Contractor Without a Contract

These past two and a half months have been the most stress I’ve had for as far as I can remember. The stress wasn’t from the work, which though was much more for much longer than I’ve had to do for a while, paled in comparison to the anticipation. It was from managing senior design, which not only contained this jewel of a human being, but gained a few just like him. The managing and planning weren’t the problem either. I’m not the best at those, and it was a challenge to have to be the one with the most foresight to try and set a path.

The most energy was spent on being ready.

Gout took almost a month out of me, which wasn’t too big a logistical deal since I had worked a bit ahead and caught up quick. But the orders for materials weren’t approved until three weeks in, and came in weeks four and five out of nine total. Then there were unforeseens like two feet of material being straight stolen off of a part we had already cut, the provided gasoline engine being completely unusable, people disappearing and loading off three weeks’ worth of work on me to do in three days. “You’re an engineer, deal with it”. I find the US Army Corps of Engineers motto “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.” very inspiring, but in the army there are comrades and the tangible reward is living for another day in a world of death. I dealt with it “because I could”, because my standard way of learning and working through something is to throw energy at it until it works, but with the project essentially forcing me to not go or do anything related to my other two classes or anything else in my life, I’m having to have to stop giving a shit about everything through jack squat for a good month or two to regain my full sanity and composure.

Certain things like the material theft I had taken into account for previously by having a high enough margin, but things like a measuring instrument that was supposedly “tested and working” and then having it “fried” or the given engine straight up being too violent to stand next to discovered two weeks before the end aren’t things I can really deal with in a project that’s already moving twice as fast than it was planned. But because no one above me gave a shit and no one below me gave a shit and I appeared to and did give a shit, I had to deal with it.

It was like being at the starting line of a 100M sprint, legs tense and ready to make the hardest first step of acceleration, body perfectly balanced with core holding everything proper, eyes burning the path about to be taken. And waiting. Waiting for the starting pistol to fire. Waiting, waiting, waiting, for something that you don’t know whether or not will come, but you’re told to be there, you can’t leave, and you can’t just be sitting around. There’s no one else at the starting line. You can’t even see anyone else in the stadium. But you’re supposed to run the 100, so you have to be ready. And so you wait.

“Would you recommend this class to your friends?”
“No. Absolutely not.”

Then there was the way other people handled how things were going, which to put shortly would be exactly what you’d expect out of people who like going to meetings.

I paint myself as the only one doing work and interested in doing work, which is ~85% true. Near the end the shitstain would start showing that he could be promoted to a pile rather than a stain, and occasionally my friend would decide to actually do things rather than waiting for me to check on what he was doing. In general however they basically had to be told what to do and didn’t care about anything else. “You sound authoritarian, have you tried communicating and not being a dictator” would be a vaguely valid criticism if I hadn’t actually tried it and the other two weren’t pieces of shit. If you think completely unreliable people who have shown every sign of pursuing their individual interests at the obvious cost to the group should be consulted and given power because they’re “equals as human beings”,  you should go back to econ or wherever they teach the prisoner’s dilemma.

If one of your group members was singlehandedly responsible for work that accounted for 25% of the group’s grade and hadn’t shown you the slightest evidence of work the day before it was due, how would you feel? “Totally chill dude, it’s his grade too” is how they thought. If that’s how you think, please report to your local police station so they can put you on the watchlists. I did it to verify their reactions and because I didn’t feel like showing them anything. I had been transparent with my work and planning the whole time, and each of them had unloaded significant work on me at a moment’s notice. When I took on the task of doing the final poster along with the final report and the final presentation, I just set my own schedule. If they had the balls to complain about me not being transparent, I’d ask for twenty dollars. One to buy them a mirror, one for shipping and handling, and eighteen for wasted time and fuck handling bills less than twenty.

TA and Prof were garbage. TA was a cheerleader and didn’t grill or help with anything, might as well not have been there at all. Professor’s response to literally every problem we had was some variation on “that’s not my job”. Which brought to my mind every time, “what exactly is your fucking job”. It wasn’t to check that the sponsor had approved of our orders on time, it wasn’t to push for progress on the project on time, it wasn’t to check that team members had done their assignments on time, it wasn’t to resolve internal team conflicts, and as far as I can tell, the TAs handled the logistics of the “”””””class”””””” so what the fuck was her job? “Oh she’s a very busy woman” And I’m a very busy fucking man, maybe we should compare how busy we are? I wish I could just sit around and look busy to collect money “But she’s not doing that” Yes she is and that’s why any attempt at transparency is negated at every turn by the poorest excuses I’ve ever heard. 23 teams with 23 preference lists on which projects they’d like to work on and it’s “a 23 way optimization problem”? Any idiot can see that there’s no way to choose which team gets which project if several want a particular one, and with 15 of them being universally agreed to be total shit people had to be getting preferential treatment based off of prior connections. “But that’s why we asked you to send in resumes and a proposal!” So you’ll read 85 pages of resumes and 85 more pages of proposals but won’t bother to give a short explanation to what exactly it is that slob of a menopause does in this course other than being the email chokepoint. I’m sure we have other things to do with our time like talk this *week* about our *weekly* progress and then be totally satisfied with a summary of what’s been done so far this whole quarter. I guess that makes me a really busy man too. Let me just learn from the best for two weeks and see exactly how much this project falls apart.

