I left Benthic Creatures with very few regrets (well, I’ll miss my co-workers; no one can quote The Simpsons in casual conversation like N. can), then took a couple of days off and then I rejoined that growing group of former IT workers who have gone to temporary employment as a way to earn some money. I had called them the week prior to leaving Benthic Creatures and arranged a phone interview. The job coordinator I spoke with said to me something which was kind of startling:

“I see you’ve had experience with Unix and something called Apache,” she said.

“Uh,” I wittily replied. “Yeah…”

“Oh, good. There’s a need for someone with those skills in Sacramento. Let me arrange a phone interview for you…”

That was kind of surprising. I’ve never had a temp job that didn’t involve filing papers and writing correspondence and sitting at a phone. Some sort of programming job would be kind of cool.

So on the job coordinator’s instructions, I called up B. the next day and spoke with him.

“Have you had any experience with Solaris?” he asked me.

“Um,” I replied, “no, I haven’t.”

“Well, you’ve had lots of experience with Linux. That’s close enough. They’re both kind of like Unix. How about Apache?”

This was safer water for me. “Sure,” I replied cockily. “I’ve set up two web servers at home, one of them running secure socket layers.”

“Good, good. How are you at shell scripting?”

I thought back to the shell script I’d written two years before at Little Engine to make mass duplicates of websites with customizations… to date, the only shell script I’ve ever written, really. “I guess I’ve written one or two in my time.”

“Hmm. Do you know Cold Fusion?”

I used to know Cold Fusion like the back of my hand. Since then, of course, since Allaire and Macromedia need to keep making money, Cold Fusion has gone through at least a couple of major revisions. So I told B. that I’ve worked with Cold Fusion, but not for a couple of years. “I’m a lot more familiar with PHP and Perl CGI,” I said, “and those are kind of like Cold Fusion.”

“Oh, if you’re familiar with Perl, then you can do shell scripting, no problem. How about Oracle? Have you ever used SQL in Oracle?”

“Yeah,” I said. “A little.”

“Good. Can you start on Monday?”

“Blurk,” I blurked. At that point I hadn’t even told anyone in Benthic Creatures that I was planning on quitting. It was Wednesday. I was in Riverside. The rest of the trainers were scheduled for three weeks’ downtime before heading off to Tulare, Fresno, and San Joaqin. There was a part of me that was really looking forward to three weeks of absolutely nothing to do. “How about Wednesday?” I asked. Two days would be enough to relax and visit with my doctor, who hadn’t seen me since January and who wouldn’t refill my Albuterol prescription until I came in for a checkup.

“Well,” said B. after a moment’s hesitation, “that’s okay, too.”

And so it was agreed. The following Wednesday I would start babysitting Solaris computers and recalcitrant Cold Fusion installations and make the website start working again. Truth to tell I was already feeling a bit over my head, but I know from experience that I’m good at going into that sort of situation and coming out looking pretty good. So I agreed.

And it has been interesting. My first day, I was given a tour of the facility by the network engineer. The department is upgrading their website from a WindowsNT/SQL Server platform to a Solaris/Oracle platform, see, and things have been going very slowly. It quickly became clear that it was because the IT folks were overworked, and still growing out of a Windows mindset.

“So, who’s your Unix guru around here?” I asked the network engineer as he was going over the server setup with me.

Grinning, he pointed at me. “Right there,” he said.

And today, as we were discussing the migration of some of the scripts from one database to another, I asked, “So who’s your Oracle guru around here?” And the network engineer pointed at me again and said, “Right there. And you’re probably going to stick around for awhile because this is going to be a big project.”

The irony made me laugh. All this time I’d been trying for some sort of tech job since being laid off from Little Engine, and now I get thrown into one almost beyond my skill levels by being a temporary employee. It’s just kind of eerie.

And the most ironic aspect of all this: as a temp, I’m now earning more money than I was at Benthic Creatures. Certainly not as much as I was when working at Little Engine, but still more than I have in two years.

Of course, I’ve done other things since leaving Benthic Creatures. I’ve gotten involved with my church choir again. I’ve focused more on my schoolwork. I’ve set up a new Linux server at home. I’ve gotten involved in my local Linux Users’ Group. I haven’t gotten back on my bike for some serious riding yet, but that’s coming. I’ve started going back to Weight Watchers. And soon I’ll be picking up my Dungeons and Dragons game and looking into volunteering for the Solano County Adult Literacy program.

Leaving Benthic Creatures was a good idea. I feel better. Like a computer that has just had its operating system freshly reinstalled.