Software Bugs

Contributor: Jerry Guarino

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Joseph had a successful insurance business out of his home, a wonderful son and a marriage that had become more platonic than romantic, the only real frustration in his life. He had been tempted before in his 15-year marriage. Sales trips for a computer company and out of town trade shows provided plenty of easy opportunities for infidelity, but he stayed true to his marriage vows.

He gave up technology to work at home, to spend more time with his son. He coached him in soccer and helped him with homework after school. The upper middle class soccer moms smiled at him as they dropped off and picked up their boys for practice and games. But Joseph stayed true to his marriage vows, satisfied with fantasizing about the thirty-something lovelies in his small New England town north of Boston.

In his work, he needed an insurance agency management system, but didn’t want to spend the thousands of dollars it cost. Having that technology background, he wrote his own program and soon found that other small agencies would buy it. After a few hundred mail order sales, he started to get calls for training local agents in using insurance technology.

Joseph answered the phone and heard a pleasant female voice. “Is this Mr. Mariani, the person who wrote the agency manager?”

Joseph thought this might be another $250 sale, so he prepared to give his sales pitch over the phone. “Yes, I wrote the agency manager. May I send you a demo copy?”

I was hoping you could come by and show us your software? We’re in Malden.”

Joseph knew that taking time from work for a small sale wasn’t cost effective, but was curious about the inquiry. “Well, I’d like to, but I’m also an agent and have my own work to do here. Most agents just try the demo and order the program.”

We need more than the program. We need computers and a network too.”

Joseph tried to contain his enthusiasm, so after a pause, said. “Yes, I’ll be glad to visit to give you a quote.” He realized this could be a big sale, a couple thousand in profit and he was quite capable of setting up a network of computers. He made the appointment for the next day.

When he arrived, the owner greeted him at the door. “Mr. Mariani, thank you for coming. My name is Maria Pantone.”

Call me Joseph, Ms. Pantone.”

Well, call me Maria. Let me show you around.”
Maria was professionally dressed in a black skirt with ruffled top, clearly Italian, perhaps in her early 40s. He followed around as she described her office.

We have six people in house and two producers. We have been getting by on a couple of computers for rating and quotes, but we’re falling behind on service. I got a quote from that group in Chicago, but it was over $60,000. I don’t think we need that much of a system.”

Joseph took some notes and suggested they sit down. They went into her office in the back, a desk as cluttered as the room itself, the blizzard of paperwork an insurance agency accumulates.

I can see why you’re ready to automate. I think we can put together a system for a reasonable price that will hold you until you need the big system.”

Maria adjusted her glasses. “About how much?”

Joseph tapped out some numbers on his calculator. “This is just an estimate, but I think we can put in four network computers, a couple printers and my software for about $11,000. Three computers for the staff and one for your office. The producers can share with the customer service people here when they are in the office.”

I thought so. They were trying to sell me eight computers, the network and $30,000 for their agency management system.”

Like I said, you might need that someday, but not for a while. With technology, it’s always good to just get what you need, not overspend.”

Maria liked what she heard. “And you can put in a network so everyone can share information and printers?”

Yes, that’s not difficult.”

Maria stood up, smiled and shook Joseph’s hand. “Then I look forward to your quote.”

As she was showing him out, Joseph noticed the wedding ring on her right hand; one of those oversized ones you sometimes see. He turned at the door and smiled, taking her hand once more. “I’ll be back with a firm quote and my software to demo next week.”

How about Saturday afternoon? About noon? You can show it to the staff before we close.”

Sure, I can do that. See you then.”

Maria accepted the quote and Joseph began bringing in the hardware, network and software, installing on a Saturday after closing so he wouldn’t disturb her customers. Maria was there.

Can I get you a sandwich and a drink? You’ve been here a couple hours and it looks like you’re going to be here a while.”

Joseph noticed that she had changed into jeans and a casual blouse. “Sure, anything, yes I’ll be another couple hours.”

Maria went across the street. Joseph realized he was alone with this woman, just about ten years older than him, but still quite attractive. He remembered his vows, his wife and his son, but fantasized a bit about Maria. “No problem with fantasizing” he thought.

As he worked, Maria puttered around the office, doing paperwork and looking over the new computers. Joseph continued the setup while glancing at Maria whenever she passed by. They were all alone, a perfect opportunity to make a move, but he left his passion in his head.

We’re all done. I should come back later and train the staff, but I can show you the basics.”

Maria smiled and sat down at her computer. “OK, what do I do?”

Joseph sat down next to Maria and explained how to use the programs. He smelled her perfume and could see her shape through the jeans and blouse. “What am I doing? I’m married,” he thought. He was able to control his behavior but not his excitement. Maria noticed as he shifted in his chair.

I usually spend Sunday afternoon here catching up on paperwork. Would you like to come by then? It would be easier to show the staff when the office is closed.”

Joseph knew he was better off around Maria with others in the room. “Fine, I can be here at 1:00.”

Maria led him out to the door. Joseph continued to fantasize while watching her in front of him. “See you Sunday.”

Look forward to it” she said with her hand on her belt, perhaps an unconscious signal to him.

Over the next few weeks, Joseph came by to check on his major account, making friends with the staff and continuing the training to people unused to using computers, all the while a romance story played in his head.

But Maria’s staff was making minor complaints about using the system, mostly user errors that he could correct. Maria was always there and Joseph started to make his visits toward closing time, hoping he might be alone with her. Their conversations had gone from professional to personally friendly. His fantasies, however, had gone far beyond that. He thought about ripping her clothes off when they were alone in her office and ravishing her on the black leather couch. Maria seemed friendly but stopped short of flirting, until one day.

Joseph you need to come by. Several of my staff are having trouble using the programs and don’t know how to fix it.” She was curt, but not angry. Joseph agreed to come by toward closing time.

Well, user errors turned to software bugs he hadn’t anticipated. Several visits later did not correct the problems. Maria’s staff was getting frustrated and so was Maria. After four calls with a resolution, Maria asked Joseph to meet with him after work.

If you can’t fix these bugs, I’m going to have to ask you to take back the system.”
Joseph knew he couldn’t afford to do that. His profit margin was being diminished by all this time away from his own agency. In his mind, he felt fear and passion for Maria at the same time.

But even under this pressure, he thought he could make it right by settling Maria down. As she sat in her chair, he thought about standing behind her and giving her a neck massage, leading to relaxation and passionate lovemaking on that couch. He thought about soothing her stress with the shoulder rub, then leaning down to kiss her neck, then unbuttoning her blouse and finally kneeling in front of her for more ecstatic maneuvers. He imagined that if he did that, Maria could relax and give him more time to fix the problems. He wanted to do it. Maria looked angry. But it would be worse if his advances were met with a charge of sexual assault and decided he better just make his exit, never knowing if his fantasy would be reciprocated. At least he had kept his marriage vows, at least physically.


A week later he received a legal notice. Maria was suing him for breach of contract. Seeing her in the courtroom, he wished he had tried to win her over with a passionate affair.

The judge banged his gavel. “I find for the plaintiff in the amount of $5000. Please pay the bailiff.”

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Jerry Guarino’s short stories have been published by dozens of magazines in the United States, Canada, Australia and Great Britain. His latest book, "50 Italian Pastries", is available on and as a Kindle eBook. Please visit his website at
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