OK, so here is why I need to quit my job. I analyze interfaces (mostly websites) and try to make them easier to use. One side effect of this is that I can’t walk down the street without seeing a sign or a door or car-lane that has a poor interface, and upon seeing it I usually become apoplectic.

The other day I was trying to use my company’s intranet and couldn’t even get through the login before absolutely losing it. There was no “Forgot your password?” link, and anyway, I hadn’t forgotten my password, the damn thing just wasn’t accepting it, and I had no idea why. Which caused me to send this email to an administrative assistant.

—–Original Message—–
From: Josh Penrod
Sent: Friday, July 18, 2003 11:36 AM
To: *****
Subject: intranet living hell stupid piece of son of a )#*@&$#@(*)$&*)#@$&#$)&#@$)(*#$$)(


I have recently been sitting in front of that pile of trash intranet putting in every username and password known to man (including the one you sent me last time when this happened). Not surprisingly, none of them worked. Because a team of rocket scientists wrote the code for this site there is no, “forgot your password” link.

I have now been swearing for 15 minutes straight and I have put together words in combinations never before heard by mortal man, or if heard, then immediately followed by death. A sailor walked by, and started crying like a baby when he heard the words I have been saying.

May I please have my password?

J o s h P e n r o d
[Usability Specialist]

She wrote back:

From: *****
Sent: Fri 7/18/2003 11:45 AM
To: Josh Penrod
Subject: RE: intranet living hell stupid piece of son of a )#*@&$#@(*)$&*)#@$&#$)&#@$)(*#$$)(

Here’s your username and your new password:

username: josh
password: sonofa


I was trying to request some paid time off, so I spent the next 15 minutes trying to find the link that let me do what has to be the absolute #1 thing the intranet site is used for. After finding it I began to fill out the info. I put in the date range I wanted, and a bunch of other junk, then it asked for my total available vacation time.

I had to click through about five pages to find that information. I went back to the paid time off form and, of course, it was blank. I had to start over. So, I entered in all the info, and my total vacation time, only to be asked for my employee ID #. Surprisingly, I don’t have this memorized, so I had to click through a few pages to find it. I found it and then went back to the form. Before I even got to the part asking for my total available vacation time I realized I had forgotten the number.

At this point I am positive a large vessel in my brain popped. I haven’t discovered what faculty I lost because of the aneurysm, but I am sure I will discover I can no longer walk backwards or something.

It dawned on me that the site ALREADY KNEW everything it was asking me to enter! Why was I being asked for info it already had?! If it could show it on another page, why couldn’t it show it here, where I NEEDED IT?! It was mocking me, that is why.

I kicked my waste basket about 30 feet into a wall at the end of the hall. I heard a secretary, whose desk was next to the wall my trash can just bounced off of, asking bewilderedly “Does anyone know who this wastebasket belongs to”?

The only thing that made me feel better was running up to her and demanding an explanation as to why she had my wastebasket, accusing her of being a kleptomaniac, and warning her that I would be watching her.

Actually, if I keep this up I may not need to quit my job.

17 responses for Sonofa

  1. john says:

    Yes that is very frustrating — but the one thing missing to completely and totally push you over the age is a wife who has complete faith in your ability to fix it saying (understandingly and supportively): “Don’t worry I know you’ll figure it out”

    She has to understand – if i had any hope of figuring it out it would just be an interesting challenge instead of an appoplectic fit inducing, try-not-to-throw-the-system-through-the-window event.

  2. Shawn Smith says:

    Sounds like someone needs a VACATION! (tic)

  3. adrienne says:

    My dear boy, that was even funnier written out than when you told me in person. I have to tell you that here, as a comment, instead of in person, because maybe somehow I too will be funnier. No, probably not.

  4. old prof says:

    aaaaaargh! Youre funny and you have a wife who calls you my dear boy instead of “you sonofa…” Its not fair, (puny fists raised to heaven) IT IS NOT FAIR!

  5. andrew says:

    our million dollar intranet needs two different passwords and user names because part of it was farmed out to an outside big ass contractor. so they hired people just to re-set the passwords all day after people get locked out after three guesses. argh! but we do get 25cent ice cream cones on fridays from the soft serve machine in the company caferteria! i have not made my own cone in awhile so i was a little nervous today when it was my turn to fill the cone. what if it fell over? would the people standing behind me in line laugh? did i have the skillz? but oh how beautiful and perfect it turned out…

  6. andrew says:

    i’m sorry. i just wanted to brag.

