I think I pulled a muscle in my tongue at lunch. I had sneezed violently and had a toothpick between my teeth which I clenched my teeth on to keep from blowing it out. I felt something give in my lower jaw and at the base of my tongue and now my tongue feels kind of swollen at the base and it's kind of uncomfortable to swallow and my voice has gotten strange. Weird, but then my tongue is weird anyway. It's moderately long and dexterous and I can roll it and do trilled "R"s and stuff. I get cramps in my tongue and lower jaw from time to time. It's really annoying and apparently rare, because everyone looks at me like I'm weird when I tell them that occasionally I get tongue cramps.
Randy spoke to me after I got back from lunch. He needs a ride to Livermore tonight, because the starter died in his truck. He's another software engineer here, like me. He's a real trip. I think he's about 15 years older than me. His hair's white and he wears it pulled back into a very short ponytail. He's been around quite a lot. He's been married twice, and lived all over the place. He's a musician and he still does gigs, mostly blues and rock, I think, in bars. He and his wife live up in the mountains around Livermore, about an hour up as the twisty road goes.
He's pretty cool, and I love talking to him, most of the time. Sometimes though, he and I annoy each other because our philosophies clash. Two Fridays ago, on the nineteenth would be a good example of the kind of conversations we hold. I was pointing out that being a software engineer was often kind of like being a shrink, because you have to go to the person who wants the code and figure out what he "really wants."
He agreed and pointed out that analysts had a very interesting career and were typically interesting people. Wondering if where he picked up this insight, I asked him if he'd ever been to one. He told me yes and we started talking about the analysis process and he pointed out something about ego and insecurity. He went on to illustrate his point by giving the example of people who inject themselves into a conversation as merely being interested in demonstrating their knowledge because they are insecure. He went on to claim that nearly everyone does it. Now I am one to occasionally inject myself into conversations like that, where I know the people involved, but not just because I like showing off what I know, but because the conversation interests me, and occasionally I have something to offer one or more of the parties in the conversation. Needless to say, his "observation" needled me. He went on to speculate that any guy who bought the chrome hub-caps and wheel covers were "compensating for something." Okay, that was safer territory, because I don't do that kind of car customization, myself, but I know others who do.
I was annoyed because the statements smacked of hypocrisy. Perhaps he sees the guru/hermit on the mountain top, who has no need to tell anyone who he is as a "perfect person," but everyone else, to one extent or another has a need to one extent or another, to communicate who they are to others. It is only when this need becomes an end in itself, when this drive is merely the process whereby someone hides from themselves that they really don't know who they are that it is a problem.
I was reminded of the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote I like so well: "People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character." I wondered if he thinks everyone has an ego problem but him. I asked him, "All of the guys who customize their cars have ego problems?" At first he insisted that this was true, but eventually he started to realize that what he was saying told more about him and his world-view than it did about the people to whom he was referring. After that he backpedaled. Heh heh. As I said, he's a pretty sharp individual. It is not often that you catch him out like that, but I believe I did, that time.
Randy is also full of interesting anecdotes and stories. He's traveled all over the place and done an amazing variety of things. Despite our philosophical differences, he is a wealth of information about human nature and behavior and he's worked in management before, which is kind of interesting, because it is territory into which I have not been inclined to explore up to this point in my career.
One day this past month, we were discussing the kind of people who were completely dead weight in an organization and the kind who, due to being obnoxious and ill-informed to boot, created a drag on others' productive efforts. It was at this time that he told me about his friend Inez. Apparently, this woman had a phrase to refer to such officious know-nothings which accosted her. When telling Randy about them, she would often say, "Fuck 'em, they're trash." Of course, Randy found this phrase succinct and apropos and acronym-ized it as "FETT." Further, he and Inez developed a system for incorporating this observation into meetings where both of them found themselves in the presence of distastefully ill-mannered and ill-informed assholes. If they wished to convey the observation to one another in a meeting when confronted with such people, Randy would work the phrase "For everything that's transpired..." into what he was saying -- implying "FETT," which would crack up his friend.