Earthquake in California


You sleep late and wake up early. You see the sunrise after months. The sky is vast; thistle in the west and a piercing vermillion in the east. You wonder whether it’s always this beautiful out here when you’re asleep in your bed with the curtains snugly drawn.

You arrive early to work but not early enough to have breakfast. You head over to the secure zone. You key in your PIN and step inside. It’s cold because it’s a refrigerator for sensitive customer data. Terminals that hum solemnly in front of you are processing a million online transactions. You’re unpacking your bag while a million people are leisurely scrolling through items, drawn in a vortex of increasingly irresistible AI powered recommendations. You dial in to the conference and try to connect to your desktop operating sixteen floors above you. You can’t. After a moment of hesitation, it occurs to you that you don’t need your desktop right away. You’ve made assumptions you’re not aware of; that you wouldn’t be aware of until it’s time.

After a couple of hours, it is time. You realize you need your desktop. You have a had a rough couple of hours where the scripts that were supposed to work didn’t and it took someone from Dublin to fix those for you but you couldn’t catch the accent because you were distracted and you mistook it for something else and then you had to correct yourself. Your mind is in a disarray, more so as you wait for the elevator in the crowded lobby.

You don’t understand the bizarre message on your desktop except that it’s no good. You call up a coworker and he shrugs. Restart. You do. A clock is ticking inside your head; faster, you presume, than a clock normally does. A steady frenzy enters your body. You shift between windows pausing to catch up with your train of thought. Another script isn’t working and you rise and check with another coworker. It works on her laptop. You fiddle with your own, swap a few permissions, and your problem is solved. A temporary respite infuses a recklessness in your actions. It’s almost lunchtime and it’s late night in SF – the guys on the conference call are tired. They want you to speed up and you understand. You think you’re done. You chat with coworkers, get a coffee and then consider going back to the secure zone to check up on few things.

The crowd around the elevator makes you tense. On the eight floor, you run towards the secure zone, as if your body senses an urgency that you don’t. It’s freezing inside and then your phone buzzes. You open up your laptop to see many open chats. You get a call on your phone. Sixty tickets. A severity one ticket. Mails have reached VPs. Distraught customers around the world have taken to Twitter. In only a matter of few minutes. You tell yourself that you have the situation under control. A heat is prickling your body and your feet feel light. You have taken a backup of the configurations. You open the folder. You open the backup configuration. You see an error message. Your heart sinks. You don’t have a backup.

You decide to undo the changes manually. A clock is ticking behind your eyes. Your fingers are shaky. You push a change only to realize within a moment that it’s wrong; that it’d only deteriorate the situation further. You abort the operation. You wait. You close your eyes and crack your knuckles. You’re smart. This is a test. You will crack it. As always.

You remember the interview. After the interview, you’d walked out to the ice-cream store nearby and ordered New York Cheesecake that tasted sweetly of defeat, of loss, of a sad acceptance of your shortcomings. You had no idea then that you had actually made it. They had been harder on you. You had been smarter than you imagined you were.

Someone from SF has backup configurations. When you ask him to push the changes, he tells you he’d not do so blindly. Unlike you. You wait until he does. You’re in the eye of the storm. You’ve given up control over the sails.

The storm dies out after lunch. You coworkers ping you to come up and join them for tea. They say it’s alright but you know what must have happened upstairs while you were in the secure zone. Severity one issues are rare. Extremely rare. As rare as Richter 8 earthquakes. You’re responsible for this one.

You prefer to have lunch by yourself, probably your last here. You order a sandwich and a coffee and sit outside where it’s windy and there are birds in the sky. You google for job termination letters. You wouldn’t tell anyone at home just yet. You wouldn’t tell anyone even after you pack up and walk out. You won’t tell anyone for days while you stay in the city and prepare for other interviews. You see yourself eating New York Cheesecake again.

You spend the evening poring over logs, trying to understand what went wrong. Your coworker tells you that it’s not really your fault – that there have been failures at multiple levels; that it’s process failure and not a human error. You assimilate the words blankly, watching them shape up into reasonable arguments. You draft an email explaining what went wrong and how you were responsible. You consider whether you’re always susceptible to apologies. You are. You say sorry often and mean it often. You wonder why.

You’re done for the day. In the elevator with you are a group of guys you don’t know. One of them is telling the others how he fucked up by accidentally sending an ‘Earthquake in California’ video to his manager. The others ask why. He explains that it wasn’t as much a video of an earthquake as it was about its effect on a well-endowed girl’s chest. He shakes his body and there’s a roar of laugher. You find yourself laughing and realize that you haven’t laughed today until now. It’s night now and the sky is wearing a dirty glow from the city at its fringes.

Few hours from now, it’d be morning and you’d be asleep in your bed with the curtains drawn to deep shades of red. You may not have to wake up so early after all.

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