The shoemaker and the elves – reincarnated as ‘The programmer and the elves’


There was once a programmer who worked very hard and was very honest. He did earn enough money to live on, but never got the time to spend it, as he was always hunched over his laptop, working on the latest assignment which had unreasonable delivery dates.

One day, he was assigned a task and given a more unreasonable than usual deadline to finish it. It looked like he would have to skip – 6 meals, a bath, charging his iPhone, checking his emails – and still travel back in time to last month to get it done. No wonder he was panic stricken. He gulped several times when told to do the task, and then, like others of his ilk, nodded and got down to it. He stayed in the office as long as he could, and then when the insistent phone calls (they were from his home, btw) took a threatening turn, he hibernated his machine (Powered down? Are you crazy?) and travelled home. Once there, he had 1 meal, mollified the threatener and then, of course, got back to work. If it is any consolation to you, he did not charge his phone, neither did he check his emails. Time travel was of course out of the question.

He worked until he could work no more, so dredging up some energy, moved to his room and fell into a sleep – I am not denying, it could be a dead faint also. Next morning, he woke up in a hurry, rubbed his eyes and dashed to his laptop in the next room. Then he rubbed his eyes some more, and then yet again. For what did he see, but his task had been completed, that too with perfection. And the last save time was shown as 1 hour after he fell asleep. His wife, erstwhile introduced as the threatener, denied any hand in it. He believed her, she was a quality assurance (QA) member anyway. If she had indeed continued his work while he was asleep, instead of completing it, she would have left a neat list in his emails about the quality defects in the piece that was already completed.

To cut the story short, he shut his mouth and his laptop (hey, laptops too need some rest, you know!) ate another meal and travelled with time to his office. He couldn’t do anything about shutting his boss’s mouth which also fell open.

I wish I could tell you the tale ended happily here. Unfortunately, our programmer was loaded with more work that evening as a result of finishing his previous work before time. Good for the show-off, as the office gossip went. And I need not tell you the same thing happened that evening as well. And the next and the next.

So the programmer – and his wife too; you can’t leave QA people out of any plans otherwise they get all shrill and screechy later – stayed up that night and decided to see who was doing all the good work. To their ever-lasting delight they found some wee elves doing the work. The elves hopped in, jabbered at each other, tip-tapped away at the keyboard and finished the work in 1 hour. So bloody fast, are they on Red Bull? asked the programmer of his wife. She gave him an indignant look that had nothing to do with QA training and everything to do with wifely behaviour, and shushed him.

The programmer and his wife remembered the older tale of the shoemaker and the elves and thought up a plan. And while the programmer, and his wife too, were good people, I am sorry to say the plan was anything but. So the next night when the elves wandered in, they were jumped upon and caught, and had VPN tokens, mobile phones, laptops and GPS tracking collars thrust upon them. The programmer said to them, since you like doing my work so much, I am going to let you do it all for free. And you also have these gadgets to help you. Don’t try to escape though, we will catch you in no time. And to show how generous he was, he also told them not to come in daily, but only every third day.

So that was that, and our wee elves went away glumly while the programmer and his wife danced in relief. And the programmer after that day did not need to work much at all.

It did not end too badly for the elves, the programmer gave them the Sundays and the occasional Saturday off. See? I told you he was an inherently good guy.

Moral(s) of the story:
1) Good people can also sometimes do bad things.
2) Kalyug hai bhai.
3) And yes, you have to be totally cut into pieces and ground down into the earth under someone’s heel before some wee elves decide to help you. Not to forget skipping 6 meals, a bath, charging your iPhone and checking your emails. The last two are an absolute must.

Written entirely tongue-in-cheek, and with no offense meant to anyone at all. Not to IT managers, IT programmers and especially not to QA people; they are the salt of the earth. Those that I know, anyway πŸ˜€