I Won’t Stop The Shoplifter: A First Time Techie’s First Day On The Job

By Ray Nolan

At nine-thirty a.m. the practice fire alarm sent all 147 of us fleeing for the stairway. I moved excitedly amongst them, this New Economy herd I’d finally, after a short-lived freelance career, managed to join. They were dressed for the beach in the middle of February in a city two hours from the Canadian border on the seventh floor of a building supercooled to accommodate their crazy nerves and fast metabolisms. This anyway was how one guy in Biz Dev, speaking like an insatiably proud papa, described to me the company’s People several weeks later upon learning about my dot-com virginity.

Once outside, we gathered in the Toys ‘R Us parking lot across the street. It was windy and raining. I, the Content Writer, stood next to Jason, the Editor, with whom I shared an office far from the Company’s movers and shakers on the opposite side of the building. We talked and became slowly wet and cold, as did the rest of the herd in their cargo shorts and microbrew t-shirts. They said nothing to one another, just glanced impatiently at their watches in what seemed a deliberate challenge to those annoying forces beyond their control: the practice fire alarm, the rain, the cold.

And then something happened.

A man ran out of Toys ‘R Us clutching a three-foot tall inflatable Powerpuff doll to his chest. Following him were two employees, a young man and woman who shouted at him to come back here immediately or else! Mr. Powerpuff charged straight toward us. Our herd parted and let him pass uncontested. This came as a shock to the two employees, who had naturally expected us to at east try and contain the guy. Instead our herd watched him come and go without the slightest acknowledgment, causing the two employees to halt their pursuit and stare blankly at us as Mr. Powerpuff escaped easily across the parking lot, down the hill beyond and out of sight.

I was amazed that no one, including myself, had attempted to stop the man, though as such the incident effected only me. The rest of the day I sought out the story in introductory small talk with other members of the herd, but my comments about Mr. Powerpuff were met with long quizzical faces before someone broke the huddle and eagerly exclaimed, “Back to work!”

As the day wore on I struggled to keep up with their talk of firewalls and ASP models and reconfiguring the site to accommodate new third-party content. They zoomed past me in the hallways, arguing over new functionality and ways to improve our database. This was not the herd in the parking lot, or even before that, descending the stairway so sluggishly and even morosely. No. This was something frankly electric, a speed and energy matched only by their collective specialized intellects. I understood then that they needed a place to call uniquely their own, from the nap room to the basketball court one floor below to the sauna and whirlpool at the end of the hall. Within this weirdly privileged space we were smarter and quicker on our feet; we were a force; we would give everything we had for the Company. And this, I realized, didn’t mean that I had to sell my soul. It just meant that from nine to five, Monday through Friday, I couldn’t be asked to stop any shoplifters.