So yeah, I turned another day older on the 13th, and added another full year to my age in the process since it happens to be the anniversary of my birth (For the overly curious, according to my copy of my birth certificate I was born at 0735, which means I probably woke my mother up sometime in the evening of the 12th with labor pains. I've never really asked for details of my birth, as you can tell). I spent most of the day not really thinking about it since it's usually not a big deal to me. The only times since I've been a kid that my birthday was important to me were the "milestone" dates, like 16 (when I got my license to drive, every teenager's goal once they learn of it), 18 (legal to vote, buy smokes and buy longarms in Minnesota) and 21 (legal to buy sidearms and more importantly to me... the legal drinking age). This year I turned 25. Twenty-five is a good age to be not only because it means I've been wobbling around on this planet for a quarter-century (a figure that I cannot help but reflect upon), but I'm also somehow a more responsible adult male and thus my insurance rates should go down for automotive coverage. For those who follow my journal and aren't in the U.S.: Most if not all of the U.S. insurance companies have extraordinarily high rates for males between the ages of 16-21 and slightly less-high rates for those ages 21-24. When you turn 25 it seems like your rate drops by over 50% in some cases because you're now no longer associated with their most accident-prone demographic. Of course I find this to be a rather aggravating situation -- my driving record should dictate my rates and my age should only have a minimal impact upon the situation. It's almost insulting to me that when I turn 25 my rates drop because I'm somehow more "responsible." Of course, using arbitrary ages has always bothered me... like the age difference between 18 and 21 for vices. At age 18 I could buy cigars, cigarettes and pipe tobacco. I was registered for the draft, so if the need came my country could draft me and send me to war to kill people. I was recognized as an adult by the legal system and could be held trial as such with all the consequences in the case of a misdeed. I was also considered at 18 to be old enough to vote and direct the future of the country by influencing who our politcal leaders would be.... but I can't be trusted to drink a whiskey sour? A coworker said it's because at 18 I could vote, and around four years later when I saw how terrible the choice was I could drink it off my mind.
But that's a whole other tangent for another time.
In the morning at work I was rather surprised that several of my coworkers took the time to seek me out. I couldn't figure out how they knew until I remembered that a schedule of birthdays within the company is posted around the 7th floor, with the birthdays from the IT Department highlighted. So far as I know we're the only floor and department that does such a thing, I've never seen a birthday list posted on the 8th floor by the Accounting people, for example. It made for an interesting experience... a few employees I've had minimal contact made the effort to track down my cube just to say "happy birthday," shake my hand and wish me a pleasant day.
Despite their well-wishings what a day it turned out to be, at least at the office! Work was insane thanks to the Blaster worm that was released into the wild. It seems somebody left their laptop unpatched and unprotected on the Internet and were compromised, then brought it into one of our campuses and plugged it into the administrative network. I got the first call about an infection on the Admin side of the network at around 11:30, and after that the rest of the day was a blur because the damn worm was completely out of control, using our wide area network to spread like wildfire. Most of my afternoon at the office was spent in super-high-gear, working to isolate infected campuses away from the rest of the WAN. I was hoping that by placing the compromised sites in quarantine I could prevent further infection and potential re-infections as the staff at the various sites tried to get things back under control. This course of action would not have been necessary if my superiors had listened to me over the last 24 months... I've repeatedly warned them that our security structure leaves a bit to be desired. With our current model once you're on the administrative network you have free access to everything at the campus as well as the rest of the WAN. Because of this open trust the worm was having a hayday, finding machines throughout the enterprise that it could infect.
Once I discovered that we'd effectively hung ourselves in our own open noose we went into full alert and began writing ACLs on every infected campus's router to block the spread to other campuses. From around noon to 4:30 pm I was busy, busy, busy. Our process was to apply the access control lists I had hastily written, and then we watched the logs so as to try and identify the machines on the network that were infected with the worm. Some of the sites we had were virtual plague-pits with hundreds of attempts to connect to other locations on the WAN logged within mere seconds. I was also trying to get our Distributed Sniffers to work for additional troubleshooting, but the filter that NAI provided from their website was causing the software to crash. This became very aggravating in a short amount of time because it was further confusion on top of the insanity I was already facing. Between the Sniffer console crashing, the phone ringing as campuses came running to me for help (especially after I cut their link to the corporate network to get their attention) and the other trials and tribulations of the day I could feel a few dozen more hairs fall out of my scalp. It won't be long now before I'm completely bald.
