i work at a startup, which for those of you who never have, can be a very amusing, laid back environment.

it’s also a little dangerous – the boss caters in lunch for us every single day. i, for one, do not need a banquet of food around me every single day.

our engineering department is tucked away in the back of the office. generally, it’s extremely quiet and is daunting to even walk into because all occupants can hear a pin drop in addition to anything you say to anyone else. they are enclosed in a glass-walled room, affectionately the “fish bowl” (’look, mommy! that one’s writing code!!’)

they get visitors from other parts of the office throughout the day, but non-engineers do their business and don’t linger. i have my suspicions that oompah loompahs come out of the server room periodically to work their magic.

i can tell when the week is coming to an end, when one or two of the engineers pass my desk and pantomime air guitar. in the fishbowl, we have beer and guitar hero fridays.

so later today, just at that point where i’m starting to daydream and get into that post-lunch nap stage, the buzz begins. and then, the playstation 2 gets fired up – and it’s gametime.

one of my top engineer rivals has an ongoing vendetta to best me. i’d say that we’re pretty comparable skill-wise. however, he isn’t aware that i know, but he relies heavily on his cognitive powers to try and defeat me.

it starts out benign enough. i will don the guitar and search the song list. he’ll push his chair away from his desk and get in position to see the screen. and, depending on his mood, he’ll make either complimentary or disparaging comments about my song choice.

he’ll stay quiet for a bit, and then slowly sneak in a supportive word here and there. and as his comments become more frequent, they also become more combative, until he’s fully mocking my skills to the entire department.

i know this will happen, as it does every friday. and i mentally prepare myself. but despite my efforts to fall into his psychological cheat efforts, i miss a note here and there trying to verbally defend myself against his taunts, until i get distracted enough to botch the rest of the song.

every time, i swear to myself that i’ll ignore him, or at the very least not let his comments agitate me enough to argue back. and every time, he changes his MO just slightly to get me fired up enough to sabotage my turn.

today, i feel fantastic. the day has been all but perfect so far, and the red bull is going down nicely. the murmurings of guitar hero have begun in the corners of the office and will increase gradually until about 3pm.

but today, i will not let him beat me, either musically or mentally. my lead guitar stance will be strong, and i will not direct my focus elsewhere. i will rock. i will drink beer. and i will tear that department to pieces one note at a time.