Career flashback: One Gig, High WTF Count

5 minute read article Leadership   Technology   Wisdom Comments

I always enjoyed reading The Daily WTF but I never had the nerve to send my own stories in. I was always afraid I’d be found out. No more! That fear is gone, and since these stories are almost 30 years old, I think I’m safe.

As I get older, it can be fun to think back over my career at the high points as well as the low points. I have forgotten many projects, but the ones I do remember bring back a lot of memories, including lots of WTF moments. Here are a few of them for your pleasure:

WTF did I get myself into?

Probably a year, maybe two into my career, I was working with a placement firm (aka body shop), but the guys I worked with were cool and helped get me work in those early days. I was living and working in Lansing, MI and had the chance for a gig that was right down the street from our apartment. This must have been sometime in late 96 or early 97 making me 24’ish. The web as we know it was still young; websites were simple compared to today comprised of plain html and maybe some CSS with the tiniest bit of javascript thrown in for good measure.

Who are you again?

The client was a software company whose business was building terminal emulation tools. It was a small, family owned company. They brought me in to make some changes to their company website. I remember either the owner or his daughter asking me if I had heard of their company; apparently they were a pretty big deal in their market. You know what idiot Mike said?

No, but I’ve heard of ‘X’

In this case, ‘X’ was a major competitor. The owner seemed less than impressed.

WTF was I thinking? Oh, and Strike 1.

Did I mention I also had to wear a tie every day?

It looks like what?

I was probably a day or so in when we had a meeting to discuss their website. I’m pretty sure it was the owner and his daughter. They asked me what I thought of the site and if there were any changes I’d suggest. You know what idiot Mike said?

Well, the first thing I’d do is get rid of the black background because it looks like a porn site.

Yes, I really said that. Old Mike cringes at the dumbassery of Young Mike.

You know what they did? They ended up changing every bit of their marketing material, including the website, because of that moronic comment. I just checked the Wayback machine - it ended up being a bright website with lots of blues!

Seriously, WTF was I thinking? Strike 2, sort of.

How dare you care about security

I was always very security concious, even locking my machine at home when I walked away, so of course, when I was in an office, I locked my machine. Granted, it was their machine, but still, security.

One day I locked my machine and went to lunch. When I came back, the owner’s daughter seemed very annoyed and called me into her office, demanding to know why I locked my machine. She wanted to know what I was hiding! I explained as best I could, but she wasn’t having it and told me I was no longer allowed to lock my machine.

I’ll take the hit on the first two WTFs, but this one is on them 100%. Strike 3. I wasn’t out, but I also wasn’t necessarily “in” either.

Dude, that’s chicken - WTF?

While I tried to deal with the owner, his daughter, and the people in my immediate area, one of the IT guys and I got to talking. One day he invited me over to his apartment to hang out. Sure, I said, thinking nothing of it.

I get to his apartment - a pretty typical 20-something’s bachelor pad. One of the first things he asks after I got there threw me for a loop. I’m sure many of you will catch on pretty quickly, but back then, I had no clue WTF he was talking about. Here’s how the conversation went down:

Him: Hey man. Glad you could come over!

Me: Always enjoy hanging out!

Him: Do you burn?


Me: (thinking to myself: WTF is he talking about?)


Me: Ummm, I’m not sure what you mean.

Him: Burn, you know? Do you smoke?

Me: (still not getting it)

Me: An occasional cigar and I tried cigarettes for like a week when I was 17.

Him: (now looking at me like I’m the crazy one)

Him: No man…like weed!

Me: Oh! No, dude…I grew up with Nancy telling me to just say no!

Him: Oh, ok, that’s cool.

Thankfully, he let it drop, but seriously, WTF?

By the way, as we’re having this conversation, he’s in the kitchen, cutting up chicken. When he was done, he…

Dear God, I can’t believe I’m about to write this…I had blocked it from my memory for years…

When he was done, he licked his fingers.

After working with raw chicken.

Licked his fingers.

Like he had just eaten Cheetos and was trying to get all the orange shit off his fingers…

Licked. His. Fucking. Fingers!

I may have said something, I don’t remember. I just wanted out of that apartment!

Somehow, I don’t remember exactly how, I made some excuse and got the hell out of there and never went back.

Good times.


I don’t remember how long I worked on that project. I don’t think it was too long, but I know I was happy to walk out that door for the last time. A few years ago my wife and I drove past, but the building had been torn down and something else, maybe a parking lot, had taken its place.

I hit the Internet Archive and found the old site, both before and after the changes I suggested. I was tempted to include some screenshots here, but that doesn’t feel right, so I won’t. Browsing the site did bring back lots of memories though.

I can laugh about all of it now, and I know those types of situations helped me a few years later when I was hired at a consulting firm. That place also had a lot of WTFs, but that’s for another day!

I hope you enjoyed this!

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