Finally things started to slow down a little as the East Coast finished its business day. The next time I looked at the clock I was surprised to find it was well past the time of day where I normally leave at, and was pushing 4:40 pm. I walked over to my boss's cube as I pulled on my jacket, told him that while I'd like to stay I felt I should leave since it was my birthday and I felt I deserved not to work any later on an occasion such as that. DR chuckled as he nodded and told me to hit the road, so I did. Surprisingly enough the traffic was quite light at that time in the afternoon and I made it home in a reasonable amount of time.
When I got back to the apartment roho and enveri were already home and they greeted me as I walked in the door. As soon as I set my coat down they grinned and asked what I wanted to do for dinner. I had, at that point, not even considered doing something "special" for dinner in celebration of the day -- I had been planning on nothing more remarkable than microwaving one of my Atkins-friendly sides and chewing on some beef jerkey. After thinking about it for a minute I narrowed things down to three potential choices: BD's, Jameson's Steakhouse or Outback Steakhouse. I haven't been to a "steakhouse" in quite some time and Jameson's seemed like a good bet until both Roho and Kes raised the point that we would probably have more fun at BD's since we're well-known there. I conceeded the point and so we settled on BD's for the celebratory dinner. After we made that decision I was asked if I wanted to go with the couple to pick up Kestral's new car from the dealership. I hadn't realized that she was taking delivery of it that evening but apparently everything had been set up so she just needed to come in and sign papers before she had the keys handed to her. Sure, I said. How long could it take?
Clearly I had forgotten my experience from when I bought the Camaro back in 1998.
First we had to go to Kestral's office so she could get some necessary paperwork from her desk. On the drive back they realized they needed a copy of our current lease agreement, so we needed to stop by the apartment again. About a mile and a half from the apartment Kestral's truck began showing evidence of the problems it was experiencing by hiccuping, trying to stall and flashing the "Service Engine Soon" light at random intervals. I'll tell you what, it was a real interesting drive from the apartment to the dealership, with the three of us first cajoling and then cursing the Dodge to hold in just a little longer so the trade-in could be completed.
I spent a lot of time at the dealership, wandering around aimlessly and reading the various sales brochures that were laid out. I was only asked if I needed assistance once, and after that the salesmen pretty much ignored me, which was okay by me. It wasn't the most exciting time in my life, but I passed a good portion of it talking over AOL Instant Messanger with urocyon when I wasn't trying to figure out if I could get the 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STI in Java Black Pearl with a moon roof and the hybrid automatic-manual transmission. Finally around 5:45 Roho and Kestral emerged from the office, having signed a few hundred thousand forms for the various financial obligations that go along with buying a car. I thought we were free at that point, but I was wrong! It took another fifteen minutes for the salesman to finish his official "tour" of the vehicle with Kestral, wherein he spent a good ten minutes explaining how the radio worked. I cannot believe that they're required to explain how the radio works in such loving detail before they turn the car over to the buyer, but in today's litigious society I suppose anything is possible.
Finally at 8:00 pm we were able to escape the lot, with Kestral driving her shiny new car. Roho was riding shotgun and I was sitting in the back, just sort of enjoying the ride. We got up to BD's at around 8:15 and were shown to our seats. We had examined the seating chart at the hostess's podium and thought that Obie would be a good choice, although the hostess was worried that since he was handling two large parties we'd be neglected. Assuring her that we were rather self-sufficient we took our seats. When Obie finally stopped by he looked pretty haggard but we reassured him that we would be low maintenance and could take care of ourselves. Roho told me that since it was my birthday and I wasn't driving that drinks were on them, so I ordered a vodka tonic to start with and Roho got a margarita pitcher since they were on special. It took forever to get my vodka tonic, but Roho got his margarita in relatively little time so I started my night with a glass of not-too-sweet drink. I'd forgotten how good tequila was until I could actually have it again, and this was mixed just right so that I could taste it. I'll need to get some at the next trip to Sam's Club. Obie came over to check on us and I confided to him that it was my birthday. He congratulated me and then showed up a minute or so later with a helium "BD's Mongolian BBQ" balloon on a ribbon. I tired the balloon to the back of my chair and grinned a bit self-conciously. If only I had known what was coming!
