Friday, November 12, 2010

Manhour's Worth

What the devil am I doing wrong! You sit there fuming to yourself. You've been wrestling with this most of the morning. Fifth hour and zilch to show for progress. You've been beating about the bush a bit, of course. Trying to tweak this and that and hope that will fix it. Ruefully you look at that umpteenth cup of coffee gone cold. Getting coffee, for you, is often an excuse to just get up and pace - not a real need for caffeine.

Jane passes by. She has announced a week back that she is leaving. You attended her fairly emotional farewell party just yesterday. Jane has always been so nice to work with, you reflect. Privately though, you are growing a little weary of smiling at her, every time you happen to cross paths, especially since that announcement. Of course you wish her the best going forward. But you, for now, feel rather "stuck". What the heck!

As you head out for yet another unnecessary cup, you wonder if you will meet that cute new guy in the break room. Nope, he isn't there. You are disappointed. And irritated, that such a thing even registers! You wash the cup, refill and resolutely walk back to your cube. I will nail this sucker before the day is done, you promise yourself.

Before starting back though, you take quick peeks at your plethora of email boxes, social network accounts and such. Although its said that the world was made in seven minutes, it is highly doubtful that you, software engineer extraordinaire, will get messages that frequently.. However, its become a compulsive behavior these days! Eventually, you run out of reasons to stall and try to refocus.

You start to sprinkle check points, or "break points" as the geeks call it, in your code, sort of randomly. And then hit go. Your code grinds to a halt at the first of these stop points. What should you look for? Which variables should you check? Your brain refuses to cooperate. You mouse over something randomly. Is this what you were expecting at this point? Who knows! You decide to go on.. "Continue", you command.

Your cell phone starts to buzz. Its your husband. You hesitate to start a mid-afternoon, what-did-you-have-for-lunch type conversation at the moment. But you remember having hoped to meet Mr. Cute a few minutes ago. You force yourself to pick up the phone. "Hi Honey!" You notice out of the corner of your eyes, the code reaching its second check point. You mouse over.. Wait a minute, why is it zero here? You are distracted and completely miss whatever your husband has just said on the phone.

"Honey, can I please call you back? I.. ah.. in 5 minutes?" "Did you hear what I just said?" he asks. "No, sorry, I sort of spaced out." You hear the phone disconnect. How rude! You feel like calling him right back to yell at him, but control your urge. It was your fault, if anybody's.

But what about that zero? Almost unconsciously, you get drawn into the problem and begin chasing the issue through the thread of its execution. After a while, that flies by, unnoticed, you see light in darkness! You think you have the bug. You fix it and start the code again, refusing to give in to the tongue of hope licking at your heart.

Aha, that worked! Sweet is the taste of victory. You try a couple more quick things to convince yourself that your problem really is nailed. You reflect sheepishly, that, it took you five minutes to solve what you spent almost five hours dancing around. Who cares! Its Done is what counts. You grin to yourself like a child. Mr Cute has dropped by with a question. You compose yourself and try to pay attention.