Friday, February 27, 2009

Milton Berle and I

Milton Berle and I have always had something in common, namely, lifestyles ending in esk — Burlesque in his case, Dilbertesque in mine. When I was gainfully employed a decade ago, I had a pointy-haired boss of the prestigiously educated female persuasion (hence, "Dilbertesque"). She had an extensive if somewhat mysterious vocabulary, sometimes punctuated by Greek, in addition to pointy hair.

I remember one notable occasion when she called me into her office, along with a couple of Q.A. guys, to discuss some lingering bugs in the fixit database that I had not yet got around to fixing. The funny thing was, everyone had chairs but me. But as an habitué of the beatnik life, it was second nature of me to drop into lotus position on the floor and continue the conversation from there.

One of the Q.A. people read off an impossibly large number of program errors and glitches, which I privately dismissed from consideration since I knew every one of those bugs was a separate instance of odd behavior caused by one and the same typo in the source code. One of several, I might add — I couldn't say which off the top of my head — but only a few dozen, as I well knew, not thousands. The Q.A. people were adamant that all four million bugs still had to be fixed, and Ship Date was only a week away.

Ah. I presented the immediate, and obvious, solution to this problem. Simply move the deadline back by two weeks, or a month would be even better. Suddenly, from a position of lordly repose on the corner of her desk, my pointy-haired boss began speaking in Greek.

In point of fact, she uttered the name of her old Wellesley (or was it Bryn Mawr?) sorority, Phi Upsilon Kappa (ΦΥΚ), mantra-like, several times in rapid succession. I was hugely relieved and reassured, because this language was a familiar feature of my own comradely college daze, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear it come so charmingly from a woman.

Well, Berle's tale and mine are alike in one other respect, viz., that neither has a moral or much point although I'm given to understand that his was longer.



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