We sat for another few minutes and then decided that it was time to get our food. I went over to the bar to break a yuppie food stamp (my little nickname for a $20 bill) and while I was getting it changed into all singles so I could tip the bartenders I noticed that Kestral was down at the podium, gesturing and grinning. I didn't really know what she was doing at the moment and was too preoccupied counting my bills to ask. When I looked back she was gone so nothing more crossed my mind except the Eat now! kind of thoughts. I prepared my bowl (New York strip steak with lots and lots of crushed red pepper, Cayenne pepper and sweet & sour sauce) and brought it over to the grill right as a big crowd left. Joe was working the grill along with Scott, and when Scott saw me he got a very large grin upon his face. I guess this should have been another sign that there was betrayal afoot, but I didn't make the connection. I handed him my bowl and took my usual spot at the corner of the grill counter, bantering a bit with Joe. Finally Scott came over and asked me how I was doing. Feeling witty I said, "Oh, I'm another day older... but I'm not deeper in debt!" With a snicker Scott nodded and said, "That's good to hear. Let's see how you do after this!"
Oh, shit, I thought.
Scott stepped up on a stool, cupped his hands to his mouth and shouted in a voice that rang clear through the restaurant. May I have your attention please! Everyone, everyone, can you quiet down for just a minute? I have an important announcement to make! he bellowed, and Joe stepped back to flick the lights on and off over the grill. The entire restaurant got quiet, and I think that's the first time I've ever been able to hear the Mongorita machine whirring up at the bar from the back of the restaurant. Once it was dead silent Scott continued, Everyone... this is Jason, one of our regulars. You've probably seen him in here putting way too much hot sauce on his bowl, right?" A general snicker rolled through the waitstaff and some of the customers joined in. What could I do? I turned to face the audience and crossed my left arm over my stomach, bowing like an orchestra conductor to the various patrons who were waving and grinning at me. I suppose that I blushed a great deal, but I didn't feel the usual flushed heat in my cheeks that comes along with it.
I've just been told that this is Jason's birthday. I think he's something like sixty-five now, or so. Anyway, that's not what's important. What's important is that we wish him a happy birthday, so on the count of three I want everyone to say "Happy Birthday, Jason." Alright, have we got it?
The silence after the three was deafening. I think I could hear my heart pounding from where it had hidden itself under the car in the parking lot.
Happy Birthday, Jason!
The entire restaurant must have bellowed that out, and I found myself grinning like a fool and waving to everyone as another griller leaned over and banged the tip gong a few times. After a brief chorus of "How old are you now, how old are you now?" broke out from one of the corner booths pretty much everyone turned away and went back to their meals, drinks and conversation. I turned back to face the grillers and mumbled a quite thank-you. I was really quite stunned, because this was special treatment. Normally you just get a sundae with a candle in it "on the house" when you tell the waitstaff it's your birthday, you don't get humiliated in front of the whole restaurant. Kestral touched my arm and wanted to know if I was okay, and I told her that yeah, I was going to live. I make a big show about being embarrased by things like this but secretly I do love it. "Good," said Kes. "Because the night isn't over yet."
And it wasn't. Not by a long shot.
Howard was working Wednesday night, which was a nice touch to the evening's group. He came over and talked to us about the way he's moved through the company, the jobs that he's held and the current situation that he's in with the store. It's sad, but it sounds like he won't be working at the restaurant much longer. While I listened to him I had my second vodka tonic, then got Colin to bring me a third. But that's neither here nor there at this point, the real story is in what he did. While we were talking he excused himself and disappeared into the back of the store for a while. When he returned he had a couple of waiters and waitresses with him. "In celebration of your birthday," he said, "We'd like you to have these gifts." And then he presented me with a number of things. First was a Goose Island Beer pilsner glass. It's very sharp looking. Stuffed into the glass was a Tarantula Tequila t-shirt. On top of the glass was a set of silk flowers that Howard had stuffed in. "For me?" I squealed, teasing him just a little. I thought it was all really cool and was terribly flattered that I was receiving these gifts. "You might remember the flowers," he told me. "They're from the display case for Spring that I set up, you were commenting on them, remember?" And I sure did, how the memories came flooding back. Has it really been nine months that I've been living with Roho and Kes? It seems like it's all flown by.
