notice the first day of the semester and after that pretty much checks out. He is running on cruise control, makes us do busy work and doesn’t really teach anything. He is gone in two weeks. The school appoints Mrs. Mustache (called so because of the impressive lady mustache she proudly sported on her upper lip) to take his place. Unfortunately she knows nothing about computers so they send her on a one week preparatory course or something like that. She returns with reams of notes, and relies on her predecessors lesson plans to see her through the day. Misiak gets called in every 5 minutes whenever she needs to like restart a computer or if a student has a technical question that was not covered by her course.

It get to the point where he is actually physically siting in all of her classes, and teaching the students for her. After a while he gets frustrated, and complains to the principal that this is not what he signed up for and that the lady has no business teaching a computer class. The principal turns around and tells him that if he is so smart, he should teach the class himself. Misiak shouts back that he already is, but that he would fucking love to get paid for it. I still don’t know how they jerry-rigged it, but a little while later he ends up with a teaching position. They give him couple of Freshman classes to start with to see if he can actually do this shit. My class is one of these. Of course Swingu and me are ecstatic cause this is the best thing that could ever happen to us.

While the most of our friends have to suffer with Mrs. Mustache (whose only experience with computers is that one week course they made her take), we have a dude who we can totally relate to. And he knows that making us do the pointless exercises is silly (we can knock them out in 5 minutes) so he is pretty much letting us do whatever. When he is not helping other students he is teaching us basics of C++ or just sits with us shooting shit about video games and other geeky stuff. Best class ever!

One of the silly things we devised to amuse ourselves during the computer class when Misiak was to busy to impart his programming knowledge onto us was to set up a rudimentary discussion thread. The computers in the lab are networked but we don’t have Internet access (remember, this is Poland, circa 1995 and our school is grossly underfunded). So we just create a text file on the public network share called “discuss.txt” and we start adding to it. Each time you want to say something you just scroll down to the end of the file, hit enter few times, type in your bit and then affix your nickname at the end. So I sign my posts with Shaman (cause that was my nickname back in HS), Swingu signs it with Swingu, Misiak has some crazy hax0r nick that is like written entirely in 1337 cause he is a tool and etc.

We mention it to couple of our buddies from other classes and they get into it too. We actually end up with a heated discussion about Warhammer Fantasy Battles with like 6 or 7 people. It’s mostly arguing which army is the best one, and which rules suck and etc. The whole setup is retarded, hard to maintain and only one person at a time can reliably edit and save the file. But we came up with it, and we are loving it.

One day we come in and notice that discuss.txt is like less than 1KB in size and all of it’s contents were replaced with a single sentence:

U GUYS ARE TOTAL FAGS!
     ~ SINCERELY, SOWA

Yeah, it’s almost like having our own little internet – complete with fucking asshole trolls. Misiak rolls his eyes restores the file from backup for us and we keep on trucking. The file stays up for the rest of the day. When we come back next morning, we discover that Sowa once again has replaced all our shit with some thing stupid written in all caps. This goes on for another 3 days. We are totally fed up with this shit, so I grab Misiak and go:

“Dude, can we like get this Sowa guy or what?”

Swingu immediately comes up with a plan. First we look at the times tamp of the file and we figure out that Sowa must be in the 11:30am class. Misiak goes into his personal folder and replaces all the files and folders with a single file called “sowa.txt” which contains the following:

Don't fuck with us!
  ~ Sincerely, Shaman and Swingu

As a coup de grâce, Misiak cooks up a little C hack that will blank the screen, display “Thank Sowa for this interruption” and then beep like 50 times using the system speaker. He then sets it to run at EVERY COMPUTER IN THE LAB at 11:40am the next day. We figured 10 minutes will be enough to have everyone settled in, and the lecture significantly under way, to really drive home the point. It’s so deliciously evil, and at the same geeky revenge that it makes us giddy. We spend the rest of the day giggling like retards trying to imagine Sowa’s face. Note that we actually don’t know the guy – we never saw him. We even make plans to be outside of the lab when the shit goes down to observe the mayhem.

Of course the next day we totally forget about that shit cause we have some bullshit test and we are all freaking out about it. Around noon we are sitting in the hallway waiting for our class to start and we see Misiak storming by visibly upset. He notices me, scoots by and says something among the lines of:

“Dude, I think we went a little bit to far. What the fuck was I thinking! I took that script off… Fuuuck you guys! Fuck!”

In our destructive glee we sort of forgot that 11:30 class is taught by Mrs. Mustache. Apparently she pretty much lost her shit when all the computers in the lab started beeping in unison. They had to rush her into the nurse’s office and give her something to calm her down, cause she was having a genuine panic attacks.

