I’m trying to write this before the shock wears off, so apologies now for rambling or moebius story-telling.
So, today I got some news from a succession of people at my old job that the guy I spent the last year and a half sitting next to passed away at his home some time after Monday evening. He’d gone home Monday morning complaining of trouble breathing. Maybe his heart gave out, I dunno. He was a big guy, sizewise, but he always was during the five years I worked there, so it’s not like he suddenly took a downturn in his health. Who knows? Maybe when he went to doctors, he was told to lose weight, instead of actually looking at what was going on? That response from hospitals almost killed my mom last summer. But I digress.
I was laid off from that job three weeks back, and the first thing both my wife and my mom said when I told them was (verbatim) “But you loved that job!” It was true, too. I liked the work, mostly, and enjoyed working for the largest studio of the largest gaming company in the world. Mostly though? It was the people. The people I worked with were the best thing about the job, and for the last 18 months, I’d been working a Nerf-dart’s throw from the sort of techie who would spend an hour figuring out how to mess with another tech’s machine and not get caught. Not for snooping purposes, not for bragging rights, but because it was funny.
We used to joke that we had to sit together in our department, because we would drive anyone else crazy if we were placed elsewhere. We were like the kids’ table at your Grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner: throwing food, making funny faces, quoting Monty Python and Little Britain at each other. In short, we were two big geeks who would often be amazed that we were paid to do what we loved. Even when we didn’t love it, we could commiserate about how much we hated it, and get the poison out of our system before getting back down into our mental trenches and reconfiguring the Retro Encabulators.
He always had a big stainless steel coffee-can full of jelly beans, and while he might have moaned about having to refill it so often, it gave people an excuse to come talk to him, and see what he was doing, without necessarily feeling like they were interrupting. He also had a big red spinning light, like you’d find above the radiation room, referred to as “The F-O Light.” If it was on, it meant he was busy, so “F-O.”
When we weren’t talking shop, we would mostly talk about comedians and comedy. Things we found funny, and things funny people found funny. We could spend ten minutes trying to remember where we’d heard a joke, or the first time we heard a Bill Cosby record, or just randomly saying “Yeah, I know” in Little Britain accents to each other without breaking our different trains of thought. You know how old married couples can finish sentences? We would speak in half-conscious nerdese: deeply obscure IRC and BBS terminology would get bounced back and forth between us, like a pair of HAL9000s talking in their sleep.
I haven’t worked with anyone who so deeply “got” me as a technician. He understood and could help with what made me livid with rage at the injustices of the job (even if he was arguing the other side, and had already resolved to just get it done), and he also joined in the celebrations and Zulu war-dances of finding solutions that were the vastly dangerous shortcuts and time-crunches we were hired to create. The self-taught techs we were? He had done it all, too, and knew how hard it was to put something down when there was still a problem to be fixed.
There are 2,500+ staff at that location, and damn near 3,000 computers running, and if they were running Windows, he was at least partly responsible for each of those machines running as well as they did. I know how hard his job was, ’cause part of my job description was to be his backup when he was away, and brother, that was one hell of a huge ship to try to captain when he was away.
The day after I was laid off, I started to write an email to the department, as my goodbye. It didn’t go anywhere really, so I put it aside, and tried to write a goodbye just to him first, thinking once I got over the barrier of saying goodbye to the guy I could sit next to for eight hours a day (without wanting to yell “Would you shut UP!” even once at), the rest would be easy.
In writing that letter, I got as far as “It was” before I burst into tears.
I know Han Solo, and I’m no Han Solo, but I sure feel like Chewbacca’s gone.
This past weekend, when I was in Bellingham with the kids getting stamps for Arwen, there was a giant bag of Jelly Belly beans for cheap, so I grabbed ’em, thinking “I’ll bring these with me next time I go out there, or send ’em via courier” or something equally nerdy.Â While frowned upon, sending food in the interoffice mail system was also one of the things that made us giggle like idiots, and I thought he would know it meant I was still thinking about him, and would make him smile.
