Written by Serena Mao, Illustrated by Waverly Wang
Uurgh. The pounding headache hadn’t gone away. Maybe it was chronic LeetCoditis after all — but Harvey didn’t know for sure. All he knew was that bubble sort was O(n^2) and that his final round interview was today. That’s all that was important, anyway.
Trudging down the stairs, Harvey admired his Final Round Housing for the last time. Ever since he’d moved in, he’d taken full advantage of the amenities that had come with passing the behavioral round: his single-family home came with free breakfast, bubblegum-flavored floss, and a bed with sheets. He couldn’t believe he’d ever slept on a sheetless bed back in his Second Round Apartment. Memories of First Round Housing were tucked even more deeply in the depths of his brain — had he really lived in a shed for 3 months?
Sitting down at the kitchen table, Harvey shook his head in silent disbelief. Thank god for my dad. Harvey’s dad was a government official working in the Amazon branch, and he’d been able to pull some strings. Indeed, everyone in Harvey’s family had interned at Amazon, making him part of some sort of infinite legacy.
The sound of rapid murmuring snapped Harvey out of his trance. Mudd came down the stairs, his elevator pitch reverberating through the near-empty room. Seeing Harvey in the kitchen, he stopped mid-sentence. “You like it?”
Harvey smiled wryly at his brother. “Who cares if I like it or not? It’s what F.A.A.N.G. thinks that matters.” He’d always had mixed feelings about the F.A.A.N.G. government — though it guaranteed its citizens basic necessities, those amenities differed vastly depending on one’s recruitment status. Though he had to admit, the perks were great once you got The Offer.
“Mudd, let’s go. And ditch the tie. We’re recruiting for SWE, remember.” As they walked out the door, Harvey’s mind was running in circles. As someone in the Final Round, The Offer felt within reach, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it. People with The Offer socially segregated, spending their days reveling in the feeling of achievement and splurging on expensive drinks and trips. Though they smiled at Harvey in passing, they never spoke — he felt a distance between them, an uncomfortable mix of jealousy and superiority. Not like the smiling or passing happened much, anyways: those with The Offer removed themselves from friends and family, only to be seen again when their loved ones also received Offers.
“Harvey, ask me a question.” Mudd’s excited voice broke through the pensive silence.
“Hmm…tell me about a time you collaborated on a difficult project.”
“Okay.” Mudd cleared his throat. “So back when I was working on a group CS project, I — AHHHHH!”
Out of the corner of his eye, Harvey saw a figure tackle Mudd to the ground. Seeing who it was, he relaxed and smiled: “Seeley! You scared us!”
Seeley, Harvey and Mudd’s only friend, laughed heartily. No one really had friends; socializing wasted time people could be spending memorizing algorithms. Seeley was a recruiter, so Harvey and Mudd justified an exception. “Did y’all see the new welfare plan from today?”
Harvey and Mudd looked at each other. “What is it?”
Disappointed, Seeley shook his head. “Y’all gotta keep up with the news. F.A.A.N.G.’s offering food stamps and debt relief. You just have to submit your resume and cover letter. They’re also expanding the number of LeetCode tests so there are more chances for the tent-livers to get First Round Housing.” He smiled wistfully, then sighed. “Supply chain issues, you know.”
“That’s awesome,” Mudd replied. “I’m glad they’re expanding the number of opportunities for qualified people.”
Harvey nodded slowly, then furrowed his brows. “What about people without much coding experience, or people without a 2024 graduation year?”
Seeley raised his eyebrows. “What do you mean? Welfare isn’t supposed to help everyone who needs it. You gotta earn it, you know — by being good at CS and stuff.”
“Okay, but like, not everyone has a competitive programming background, has a parent in software, or knew they were gonna do SWE when they came out of the womb. And those people need support, too.”
Harvey thought he was making a really valid point, but Mudd and Seeley seemed to find it hilarious. “Are you,” Seeley wheezed, “are you saying recruiting shouldn’t determine social status?” Harvey sighed, blocking out the laughing as best as he could.
[ONE WEEK LATER]
Mudd’s eyes lit up. “I heard back!” Harvey tore off his headphones and sprinted to Mudd’s setup. “Oh my god. We are thrilled to extend you an offer to join Amazon —” Harvey’s eyes widened, and he quickly wrapped Mudd in a big hug. “I’m so proud of you!”
The initial euphoria waning, Mudd replied: “What about you? Show me your Offer Letter.”
Harvey rushed back to his laptop and clicked excitedly into his inbox. He cleared his throat. “Hi Harvey, we appreciate your interest in job opportunities…” His voice trailed off. “…we will not be moving forward…” His heart dropped.
“…Oh.” Mudd’s expression flattened, and he took a tentative step back. “I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s okay,” Harvey replied, head pounding harder than ever (a clear Leetcoditis flare-up). He glanced at the bubblegum floss sitting on the table, wondering which tent he’d be moving into once he was evicted. He tried to be happy for Mudd — who was probably moving into a mansion.
Mudd turned around to head upstairs. “It sucks we won’t be able to talk anymore. I’ll miss you.” His voice was suddenly soft and solemn.
“What?” Harvey ran after him. “What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean. That’s just how it is—people with the Offer are supposed to hang out among themselves. I’m gonna have to learn how to show off and buy expensive things. It’s a different lifestyle from all of yours.” He gestured at some invisible audience. “It’s gonna be hard for me to get used to.”
Harvey stood there, dazed and confused. “Mudd.” Tears welled up in his eyes. “It doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to do those things. You can still say hi to me in the streets. You’re always welcome in my tent, even though there won’t be running water or electricity or anything. I promise I’ll grind algos and move to the First Round sheds ASAP.”
Mudd sighed. “I don’t know, Harvey, I really don’t. You just gotta fix your resume and grind interview prep. Then you can be with me in Offer Housing, which is gonna be so great.”
“Dude, no.” Harvey surprised himself by how passionate he sounded. “Don’t you ever think about how weird life is? Can’t we spend a day — no, even a meal — without talking about LinkedIn? Mudd, don’t you want a life? I just want to play piano and beach volleyball and join, like, Muddraker or something.”
Mudd only looked more confused. “Harvey, people only ‘have lives’ in movies. Movies aren’t real life. Muddraker became LeetCoder a long time ago.” He looked at Harvey questioningly. “And what’s wrong with LinkedIn?”
Harvey took a few deep breaths to calm himself down. “Nothing,” he murmured, turning away. “Nothing’s wrong with LinkedIn.”