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Getting hit by a bus

Why do managers always say something like "In case you get hit by a bus, I want to make sure you and Fred are inter-changeable" or "Make sure you write comments, I never know when you might get hit by a bus."
I'm just wondering how the tradition got started. Why can't they ever say "in case you get trampled by a buffalo" or "what if you fall asleep reading a Unix book in the bathtub and drown." I would just like to hear something different for a change.

The Real PC
Monday, June 07, 2004

In America (perhaps because of the lack of public transport) it's called the "truck number": for example http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?TruckNumberComposite

Christopher Wells
Monday, June 07, 2004


Nah, I'm here in the US and have heard the "getting hit by a bus" numerous times and ahve even used it a few times.

One of my less polished supervisors once said "in case you have an aneurism while you're on the toilet."


I know I mispelled it.  Oh well.

KC
Monday, June 07, 2004

Probably because we live in an overly letigious society and have to resort to a limited set of expressions that nobody could possibly interpret as non-PC.  Just about anyone could get hit by a bus, but if you were to say "in case you get trampled by a herd of buffalo" to someone of native American Indian heritage, you might get in trouble :)

Joe
Monday, June 07, 2004

PS -- I always love when managers say things like "In case you get hit by a bus, I want to make sure you and Fred are inter-changeable."

I find it really boosts morale by sending a message to the employee that they are highly valued and appreciated, don't you? =)

Joe
Monday, June 07, 2004

OUrs is "get run over by the Frito truck.  Frito Lay has a building next to ours.

obvious
Monday, June 07, 2004

The funny thing is that they think that telling somebody to write lots of comments is enough.  They probably never even read them!


Monday, June 07, 2004

I have also heard "hit by a beer truck". Lately, I have also heard "in case you win the lottery".

John
Monday, June 07, 2004

You spelled 'bus' fine.

I imagine that the term became current because there were so many english developers in the US in the 80's and 90's.

Simon Lucy
Monday, June 07, 2004

If anyone made demands of me based on "getting hit by a bus," I would ask them to put my long term entitlements in a trust fund "in case they turn out to be embezzlers."


Monday, June 07, 2004

Personally I think it's a good thing. Like the plague I try to avoid anything that is repetitious. If it seems like I'll be asked to do something again I write a script and I put on my wiki how to use it so either I can do the same thing in 2 minute or someone else can do it instead. 

I don't write comments in code for other people, I do it as much for myself.  I'm getting better at writing what I intend to do and I always try and link a change in code to a change request or bug ... all done for me as well as for anyone else.

About reading your comments. I had some tell me to take my profanity out of my comments and cease use of it in the future. Hey ... they read my comments.  However, I still try to leave some color in my comments.

I don't know the origin of the bus but now I've got some good alternatives.

me
Monday, June 07, 2004

Dudes, lighten up - the "getting hit by a bus" is simply verbal shorthand to communicate the idea that for whatever reason your talents are no longer available to the company.

In fact, though it seems odd, it's also polite - getting hit by a bus is an involuntary action of fate. What's more likely is that you leave the company, but suggesting that would cast aspersions on your loyalty (founded or unfounded).

It's in a company's best interests to ensure they can survive the loss of an employee with minimal disruption. A manager who asks that is forward-looking; if your management *doesn't* care about the bus factor of a project, be worried.

Philo

Philo
Monday, June 07, 2004

Ours is "in case you have a heart-attack next door."

The building we work in is 5 feet away from a strip bar.

Sorry, "ballet theatre".

Edward
Monday, June 07, 2004

Why do managers always say something like "In case you get hit by a bus, I want to make sure you and Fred are inter-changeable"

I'm OK with the idea, but I'd prefer that we interchange our roles just before the bus shows up.

Cognitive Dissonance
Monday, June 07, 2004

Forget the bus; My former boss (finally on my own starting today) thought developers were interchangeable <period>.  Made for loads of fun as the dev lead in the (very minority) C# / binary shop of a predominently Oracle / Forms application.

Brad
Monday, June 07, 2004

It can be considered forward-looking, but it's also pretty Dilbert-esque. 

Most of the time, code should be pretty self-explanatory when you're down at the function level...yet some people seem to think adding "// this method retrieves a list of products in a given category" to a method called "GetProductsByCategory" is really necessary.

Of far more value to someone new to a project would be the formal, written, detailed project spec including descriptions of the various parts of the system and how they interact.  And yet for almost every project I've worked on, I've had PM's who don't write project specs, but still ask whether I'm commenting my code...

