Autoblography Part 32: Flipping Burgers

By Shamus Posted Friday Oct 21, 2011

Filed under: Personal 206 comments

I have a lot of time on my hands these days. I’m still teaching myself C. It’s hard because I don’t have anything but the reference books. This would be a lot easier if I had some way of looking at some example programs. The library doesn’t have any books to help me. I don’t know if the book store has any books that might help, because I don’t think to check.

Still, I’m making progress on my own and figuring out this 3D rendering business. I’ve written a program that is pretty much identical to the “3D Flower Box” screensaver that Microsoft will give away with Windows 98, six years from now. The only real difference is that my program draws the stuff in wireframe, because otherwise it would be too slow on this 7Mhz machine.


It’s Sunday, and I’m enjoying a rare weekend off. Patrick and I are really into this game called Starflight 2. The game is simply gigantic. It fills up two 360k floppy disks. I’ve encountered two-disk games before, but most of those were titles that were just a little too big for one disk. Starflight 2 completely fills both disks. To start a new game, you make a complete copy of both disks. This copy is your entire save game. Amazing. If this trend continues, then someday we’ll end up with videogames that take up a whole megabyte.

This game has a lot of content. You fly around the galaxy, meet aliens, explore planets, mine for resources, have space battles, and run trade routes between the alien species. Each alien race has their own artwork and dialog. You can even upgrade your ship and purchase training for your crew.

“Okay, it’s your turn,” I tell Pat. I’ve just flown out of Starport. The ship is loaded with trade goods, and it’s time for the long trip to the other side of the galaxy so we can sell this stuff. Pat sighs and takes over.

Upstairs, little Ruthie and Danny are in the living room, having another argument over the TV. Ruthie is in second grade. Danny began kindergarten this year, the year after I graduated. That means there was never a time when all four of us were in school. It will be a total of twenty-six years between the moment when I entered kindergarten and the day Danny graduates.

I play with the two of them. I tickle Ruthie and wrestle with Danny. Then I make myself a sandwich and head back downstairs.

Pat has spent the last ten minutes holding down the right arrow key, and is just now arriving at the trading port on other side of the galaxy.


“Okay, my turn,” I tell him.

What a bastard. Remember that Pat is bigger than me at this point. I have no idea how I got away with this.

Another day at McDonald’s.

I seem to have figured out how to deal with people over the course of the last year. I don’t know if it was due to leaving high school, or getting older, or the circle of friends I made at ICM. Maybe this is a natural result of the slow revelations at Seven Springs. In any case, I’m no longer a nervous stumble-mouth. At some point I noticed that some of my funny thoughts were amusing to others, and some were only amusing to me. I’ve learned to filter out the latter, and I’ve learned to avoid laughing before I tell my joke. This does wonders for my social life. As far as I can tell, the key to saying witty things is to say them as if you don’t don’t find them funny yourself. You throw the joke down and walk away like you don’t care.

I’ve gone from social outcast to being almost universally popular. People don’t just like me, they seek my approval. This forms a positive feedback loop: The more people like me, the more confidence I have. The more confidence I have, the better I am socially.

I’ve begun flirting, and this has changed my entire outlook on dating. Before, I didn’t really date because I was nervous to the point of terror when approaching a girl. Asking a girl out on a date has a binary outcome: If it fails, you feel shame and rejection. If it succeeds, you go out on the date and maybe encounter shame and rejection at a later time. I’m naturally risk-averse, so this deal never looked very attractive to me.

This flirting business is much better. If the flirt is rejected, it’s no big deal, because I was just kidding, right? If it’s accepted, then I flirt again and see how she responds. A consistent loop of positive feedback is the signal that it’s probably safe to ask someone out on a date. In fact, it’s almost a test drive of what a date will be like. If she’s not laughing at my jokes and smiling, then I can forget about her. We’re obviously not compatible. This is a far better system than trying to marshal the courage to ask for a date up front.

As I enter the store I nod to the pair of guys working grill, “Mister Thompson, Mister Brady.”

This is a thing I do. Fast food company culture requires that everyone be on a first-name basis. Our boss isn’t “Mr. Lastname”, he’s “Mike”. If Ray Kroc himself were to drop by to see how his stores were doing, we would be expected to call him, “Ray”, not, “Your Grace, Master of all Things Hamburger, Lord Kroc”. I’m not sure what the reasoning is behind this. Perhaps letting us call our bosses by their first name is supposed to make it feel like we’re all buddies or peers? In any case, this false Egalitarianism bugs me, so I have decided to thumb my nose at it by referring to the other crew members formally. This has caught on.

“Mister Young!” they shout in return as I breeze through the grill area. I love this. It makes it feel like we’re fellow crew members of a sailing ship. We only do this between low-level crew members. Shift managers and store managers are all first-name people to us.

I’m working grill today, which is good. Sometimes I work drive-through, and drive-through requires a certain degree of mental investment. People outside of the fast food business are always making jokes about how hard it is to understand the people taking your order in drive-through, but they don’t know the half of it. On my end, the microphone is an inch from my mouth. On the other end, you’re sitting about four feet above the microphone in your towering pickup truck, and trying to shout over the roaring engine. You don’t even know where the microphone is. You sort of just shout in the general direction of the menu board like you’re addressing the Wizard of Oz. Your kids are arguing in the back seat, you’ve got the radio on, and you have no idea how to pronounce half the stuff on the menu, but when you drive away you’ll make fun of me for our mutual inability to communicate.

It takes brain power to decipher what people are saying, and I have to pay attention to what I’m doing while I’m making change. At night, the person taking orders in drive-through is also in charge of dishes. I’ll send an order along, and wait for a second. Is that it? Is there another order coming? No? Okay, back to dishes then. Then I stick my hands in the water and get another ding on my headset. All too often, someone begins rattling off their order before I can dash to the register.

This is why I prefer working grill. I can unhook my brain from my work and run on autopilot. I can keep my mind busy on interesting things (videogames, stories, code) while my hands assemble hamburgers on their own.

I have dropped out of ICM. I had to go in for some surgery during the second semester at ICM, and I needed some recovery time. I used that as an excuse to take a semester off, which turned into not going back at all. This allowed me to quit school without having to directly confess what a blunder I’d made. This is gutless, but I’m too ashamed to confess how badly I mucked things up.

Now I’m in a new bind. I have become convinced that I won’t be able to get the job I want without a degree. Having just quietly dropped out of school, I can’t very well ask for more money for another school. I’ve already made it abundantly clear that I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to selecting schools. Moreover, I don’t even want to go to school.

I have a dream and I can’t get there, so now I’m flipping burgers for a living.

McDonald’s has put a girl into the grill area with the boys. This is unexpected. Up until now, females worked the registers, and males cooked the food. (Taking orders in drive-through is one of the few positions open to either gender.) There isn’t a rule, and nobody ever insisted that things needed to be this way. It’s just how it’s always been. I don’t know what caused the change, but here we are.


Heather is an adorable, round-faced little imp. We’ve flirted in the past when I was working drive through, but it’s hard to do a lot of that when you’re assigned to two different areas of the store and only speak in ten-second intervals. Now we can actually have conversations during the slow moments. She makes fun of my name. I call her a “Care Bear”, due to her cheerfully over-sweetened demeanor.

One day Heather asks me to her prom. I may have mastered the art of being funny in a group of people, but I’m still a bit of a clod socially, so I immediately ask her how much it will cost. (I’m a bit broke these days.) I only realize how rude this is after I’ve said it. Someday I’ll learn to not blurt out things like this, and I’ll learn to be more diplomatic about it when I do open my mouth. I’m learning, but this interpersonal stuff is murderously complex compared to simple things like computer programming.

I stammer out a reluctant agreement, which puts her off. See, Mandy dumped me in senior year and took someone else to prom, and I moped around like a wounded animal over it. I was overcome with ridiculous teenage angst, and just the mention of prom fills me with all kinds of confusing emotions.

Over the next few days Heather brings it up now and again, and eventually we decide to go out on some regular dates before prom. This solves all kinds of problems for me.

My career is stalled, but at least I have a date.


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206 thoughts on “Autoblography Part 32: Flipping Burgers

  1. Destrustor says:

    The power of LOOOOVVE!!!

    Yay for young Shamus!

    1. Dwip says:

      Yes, that’s all great and everything, really it is. Let us all cheer for the hopefully happy couple and their hopefully social tragedy-free dating.

      However, Starflight. Those games were totally rad. My dad and I used to play the first one pretty much endlessly back in the day.

      Clearly, between the first and the second things, it can be seen that Shamus has excellent taste, even at this young age.

      1. For me, the only classic game with the word “Star” and the number “2” is Star Control 2. But this one sounds pretty good too.

        1. cadrys says:

          Star Control 2 was the end process of an evolution involving both of the StarFlight games. You don’t get SC2 without SF1&2.

          1. krellen says:

            I tried playing Star Control 2, but I stopped once I realised it wasn’t Starflight, and not actually what I wanted. The games are similar, but not the same.

