punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,
punkwalrus
punkwalrus

Tales from the Interview: Gern from FidoNet

Back in the BBS days, I was on some BBS that was connected to a POD, like FidoNet or something. The one BBS had a setting for "Real name" vs. "Online handle." For most PODs, it was apropos to have your real name listed, but the sysop of this BBS didn't have the bit flipped, so my online handle, "Punk Walrus," was sent when I asked a question about fixing my lawn to not look like a wasteland from "Star Trek."

The guy in charge of the various sections of this POD responded back with an angry letter not addressing my question, but slamming my name and how dare I post under "Punk Walrus." I apologized, saying I was not in charge of that, but my apology just made him angrier. His anger was beyond anything reasonable, and in the end both of us were fighting back and forth in a flame war under what was the form of private e-mail at the time. I forgot his name, so for the purposes of this tale, I will call him "Gern Blanston." he was from New Jersey.

Gern eventually complained to the sysop of this board about my behavior, but the sysop explained to him that it as an error on his end, and apologized to both of us. Gern demanded I be booted from this BBS or he'd cut his feed. So, in the interests of "whatever," I just quit. I was on other BBSs, and didn't care very much. But how much of an asshole this guy was really got to me for a while.

Fast forward about 8 years. I am working at AOL, and interviewing people for a NOC position. When guess whose resume crosses my desk? At first, I didn't recognize the name. But what caught my eye was the fact he listed the POD and WWIV programming on his resume. "Old school BBS nerd, eh? I'll just have a look see... wait a minute... IT'S HIM!!! Gern!"

Keep in mind, I had never met the guy. I certainly didn't want to hire him, but I felt, hey... why not bring him in? I had a sick sense of curiosity. Maybe I would go, "remember... ME?? AHAHAHAA!!!" I told the other interviewers despite his rather ratty resume, I had to meet him. I wondered if he fit the Joe Pesci stereotype I had in my head about him.

He did not.

In fact, he did so poorly with the other interviewers, I had to convince them not to send him home until I was done with him. They said he was not very qualified at all. The biggest "WTF" with this guy was the fact when he interviewed with one manager, he started eating donuts out of a box the manager had on the table. He didn't ask, just flipped open the box and started to eat them. After the second donut, the manager said, "I was saving those for a meeting later." Gern did not apologize, just closed the box and acted like nothing had happened.

When Gern came to my office, I was a little shocked... somehow... that he was a nerd stereotype. He was not short, nor did he have wavy hair or an Italian horn around his neck. He did not wear a jogging suit and speak in a Jersey accent. He was rather tall, overweight, with large rimmed glasses that hung on his balding head. He had a thick circle of hair around his mouth that had a few donut crumbs on them. I almost laughed when I saw that because of the gosspiy audacity expressed by the manager who said, "He ATE my team's DONUTS!" only minutes earlier. Gern wore a yellow short sleeved dress shirt with a blue graph paper pattern, a solid brown tie, and light brown slacks that didn't go all the way down to his shoes. While he was probably thinner than I was, his ill-fitting pants looked like they were about to burst across his belly button. He looked to be in his late 40s, and if someone told me he still lived with his mother, it wouldn't have surprised me.

I almost giggled during the interview at several points. He was unsurprisingly a little arrogant, but clicked with me when I brought up his BBS days. It was evident that he hadn't been brought up on computer skills since then, and even though he had SOME modern skills, he magnified HEAVILY how much of a BBS guru he was. I suspected he was relieved to get questions he knew after a lot of questions about the Internet from the other interviewers which he probably could not answer. At one point, I said that part of this job required interaction with customers. "Did you have any events from your past where you interacted with people?"

He bubbled with events from his POD days. Maybe he made them up, maybe he didn't. But the tone in his voice suggested he was a very generous man, sharing his wisdom with those underlings who nursed under his teats. If it had been anyone else, I would have been rather shocked, but I completely expected it from him. Finally, I asked, "Can you tell me of any time you might have had a conflict with a sysop of another BBS and how that was resolved?"

He shrugged, "I never got into any conflict with anybody worth remembering."

I almost asked him if he had heard of Punk Walrus, or a Punk Walrus, but I didn't. I just thanked him for his time.

Yes, it did occur to me to tell him, "I AM THE GREAT PUNK WALRUS AND YOU ANGERED ME IN 1992!!!" with a thunderclap or some dramatic organ music and a lowering of a chandelier. But that seemed rather... I couldn't put a mature spin on it, and so I said nothing and showed him where to go to return his visitor's badge.

I guess maybe I felt sorry for him. A little. I'll tell you one thing, it's experiences like these that teach me not to burn bridges or be mean to anyone.
Tags: aol, bbs, interviews, work
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