The phone’s ringing but nobody’s home


You know what I like about Objective C? When you send a message to nil. You know what I hate about objective C? The phone ring’s but nobody’s home. Think about this a minute. Imagine if you were to dial your loved one and mistake a “4” for a “5”. The house you dial has no answering machine/service/secretary. You have no definite way of knowing that you dialed the wrong number or that nobody’s is there. All you know is that you always call at exactly 12:15pm during lunch after taking the 5th bite of your usual Chicken Cordon Bleu sandwich which you order daily from the same fast food provider (paid for by pulling what appears to be the same $10 bill creased in exactly the same corner out of your trusty tattered wallet then after reaching the door doubling back as you always do because you left your keys on the counter). You know your loved one always answers on the second ring and has no reason/desire/ability to suddenly dodge your usual 12:15, “How’s your day going? No, how’s YOUR day going sweetie?” exchange. You hit redial a few times to the same non-response and rather than accept the obvious fact you begin to panic. Something must be wrong! You verify every other point of failure except for the most obvious, calling other family/friends, contacting your building admin (y’all did pay the bill right?), even going as far as arguing with your communications provider(s) in a frantic attempt to resolve an inconsistency or ripple in your otherwise pathetically inevitable daily episode. (You were born with a slight undiagnosed touch of autism which not only hobbles you with predictability and inability to handle subtle changes in your routine but gives you a certain advantage in the field of software design which is roughly 90% about patterns.) After becoming Ralph Tresvant (featured in the clip below) and losing to the unlimited powers of the Verizon network (how come they always get over?) it dawns on you to finally attempt manually punching the memorized phone number into the keypad after which you finally get your much anticipated response, “How’s your day going?”

That’s kinda a little bit sorta like how I might have felt today after I spent 2 hours, 37 minutes and 17 seconds chasing an error where I forgot to set an instance variable in my Objective C class. A creature of habit, I like my runtime to yell at me when I access a null pointer! I love the freedom from these ambiguous errors but hate the flip side. You can go on willy nilly sending all kinds of messages to null pointers, non-objects, empty stuff and not know until three months after you’ve been workforce-reduced after slipping 5 months past a dead line while you spent 4 months and 28 days chasing a production day behavior oddity that just seemed impossible.

Bill Dudney said something like, “It’s not the learning curve that hurts it’s the unlearning curve” and I totally agree. I love/hate Objective-C and I could spit bullets at Steve Jobs for his take on Java and the arrogance of insisting his favorite programming toy should be everyone’s favorite programming toy. As much as I hated picking up yet another language/framework/way-to-do-things I forced myself on because to get hung up in any one tool-set or programming paradigm is to slowly reduce yourself to a collection of the basic carbons and minerals that make jelly-fish wiggle in the ocean. Lesson learned overall. Now I stand as I speak, “My name is Cliff, and I made a call to an empty residence.”