Joe
Monday, June 07, 2004

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this topic.  No, I don't know why the bus seems to be the favorite vehicle of unexpected demise.  In my experience it was the president of the small company I worked for vs. a truck.  Fortunately, he had done a good job of distributing a lot of his responsibilities and the company keep on running.

>>>"in case you have an aneurism while you're on the toilet."<<<

If you ride an ambulance long enough you'll see all sorts of things.  Not that I knew that it was a burst aneurysm.

>>>the "getting hit by a bus" is simply verbal shorthand to communicate the idea that for whatever reason your talents are no longer available to the company. <<<

Yep, but things like that do happen.

mackinac
Monday, June 07, 2004

I got the "in case you get hit by a truck" just today in a meeting.  Beats me.

Joe: Your absolutly god darn right!  I'm sick of people saying my methods need to be commented that have 1 select in them and return a DataSet or a UserObject or whatever.  Comments can't teach someone how to code, so if they can't understand legible, well formatted code in the first place, a couple //this does isn't going to help at all.

vince
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

"In case you get trampled by a herd of Wildebeest sweeping majestically across the office floor" would be more picturesque.


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I believe that "getting hit by a bus" may be a reference to the rather sad fate of the composer César Franck, who was, in fact, hit by a bus.  Although he did not die immediately, he did die eventually from causes thought to have been brought on by having been hit by a bus.

I can just imagine (swirly, harp kind of music, here) before the said accident, César's boss confronting him one day in his cubicle, 'César, you've got to comment your compositions more.  What happens if you get hit by a bus? (I bet that manager had some kind of twinges of conscience after César, did, in fact, get hit by a bus).  Fred here could not possibly finish off this movement when the only comment you've given is, "poco piu mosso"!  And here's 10 pages of music and the only comment you've made is, "Andante con moto"! (that comment may by César's hint that he had a vague premonition of his eventual fate).'

If you are not familiar with Franck's Symphony No. 1 in D minor, you would not be wasting your time to have a listen.  It is the only symphony he wrote, and, after you hear it, you will realise that, whilst other, supposedly "greater", composers messed around with 9 or 40 or 104 symphonies, César only needed to produce the one to say just what needed saying in the way it needed to be said.  Merely reading the title should tell you that César was going to get right down to business: other composers fritter away their time with C majors and A minors, whereas César began with THE key - D minor.  We are lucky he finished it before the bus thing because Fred, here, could not have picked it up and done justice to it.

Franck-o-phile
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Gaudí was run over by a tram. But they still on the way to finishing the Sagrada Familia from his drawings.

Don't ask me many software projects make me thing of the Sagrada Familia.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I think the next time a manager says to me "just in case you get hit by a bus..." I'm going to reply with "not if I push you first" :)

Joe
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Appropriate, considering his untimely demise, that the poor chap wrote in the saddest of all keys.

Nigel
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I think the phrase came about a few generations back.  Mother's would say to their children "make sure you're wearing clean underwear in case you get hit by a bus!" 

Steve H
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Actually Cesar Franck died of pleurisy at age 68. Luckily his compositions were documented so well that modern orchestras can reproduce them faithfully.

Michael Eisenberg
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

"...in case you get hit by a bus."

My response: "Okay, sure.  I suppose it's only fair though that I ask for the rest of the year's paychecks up front, just in case you get hit by a bus."

Should be working
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I have heard that too, hehe

Berlin Brown
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Can you imagine the look on your manager's face if you were to suggest that *he/she* were interchangeable? :)  "But, I'm management!"

Joe
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

"Many software projects make me think of the Sagrada Familia" has to be the quote of the day.  At least for those of us who took survey of modern architecture in college.

On-topic, I've worked for various small companies -- you have to get used to pulling things off with whatever resources you have at the time, or soon enough you won't pull it off at all.  Whether you document mostly in the world (by writing stuff down) or mostly in the head (by still having the two guys who designed the thing around a year later --  or at least one of them and a couple other people who sat in on a review)....if all that information's gone one day (hit by a truck, or a level-5 hurricane hits you and your offsite backup), you're screwed.  That concern should always be there.  I'm not saying it always is there for the right reasons, but that the set of companies I respect is a (small) subset of those concerned about truck factor.

Mikayla
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Could be worse.  Jean-Baptiste Lully died of stabbing his own foot with his conducting staff.  Alban Berg died of an insect bite.  Getting run down by a bus seems an almost respectable way to go, in comparison.

("Al, we need you to comment your code in case you get bitten by a mosquito over the weekend.")

J.B.
Tuesday, June 08, 2004

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