He was active in the BBS/modem scene way back when, before most of you fair readers knew what a computer was.Â Before a few of you were even alive.Â Before we talked about the Internet, and LONG before the World Wide Web.Â It’ll take me a while to figure out where his online haunts were, but www.b3ta.com won’t have him making obscurely funny animated graphics.Â He won’t be overly harsh with the helpdesk guys any more, ’cause sometimes he would forget that not everybody was seeing the system from his satellite view.
There was one woman he loved, that I know of, and he had wanted to marry her, but she was betrothed to a needle long before he came onto the scene.Â Being young and naive, he didn’t see the signs until it was too late, and didn’t get a chance to pull out of the emotional dive before reality came up fast to meet him.Â When he spoke of her, which was rarely, he always seemed to miss who he thought she was.Â Perhaps he can finally meet that woman again, and this time, they’ll have a chance at something good together.
He was a huge nerd, a good friend, a great technician, and will be missed.
Goodbye Jan, you magnificent bastard.
15 thoughts on “JanC passes away – Area code 604’s Dr. Device is offline.”
Well put, and quite beautiful actually. Always had a way with words my friend, and you’ve summed up the big guy quite well. It was back in ’03 when I started as a student. When Jan and Gordon sat back to back with each other. I clearly remember like clockwork, those guys would fire up battlefield on their lunch breaks. All lunch hour you’d hear the ricochet sound of bullets and explosions going off. And then I remember Brendan getting them headsets because his conference calls sounded like he was dialing in from a warzone.
Mr. Answer, well he was Mr. Answer 1 and you were Mr. Answer 2… Everyone knew, if John didn’t know the answer… AND Jan didn’t know the answer… then we were screwed.
Well, now we’re perma screwed ‘eh?
I recall him speaking of the ‘one’ only once, and that’s when he said she made the greatest Shepherd’s Pie.
Brilliant, zany, but always helpful(if you knew how to approach him)… RIP JanMan
When faced with the reality of the loss of a good friend and teacher… I look at it like I looked at my son the day he was born. Like the way I look at a dragonfly when it leaves it’s watery birthplace and can never return. With awe and bewilderment of the miracle of lifes journey.
You might still feel his presence right now, sitting beside where he sat for the last few years of his life.
We spend our whole life looking for the truth, and one day…perhaps when we most or least expect it, the truth finds us and brings us back to our source.
The only truth that I know of in this situation, is that Jan “Honaski” is alive, his superconcious will forever live in all of us who knew him.
His energy however will transcend space and time…and we will reunite with it one day. My brain can’t fathom the complexity behind it, but my heart knows that its true…
See you soon Jan!!!
I feel like I know Jan just from this piece, though I never met him. I am so sorry.
Jan was the fist person i meet from the IT Department at EA Canada. I was a new hire coming in to be briefed for the first time during orientation. He was a big bear in that meeting telling us noobies what would could,.. and more specifically could NOT do with our work computers. He looked mean and grumpy and you believed he would rip your head off without missing a step.
It took a year before I had the opportunity to work with Jan. When I joined the IT Helpdesk the impression the other guys on the desk gave me was”..Just leave him alone, don’t poke the bear!” Within the first week or so, I was on the desk late that night and needed to escalate an issue and Jan was the only person around. I went up and asked him ” … Hey Jan, I got a stupid question to ask you.” and without even turning around he just *sighed* and turned to his white board and wrote my name down and underlined it, and marked me down for ‘one stupid question’. I laughed and said “are you really going to keep track of my stupid questions?” He just *sighed* again turned back to the white board and marked me for two stupid questions! I couldn’t stop laughing and it was that moment that broke the ice with us.
From then on we would talk about just about this and that on MSN, from stuff we thought was funny or stupid to arguing over politics and science. I liked the comment you made about the Jelly Beans. I always told him he should get the gross Harry Potter flavors like Dirt, Earwax, Earthworm, and Vomit and mix it in with the normal ones just to add a little spice to the variety…hehe and not tell anyone.
