Saturday, May 06, 2006


It Could Happen To Anyone

This is the long and rambling story of how an extemely inappropriate TShirt found its way to a MySQL social event attended by senior management. The offending item took a tortuous eight year journey from London to Zurich before achieving infamy, or at least for its owner. First, some background.

Originally, I'm from Essex, UK. I've lived in some of the more scenic parts of Surrey and some of the most happening parts of London. However, due to a gap in finances, I'd moved back to my parents' home in Essex. Well, after being independant for a decade, the transition was jarring. So, when a friend telephoned and asked me to house-sit in Brighton, East Sussex, UK, I leapt at the chance. Best of all, I had the place to myself.

Anyhow, I re-located in Brighton. Due to my lack of driving skills, I'd arrived by train with only the stuff I could carry. Due to the vaguries and temporary duration of my house-sitting, I'd left my passport at my parents. It was safer there and, anyhow, I was too poor to travel anywhere. However, it was during this stint that I got my job at MySQL. My friend went to Kula Lumpur, Malaysia and I used his broadband conection to find my well paid job.

My location in Brighton was handy. Indeed, I was two stops from London Gatwick airport. So, in the rare event of an emergency, I could quickly travel to anywhere in Europe. For this reason, MySQL insisted that I remain well connected for transport. All was fine. Mission acomplished. However, the month after I started, I was due to meet my colleagues and undergo training in Zurich. Unfortunately, despite being adjacent to an airport, I was 100 miles away from my passport. Therefore, I took a trip to my parents to retrieve it. I was also short of clothes and suchlike, so it was also an opportunity to obtain supplies now that my situation had become more permanent. I expected this to be a brief dash and therefore I'd also made arrangments to meet friends in London. Matters are never so simple.

I returned to my old room to discover that my parents had "tidied" my room in my absence. My conveniently located passport was now in one of eight new storage boxes. Well, now it was a real case of tidying. After nine hours of searching, I located my passport in the second to last box. Exhaustedly, I left and caught the very last train home, having not seen my friends. Indeed, had I spent another 10 minutes searching then matters would have been even more convoluted.

Anyhow, it was during my search that I located a bag from a computer exhition. Actually, it was collection of nested bags of varying sizes. Exhibitors have learned that whoever has the largest bag gains all of the incidental advertising as people leave the event. It is for this reason, at least one exhibitor gives away riddicously oversized bags. It is also for this reason that it forms a nest of bags of leaflets. One such bag remained lodged in the back of my cupboard. It was dated 1997 and such shows tend to held in the latter part of the year. So, this artifact was just over eight years old.

I was a very different person eight years ago. Certainly, I was much less mature. So, it was with reasonable certainty that I'd collected every available leaflet from the show. Indeed, I'd been very thorough. I scanned the leaflets and remembered the impressive demonstration of the Amiga MPEG decoder board amongst other gadgets. I brutally threw them all and kept the TShirt and pens. I was short of clothing and this forgotten but geeky item was a bonus. The TShirt was wrapped in celophane with the front showing the message "When you're the #1 supplier of Internet Technologies, why shout about it?"

I couldn't remember the brand, but from the message and colouring, I assumed it was an ISP, such as Mailbox or Demon. Perhaps it was a defunct brand, which would gain extra credibility at the local geek meetings in Brighton. I've declined cash offers from NTK for my FirstTuesday TShirt. This could be an addition to my prized collection. Anyhow, two weeks later, I was due to meet my colleagues. I decided to pack some bright and dapper clothing to impress my colleagues, not my usual l33t black look. The TShirt, still in its celophane for the past eight years, was immediately thrown into my suitcase.

Forward to day four of my one week course. We've due to hear presentations about sales and then dine with senior management. This would have passed without incident if it hadn't have been for a few factoids. Corporate policy is room sharing to reduce cost. So, I'm sharing my room with a huge jovial German fellow who is present as I rip the TShirt from its celophane. I have a moment of motification as I catch the logo and all of the details return to me. Unfortunately, he's already caught my reaction. I'm damned. Now I can clearly remember the day that I was unimpressed with Oracle's marketing. They had a huge stand at the computer exhibition staffed with people who made a wholy unconvincing case to use Oracle in web deployments. On that day, I made a mental note. If I ever had a computer startup, I was sure that I wouldn't buy Oracle licenses. They'd either be too expensive or I wasn't spending investment wisely. Nor did I like the lock-in but, hey, I'm a long-term open source contributor.

Of course, all of this was now immaterial. I quickly decide that honesty is the best policy. However, if I knew my colleagues better then I would have considered a different strategy. "What's wrong?" "You're not going to believe this." I quickly recount my story then show him the TShirt. He fell onto his bed laughing mercilessly. "So, what are you going to do?" "Well, I'm damned now, so I'll wear it." And indeed, I wore it under a design of MySQL TShirt given to us the previous day.

This would have passed without incident if it had not been for said colleague mentioning said TShirt during dinner. Perhaps it was a bad choice of attire. Regardless, it is at moments like this that one wants to disappear. By various means, I tried to avoid my fate, to no avail. I showed my TShirt. My team members found it to be hilariously entertaining. However, my manager wasn't amused, especially in front of senior management. Nor was he pleased that this TShirt had graced his office. It is for this reason that the TShirt was promptly defaced from "#1" to "#2", as we'd learned from the sales presentation. Yes, MySQL has pipped Oracle for web traffic since Nov 2005. Note to all: don't boast on your merchandise because it returns to haunt you.

Thanx to JamJar for the pictures.

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