          2. Oh, cool. I understand better now.

    2. Sark says:

      I’ve actually been forward to this ever since you started this biography. You mentioned somewhere that you meet your wife while working at McDonald’s.

      I’m sure why I care so much, but I guess I’m just a sappy romantic.

      1. deiseach says:

        Me too. I said that I was just waiting for this about 20-25 episodes ago. I was told by someone more informed than I am that they hoped I like stories about burgers. Anyways, like you I’m a hopeless romantic. Yay, the socially-inept geek getting the girl!

  2. Chris B Chikin says:

    Is it bad that I giggled at you saying that working in Fast Food was hard?

    1. goatcathead says:

      Yes. Yes it is. You should be ashamed

    2. Shamus says:

      Are you suggesting it’s easy? Have you tried it?

      Standing for eight hours, moving fast, working in the heat and noise, and having people talk to you like you’re a moron all day? Hardest I’ve ever worked.

      1. Raygereio says:

        having people talk to you like you're a moron all day

        This is why I’ll never work in retail, restaurants, etc, ever again. Sure, it may not be the most mentally challenging job. But we all know the physical aspect also isn’t the hard part.
        No, the hard part is in fact keeping yourself from strangling the annoying/jackass/idiot customers.

        1. Antwon says:

          I grew up in a factory, violating every child-labor law one might ever hope to. Running a plastic-injection molding machine by myself as a prepubescent! Standing in front of a steel mold radiating heat in a 110-degree industrial bay for hours! Inserting rivets into a machine every 32 seconds – the human embodiment of clockwork precision! – all through the night, until I was spelled from my post the following morning!

          But at least I never once had to interface with customers. And for that, I was eternally grateful.

          1. Tizzy says:

            Ah! The fabled customers!

            I knew someone who had worked his way up to head chef at a fancy restaurant. He would complain about how much more the waiters were making. But always add: “Hey, at least I never had to kiss a customer’s ass!”

            1. I actually like customer service. But so much of the organization’s design is oriented to PREVENT customer service that I hate it.

        2. MadTinkerer says:

          I was fortunate enough to work for Subway, in a mall food court, for a manager that preferred to adjust his prices just slightly in order to stay in business but to keep most cheapskates going to the McDonalds a few stores down.

          We still got the occasional harmless nutjob about once every other week and many memorable individuals I’d describe as “total psycho, no hyperbole” about once every other month. But considering what we saw going on at other places in the food court, and the prices on offer, I just smiled and kept that fact in mind when people mentioned that our Italian BMT was 50 cents more expensive than the same Subway in the mall a few miles down the road.

          (That’s not to say the sandwiches are overpriced. Like gasoline, I feel there’s a certain margin of wiggle room for the people setting the prices before you can reasonably complain about the price of food. Especially when you add in the cost of utilities and other overhead. If you want to eat cheaply, you make it at home. End of story.)

        3. Eärlindor says:

          Working in retail is a difficult job. You really have to be humble and have a servant’s heart to stick to something like that.

        4. Scourge says:

          This reminds me of the time I worked as a cashier in a supermarket. Stupid costumers were the worst.

          Me: Alright, that will 1.65 Bucks then.
          Costumer: But the KG of potatoes costs only 1.20 bucks.
          Me: Yes.. but this is more than 1 kg.
          Costumer: But the KG of potatoes only costs 1.20!
          Me: Yes.. *grits teeth* But.. this is more than 1 kg so you have to pay more.
          Costumer: But the KG of potatoes costs 1.20!
          Me: *sigh* Yes, but this is MORE than 1 kg.
          Costumer: Ughh. Nevermind! *Walks out and leaves all the groceries behind*

          Of course I had to sort them all back and take care of the 8 costumers who waited in line, plus the people who kept coming.

          I have to say, there were a few nice ones though. I met an elderly British couple (I think they were british as least) and they thanked me when I helped them. None of the other costumers would do that!

      2. tenokujin says:

        Kudos to Mr. Young- an excellent synopsis of retail work.

      3. Sagretti says:

        “Having people talk to you like a moron all day” was one of the worst parts for me. I worked at a local fast food chain during high school, and a large amount of the customers were regulars who expected you to know the drill before they even opened their mouths.

        The best was a rather grouchy elderly woman who showed up the same day every week, order the same fried chicken, and would come inside and complain if she received any wings in her order. The problem was that she forgot to mention the special order about half the time, but refused to believe she didn’t tell us. It got to the point that the person running drive-thru would just start shouting “lunch pack, no wings!” to the entire kitchen when they just started to hear her voice.

        There was also the joys of preparing the fried chicken, which meant a long day coated in a growing layer of grease and flower while trying not to get burned by giant vats of boiling oil. At least we were safe from someone trying to storm the castle.

        1. Mephane says:

          Oh how I am annoyed by customers like that woman. I know this type, having worked for almost a year in a hospital, having met these kind of people when they have, like, a broken hip and cannot walk and expect everyone to be able to read their minds…

        2. Jeff #3 says:

          Prior to landing my current programming job I worked at a Burgerking for a year and a half. Every day around 4ish a guy from the nearby Toyota dealership (assuming from the service department from his shirt) would come in.

          Every day it would be the same order: 2 whoppers no pickle.

          For some reason I just latched onto ‘this is going to be the order that will be as perfect as I can do’.

          I always had fresh meat coming off the grill for him and start it as soon as he ordered so it would be ready as soon as he paid, any in front of that would be bumped down in the mental queue a few spots.

          Sometimes I wonder if stuff like that is noticed or what.

          1. krellen says:

            As someone that is often a regular customer with the same order at places, I always appreciate things like this. It often keeps my business when circumstances might otherwise suggest alternatives.

            1. Jarenth says:

              Amusingly, this happened to me once at the Burger King at a local train station, and it actually kind of scared me. Not because the manager recognized me per se (that was kind of cool), but because it implied that I ate enough fast food to be considered a regular there.

              I cut back my cheeseburger consumption pretty significantly after that. I still went to that Burger King pretty exclusively, though (as it’s the only one in a two-city radius that I know of).

              1. krellen says:

                It’s never happened to me at a chain “fast food” place, only local ones, which are somewhat different in implication, especially in food quality.

      4. HeadHunter says:

        Don’t forget the “underpaid” part. The kind of treatment people endure in fast food is bad, but suffering through all of it for minimum wage is the worst part.

        I think the reason it’s mostly high school and college-age kids is because you eventually start to realize that your dignity is not for sale, and certainly not for such a pittance.

        1. Nick says:

          Well, that and it’s just a shitty job for the most part. Thus anyone who can get a different (and likely better) job does so, and new teenagers are around to get employed in their place

        2. Mari says:

          At least Mickey D’s workers make minimum wage. My introduction to food service work was waiting tables on the night shift at an IHOP for waitress wages, which for the record is LESS than minimum wage. Unsurprisingly, the sorts of people who go to all-night food places in a college town are not big tippers, either. I made it through my 6-week “probationary” period before quitting and vowing to never, ever work food service again because it was too hard and unrewarding.

          1. zootie says:

            I was introduced to “the working life” in an IHOP too, working all nighters as a 14-year-old in high school. It ended when the management stole the payroll and left town (I kid you not, they were grifters scamming the company. Which explains why they were ok with schoolkids working all nighters in the kitchen).

            Well, actually it ended later, after the wait staff sued IHOP for our paychecks and we sat in court listening to their lawyer argue that IHOP owed us nothing. The judge eventually made them pay us 50%.

      5. Ruthie says:

        Starbucks definitely one of the most demanding jobs I’ve ever done. Not terribly mentally taxing [once you got the lingo and the processes down] but it absolutely tests your nerves, and stamina. Having said that, I loved the job and would do it again if it paid better.

        1. HeadHunter says:

          I’m also a former barista, and I have to say there were a lot of things I loved about the job… but the pay was not on that list.

          The “Total Pay” package is touted as a “part time job with full time benefits” but honestly, the benefits have been going down year after year – so partners have to work more hours just to pay for them.

          Trust me, people, there aren’t any baristas out there that are single-income wage earners. You can’t live on your own with what Starbucks pays – you either have another job, roommates, or a spouse with a better income.

          The hardest part was having to be nice to people who don’t realize that courtesy, as a virtue, only has value when it is reciprocated.

      6. SolkaTruesilver says:

        I worked in a Coffee Time (Dunkin Donut’s copy franchise) and as a Gasboy. And the experience I got out of it was much different than the one you report:

        When you try to be witty, outgoing friendly, do the little things to make their experience something they will remember (“Hey, that guy was nice!”), many of them won’t treat you like a complete idiot. Only the 5% who feels they are currently in a Slave-Master relationship deal. Those are easy to ignore.

        Otherwise, when working with the public, it pays off to not look like you are lazily spending the hours until the end of the day. It pays off to look like you care about your customer. You know, have a professional attitude about the whole “work” aspect of your life.

        I don’t like people who seems to be annoyed by me coming to use the services that actually serves to pay for their salary. Would it kill you to be polite and enthusiast? I always tried to be when I was in your exact same position, and the day just went a lot better.