We shared a passion for paintball which was something we always talked about doing together outside of work and would give me shit about going out playing paintball and not giving him a call. I was justing thinking the other day that spring is here and we will be playing paintball soon, I should give him a call and get him out here. Instead I got the call… Jan is gone.
See you on the other side friend… you will be missed.
He sounds like I would have thought he was terrific, even though I never met him. I am sure you will miss him but be happy having known such a great guy. :)
what a sweet tribute, lovingly told. I’m sorry for your loss.
I’m so very sorry. I didn’t know him back in the bbs days, but I do know the type of guy you’ve described.
The world is poorer for his not being in it.
I’m so sorry to hear about your partner in crime, John. It’s funny – these people that we see day in, day out. Who we spend more time with than our spouses or families. And sometimes, if we’re really lucky, they’re really special people who can make the whole thing very worthwhile.
Rest in peace, Jan.
John, I am so sorry for your loss – sidetracked indeed. A worthy eulogy, he sounds like quite a guy. *hugs*
It sounds like the man will be sorely missed, it’s rare to find such gems in workplaces of all locations. I admit, wonderful eulogy — one that had me reminded of those in my own life that left touching, permanent marks. Not yet scars but wounds that never healed.
My regards go out to his family & friends.
Oh, my gosh. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m Jan’s sister and this link was generously sent to me by his coworker. Your tributes have left me in tears and I am so thankful that he touched others’ lives in so many beautiful ways. Jan’s humor and his way of dealing with our “stupid questions”, and there were many from me, are treasured. Thank you for sharing your memories with me.
For funeral info, you may check Friday’s Province and Vancouver Sun, or Saturday’s Vancouver Sun.
Note: Jan’s obit can be found here:
Thank you Kenny for calling to let me know about Jan’s passing. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to say goodbye to Jan as I left EA 2 weeks before he died. I didn’t know it would be goodbye-forever, rather just a goodbye for now………….but that’s life I guess.
I met Jan in 2003 when I was hired on contract in IT to help manage the Desktop Unification Project (DUP). I remember my orientation where Jan did the IT portion. One of his jokes was “don’t worry the porn police will not come to your cube to arrest you……..” That solicted a number of giggles and I’m sure it did each time he delivered that presentation.
His sense of humor saved me many times in IT during the DUP. I have emails of Jan’s stories which I treasure to this day. He would never answer an email with a simple reply, but would add in some funny story. That was one of his gifts – the ability to make something ‘ordinary’ something special that.
Here’s one I’ll share with you. It drove him crazy that my favourite color was pink and when I brought in my fluffy pink pen that looked like an ostrich and hung pink christmas lights, that was the final straw. I came in one morning to find my fluffy pinky bird pen ‘hanged’ from the celing and this ‘ransom’ email in my inbox:
From: Boron Malovich [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 11, 2003 12:07 AM
To: Fonseca, Liesl
Subject: Cubicle sabotage – the responsibility is ours! buuuhaaaahaaahaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Dear Ms. Fonseca,
We at the Society for the Total Obliteration of Anything Pink in IT (STOPIT) hereby claim responsibility for the actions taken upon your cubicle. The device you have named “Miss Fluffy Pinky head pen” is an abomination to civilized IT departments everywhere. No, seriously – it is! Our core belief is that the color pink does not belong in IT and the presence of this so-called “Fluffy Pinky” pen has quite upset our membership at your workplace.
The recent actions taken against this Fluff Pinky pen were a warning to you and your pen. Unless this despicable, putrid, non-IT color device is removed from the workplace the actions against it will escalate! Do not underestimate the depths to which STOPIT will stoop to stop this stupid, stinky, statue you call a pen. REMOVE MISS FLUFFY PINKY HEAD PEN or STOPIT won’t stop and stand around staring while you stipulate any stopgap mesaures to study stashing your pink stationary stuff elsewhere. Don’t make us repeat that.
With much sincerity infused with a slight steppance of verbosity,
P.S. And please do something with the pink lights as well – thanks!
Hopefully you are all laughing (and crying) as hard as I am right now.
How will we fill that void?