  7. martin says:

    My coompany is hiring anybody who can fog a mirror. Seriously like 300 high paying jobs a month! They keep running our of places to put people. I bet I could get you a job down her in the sunny land of “South Orange County!” (to be said with ominious undertones) No usability testing, no users actually, just shooting the breeze with fellow developers all day! Oh yeah and compimentary pastries almost everyday of the week. So you see some of us have it just as hard as you . . . . . As luck would have it I am the only one on my team that doesn’t make sailors cry when describing minor technical setbacks . . . .

  8. Grettir says:

    I spent two years of my life on a team whose sole purpose was to create an Intranet that knew who you were. It was exactly what you want. It was a single sign-on, customized, personalized, information portal that was totally and completely user-centric. And I’m here to tell you that it can be done.

    That is, it can be done if the internal marketing department doesn’t decide that branding takes precedence over all else. It can be done if the operations groups actually talk to anyone else in the company. It can be done if the HR department doesn’t believe that it is the absolute owner and controller of all employee data. It can be done if every department in the company isn’t welded to it’s own proprietary, brain-dead, backwards, harebrained business process that someone pulled out of their posterior ten years ago. And it can be done if you own and control each and every server, application, and database within the company.

    In other words, it can’t be done.

    By the time our particular project was dismantled, it had become such a kludged together, unwieldy, and invasive piece of crap that anyone in their right mind would go to great lengths to find ways to circumvent it or avoid it completely.

    Where we once had an annoying, haphazard Intranet with isolated pockets of brilliance and usefulness, there is now a single, centralized, controlling, bureaucratic monster where any sign of life is leapt upon and suffocated immediately.

    When the gh0ds want to punish you, they answer your prayers…

  9. adrienne says:

    By the way, if anyone is wondering, the two emails shown in this post are completely real. Josh really sent his, and that is the real response. I know this administrative assistant and she is hilarious too. Furthermore, all of the letters, emails etc. that Josh ever shares on this site are one hundred percent totally real. Josh has what you might call chutzpah, or for our sassier readers, a lot of “pizazz.” Complete with jazz hands. Do you know what those are? If so, you may have a lot of pizazz as yourself. (Don’t worry J-dawg, I don’t think you have jazz hands at all).

  10. andrew says:

    i imagine josh as sort of a tall pirate doing jazz hands.

  11. dave says:

    I love this story. A similar thing happened to me as well but it ended with this sort of cathartic experience where I’m standing there in a rain storm, ripped shirt, arms stretched out, screaming WHYYYYY!!? Water and tears streaming, lightening glimpsing my insanity etc etc.

    One of the keys to having an organized and successful life is to sit down and look at yourself in the mirror and say, very slowly, “computer, you are the literal spawn of Satan, sent here to make humans feel intelligent, all the while dragging each and every one of us slowly into Lucifer’s hot embrace.” I’ve learned how to speak as you spoke there at my current employment; but it is incorporated into any typical conversation no matter how innocent (you know, instead of saying, “let’s go eat lunch”, you insert a couple of dozen F words and refer to sexual anatomy, then look around and make sure that everyone is nodding, as if to say, “yep, we bad”). I’m soon quitting so if you feel like working in a small town Texas oilfield, they are looking for bright men not ashamed of making Anna Nicole Smith blush with language. Sailor’s come here to learn how to talk. I’m quitting for obvious reasons. Please don’t come here for work. I was lying. Why do I do that?

  12. jon says:


    is a wife who has complete faith in your ability to fix it saying (understandingly and supportively): “Don’t worry I know you’ll figure it out”

    this is soooo funny to hear, this is exactly what happens in situations like this when i would call home and explain my plight to wifey.

    great observation, all this time i thought i was alone…

  13. JC says:

    Hey, keep it up and you might get that paid leave without filling out ANY forms. Of course, it will be medical…

  14. jenny says:

    Martin, just what company do you work for? Man, we need a job BAD, and I can fog a mirror like nobody’s business. However, I must tell you that I originally read “complimentary pastries” as “complimentary pasties” and thought, “Man, that company must really be swingin’!

  15. martin says:

    You can email if you want some info – Simple click on my name and a email window will pop up. If you can sucessfully send email then New Century Mortgage IT department wants you!

  16. nancy says:

    You can always do something from Office Space: Stop showing up, and eventually they’ll get the hint.

  17. Porgo says:

    josh, i believe this is one of those cases where medicinal marijuana can be legally “applied.”

    or try the Provo version of illicit drugs — chug a half bottle of Robittusen DM followed by one or two Coca Cola chasers.

    not that i would know.