        1. Ruthie says:

          “When you try to be witty, outgoing friendly, do the little things to make their experience something they will remember (“Hey, that guy was nice!”), many of them won't treat you like a complete idiot.”

          Agreed. What you just described is what Starbucks lingo refers to as creating a “legendary experience”
          It pays in more than one way. People tip better, treat you better, and your job feels slightly more meaningful than supplying people with their daily fix.

          1. Shamus says:

            It’s really cool that Starbucks actively encourages that behavior. That will set the tone for how employees act, which will set the tone for how people treat the employees. (Even the ones who don’t actually take the company advice.) I’ve never seen people casually dismiss Starbucks employees the way they might talk about (say) McDonald’s or Burger King people. They’re all minimum wage jobs, but Starbucks people are seen as friendly, chipper, witty, or hip. Burger people are seen as dullards, losers, mumblers, and grouches. This has everything to do with them hiring those sorts of people and then allowing them to interact with the public. I can be as chipper as I like when I’m on register, and it helps a little, but people don’t expect friendly cheer when they visit McDonald’s and tend to open the transaction by addressing you like a burger-dispensing ATM, because that’s the sort of interaction they’ve come to expect.

            The training videos tell everyone to “always smile”, but the managers never actually do anything to help make sure that’s actually happening, and the company culture doesn’t have any systems in place to encourage it. Telling new McDonald’s employees to “always smile” is about as effective as a NO LITTERING sign with trash piled around it.

            1. SolkaTruesilver says:

              I guess having managers more interested in enforcing the First Name Basis rather than giving the customers a pleasant experience will lead to such situation.

              Although I never worked in a burger joint, so I got no idea what the mentality over that kind of shop is. I am just wondering exactly how lower/higher on the scale of respectability it is compared to a Gasboy or a Dunkin’ Donut cashier/breakfast cooker.

              1. Tizzy says:

                It would be hard to translate the Starbucks experience directly to McDonald’s. Customer expectation is part of it, but also because they don’t service the same population.

                1. MrWhales says:

                  Well, my dad usually goes to Starbucks for coffee, then right to McD’s for breakfast. So, some are the same. But he treats most anyone right.

            2. Mari says:

              I think part of it is also just the sort of customers each attracts. It may just be me, but I’m not a fast food person. If I’m ordering burgers and fries for the fam it’s probably because it’s been a bear of a day for me and I’m already too tired to cook. Which should be my clue that I’m too tired to interact with the human race, especially people who don’t love and forgive me. But I grind onward to the Mickey D’s where I do tend to address the person at the mic as a burger-dispensing ATM because, frankly, that’s about all my mind and body can HANDLE at that point in the day. I’m civil but I’m not exactly Chatty Patty on perky pills. It’s not that I think the person on the other end of the mic is a dullard, it’s that I’m a dullard at this point in the day.

              Compare this to the one time I’ve been to a Starbucks (sorry, I’m cheap and fad-adverse). It was mid-afternoon and I was there with a friend for a treat at the high-point in my personal energy cycle. I wasn’t looking to score something necessary to my survival that I was too tired to provide myself. It was “extra.” That made me much more inclined to interact favorably with the person at the register.

              1. Scott (Duneyrr) says:

                I’ve never thought about it like this, but I can relate to these experiences exactly.

            3. Ruthie says:

              It’s all part of working at starbucks. They want it to be a “3rd place”… your home and another fav spot coming in first and second…
              You should be greeted within 10 seconds, when you receive your drink you also receive a “thank you” [not a ‘you’re welcome’] and the staff is expected to be knowledgeable to the point of ridiculousness about everything coffee.
              This extreme environment justifies the prices.
              Also, the partners make above min wage. I worked there from 2005-2007 and was making about 8.50 plus tips, which worked out to around 10-11/hr.

              1. HeadHunter says:

                Ruthie, you were a partner too? Awesome!

                I guess tips are better ’round these parts than they were at my store – if we got over $1 an hour per partner in tips it was a lot. And we were the top store in the district.

                I guess in an economically depressed area like Western NY, even the people who can afford to spend $4 on a latte don’t have the extra cash to tip. I get the impression from what I’ve seen in the last several weeks that Western PA is a little better off than that.

                1. Ruthie says:

                  I made the best tips when I worked just outside of Philly. We made $3/hr in tips around the holidays. If it dipped below 2 we knew something was wrong. We were the busiest store in our region, in an affluent yuppy neighborhood.

            4. Knight of Fools says:

              I work in retail, and it’s surprising how much customers enjoy being joked around with or treated with genuine respect. The problem is that management is so focused on “other” aspects of customer service (Selling more, saying certain phrases), that my genuine contribution is largely ignored or even frowned upon, despite a huge number of customers that compliment the honest and entertaining treatment I give them. I treat people like people, not walking dollar signs.

              It’s hard to be chipper and friendly in a place that wants robots instead of human beings. It’s depressing, actually, especially when you’re the only one on the job that can give a sincere smile.

            5. Nick says:

              “but Starbucks people are seen as friendly, chipper, witty, or hip’

              That’s because they are all wired on caffeine.

        2. Eärlindor says:

          Yeah, I always try to be helpful, friendly, and enthusiastic. It can do wonders for your experience.

        3. Jonathan says:

          Chick Fil A consistently has the best customer service out of any of the fast-food places. Happiest/most cheerful employees, everybody speaks English, etc.

          They seem to hire a lot of homeschoolers.

      7. Jeremiah says:

        I’ve worked in two different factories: one making potpourri (which your sinuses will never adjust to), and one working in a factory that made nuts and bolts — lots of noise and heavy, dangerous machinery.

        I worked in a Sonic for a grand total of 4 hours.

        I’d take those factory jobs over fast food any day.

        1. I’ve worked too many fast food and retail jobs, and they were all miserable in pretty much the same way. I don’t like customers, but they don’t really *bother* me except the ones who try to involve me in their B.S. Look, okay, it’s a credit card reader. It has a little icon that shows you which direction to put the card through the reader. Don’t try to pretend that it’s some sort of evil conspiracy on the part of the manufacturing company to make you look like an idiot. Just turn the card around already and get on with your life.

          But I can put up with that sort of thing. What really gets me is management. Management who cannot be arsed to pay attention to what actually goes on in their store, so they badger you constantly about things that have no relevance and ignore the stuff that might actually matter.

          The one that really pisses me off is when they get some kind of automatically generated report that’s not up to whatever arbitrary numbers the bigwigs pulled out of their butts, so they have to go around and “remind” everyone to do the inane thing. This always makes me want to snatch the clipboard out of their hands, shove it an inch from their eyeballs and yell “You see these numbers?! DO YOU SEE THEM?! You notice how I have the HIGHEST NUMBERS OF ANYONE ON STAFF?!?!?! GO WHINE AT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE ACTUALLY NOT DOING THEIR JOBS. NOT ME. READ. THE. NUMBERS.”

          Worst management tactic *ever* is to treat your top performers and dregs as if they were the same. Better yet, why not stop pretending that you are actually modifying anyone’s behavior and just FIRE the people who never get anything done? Then you won’t have to waste time reminding anyone of anything.

          Also, trying to get your employees to upsell as many as 5 different items on a transaction that ought to take 30 seconds is insane. Someone buying a single candy bar is not interested in a.) providing their email address for the mailing list b.) applying for a store credit card c.) donating money to the charity-of-the-month d.) buying a service agreement e.) hear about the latest promotion. They want to walk up to you and be greeted by a blur of activity which ends up with them in possession of a.) a candy bar b.) a receipt c.) correct change. If you do the first list instead of the second list, YOU FAIL.

          1. Shamus says:

            Oh man. I just finished a MASSIVE post on this very sort of frustration. (Seriously, it’s the largest one so far. 2,500 words. I’m trying to figure out how to trim it down so people don’t hit the back button in panic when they slam into that wall of text.)

            Also, in related news: This series will not end on part #34 as promised. I keep inserting and adding bits. Hopefully I can wrap it up before #40.

            And I have no idea why I’m saying this in the comments and not making a proper announcement.

            1. Knight of Fools says:

              This sums it up exactly.

              I can deal with customers. Usually, people spend their money even if they can’t be made happy.

              I can’t deal with the boss telling me, “Okay, we’re down fifteen percent from last year, guys!! We have to SELL MORE STUFF!!! Give away more free memberships! It’ll be my – er – OUR jobs if you don’t!!”

              I want to throw a brick at him and shout, “We can’t force people to buy more stuff, idiot! Calm down and try the decaf!”

              The fact that he gets paid four times as much as the folks in the thick of things only puts me even more on edge. When they start talking about how they don’t get paid ‘all that much’, right after mentioning his large ranch, his horses, getting new stuff… It makes me want to rage quit.

              I’m mostly referring to retail, though. Food services is another poo house altogether.

      8. ccesarano says:

        I’ve made it a point to never work in the food industry, with the exception of washing dishes for one semester in College. I probably could have kept doing that job, except I was usually assigned to work during the closing hours, and all the other students earlier in the day slacked off. When I worked, I tried to get as much done as possible since stuff kept coming in pretty quickly. I never got to leave on time when I closed, though, because there were simply so many dishes that needed to be done.