Misiak points an accusatory finger at me and coldly hisses:

“I had nothing to do with this, you hear? If shit goes down, you are taking the fall for this, not me!”

He then storms away muttering under his breath.

Like I’m the fucking mastermind of the whole operation. Last night Misiak was in BOFH heaven coding up his little script. Now it’s all my fault. I wouldn’t even be able to pull this off without his help. I look at Swingu and he has this gleeful smile on his face cause he knows he was only peripherally involved in this shit, and that Misiak will likely cover for him, but he is thoroughly amused by my predicament.

Later in the day I’m sitting in the classroom and the Russian class is about to start when Krasnal bursts into the door. He is a rather rotund individual and from the signs of it he actually like RAN all the way up the stairs (the clasroom is on the 4th floor) so he is red in the face, and completely out of breath. He takes few seconds to compose himself, and hen he blurts out:

“Shaman… This guy Sowa… He is looking for you! He said he’s gonna kick your ass!”

Oh shit! I totally did not plan for that! I didn’t even consider that Sowa could actually track me down in person. This day can’t possibly get any worse. Not only did I almost kill Mrs. Mustache (by nearly giving hear a heart attack) but now this dude is going to track me down and totally kick my ass. And I have no illusions about this – I don’t even know how to throw a punch. So I’m totally fucked. I ask Krasnal if he covered for me. He gives me a big grin and says:

“Are you kidding? I told him you are going to be here. He said he is coming up right now – I think he went to gather his posse or something. I ran ahead of him to catch the show!”

Did I mention all my friends are total dicks? I look at Swingu to see if he is gonna have my back on this. He pats me on the back and says:

“Sorry buddy, but you are on your own.”

Then he takes his books and goes to sit on the other side of the room. Krasnal pulls up a chair, and sits on it backwards intently watching the door. At this point the whole class becomes aware of the situation and they become to stir around. No one really knows what it is all about, but they just heard enough to expect a good show of violence. Everyone swings their chairs around, or looks for a better spot to watch the unfolding drama. I’m sitting in the last row, with my back literally against the door. I couldn’t have picked a better positioned desk if I have tried.

Few minutes pass, and Sowa walks into the classroom. Fortunately there is no posse, but he is rather intimidating looking guy, and he seems pissed off as hell. He quickly becomes aware that suddenly all conversation in the class has stopped and there are 30 pairs of eyes intently watching his every movement. That startles him a bit, but he regains composure and bellows:

“Which one of you is Shaman?”

At that point I know for sure that I’m totally getting my ass kicked. The dude is way bigger than me and he looks like he could probably break me in half. I give everyone a pleading look. Please don’t say anything! Please, please. Of course no one fucking cares – everyone wants to see blood so almost in unison 30 hands points straight at me. I’m fucked, so I figure I might as well be a man about it so I stand up to face him.

Sowa takes a step forward, gives me a spiteful look and says:

“That computer shit! That stops now!”

I’m like: “Yeah, fine – whatever. It was supposed to be a joke, dude.” – I shrug – “Did Mrs. Mustache really flip out?”

I’m trying to be cool, collected and look like I don’t give a fuck. On the inside though I’m pretty much shitting my pants. If this guy comes swinging I’m going down – there are no two questions about it. So I try to diffuse him by being conversational. And it is sort of working.

“Yeah, it was kinda funny actually. But you gonna stop?”

“Yea, sure. Just… Can you like, not fuck with our discussion thing?” – My adrenaline is actually turned on full blast now, and it’s probably the only thing that keeps me from falling over and going into a fetal position.

“Fine! Whatever…”

“Good…”

There is this long awkward pause where Sowa is contemplating what to do next. My knees are shaking, and I brace myself for getting punched in the face. Finally he says:

“Alright!”

Then he then turns around and leaves. Krasnal throws his hands in the air and yells:

“What the fuck was this?!”

I shrug, and collapse into my seat. I feel completely deflated and exhausted. Krasnal shakes his head and shuffles out of the room, still ranting to himself:

“This is officially the gayest thing I have seen in my life. Fucking waste of time!”

Swingu grabs his shit, and moves back to his regular desk, then informs me this was officially the funniest thing he has seen the whole week. I’m completely depleted, and proceed to sleep through the whole Russian class. Swingu has to wake me up and drag my ass into English while I’m all groggy and incoherent.

I meet Misiak later that day to see how much shit am I in with school administration but he tells me not to sweat. Apparently no one even asked him any questions about the incident. They just told him to fix it and make sure the student’s can’t “hack into the computers” that easily.

Anyway, this is my story and it’s mostly true. Not terribly amusing, but I found it silly enough to share. I have few others like this one I could post. But again, this was sort of an experiment to see if this sort of thing will fly here.