But things weren't done yet... oh no. Because then came Colin, and he had a BD's shirt for me. It's yellow and says "BD's Mongolian Barbeque" on the front. On the back, up near the neck, it says "Grab a bowl!" It's got a lot more flash on the front then I'm usually fond of (I think the staff shirts, like the first one I got, are a lot classier) but it's the thought that counts. Then Howard got a big grin on his face and presented me with a sealed plastic package. I wasn't sure what to think when I flipped it over and saw "Rubber Gloves" printed on the front, but there you have it. I have received rubber gloves, like the kind you can use for washing dishes or scrubbing toilets. I've gotten them as a birthday gift. Howard's insane, but he's right... you never know when you're going to need them! And Obie had an observation, too, that I should have seen coming from a mile away. "Keep them in your car," he advised me. "You know what the best place is to keep them?" I told him that I didn't. I guess I must have been well on the way to inebriation at the point, because it took me a minute or so to catch his joke. "You can keep them in the glove box," he told me. Roho and Kes groaned, I puzzled over it for a minute and then told him to go get me a refill for my drink while I went to get another bowl. I returned a few minutes later with lemon chicken (chicken, 2 eggs, lots of crushed red pepper, lemon water, lemon pepper spice and some olive oil... very easy to prepare) and sat down to my second half of the meal. It was confided to me that Howard had wanted to give me a bottle of booze, but hadn't been able to find anything that hadn't been inventoried already. I certainly didn't mind... what I had gotten was totally unexpected, welcome and overwhelming. As I ate we spent some more time talking to Obie. Amusingly enough the large party immediately next to us was celebrating a birthday as well, because they received the more traditional birthday gift of a sundae for the celebrant. The entire table was comrpised of around 10 young ladies, all very attractive. I scanned the table and briefly thought about asking Obie to bring them a round on my bill, but then I started to think that they were perhaps too young to be drinking. I only saw sodas on the table, not a single beverage of the alcoholic persuasion so I figured they were probably underage. Besides, they were there as a group and if I were to buy them a round I'd be sort of invading, and that wouldn't be very polite of me. So I refrained, and around 9:30 pm they left.
Obie and Colin entertained me at one point by hunching over and doing this silly dance where they said "Durt dur durt durt dur durt! I'm [insert name of employee here], where's my [favorite vice]?" It was pretty funny, they covered Matt, Obie, Colin and a few of the other employees. They even parodied me at one point. "Durt dur durt durt dur durt! I'm Jason! Where's my gin?" I couldn't help but giggle because when Obie hunches over that way he looks like a chimp (he has ears that definately stick out) and Colin, well, he has this accent that's neither English nor Australian... it's sort of from all-over, and hearing him try to imitate my Midwestern drawl is a riot.
At 10:00 PM we paid the tab and snuck out after a few more hearty well-wishes from the staff. It was really cool to get a chance to see so many of the people I know and to have such kind thoughts sent my way. We drove home in relative silence while I clung to my new gifts, taking the "long way" so that Kestral could enjoy driving her car. When we got home I staggered into the apartment. I decided that I needed a smoke so I stepped out onto the porch and invited Roho and Kestral to join me. We all had a cigarette and then came inside. Roho and Kestral both had grins the size of Texas on their faces when they said it was time for them to give me their gift. I certainly was not prepared for this, but they presented me with something that made my eyes light up with surprise -- Volume One of "The Family Guy," something I've been meaning to get on DVD for quite some time. Volume One has seasons one and two of the series and are, in my opinion, pure comedic genius. Roho told me the story how he'd wanted to get me a stuffed black panther from the toy store in Long Grove that we found, but when he went to buy it all the shops were closed for reasons that have never been made clear. He apologized and said that this was sort of a "Stop-gap" gift that was bought on the spur of the moment, but I don't mind. It was totally unnecessary and -- like the gifts from the BDs staff -- totally awesome.
I don't know what I did to deserve such great friends, but I can't help but feel like the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
Around 11:10 I decided to call it a night. I thanked Roho and Kes for the DVDs, collected my little black cat and staggered into my room. I briefly contemplated writing this journal up but when I staggered a little to the side I decided that bed was the better option (What did I have, five or six drinks in the span of two hours, most of them heavily concentrated? Yeah, I was quite happy with the level of tipsy-ness that I had achieved). I stripped off my clothes, pulled back the corvers and fell into bed. I barely remembered to pull up the covers before I rolled onto my side, cuddled up against Ra and fell asleep.
All told it was a most memorable night, and I'm really glad that it came together the way it did. Thank you to Roho and Kestral for being my friends and roommates, and a big thanks to the folks at BDs who don't read this but contributed to the night in a big way. You all rock.
My eyes are clear and bright without that haze