        Worst part was no one really bothered to change the water, meaning I’d not only go in with dirty nasty water, but I’d have to take the time to drain it, get rid of any loose food scraps floating around, and then fill it back up. I’d probably have to do this twice.

        If it was a full-time job, I don’t think I could have done it.

        Retail, on the other hand. I dunno. People keep on saying that if I start working retail full-time now I’ll never get out, but I honestly enjoyed retail more than my cubicle job. I actually had things to do, I worried a lot less, and when I left work I didn’t have to think about it at home. People may treat you like complete crap in retail, and at this point most of your co-workers will be idiots, but for some reason I actually miss that and dread finding another cubicle job.

        1. Fishminer says:

          Oh, sinks. I would just look for little extra bits of time in my work day to excessively clean sinks when I worked as a dish washer. By the time I was done with that summer the ability to clean dishes to the pace and thoroughness I preferred was like a fantasy.

          On the bright side I could do a lot of the detached thinking thing Shamus was talking about. I practical had a radio station running in my brain by a few weeks in.

        2. MalthusX says:

          I’ve done the retail runaround, and have to say that while the sales part is fun , the constantly stocking shelves is its own special version of hell. Best job I’ve ever had is a tie between Help-Desk Technician (just fun, and my boss was and still is one of my best friends) and working as a janitor at a nuclear research station (basically cleaning Gordon Freeman’s pee).

          I never did fast food though. Although I’m ok about cooking my own meat, I get paranoid when preparing food for others and would be terrified about giving someone food poisoning. By the end of the first day I would have been a neurotic wreck.

      9. Irridium says:

        Worked in a game/move rental store that also dabbled in selling used games.

        The people I worked with were awesome, and the only reason I stayed on as long as I did.

        The customers… oh dear lord the customers…


        D-Day was the worst. Oh, I mean Black Friday, which is essentially the retail version of D-Day.

        1. swenson says:

          I work seasonally at a large outlet store (Gap Outlet, if anyone cares) in a large outlet mall every November, and… Black Friday. Store opens at midnight (but employees have to be there at 11 PM to get the store ready), closes at 9 PM (but if you work to closing, you’re going to be there to midnight cleaning up). Hundreds of people, all screaming that they want this from the back room, and is this on sale, and if not, why not?!

          Oy. It’s kind of fun, in a crazy sort of way, but after the first four hours the fun is pretty well over with. And then you get to go do another four hours of it…

          At least we always get good food!

          But as a tip for anyone going shopping on Black Friday: I know you’re having a rough day. I know it’s busy and you’re going to have to stand in line for half an hour and the thing you want to be on sale might not actually be on sale as much as you want it to be. But please understand that the salesperson you’re being mean to has probably been awake straight from Thanksgiving morning to now, with only a few hours of sleep max, and has been standing on their feet for six hours. If you want good service, you treat that salesperson well, and they’ll move heaven and earth to find you whatever you’re looking for. Treat them badly, and they won’t even try, because it’s just not worth it after all they’ve been through already that day.

      10. Destrustor says:

        I work in fast food too but I never interact with customers. Most probably never even realise there’s a guy downstairs mass-producing the sauces they get in their poutines, burgers and michigan hot-dogs, for all twelve restaurants of the chain. It’s hard, ten hours a day of walking and lifting twelve-pound bags of sauce, but I work alone and usually never interact with anyone in my work day. This makes the job so worth it. I fully understand that whole ” working on auto-pilot and thinking about other interesting stuff meanwhile”. I do it 35+ hours a week and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
        Also, FIRST! hehehe…

      11. OldGeek says:

        Worked at a Wendys while I was in college, and agree with Mr. Young completely. Fast food is a low paying job, disrespected more than any other, but it is NOT easy. If you haven’t tried it, you DON’T know.

        1. Supahewok says:

          It’s not exactly fast food, but when I was little, my dad was a waiter at Pappadeaux, a seafood restaurant. He had previously been a lawyer for about 12 years. He was highly dissatisfied with his profession, quitting when friends he had made at church and had known for years started coming to him to handle their divorces. The only job he could immediately get was as a waiter at this restaurant. On top of shitty customers, poor wages, demanding work, and a severe blow to his pride daily, (he had 3 college degrees) he and Mom were coming very close to losing the house. He’s never said it outright, but when talking about it years later, I got the vibe that he had considered suicide during that time and the only thing stopping him was the fact that he had one son about a year and a half old and another was on the way.

          He eventually got out of that hell by going to a job interview for fixing computers at CompUSA and lying his ass off. (“Fix computers? Uh, yeah. Yeah, I can do that. I do that all the time! When do I start?”) I don’t blame him for it. Besides, he spent several sleepless nights buying and reading books on software and hardware to keep that job.

          Hearing what he went through years later, I have always tried to be as patient and well-meaning as possible to guys working retail or food or wherever, provided they aren’t outright rude. That sort of job is hard NOT because of physical demands, but because of the demands of (parts of) society.

          1. Supahewok says:

            Oh, didn’t mean to reply to that comment specifically. Oops.

      12. Alexander The 1st says:

        When I worked retail:

        My favourite customer? The deaf, mute one.

        He was semi-regular, and sometimes had others with him, sometimes not. Either way, you could interact with him in the same way as Ruthie mentions Starbucks did (We were supposed to, afterall – I worked a New York Fries RBO in Cineplex.). If he didn’t already have the order ready on a piece of paper, we used our own receipt ticket paper, and had him write on that with a pen we had to have anyways, and just took his order that way (Except, I’m pretty sure he ordered the same thing every time – twice the amount if he was with someone else.).

        So…uh…it probably helped also that everyone working the RBO’s (Shared employees)would have their mid shifts drop by to help serve him, and to help with the later lineup until they were needed back at their places.

        Ironically, it was because he was courteous too, not just because he couldn’t talk trash about our work quality.

  3. Amstrad says:

    It’s funny how little the general procedures for working at McD’s changed over the years. I’d estimate you were working there about ten years prior to my own experience with the place as a high school job and it all sounds exactly the same. Though I preferred working back drive through/dishes to the grill area. Especially during the summer.

  4. Jarenth says:

    Hmm. A story of you breaking Patrick’s spirit. Interesting. I’ll let that one slide.

    As far as I can tell, the key to saying witty things is to say them as if you don't don't find them funny yourself.

    This very same discovery has done wonders for my estimation of my sense of humour, too. I gravitate naturally to the role of Dry Wit in a group, because it allows me to tell ‘jokes’ that come naturally to me, and pass them off as simple observations should they fall flat.

    Also, a wild HEATHER has appeared!

    1. Raygereio says:

      Also, a wild HEATHER has appeared!

      Dear Ao. I immediatly got the “random encounter” music from pokemon blue/red in my head.
      I didn’t even know I remembered that tune. What other subliminal things did that game put into my head?

      1. tenokujin says:

        Your pokémon are injured, take them to Nurse Joy, get them healed.

        Well? Did you hear it?

        1. noahpocalypse says:

          Yes. Sad, but true.

        2. rayen says:

          … yes ~_~…

        3. Dovius says:

          Then again, i still buy every new Pokémon game even if I won’t play it.
          */Pokémon will never leave my soul*

        4. Irridium says:

          GET IT OUT OF MY HEAD!

          GET IT OUT!


        5. Ramsus says:

          Make it stop!

    2. Jeremiah says:

      She uses FLIRT. It’s super effective!

      1. Deoxy says:

        You know, I managed to get through life up to this point without having EVER played a pokemon game (OK, I fiddled with one a little on demo at a store once), and I was quite happy about that.

        Then my son got one on DS, and he’s completely obsessed with it, to the point that we’ve had to take it away from him. (Yeah, that was about as fun as it sounds.)

        So, thankfully, I don’t know any of the music, etc, though I can recognize the “it’s super effective” line from seeing him play just a little.

        Aren’t they basically just standard RPGs with a built in collection mechanic and a ridiculous skin/storyline?

        1. Jeremiah says:

          I can’t say. I’ve never played one. I’ve just picked up some of the memes from too much time spent on the internet :)

        2. ccesarano says:

          Depends on what you want to get out of it. Because of how competitive some players got with the multiplayer, Nintendo has thrown in all kinds of little things that influence how your Pokemon’s stats and such grow. You can beat the game proper easy without paying attention to any of this stuff, but if you want to go up against other players, well, it’s like if you casually play Street Fighter 4 or StarCraft 2 and then go up against “professionals”.

          So there’s sort of a game within a game in that regard.

          Otherwise, I guess it’s like a standard RPG, but it feels different nonetheless. Imagine if you were playing an RPG, Japanese or American, where you were limited to just four spells for each character (let’s just assume all your characters could use magic). How do you choose which spells? Do you save a slot for status effect or support magic? Do you go with a variety of attack spells so you never run out of magic points (let’s assume each spell has its own MP pool, similar to Pokemon)?

          There’s definitely a level of strategy outside of compatible element types, which I actually feel has gotten a bit complex in the recent games compared to the first.