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11 Responses to Stories, Mostly True

  1. astine UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    I loved it. I like where the guy comes in all about to make trouble and instead you come to an understanding. There’s a big setup for an epic ass-kicking and it ends with a rather grownup agreement not to harass each other. It was beautifully anticlimactic.

    I’m willing to bet that the guy didn’t do any actual ass-kicking because he was afraid of retaliation. He probably had no clue what you were capable of in the long run and didn’t want his school record ‘hacked.’

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  2. Wikke BELGIUM Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Very funny :)

    Reminds me of my school years, where we overlooked the administrator password! (Just looking over the “admin”‘s shoulders ;)).
    And then all the fun starts…

    They spend quite a lot of time to track our class (indeed, the entire class) down. We weren’t allowed to touch a computer for the rest of the year, which was like a month or so :S…
    A bit childish when you look at it, but we were just 14 or so.

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  3. Victoria UKRAINE Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    Reminds me of my university days, when we got angry with one of the professors who was teaching us MS-DOS (in times of Win98, BTW) and put smth like an endless loop exe file on start-up on every lab computer. Worked like a charm: he was reaaly busy for a couple of days :)

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  4. Mart SINGAPORE Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    Great story. Mostly true, you say? I hope it was all true!

    Hope to hear more of it soon. I’m now recalling a few hijinks in my uni days, as well as my current job. But I’ll need to do major refactoring to tell most of them on my own blog.

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  5. Zack UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    These stories are awesome…keep ‘em coming!

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  6. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @astine: LOL! You mean he ph34r3d my 1337 h4x0r skillz? Awesome! At the time we simply concluded that Sowa was just a total pussy. :P

    @Victoria: We actually did the same thing once! LOL! Great minds think alike. :) But now I can’t tell that story. Thanks a lot!

    @Mart: Well, nearly all of my stories are mostly true. I sometimes alter and embellish them to either protect the innocent, maximize the funny, or when I’m fuzzy on the exact details.

    Oh, and also if I reveal something that puts me (or someone else) in a bad light, or someone gets really offended I can always go on public record and claim that this particular part is totally made up. So it’s like my safety valve.

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  7. mcai8sh4 UNITED KINGDOM Opera Linux Terminalist says:

    I liked – I must admit I thought SOWA may have been the head teacher (I always have to predict outcomes). I think in our early days, we all experienced some similar sort of mischief. When learning pascal, I made a quick program to check the free space on the server, and create a file the same size, thus knackering the system. Again, the techie was ammused (after I told him) but the clueless teacher was devastated (eventually leaving through ‘stress’ – not through me, she was useless).

    I like the little personal posts every once in a while – keep it up.

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  8. Victoria UKRAINE Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @Luke Maciak: Hey, I never intended to spoil your story :)

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  9. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    Oh, before I forget, here are translation notes:

    Sowa literally means “Owl” in Polish but when I wrote it like that, it seemed awkward so I left it in original.

    Similarly, Misiak means something among the lines of “Teddy Bear” or “Bear Cub” (it can be both) but it was also the guys actual last name so. So it loses something in translation.

    Krasnal means Gnome/Dwarf and of course the guy with that nickname was the tallest, and fattest person in our class.

    @mcai8sh4: Oh, hey – that would be a nice twist. That’s usually how stories like this end, no?

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  10. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    @Victoria: LOL! No problem. I might still sneak it in somehow when people are not looking.

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  11. jambarama UNITED STATES Galeon Debian GNU/Linux Terminalist says:

    My favorite prank I pulled was in 1st or 2nd grade. We had to do these idiot tests on Apple IIes. But once we finished, we could play Oregon Trail and Word/Number Munchers, which was sweet. I had a computer at home and a brain, so I’d finish the tests quickly (and later figured out how to see than answer key) – save my answers on my personal disk (we all had disks) and put it back in the metal filing cabinet.

    The “lab” teacher was always mad that I’d spend 5 minutes on her test and the remaining 40 on Oregon Trail, so she made a new rule – when you were done you could help her or sit quietly: no Oregon Trail. At the same time my friend’s older brother found/had an old stereo and smashed it up. My friend and I found the speaker magnet, and I hatched a plan. I knew putting a magnet by a computer was bad, so I figured it’d be really bad for floppies.

    So to get revenge, I put the magnet on the underside of the metal filing cabinet drawer. It turned out that every time the floppies were put in the case in the drawer, they got scrambled. Data was gone, the formatting was gone, they were totally useless. The teacher couldn’t figure out what was going on, and she was furious. She never connected it to me, and ended up keeping the floppies on her desk after needed to format them several times. One of my finest pranks, and I was only 7.

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