Who, Me? Monday is here and sunshine has turned to showers in the UK. Take your mind off the "shorts or umbrella" quandary with an unusual tale of vampires, dating, and recreating The Matrix in Sun Microsystems' Chicago lobby courtesy of The Register's Who, Me? column.
The Regomiser is on recess so today's story comes from Matt Yonkovit, chief experience officer at database wrangler Percona.
Yonkovit's tale takes us back to his pre-Percona days, when he was a fresh-faced consultant employed by MySQL AB, tasked with parachuting into customer sites and dealing with whatever infrastructure or environment problems that cropped up.
MySQL AB was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 2008, which is when Yonkovit's tale takes place, and is a reminder, in his words, that "there are a lot of interesting, eclectic people out there."
Something to keep in mind when dealing with vendors and customers alike.
You had one job... Just two lines of code, and now the customer's Inventory Master File has bitten the biscuitREAD MORE
"MySQL," he recalled, "had always been used by the new web startups." It was seized upon by the likes of gaming companies and other outfits seeing what they could do in the new world of online commerce. Sun Microsystems, on the other hand, was more interested in the enterprise space and so found itself, as Yonkovit put it, "introduced to… kind of a new class of customer."
Around this time, Yonkovit was called up by his boss: "Hey, I got a gig for you! It's kind of one of these interesting, you know, edge cases…"
How exciting! Something involving gaming? Streaming? Some as yet unknown application poised to take the world by storm?
"It's a Vampire dating website."
The boss carried on cheerfully: "The only problem is they don't have any place for you to go. So we'd like you to travel to their house and work out of their basement..."
Imagining what be might lurking in the Brooklyn basement of an outfit set up to allow those of a vampiric persuasion to exchange ideas and, er, other stuff, Yonkovit politely declined the offer of an all-expenses paid trip to what might have turned out to have a passing resemblance to the set of What We Do in the Shadows, with the addition of servers and screens.
Instead the meeting was set at the Chicago office of Sun, "which just happened to be at the Chicago Board of Trade Building."
The impressive art-deco building was built in the 1930s, and features stone carvings and a statue of Ceres perched on the top. A Chicago landmark, and the tallest building there until the 1960s, it is well worth a viewing should one find oneself in the Windy City.
While the building may have seen its fair share of the excesses of traders over the years, it was not entirely prepared for the arrival of the Yonkovit's guests: the representatives of the vampire dating website.
"Sun had this wonderful tradition of welcoming their customers by putting a big marquee in the lobby that says 'Sun welcomes [this company]'.
"So, I walk in and there was the big marquee saying 'Sun welcomes [vampire dating website company]'."
Streams of businesspeople were passing through the lobby, either gaping at the sight, looking at it sideways (and possibly making a note for later), or striving to pretend it was not really in their eyeline.
Ever the professional, Yonkovit headed up to the 24th floor, checked in and primed the receptionist before settling into the conference room ahead of the arrival of his guests.
He didn't have long to wait. The receptionist called, telling him the vamps has arrived. Could he go and get them?
Odd. "They're on the list," said Yonkovit, "send them up."
"No. Security won't send them up."
It got odder. "You have to go down and vouch for them."
"That was a little unusual," Yonkovit told us, but down he went to retrieve his guests.
Waiting for him was a chap looking for all the world like an extreme version of Keanu Reeve's Neo character from The Matrix. "He's got the black trench coat, the goth gear, big platform boots, full makeup and everything," recalled Yonkovit.
Security was unimpressed, perhaps worrying about the entirely fictional events that took place in a lobby in the motion picture. Yonkovit had to sign in and vouch for his customers, presumably in case they went and looked brooding somewhere they weren't supposed to.
As it transpired, the customer turned out to be highly technically astute. They just required guidance in database and website optimisation to scale things up to meet the demands of the surprisingly active vampire dating community. In fact, all problems resolved, the team finished a little early and had time left to kill in Chicago.
Unsure of what to do with a Neo lookalike in Chicago, Yonkovit asked his customer: "What else would you like to do?" He lived near the city and knew his way around, although possibly not the haunts that the customers of a vampire dating website might frequent.
We imagine "Neo" fixed Yonkovit with a gimlet gaze, eyes boring through the pale make-up and leaving the consultant perhaps fearful of what was coming next.
"I've always wanted to go to the Lego store. Would you take me?"
And that is how the future chief experience officer of Percona found himself loaded up with Harry Potter Lego, having had to persuade security staff a week earlier that geeks are geeks no matter what they turn up in.
Ever turned up for a meeting in garb some might consider wildly inappropriate? And then gone on to wipe the floor with them thanks to your technical prowess? Share your experience with an email to the vultures at Who, Me? ®