          All in all, Pokemon is definitely a really fun game. The collection element is overly emphasized by marketing, and a lot of times people look at that as the big deal, but truth be told it’s only one small part of the whole. Like anything else, however, if you like it, then you like it. If you don’t, then you don’t. But I can at least say the game isn’t over-rated, as it is a solid title whose formula truly works (unfortunately, actual “Pokemon placement”, where you find Pokemon across the world, hasn’t been as good since the very first two on the original GameBoy).

          1. Jeff says:

            A bit complex?

            I played the first, and was competent. Not great, but I knew what I was doing. I grabbed a copy of the latest to try out, and after two or three days reading through the wikis and guides, just gave up.

            The complexity is through the roof now if you’re not a casual gamer who doesn’t care about fully utilizing the mechanics.

            1. TSED says:

              It’s not that bad.

              Types (17×17 chart to know, basically. This is probably the hardest part – but you can look it up whenever you like).

              Movepools (not that big a deal until you step in competitively – just pick what sounds best to you).

              Abilities (these can be complicated if you let them. Otherwise, they’re just neat little bonuses for your pokemon.)

              Now for the easily-ignorable-important-to-be-competitive stuff:

              EVs. Basically, every stat has its own XP bar, which can only be raised in certain ways.

              IVs. You know those old D&D games, roll 3d6 and get stats in order? That, only it’s 0 to 31. These are manipulatable via breeding, but it’s not perfect. IVs are tricky and make a pretty big difference, but wild (ie caught) pokemon will be good enough unless you get Natural Selection’s garbage dump by chance.

        3. Alexander The 1st says:

          Have you played Chrono Cross? That game had 40 playable characters, with four different element types. So yeah, you had a pretty high chance of finding a team that fits your play style.

          1st Generation had at least 150 playable characters, over 15 types. It’s only gotten more complex since then. And since you can use more than one of each character, the combinations are…pretty much endless.

          Oh, and don’t forget move types, which, much like Super Smash Bros. Melee, let you use mindgames to trip up the opponent – in 1st gen, if you chose Charmander as your starter (To which the game kindly slaps you backside of your head the first two dungeons before letting you wreck havoc.) and beat Brock, you get the TM Bide, which lets you store enegery for two “Fight” command turns, then deals double the damage taken. Against Misty, you can rig this by using super potions until you’re red in the face, then attack Starmie for MASSIVE DAMAGE!

          Or, you could decide that’s not worth the effort, and raise a Kadabra instead to stand toe to toe with Misty. Assuming you didn’t use pre-cognition and catch a Pikachu before Brock. You still have options at that point in the game.

          This, however, wouldn’t really work unless it didn’t do the typical RPG thing where they lock you before the boss, so you have to keep fighting them until you win – you start back at the last Pokemon Center, with half your money gone, BUT you get to change up how you play. Whereas in Alpha Protocol and Deus Ex: Human Revolution, for example, if you’re a tech specialist before the boss fight, you’re stuck with that build unless you have an old enough save to go back to and re-adjust your leveling from there. Otherwise, it’s DIAS-style gameplay. This, I think, is why it’s gotten such a large competitive following – you can, at any point in the game, completely switch up your gameplay without losing any progress, and being able to level up new tactics in higher level areas for more exp. You are prodded to explore the game mechanics until you master them to fight the Elite Four Champion, GARY ************* OAK!, but at that point, the game has you fully prepared on any and all other mechanics, and you know how to deal with that situation.

          Also, I’ll never forget the first time I put Ice Beam onto my Blastoise, then proceeded to wipe the floor of frozen Venusaur. I vividly remember cackling in a Frankenstein-like voice, “YOOOUUUU CANNNN’TTTTTT SMELLL MEEEE…..LAAAATTTTTEEERRR!”

          tl:dr; Er, yeah, it’s fun. Play the game at one point.

      2. Scourge says:

        *recalls a song*

        I bring you sweets, like rare candy’s.
        Level up your love to give.
        And you’d use right then, a sweet kiss TM.
        Super effective.
        Not even the Elite four could stop us forevermore.


  5. Zaxares says:

    Is it THE Heather? If so, D’AAAAAAAAWWWW… ^_^

    Also, I was like you in that I treated my younger brother with what I now realise was deplorable standards of “fairness”, which usually revolved around the notion that I was doing my brother a favour by allowing him to do stuff like fix my computer. Although, he never did catch up to me in height, so there was that!

    1. SolkaTruesilver says:

      I sure hope so. Because if not, THE Heather would hear that her husband had a crush/thingy for another girl named Heather before meeting her.

      doesn’t look so good :-P

    2. Garci says:

      Given the fact that there’s a full blown picture of her (much in the style of Shamus’ pics throughout the series), I’d say that yes, she’s THE Heather :D

    3. krellen says:

      It’d be really weird if there was another Heather whose story matched up perfectly with previous information we’ve been privy to regarding how Shamus met his wife.

      1. Simulated Knave says:

        I kind of want it to be, just because I kind of want to live in a world where stuff like that just HAPPENS.

    4. JPH says:

      Now I’m picturing Heather posting a comment on here saying “SHAMUS, WHO IS THIS WOMAN?!”

      It’d be such a great sitcom moment.

  6. Mephane says:

    I was so looking forward to The Part Where You Meet Her. I think this is the first post of your autobiography that really, really made be smile over my hole face even as I am typing this comment. I still hope the final post will be the wedding. :)

    1. goatcathead says:

      “made be smile over my hole face”
      nice hole and be typos, unless… I don’t want to think about it.

      1. Mephane says:

        Argh, now I see it. Of course I meant “whole”.

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      Now that’s a very grim outlook on life, though, assuming it ends at marriage. Clearly the best part to end an autobioblogotopography is 10 years in the future.

      1. Mephane says:

        It wasn’t meant in any way like that. I was more thinking of something along the lines of a happy love story finale. Of course, it just end with the sentence “And then I began writing my autobiography on the internet”, it just wouldn’t be that spectacular. But as this is the first biography I’ver ever read so far, maybe my expectations are all wrong, heh.

        1. X2-Eliah says:

          Well, any auto——aphy must definitely include the part where the main character goes berserk, murders half the neighbourhood and spends next 4 years in Tibet (or similar place) rediscovering himself as a pacifist fly-catcher.

          1. Patrick the Apocalyptic Copy Editor says:

            This sounds much better, but considering the author very implausible.

            A “happy ending love story” sounds so stupid Stephanie Meyers would vomit in her mouth a little just writing the words. I myself feel the need to go take a shower having typed them.

            1. Alexander The 1st says:

              If your hands start to sparkle in direct sunlight, I recommend amputation from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

          2. Woodthorn says:

            Mine does, twice.

      2. As any Shakespearean scholar knows, there are only two proper endings to a ripping good story: Everybody gets married, or everybody dies.

        1. Corran says:

          Rocks fall; everyone dies.

    3. Jimmy Bennett says:

      Ending with a wedding is cliche. Clearly, the last post needs to be the story about how he got together with his D&D group. That way determined readers can have an archive binge if they want to find out what happens next.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        Last AB post should link to first blog post here, thus creating a recursion.

  7. Zak McKracken says:

    Three Cheers for young Shamus finally getting on with people!

    For the last few episodes of this I can’t stop wondering how all this would have gone if you had discovered that skill just a few years earlier.
    For me, this happened some time during what you would probably call High School, and really gave me a different perspective on some of the things I had just been classifying as stupid nonsense before that. In some ways, the process is still ongoing.

  8. noahpocalypse says:

    Man, Pat is going to be pissed when he reads this. The first tale of you two [doing something interesting], and you manipulate him!


    I learned that same funny lesson, but it was a few years before you because I read like a madman. No comedy books, but witty authors help you realize if you have a talent for that sort of thing.

    1. Patrick the Apocalyptic Copy Editor says:

      I am not pissed, nor was I manipulated. It was his computer and I unfortunately had to yield on occasion because the guy was never home. I got to play the games non-stop while his ass was at work or school. I knew what he was doing, I just didn’t want to squabble when I knew he didn’t get many days in which he had long stretched of uninterupted CPU time.

      And on the times when he did with hold computer priviledges for whatever reason I made sure that the next time I had to go pick him up at McD’s at midnight I was “late”. Actually I was just parked across the parking lot making him and his boss wait just to annoy him. I made sure to play Metallica loudly on the way home too.

      1. swenson says:

        So you both gave it about as good as you got it, then? Sounds like my family. :D

      2. Hitch says:

        Wait… he had to wait for his younger brother to come pick him up from work at midnight?

        1. Shamus says:

          Our family had 2 cars, and there were six of us, so there was quite a bit of complicated sharing, dropping-off, and ride-giving.

        2. X2-Eliah says:

          Sounds like you never had a chauffeur.

      3. GiantRaven says:

        ‘I made sure to play Metallica loudly on the way home too.’

        You say that like it’s a bad thing…

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          Personally, I think Nickleback would’ve been a better choice.

