Thankfully, I no longer live in the rundown rented house that I called my home during my senior year at University of Maryland, College Park. That means no more housemates setting their socks on fire in the microwave (no, really). It also means no more contact with my former West African roommate who believes that shamans control the weather. Well, that was the idea anyway. But on the day that I moved out, I foolishly gave him my email address, and he just contacted me:

Hello Mr BEN,how are you doing?I just thought about you,and i would like to send you an email.I hope you are enjoying your job.I wish you good luck and success.By the way,whenever you will find a job’s opportunity in COMPUTER SCIENCES,try to reach me.I KNOW HOW TO PROGRAM WITH C++.Also,i know you are able of all when you want.THANK SO MUCH and i hope your candidate JOHN MCCAIN WILL WIN THE ELECTION.

I cannot come up with any kind response to him, so I won’t. But I don’t mind responding here, simply because there’s vast humor potential in his message. There’s the random capital letters. The meaningless platitudes trying to soften me up for the pitch (and in one of them he seems to think I am omnipotent). Then there’s the pitch itself: he’s really contacting me because he’s looking for a job in computer science. Apparently he thinks that the one semester of Intro to Programming in C++ he took (which I helped him with, mind you, so I’m aware of his lack of skills) is enough to qualify him to do the same kind of job I’m doing. Of course, I have a dozen years experience and a college degree in the field — but hell, he took Intro to Programming! I would love to hook him up with all of these various “computer science” companies I know so well, and they would be blown away by his qualifications!

This is the same guy who applied for a $999,999 educational loan online in response to spam (inputting all of his personal details in the process), was infected with numerous viruses and malware that took me several hours to clean, and eventually corrupted Windows, necessitating a reinstall (which I did, of course), because his version of shutting down his computer was to unplug it. He didn’t even know how the lock on the door to his room worked, so he ended up locking himself out several times, and I would come home from classes only to find him moping about in the common area waiting for me to pick the lock for him. Despite explaining many times that he should verify that the knob turns from the outside of his door before shutting it, he never really got it. So I have already helped him a lot in the past simply out of a sense of housemate’s responsibility, and now that I no longer live with him, I feel no more obligations.

I stopped living in that house in August 2007 because I had graduated from college and the only positive aspect of that shithole was its proximity to University of Maryland. He stopped living there in August 2007 because he had no source of income and wasn’t able to pay his rent. I have no idea where he is now, and I don’t doubt his urgent need of a job, but I couldn’t possibly endure the lengthy prevarications necessary to foist him off as a legitimate candidate for a position at a software development company. His English isn’t good, his programming skills are barely above a “Hello World” level of proficiency, and from having lived with him for a year, I got to know him well enough to know I would never want him as a coworker.

But the part of his message that really stuck out to me was when he expressed his hope that John McCain will win the election. I guess he overheard me and my Mexican roommate discussing politics (in between him scorching his clothing in the microwave), but then completely failed to correctly remember my political affiliation. Regardless, he should know that unless you’re 100% sure, you don’t go assuming anything about a person’s political views. In that way lies untold umbrage potential. He doesn’t really care too much about our election either way, not having followed American politics in Africa at all and only coming here recently, but the gall of stating a hope for one candidate to win just as a meaningless platitude, and to then get that wrong and end up telling an Obama supporter that he wishes McCain will win, is too much.

14 Responses to “I KNOW HOW TO PROGRAM WITH C++”

  1. drinian Says:

    Good grief, how on earth did he get into University of Maryland with that level of English?

    And I’m guessing he doesn’t read your blog?

  2. Kelly Martin Says:

    “He didn’t even know how the lock on the door to his room worked, so he ended up locking himself out several times, and I would come home from classes only to find him moping about in the common area waiting for me to pick the lock for him. Despite explaining many times that he should verify that the knob turns from the outside of his door before shutting it, he never really got it.” Dude, this guy is management material! You should send him a hair sharpener!

  3. Cyde Weys Says:

    drinian: Oh no, he didn’t go to University of Maryland. He went to some college in DC — UDC maybe? Anyway, it’s kind of harsh to criticize his English, because he speaks French and his African language fluently. English is his third language. This message was actually pretty decent English compared to how he usually speaks; I guess he (sort of) got the benefit of being able to compose and edit. I don’t necessarily think speaking fluent English is an admission requirement anywhere.

