Jarrell’s career had been meteoric in both directions.
Jarrell was a natural musician. Mr Velo quickly recognized Jarrell’s inborn talent in fifth grade. Jarrell was so far along with his music that Mr Chickle, the high school band teacher, plugged him into the jazz-band. Even as a freshman, the voluptuous and sassy tones he coaxed from his saxophone took the jazz-band up to an entirely new level.
Naturally, he majored in music in college.
Then, the fickle finger of fate intervened. Jarrell’s academic counselor went on sick-leave and the freshmen music students were assigned to alternative counselors.
There were no flags in Jarrell’s academic performance to suggest he would need any counseling so he was assigned to a counselor in the business school.
Jarrell decided he needed guidance and made an appointment. His newly assigned counselor pulled up Jarrell’s abreviated academic record and knew she had to recruit him for the business school.
Jarrell was apologetic when he showed up for the appointment. His question revolved around some arcane difference between two classes in musical theory and he wanted to know which one, and which instructor, he should be scheduled for. Obviously, a business counselor wouldn’t have a clue.
“So, if you didn’t think I could help you, why did you show up?” Mrs Sharpe, the counselor asked.
“That is common courtesy, Ma’am.” Jarrell answered. Jarrell's command of "soft-skills" would be a hallmark of his, except for one very brief exception.
Mrs Sharpe scanned through his record and stated what she saw. “Straight 4.0s. Advanced math and composition?” she said with a question mark at the end.
“I test well” Jarrell admitted.
“Did you know that more than half of our students have to take remedial math and they rarely get an A?” Mrs Sharpe asked.
“No, I did not know that. Many musicians are gifted at math. It is a pattern thing” Jarrell informed her.
“Math. I am glad you brought that up” Mrs Sharpe said.
Jarrell was too polite to reminder her that she had been the one to raise the subject.
“How many hours a week do you practice?” Mrs Sharp asked.
“I practice thirty-two hours a week” Jarrell said. “I can only practice 18 on the Sax because my lips can only take so much….so I compose and practice reading music by playing the piano for the other hours.” His tone was apologetic, even a little sad that he could not play more hours on the Sax.
“What do you get paid for those hours?” Mrs Sharpe asked, sweetly.
“Paid?” Jarrell asked. He was completely blindsided by the question.
“Paid” Mrs Sharpe said. “I have major corporations screaming for interns who will work more than twenty hours a week. They are looking for candidates EXACTLY like you and are paying $25 an hour, minimum. I guarantee that you will like the work. If you don’t I will move you until you do.”
Jarrell knew that the “EXACTLY” like him referred to the fact that he had checked the Black or African-American box on his application. He had just listened to an article on National Public Radio where a famous academic expounded that “race” was a social construct and was totally artificial. If that were the case, then Jarrell was totally justified in checking the Black or African-American. After all, the pupils of his eyes were black-ball.
Jarrell did love the work. And he loved the money.
Program management came as naturally to Jarrell as music had. It was like being a conductor, pointing with his baton to each section in-turn and bringing harmony to the chaos. It brought him joy.
Jarrell’s big moment came shortly after he graduated. He had been hired at the rate of somebody with five years experience and had been stuck in IT for seasoning.
Reading through the manuals, Jarrell realized that the comprehensive business software really was comprehensive. Not only were there report-writing modules but the company had already paid for them and installed them as part of the package.
Reviewing the modules, Jarrell realized that the outputs were not only more useful to the people using the reports, the code was inherently more stable and had debuggers written into it to “reality check” the inputs.
The “Push reports” had the same formats required by the GAAPs used by the firm and the “Pull reports” were so simple that non-computer geeks could use it.
Jarrell didn’t know how many analysts were hired by the company but he knew that it was too many. They were doing work that had already been automated.
Jarrell corned a Vice President in the lunchroom. Little escaped Jarrell’s notice and one of the things he had observed was that this VP was addicted to cherry cheesecake.
The way to get face-time was as clear as a bell. Jarrell bought out the entire supply of cheesecake and dumped all but two of them into the trash. Then, when the disgruntled VP sat down, Jarrell joined him and made him a deal. “You can have this second piece of cheesecake if you let me give you a two-minute pitch.”
The VP bit. Jarrell got the project. Jarrell spent the money on first-class training from the firm who supplied the software.
The end came even more rapidly than the beginning.
Jarrell was celebrating with his small team as was their regular, Friday custom. It was their Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday custom too.
The reporting was scheduled to go “Production” in ten days. Jarrell was in his glory, basking in the homage of his minions. He waxed eloquent. He shared a few observations about lesbians and transgenders...observations that most people would agree with.
He was canned first thing Monday morning.
André Troy Daudier, a slightly-built, gay man of Hatian extraction punched the project into the endzone and got the credit.
Bud Sanborn, one of the gray-beards in the IT department called Jarrell at 10 on Wednesday morning and suggested that they have coffee at a cafe fifteen miles from corporate headquarters. Sanborn’s call woke Jarrell up.
Nursing his cup of coffee, Jarrell asked “Aren’t you supposed to be at work?”
Bud answered “The boss knows where I am.” Bud didn’t specify which boss that was and Jarrell would have been surprised if he learned how far up the food chain the man who sent Bud was.
Jarrell was wallowing in self-pity.
“By now, you probably figured out that nobody in this town will hire you” Bud said. It was a statement of fact.
“You can keep hammering and that will keep the memory of your...indiscretion...in the front of everybody’s mind. Or, you can move to another town and continue you career there. If, in ten years, you want to come back your request will be entertained as well as any experiences you pick up in the mean time.”
“So you are telling me that I have been black-balled and kicked to the curb” Jarrell said, bitterly.
“Temporarily black-balled” Bud said. “'Til things cool down.”
Bud did not mention that nearly everybody in IT was pissed at him.
First, for by-passing chain-of-command. Second, for vaporizing the
legacy reports that many of the gray-beards were sitting on as they
coasted to retirement. In ten years all of the gray-beards would be
“You can fight it and lose or you can go with the flow and win.”
Jarrell didn’t see that he had much choice. Later, as the nation tumbled into the political and economic abyss, he regretted not having fought for his job.