  9. rayen says:

    Ugh, fast food jobs… i’m still there, sorta… i work in a diner like thing now… It’s a sub shop but not subway and our boss makes it clear whenever possible, either to customers or employees, we aren’t fast food. whatever.

    Honestly i’ve worked fast food, I worked at sonic for two and a half years. Honestly i think i’m better for it. i know when to complain to a manager, or ask a guy at the counter to change it. I know how to order things so it will be easiest to understand for the drive through guy/girl, i know what they’re going through so i don’t make it seem like they have it easy and some job where sitting for 8 hours a day looking over spreadsheets and making four times as much is hard. As such my food has gotten exponentially better and i almost never have them get my order worng.

    honestly i think every kid should work in the food industry for 6 months minimum. either while in high school or college or right after they get out. I’m gonna make my kids do it, i’m trying to get other kids in my family to do it. it’s a s*** job the lowest of the low, and after doing it you have an appreciation for you situation if it gets any better.

    Please note i’m not saying it’ll be good for you, i know after i left my last job i remarked that “i wouldn’t wish this s*** on anyone.” but at least you’ll suffer like the rest of us…

    1. burningdragoon says:

      “honestly i think every kid should work in the food industry for 6 months minimum.”

      I basically agree with that, except I’ve always said something similar about retail. Work on one side so you don’t treat them terribly when you get to be on the other side. Pretty simple really.

      1. James Pony says:

        Is funny, because I didn’t need in-depth experience to not be an entitled cunt and an all-around shit-eating twat.

        Then again, I was somewhat recently praised for 1) not abusing animals when I was a child and 2) having parents that would not have allowed me to do so, so I’m beginning to think that *I* am the anomaly when it comes to these things. I’m no saint, either, but all the stories I keep hearing of retail/fast-food/kids-vs-animals/etc. are, from my perspective, really unnatural.

        Also, just because your fast-food/retail jobs suck doesn’t give you the right to piss on every customer. If you work in any sort of customer service, it’s pretty much exactly your job to keep up appearances no matter how shitty your day has been. Incidentally it’s also one of the reasons I don’t do that kind of work.

        And speaking of six-month things, army was mine as is customary here in Finland.

      2. OldGeek says:

        I have often advocated a “fast food draft”. We get cheaper food and teenagers get a tiny taste of the real world and grow up a bit. Works for everyone.

        1. James Pony says:


          The food won’t be any cheaper, the bureaucratic infrastructure would cost more, the kids would learn fuck-all and not grow up any more than they do now. It would waste six months that could be better spent learning things and growing up significantly more by various other means, and it would not give the more active, intelligent or technically-minded people any opportunities unlike military service*, it would affect the employment of others and those whose parents are rich would just buy themselves out of it, either directly or through a “favorable” diagnosis from a doctor. Not to mention all the brats who would fuck with the food just to “stick it to The Man”.

          *Here in Finland, having NCO and Officer training, available to all who prove themselves during basic training (granted, never a majority), positively affects one’s chances of employment. Most CEOs and such are old Reserve Officer School graduates. Military Police conscripts get obvious advantages for applying to security and law enforcement. Several more technical services count towards similar civilian applications. “Secretly” most (at least male) employers count it in your favor if you’ve completed your mandatory service and a handful might even question your work ethics, moral backbone and/or physical capabilities if you have not served.
          Also you have to have to meet and live with total strangers and myriad different personalities, you have many responsibilities and you get to discover the hard way how good you have it at home.

  10. Ruthie says:

    Dan and I were probably arguing over the TV because I wanted to watch “Little House on the Prairie” and he wanted to watch “teenage mutant ninja turtles”.
    I’ve been waiting for Heather to show up. Glad she’s finally in the story:)

    1. Deoxy says:

      It’s so awesome that Shamus’ family reads this. I don’t know why it strikes me that way, though…

      Something about the distance in my relation with my family, I would guess. I really suck at distance relationships of every kind.

      1. Ruthie says:

        We think our brother is brilliant.
        Admittedly, I’ve read very little of his other writings. Programing, gaming, D&D are beyond me. I’m sure those are well written as well… I just don’t have the life references to enjoy it as much.
        Computer and geek know-how were definitely not passed down to me.

        1. Shamus says:

          That’s fair. You got all the style and good looks.

          1. ccesarano says:

            Ever since you posted the photos, however, I imagine a little baby typing rather eloquently on a keyboard at her computer.

            Oh, the power of photos, the Internet and the imagination.

            1. Shamus says:

              I’ve posted recent pictures of Dan, so this seems only fair. Here is my favorite picture of Ruth:


              (That’s stepdad Dave on the right.)

              (Please don’t be mad Ruth, but this is better than everyone picturing you as four years old!)

              1. X2-Eliah says:

                Somehow I think you’ll need to cap off this autostuffography with a massive list of pictures of everyone even remotely mentioned. To avoid misrepresentations and the like, you know.

              2. deiseach says:

                She might get mad at you pointing out who is who. Why not say “she’s the one without the beard” while you’re at it

                1. Woodthorn says:

                  She is?! I thought she was the one with the killer-beard…

                  1. Alexander The 1st says:

                    I thought she was the one with the glasses…

                2. krellen says:

                  He was IDing the other person, not specifying which was Ruth.

                  1. deiseach says:

                    Yes, I knew tha . . . oh, never mind

              3. Mari says:

                You’re right. She got the style and the good looks. I dig those specs.

              4. Ruthie says:

                BAHAHA. I LOVE that picture. Not mad at all.

              5. That is one of my favorite Ruthie pictures, ever.

                1. Mom says:

                  I wish you had used this one
                  The guy on the left is Patrick’s older brother.

              6. General Ghoul says:

                but this is better than everyone picturing you as four years old!

                Pedobear disapproves.

              7. ccesarano says:

                Now I’m gonna picture her as a baby tapping at a keyboard out of spite.

                Plus, it’s just so damn adorable.

              8. Jarenth says:

                Next you’re going to tell us Pat isn’t sporting that amazing mullet anymore.

                Don’t answer that question, I won’t mentally parse it anyway. Pat-mullet is civilization.

            2. Zagzag says:

              I’ve been doing exactly the same thing. At least until Shamus posted that picture.

        2. Patrick the Disagreeable Monotheist says:

          I don’t think he’s brilliant. I think he’s a velvet-tongued author who doesn’t return his Emails.

          I think he’s a hermit who would let his brother find out that he has an advanced copy of D3 the same time as all the other ape descendants, by TWEETING IT.

          I think he’s brilliant in as much as you all seem to think he is. I think he’s brilliant inasmuch as he seems to forget that while smarter and perhaps more alliterative in his composition, that still doesn’t chanhge the fact that I will kick his asthmatic ass at Christmas.

          And BTW folks, he cried like a girl at the end of Final Fantasy X.

          1. SolkaTruesilver says:

            hey, at least he didn’t wrote a poem about it.

            Give him some credit.

          2. Scott (Duneyrr) says:

            I am so glad that you comment on these.

          3. krellen says:

            And BTW folks, he cried like a girl at the end of Final Fantasy X.

            So did I. And I’m man enough to admit it.

          4. rayen020 says:

            what about toy story 3?

            1. JPH says:

              EVERYONE cries at the end of Toy Story 3. No exceptions.

              If they said they didn’t, they’re liars. If you didn’t see tears, they’re very good at hiding them.

              1. Irridium says:

                Also that opening scene from UP!.

                1. Simulated Knave says:

                  Which? The tragedy with the little cloud or the OTHER tragedy?

                    1. acronix says:

                      Mathematicians, rise to power!

          5. Al says:

            I very much enjoy reading your responses. Shamus is not the only compelling writer in the family.

  11. froogger says:

    I got a HS flashback from Heathers picture. I have one of myself with the exact same background, and my gf back then (1990) also sported that “There’s something about Mary”-look. Heck, girls at school competed in building higher and higher hairdos until nearly Cameron Diaz height. That hairstyle was simply just freaky. Anyways, thanks for posting.

    1. Mari says:

      LOL I had that same haircut myself. Of course, mine was growing out from when I did a Cyndi Lauper by shaving half my head and Aquanetting the other half until it was a deadly weapon (a purple deadly weapon). The only way to recover from the Cyndi was to go with a buzz cut for a while, earning me the moniker “Major Dad.” Then I grew it out to pretty much the same hairstyle as Heather’s except mine was platinum blonde with green streaks.

      1. What is really funny about that “something about Mary” look is that “Something About Mary didn’t come out till 6 years AFTER that haircut (I graduated in ’92)– and I was the only one in my class of 200, and my entire school for that matter, sporting that particular haircut. That said it seems to me that some of my favorite bands/singers inspired that look. I was deliberately looking completely different from everyone else and my parents were pissed off that I only wore lip gloss for my senior picture, and refused to wear any other make up for either prom or graduation.