Sponsor taught me a lot too. The official explanation is that he “accidentally overlooked” the orders or perhaps misclicked buttons, but unbeknownst to him I had full view of all orders for his whole lab. Approximately ten orders were shown before my orders, and ten after – only mine were skipped. The orders I had placed were not exceptional in cost in comparison to the others, and the others sandwiched mine by a few weeks. Later I would ask for a reimbursement, for I had gone on my own time to get some other materials to save on exorbitant freight shipping. I was told that the sponsor “was a very busy man” and I could rest assured that I’d get my money back, along with a message that I should be grateful for my opportunity in working under a former astronaut. I did forget to take that into account. Being from NASA, I should’ve had the fullest of expectations that half the things I would be receiving from this man would be completely late, and the other half straight up “forgotten”.

Similar of note was that one team member tried to play a pity card in combination with an insult. Since I had been giving him a lot of passes for not getting things done on time because he was my friend, or so it seemed, he thought he could simply tell me that he hadn’t been doing the poster for the past three weeks because he was getting kicked out of his house and was spending time looking for jobs, unlike me, because I get to go back home blah blah blah. This would’ve had more impact if I hadn’t heard his life situation a hundred times before as off-pass remarks on anything, if he actually had a record for doing his work, if he wasn’t basically asking for me to do three week’s worth of his work in three days on top of all the work I was already doing for him, and if our friendship didn’t basically consist of me listening to him tell stories, doing him favors, and him showing me le funny maymay reddit cancer. But it didn’t, so I just did the work and that was that.

It certainly was a capstone project.

The *people* involved in had personalities and behaviors with such contrast and discord to my own that they must have been placed there by God, and to deal with them I’ve had to make some pretty big adjustments to how I act and think. They’re are all things that are really helpful to be sure, and in the future I’m sure I’ll be much more prepared to deal with significantly shittier situations. In truth, I have little problem with this teaching style, this ‘trial by fire’. I prefer learning by experience, and harsh teachers are often my favorites. But that’s not the style they claim to use, and subsequently, any criticisms I make of them they take and paint to others as unwarranted personal attacks from a mentally disturbed nobody. As such, I will give them no credit for anything that I ever do. They’ve each earned themselves a place in my memory though, just as a stovetop earns a place in a child’s reflexes.

Commencement was a pretty good first self-aware exercise at looking the top people in the face with the brightest eyes, greeting with the darkest smiles, and exchanging the greyest words.

Maybe I’ll enjoy it someday. In any case I’ll get good at it because that’s what the optimal moveset seems to include.

I’ll write the big things I learned both out of this project and college as a whole with some short stories maybe to go with them.

Can’t really say when. I’d love to say “soon” but I can’t really put any weight behind that either, and not just because setting a time limit on good pieces is bad, or because I have been writing very sparsely recently anyways. It’s because I can’t be fucked to do anything in relation to timing outside of games at the moment. Perhaps returning to daily physical and piano and go exercises will straighten things out more quickly, but I need to feel I have some control over my own life, and with all the shit I’ve had to do on other playdoh fuckers’ schedules at a minute’s notice, I can’t be fucked with applying for jobs, waiting for anything, or anything to do with anything logistical that isn’t 100% simulated and completely under my control when it’s supposed to be under my control.

Maybe this is what a rape victim feels like recounting their rape. I felt progressively worse as I wrote this. Which technically isn’t abnormal, it’s fairly common in some of the longer things I’ve written – I feel like I’m being forced to finish something that became unpleasant, but can’t go back and finish on a different point because the flow of things doesn’t work that way anymore. This “forced” being amplified by this experience going through this tragic farce of a simulated professional collaboration.

Fuck this then.

Fuck senior design too.

Fuck school, fuck university, fuck all the money that they sucked out, fuck higher education, fuck astronauts and fuck NASA, fuck them all with broomsticks and blowtorches. You want to learn the lessons I learned, learn from someone who can tell you the stories in the way you can understand. I won’t claim to be such a good writer that in my next post or three I can successfully appeal to your sensitivities in particular. But learning the hard way is called the hard way for a reason, and I think one thing everyone should learn is to read better so you can see more from lesser writers and absorb more from better ones to bypass all of this which can only be called pain and withdrawal. Originally I was supposed to be applying for jobs since January, granted I’ve had trouble with the whole “selling yourself” thing, but now I can’t really care enough to even do things that I do often enjoy doing. All I want to do is sleep, because even jacking off doesn’t feel satisfying right now.

I’ll be back when I fucking feel like it, and that means a good week after I fucking feel like it. “A good week” being approximately as long as the week God created the world.

“Then you interpret!”

Yes. Yes I do.

Freedom is not being expected to do anything in particular, and I’d an order of that right about now.


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