    And no, I don’t suspect he reads this blog. Though if he does, well, he’ll know why he’s not getting a response to his email.

    Kelly: To be fair, I don’t know if they had locks in the country he’s from. At least not the “complicated” kind that only lock from one side.

  4. William (green) Says:

    I remember hearing that a large portion of the people graduating with computer science degrees and applying for programming positions barely know how to program. Someone cited the applicants’ inability to write a “FizzBuzz” application as an example.
    Does that mesh with your experience?
    On a different note, you may wish to take a look at “Writing Excuses”. I keep remembering to check it while I’m working, but it’s an audio-oriented site and that doesn’t really go well at work.

  5. Cyde Weys Says:

    William, there’s some truth to that. At University of Maryland though, I would say the majority of the CS majors did know how to program. It’s just that when you’re hiring for CS positions, you get lots of non-CS people applying, and most of them don’t actually know how to program; they’re just attracted by the lucrativeness of the field. I should point out that the housemate I refer to in this blog post was not a computer science major. I think he vaguely said aerospace engineering at some point, but that completely didn’t feel right to me. This was his first year in the country, and maybe that’s what he eventually wanted to be doing, but all I ever saw him working on was Intro to Programming and some math. I don’t even know if he was a full-time student.

  6. William (green) Says:

    I tried to find that, but I couldn’t remember what it was called. Have you considered adding a subcategories for the categories that have broken one hundred.

  7. Cyde Weys Says:

    Eek, I didn’t realize they were quite so big already. Hrmm. I just don’t quite know how I would break them up.

  8. drinian Says:

    On the other hand, I can think of a few French-speaking West Africans who speak English perfectly well… but how can you get accepted to a university if you can’t even communicate well enough to write out the essays on the application form? Sigh.

  9. William Says:

    Just thinking about it offhandedly, but how about something similar to this:
    Personal ->
    – School
    – Work
    – Writing
    – Other Personal?

    Tech ->
    – Web
    – – Wikipedia (already here)
    – Software engineering
    – Business

    Science ->
    – Astronomy
    – – Telescope-making (already here)

    You might also consider adding a list of some of the more popular posts, or the ones you think ended up the best.

  10. Cyde Weys Says:

    I’m looking over a lot of my Tech posts and I think I could use additional categories for Linux, Internet, Hardware, and Business. When I have a bit of free time, I’ll go through and set that up. Anything that considerably fits into either multiple categories or none of them will go in the parent category “Tech”.

    Note the distinction between Web and Internet. The World Wide Web is just what you access through your web browser using the Hyper Text Transport Protocol. Everything else, including games, instant messenging, etc., falls into the much larger “Internet” category. And since I write about a lot of online things that don’t use HTTP, calling it Internet instead of Web will make it more inclusive. After all, in the end, do you really make a big distinction between what you do online in web browsers versus what you do online in other applications? I don’t.

  11. William (green) Says:

    I’m aware of the distinction, but “Internet” as a category doesn’t sound quite as fluid (?) as “Web”. It reminds me of people saying “My Internet isn’t working”, which I have to chuckle a little at.
    “The Internet” sounds better than “Internet”, but for some reason “The Web” sounds worse to me than “Web”. Go figure.

  12. T2A` Says:

    I have a degree in CS and I can’t find a job either. D:

    McCain is a turd. He got endorsed by Bush, the worst president ever and who had the gall to proclaim that we should thank him for undermining our rights and the Constitution in order to “fight terrorism.” Illegally spying on American citizens and giving the telecoms immunity for it is fucking cool.

    So far as I’ve heard, the US and Britain are the furthest along towards an Orwellian society. I can’t wait. :/

  13. William Says:

    See, this is why I don’t understand politics.
    I can’t vote democrat because they want to take the guns away from everybody. This is my only sticking point with more liberal candidates.
    Can’t vote republican because they don’t believe in all other civil rights.

  14. Cyde Weys Says:

    That’s a parody-level simplification of the Democratic Party’s stance on gun control that not even the NRA believes in.