        And mine got shorter and shorter and straighter and straighter– I went from curly as all heck and all the way down my back to that length and then shorter in college– nearly a buzz cut. I cut my own hair every time I got upset and apparently I spent a lot of my high school college age upset. :P

        And Mari– I would have had green or blue or red streaks if my parents hadn’t forbade it until I moved out. :P

        1. Mari says:

          Heather, until about 5th grade my mom had pretty much total control over my hair. Then she got tired. When the lady got tired of stuff she literally just completely quit thinking about it or dealing with it. Which means that at that point I got total control of it and which point I went out of control. I did insane streaks and colors until the school got tired of it and passed a “no wild hair color” rule my senior year. My protest was shaving my head again and adding henna doodles.

          1. Okay the shaving head and henna doodles things is awesome. I used to use rinse in/rinse out red hair dye because my parents wouldn’t let me dye it (my only options were red or black in that department) so my hair was an ever shifting range of colors for an entire year.

  12. luagha says:

    I will mention that the ‘Mister Thompson, Mister Brady,” stuff immediately reminded me of Star Trek, where everyone is referred to in a similar manner.

    Of course they got it from sailing ships. But to think that the McDonald’s in question is in fact careening through the universe encountering ancient Greek gods and such just makes it that much cooler.

    1. Shamus says:

      To be fair, that might have been where I got it. This was the heyday of TNG.

      EDIT: I just realized: WE WERE ALL REDSHIRTS!

      1. Scott (Duneyrr) says:

        Good thing you never got beamed down to the planet at any point.

        1. Mephane says:

          Don’t underestimate the number of redshirts that died on the ship when computer consoles exploded everytime the ship got any damage at all.

      2. JAB says:

        Fortunately, you weren’t in a Star Trek movie, you were in a Romantic Comedy.

        If we could go back in time, I think Molly Ringwald would be perfect for the part of Heather, and maybe John Cusack for Shamus. I have no clue who would be appropriate in the current generation of actors.

        And a side note-we’ll never know, but I wonder if brain maturation led to some improvement in social skills.

  13. ccesarano says:

    So this would be about 1992 or 1993, eh? This is the sort of comparison I wanted to see, actually. How your feelings on video games and design were developed by what you played. It was about this year that my family would have our Super Nintendo, and while I loved playing games on my NES, that game system was certainly the most influential for me. I do believe 1992 was the year my siblings and I stumbled upon Final Fantasy II (IV for you young types) in the video rental store. We expected it to play like the original Final Fantasy, only with fancy graphics and new gameplay elements. Nonetheless, we were so psyched.

    The opening sequence to that game changed my thoughts and ideas on video games forever, though. It was the first game I played that tried to tell a serious and dramatic story. Considering I was about 7 at the time, it worked really well.

    I feel like this sort of difference in gaming foundation is what causes a lot of rifts in what people consider are important game design elements and choices, and often why PC and console gamers tend to get in disagreements. You were playing an adventure game involving navigation across space, talking with aliens and what seems like a more adult story involving choice. I was bouncing around between Super Mario World, Ninja Turtles, Mario Kart and Final Fantasy. Very different types of games with very different design choices, looking for very different kinds of fun.

    I suppose the age gap would also be something to factor in, though. I probably got a lot more stimulation from Mario and such than you would have (even though, dammit, I still love Mario World and Mega Man X as the best in each respective franchise. Still so damn fun, even now).

    1. Yeah, we started dating in ’92 (that picture of me would have been taken in Sept. ’91 since I graduated in the ’91-92 school year).

      Also, my brother and I spent several years playing his NES after spending more than a few years on our Coleco Intellivision and TI 99. Ah…happy memories … leaving games running because there was no save and beating Metroid, all the Super Mario Brothers (except 3, I don’t think we beat that one…but maybe), and Zelda. And drawing MAPS– lots and lots of maps so we didn’t get lost in Zelda.

      1. JPH says:

        You started dating on the year I was born!

        That feels more special than it actually is.

      2. ccesarano says:

        I BARELY remember the Calecovision. If anything I remember the smell of the cartridges and controller more than actually using the controller (it had a dial and numpad, right?). I think Donkey Kong was the game I usually played. My brother might have had Star Wars, but, well, I couldn’t even climb all the way to Donkey Kong on the first level. I thought that was beating the game, even!

        I must have been three or so when it died, and then one of the relatives bought my brother a Nintendo with Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and a copy of the first Ninja Turtles game.

        It’s actually no surprise to me that I have such a fondness for co-op games over competitive multiplayer. TMNT II: The Arcade Game and Contra were the foundation of our brother time (as well as Godzilla: Monster of Monsters, but that wasn’t exactly a two-player game. We just treated it as such). I’ve actually grown to wonder if that’s another separation between player types. You didn’t see much in the way of multiplayer on the PC until the Internet, and then you saw competitive gaming.

        It honestly feels like gaming has two histories, sometimes.

        1. I loved Burgertime and “Beauty and the Beast” which was a rather awesome Donkeykong rip off on the Intellivision. There were others but those wherre my favorite. Oh and I adored Bubbleboobble so much that we own the original on the Nintendo DS. :)

          1. ccesarano says:

            I never got to play Bubble Bobble, actually. I did get to play a game called Snow Bros. with my best friend at the time, though. It was similar in that you kept climbing up sections, though many of the mechanics were different. I think it’s on Wii’s Virtual Console, actually.

            Which is a bit surprising since no one else ever heard of it.

  14. Vextra says:

    Considering I STILL haven’t mastered this “Flirt” technique and probably still don’t really get the “Wit” thing either, I am impressed at your early mastery of it, and in such a difficult context.

    I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had to work in a Fast food retail outlet, but I can say with cringeing certainty that being a Waiter is just as bad. An all-female team, almost, and your the youngest guy there. Too young to address alcohol requests, which is what your mostly getting, and also too incompetent and socially-shy to really handle the rapid and exhausting business of shifting 400 hot plates and getting them to all the right tables. Also, I’m pretty sure the women hated me for dragging them down, they were encouraged to work in teams and the fastest team got to eat the leftovers first, whilst the last team had to washup and polish etc. Guess which team I was always in.

    So yeah, serve me up for a side-order of “everyone thinks waiters have it easy/are stupid.”

    As for Starflight 2, I wonder if its available as Abandonware? Sounds like a game worth checking out. First computer game I ever played was Shufflepuck Cafe around this same time, on the Amiga 1200. First decent game I played was Megatraveller: the Zhodani Conspiracy. (1992, I think) Another excellent RPG, and it fit all on ONE DISK. I used to spend endless hours just running the character generator, so many possibilities. I dont think I ever got the hang of space travel, though, since it was a hellishly fiddly business. I used to just muck around in the first solar system, killing civillians and blowing up stuff.

    1. Nick says:

      So far as the flirting thing goes, there’s a huge grey area between ‘making jokes in the company of people whose gender you prefer to date’ and ‘making thrusting movements with pelvis in their general direction’ that flirting lies within, and the point at which it is harmless or serious drastically changes between groups.

      That said, self-deprecating remarks and other such humour often works well. But then I am British, and that’s basically our thing. I would say Monty Python quoting, but all geeks do that regardless of nationality

      1. Falcon says:

        Yeah the whole ‘make self depreciating joke, then feign offense if they even suggest they agree’ worked pretty well. Other calling cards are taking things that piss me off (politicians and the clueless stupidity that permeates large sections of America) and giving them extreme snark and/ or sarcasm, instead of angry rants.

        Basically once I discovered not to use American sitcom style humor (because I don’t find it funny) and instead use Monty Python style humor (because I do find it funny) my social situation improved. Mostly because I found others like me.

      2. Yeah, I didn’t consider it flirting at all. I was not a flirt and those I knew that flirted did NOT do it this way. He was just a funny guy that I liked hanging out with.

      3. MrWhales says:

        ” “˜making thrusting movements with pelvis in their general direction'”

        I don’t believe you rape the air as a form of flirting, I may be wrong. But I don’t think so…

        But maybe that is what the British do… weirdos

    2. Patrick the Disagreeable Monotheist says:

      I always found flirting quite easy actually. Upon finding a girl that strikes your fancy, pay close attention to the other girls that she does not like, there will be plenty, girls are like that. Also take note of what it is she likes about herself. If the girl you are interested in is always talking about her shoes, or her hair, or her car or whatever then that is something she takes pride in. For this example, lets say the girl of your affection is always mentioning how much work she puts into her hair everyday.

      Wait till both girls are within earshot, then compliment the rival of the girl you like on how nice her hair looks today. Drives them nuts. Do this 3 or 4 times until the girl you like starts to seek out your approval on everything from her hair to her choice of salad dressing. And trust me she will.

      If all else fails, throw bacon at her. Chicks love airborne meat.

      1. Dante says:

        “Chicks love airborne meat”

        *Cue Mile High Club joke*

        1. Destrustor says:

          Bow chika wow wow…

    3. Tim Wolfe says:

      Starflight 1 and 2 are available here.

      I recommend the original manuals that site offers as well (for both the humor and clues), and staying away from the rest — the site is like one gigantic spoiler of everything Starflight. Both games are worth playing, and while 2 is more complex overall, 1 has a great twist. Be prepared to take notes: when I replayed them this year, I set up spreadsheets to keep track of all the clues and data.

      But these are awesome games — the original sandbox setup where you could do what you liked on more or less your own schedule. I played them both as a kid, and never completed either. I enjoyed them almost as much 20 years later. =)

  15. Rod Spade says:

    What was it like when you first compared your home-grown C coding style to “industry standard” practices? Was it an epiphany, or did you resist conformance?

    1. Shamus says:

      It was pretty much a relief. I found I wasn’t doing anything TOO crazy with regard to code formatting and structure. I was doing a few things poorly (variable and function naming, and in deciding how to organize the modules) and seeing real code gave me some ideas on how I could improve.

      1. Raka says:

        C’mon man, spoilers! Now we know that youngShamus eventually ends up programming professionally! Way to kill the suspense…

        1. Destrustor says:

          And here I thought he started programming just yesterday…

  16. SteveDJ says:

    I’ve been reading, and loving, this autoblography since it started. But today, I sadly must make my first real complaint. About the editing.

    The paragraph that starts “I have dropped out of ICM” need to be FIRST. As I read this post, I kept asking myself ‘did I miss something?’, or ‘how did you get so much free time?’. It wasn’t until two-thirds of the way through that you give the answer.

    I really feel like the flow of today’s story would be much more clear to people if they were connected to the previous story with a bit right at the start explaining what happened to ICM; then move on to the burgers and flirting and stuff.

    But complaint aside, that is an awesome pic of Heather! Good catch — or whatever the term is these days… :-)

    1. Clint Olson says:

      I did a similar double-take at the mention of copious amounts of free time, even hitting the “previous” button to make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

      That said, awesome entry.

    2. PAK says:

      The problem isn’t in the editing, it’s in differing tastes regarding narrative construction. This isn’t technical writing, and Shamus has made a conscious decision not to make absolute continuity and clarity his chief concern. Instead, he’s acting as a storyteller. In the previous chapter he opened with a harrowing description of a life with no free time and a rigorous schedule. He mirrors that opening here by opening with the assertion of having a lot of free time–and if the technique works (which it did, for me, though I understand it not being your thing) we go, “Ooh..what happened? I want to solve the mystery of this chapter.” A nice little literary touch, I thought. Almost like he’s had some novel-writing practice ;).

  17. MG says:

    Wait, why is it rude to ask her how much it cost?

    1. krellen says:

      It’s rude that it was his first consideration.

    2. MisteR says:

      Hehe :)

      It’s rude because it shows that you care more about the money than about her.

      1. Hitch says:

        “Yeah. I guess I could go to the prom with you. As long as it doesn’t cost me too much.” Bad approach.

        I think Shamus’ though processes were more along the lines of, “Oh God, yes! I just hope I don’t embarrass myself by being broke. Or blurting out the wrong part of this first. D’oh!”

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          What’s funnier for me is the line “I've gone from social outcast to being almost universally popular.” and the paragraphs talking about being better at flirting proceed this conversation – and the others in 33.

          It’s like if the Wright Brothers had bragged about being able to fly and then show off by flying their plane off a cliff – into the ocean below.

          I dunno – I find humour in that.

    3. David W says:

      It’s rude because it’s the first reaction. Politeness, especially in a romantic situation, suggests that the first reaction should be about the person asking. Because really, that’s what the question is about, too, even on the surface it’s about a specific event.

      If nineteen-year-old Shamus had reacted with something like ‘I love to spend time with you’ and then a couple sentences later brought up ‘but I’m not sure I can afford it, how much does it cost?’, that says the right thing about his priorities. Or, for that matter, even if he’d wanted to turn her down, his reaction should be about her, not about the cost.

      Fortunately, there’s a hint or two that he overcame his faux pas.

      Edit: And I see that I’ve been ninja’d :-).

  18. Paul Spooner says:

    I never worked fast food, but I did work in the college cafeteria for a semester. The thing that amazed me was how completely invisible I became just by wearing the uniform. I could walk right by my roommate without him seeing me at all. It was kind of cool to be able to do whatever you want (or just the job, as the case may be) without being noticed. Reminds me of a Father Brown story.

  19. Eärlindor says:

    I think my Dad my have played Starflight when he was a teen or something. Isn’t that the game where you can go into hyperspace, but if you couldn’t fly straight and keep inside the box at the center of the screen, you’d end up at some random sector of space millions of light years from anything?

  20. Maldeus says:

    I’m seriously considering writing a script for a jazzed up version of this autoblography. For example, there needs to exist a version of this story where the next chapter involves Shamus and Heather teaming up to fight crime.

    EDIT: Ooh! And Patrick joins the supervillain because of Shamus’ bullying, but then there’s a touching reconciliation at the end and they all team up to defeat Baron von Evilstein together!

    1. Jarenth says:

      Baron von Evilstein is actually miss Grossman.

  21. ENC says:

    Eww, crosses, that would put me off anyone, indicates a hardcore christian.

    1. Mrs. Peel says:

      Let me guess, ENC – you don’t like Christians because we’re, like, totally closed-minded, and stuff? Hahahaha.

    2. How interesting as I was not a Christian at this point in my life. I just wore the cross because I collected and wore lots of jewelry (you don’t see my wrists here which would have contained about 25 chain bracelets on each wrist.)

      1. BenD says:

        In the 80s, we were all willing to wear pretty much any symbol that was hung on a chain and sold. That is how my jewelry collection tells the story, anyway.

    3. Simulated Knave says:

      1) As the lady in question pointed out, no it doesn’t.
      2) Why would you assume Shamus isn’t a sufficiently dedicated Christian to be OK with that?
      3) Perhaps most importantly, why would you find that an appropriate sentiment to express about someone Shamus likes?
      4) You do know he marries her, right?

    4. krellen says:

      Clearly someone has no idea what Madonna looked like in the 80s and early 90s.

      1. BenD says:

        I think you ninja’d my comment in spirit.

    5. KremlinLaptop says:

      I earnestly wear a cross pendant and I’m a baby eating atheist bastard. I’m as hardcore of an unbeliever as one can be.

      And I smile every time I see the cross – with a figure of Jesus on it – in a mirror.


      (The actual reason being that the cross belonged to a relative and it has been through trenches and foxholes. Doesn’t change it being a cross and me not being a Christian and wearing it.)

    6. Destrustor says:

      I think her lovely face more than makes up for the crosses, and I’d want to get to know her more instead of ditching her in a prejudice-fueled tantrum.

      Besides, bling ftw.

  22. decius says:

    Seriously, why didn’t you have notebooks and notebooks referencing how to navigate the hyperspace fluxes?!? Crossing from one side of the map to the other takes less time than making a sandwich!

    1. Shamus says:

      Man, we DID have a huge map of fluxes, and it STILL took bloody ages. (Plus, all the best routes had a layover in the cloud nebulae, and that place scared me silly.)

      1. decius says:

        Plotting the course might take some time, once all the fluxes are known. Dealing with any aliens along the way might also take some time, especially if you encounter the Spemin in a nebula.

        The route to the Dweenle (pictured) had a fair bit of flying between all the fluxes, even once you knew the nebula route.

        You DID have a fully navigator, and a captain trained in navigation as backup, right? It’s not good to know only “I’m in a nebula, I’ve been through a total of five fluxes since I knew where I was, I’m low on fuel, and there are aliens at X:-1 Y:0.

  23. Kayle says:

    I had originally thought I was maybe a year or two older than Shamus, but I see I’m even a few years older than that.

    By 1992, if Shamus had managed to find his way to Usenet, there was hundreds of kilobytes of freely available C code flowing through comp.sources.* newsgroups weekly–what a missed opportunity. I bet he might have had fun with the various ray tracers that had been posted, or maybe the Postscript interpreter. The Internet would have been better, though it was mostly ftp then (gopher offered a pre-web browsing experience and www had just launched…)

  24. Vekni says:

    This Heather girl sounds promising, I bet she’ll become a main character in future chapters! Thank you tvtropes!

  25. DoctorSatan says:

    ive seen that creature in the first photo somewhere…

  26. Kelhim says:

    The last time I went to McDonald’s, the guy in front of me loudly continued to talk without ceasing, after he had taken my order. Startled, it took me a moment to realize he wasn’t talking to me, but to some other customer in drive-through, via headset. He was essentially doing two jobs at the same time. I still find this to be relatively hard working conditions, and people working there absolutely deserve some respect.

    1. You think that’s bad? I’ve run an entire Sunday at a fast food place when only 3 people showed up for work. We had one handling sandwiches, fries, and shakes, one manning the front counter, and I was potato station, salad bar, runner, and the drive through.

      It was rough at first but once we found the groove it was one of our easier days, really.

      1. blue_painted says:

        “Hell is other people”

    2. Kayle says:

      One of the major fast food CEOs (I think it was CEO of the holding company that owns Taco Bell) recently pointed out that each restaurant is essentially a small factory, with optimized and standard procedures to produce semi-custom products on tight schedules. So, modern fast food is basically a chunk of US manufacturing misclassified in government labor and business reports. Aha, here is the article (and its the VP of operations of Yum Brands, not the CEO).

  27. Leah says:

    I think loveing a game is fine.

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