Friday, March 18, 2005

Reasons I Stay at My Job, Even Though It's...You Know, Work.

10.The paycheck. It's not huge, but it's enough to pay rent and bills and go to a movie or play just about whenever I want. In my definition, the benefits also include paid vacation, health/dental benefits, 401k plan, etc.

9. Muffins and bagels on Fridays. Need I say more?

8. High speed internet access. In reality, I have this at home too, but this way I get paid for surfing the web and emailing my friends and updating my blog!

7. When people use ironic phrases unironically, it makes me laugh.

I was meeting with a salemsan from a prospective vendor the other day, who said, "We're called the 'Switzerland' of this type of software since our product interacts so well with other similar products. Well, we don't call ourselves 'Switzerland,' but our clients do."

But...didn't you yourself .... Switzerland?

6. Access to the dumbest-person-in-the-world's calendar I've referred to this before here, but some of the most recent entries include: wondering why she has to meet two times a week with the vice president of her division for an hour each. TWO TIMES A WEEK. Did I mention that? And apparently they always use the full hour. We have fun speculating about what they could be talking about, and how did she really get her job....? Hmmmm.

She also put on her calendar a meet-and-greet with the new CFO of our company. Following is an email exchange between Kathy and me about who that was and why she had it on her calendar. It was wedged between all her other meet-n-greet appointments, so it looked like it might have just been another run of the mill meeting.

Kathy: Can you give me a plausible explanation as to why Karen would be meeting with this guy later this week?!?

Laura: They've scheduled a meet/greet on Thursday -- my guess it's more of an open house where you stroll by and meet the guy. Sadly (heh) I'm in an Access class that day.

Leave it to The Brainiac to make it look all important like she's actually meeting WITH him, as opposed to getting a gander AT him.

Kathy: Ohhhhhhh, THAT guy. Stupid stupid me. I didn't even recognize his name. Dang, I was going to go at that time too. Well, maybe I'll still go and openly snub her. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Remember those stupid "Date with Diane" breakfast things we had to go to at our last job? I remember when Karen was scheduled to go to one, and she called some user and said she couldn't make their meeting because she had a meeting with a vice president scheduled for the same time.

She really annoys me!

Laura: Only "annoys" you? I pretty much hate her, I think.

Kathy: She annoys me and I hate her. Sorry I didn't make that clearer!

Laura: (wickedly includes a picture of the annoying and hateful Karen) I rezent beeing called "annoyng". Cause I am fun and I rilly do know vice presdents and stuff.

Kathy: Lord have mercy I jumped when that image popped up. I'm still feeling a tad queasy.

Her resume is so full of b.s. that I'm surprised she hasn't listed VP as one of her past jobs!

Laura: Cathy,

I wood list VP as one of my pass jobs if I new how to spel it.

Kathy: karn,

shut up.

5. Having met wonderful people who challenge me and make me laugh (in a good way) as illustrated with Kathy, above. Speaking of which, she and I really had a fun time analysing Karen's resume when it just happened to fall into our hands. Good times. I'm still chuckling about the pack of lies contained in that gem.

4. Other stupid people. Or people who may otherwise be good at what they do but make mistakes that make me laugh. For example: I've been harassing our different IT people for close to a year to do something about their outdated NT servers since there is no longer any standard vendor maintenance available for them and the cost to be have vendor maintenance on an unsupported server is extremely high and getting higher.

So, I've been harassing these people to upgrade or move off their servers....NOW! One of them tried pushing back to say he didn't think it was reasonable for us to get charged that much, to which I replied, reasonableness (is that a made up word?) doesn't really play into this right now. It is what it is, and if you want to be connected to the network, you have to pay the price.

I just received an email from him:

[My assistant] is putting together a project plan to move those applications to a different server by mid-June. Resources are being lined up. We will make it happen. We can get off of these servers by June 31st.

Oh, my goodness! I've been laughing and giggling ever since! I can't tell if he really means June 30, or if this is just his way of saying no way are they going to do this! I just sent him a note: "Not to be nitpicky or anything, but I hope you mean June 30th."

3. Since I'm still laughing about that other one, I can't really think of something for this slot.

2. Dang! And now I have to get back to work....

1. Reserved for something really great.

Friday, March 11, 2005

If Reality TV Were Real, I'd Want My (Stupid) Former Boss To Go On The Apprentice

Scene: The Boardroom. Seated at the table are DONALD (The Hair); GEORGE and CAROLYN, DONALD'S advisors; a group of employees who are loyal to the company (LAURA, RENEE, CHRISTINA, KAREN & KATHY) but are at their wits' end due to having to put up with the insufferable, annoying, smelly, self-righteous and very stupid JACKIE; and JACKIE.

Fade up from black

DONALD: Jackie, I cannot see one redeemable quality about you. You are the worst manager I've ever seen. How you ever managed to rise from lowly dock receiving clerk to over-paid, over-rated Director is astounding to me. You don't know how to lead a team, you have absolutely no business accumen, you are socially retarded with the most disgusting breath in the world! Your employees can't stand you. You prevent others from doing work, even after demanding that they do your work for you. Among those methods used to slow down employees, you consistently block network printers because you don't check the queues when your worthless color presentations are hogging all the memory. You think colored charts are the only way to run a business, but you have no understanding or concept of the systems you're asked to manage! Jackie, you leave me with no choice. You're fired.

*end fantasy dream sequence.

*extended footage sequence*

The Hair: [looks to CAROLYN and GEORGE for confirmation] Well, that was a tough decision.

GEORGE: [lifts a bushy eyebrow] Not really. It's been a long time coming.

CAROLYN: What took you so long? She should have been gone years ago before even being promoted to senior business systems analyst, let alone director! I can't believe she had the nerve to call herself a manager! What a worthless excuse for a project leader. She makes me ashamed to be categorized as a business woman with her. She's a disgrace to my gender. No, scratch that. She's a disgrace to the American white-collar work force. That wasn't a hard decision at all! Way to go, Mr. Trump.

*end extended footage*

*New extra scene*
Location: outside Boardroom by elevators. JACKIE is waiting for the down elevator. The "up" elevator arrives. CHRISTINA, KATHY, RENEE, KAREN and LAURA ignore it. They wait with JACKIE for the down elevator.

The down elevator finally arrives.

WIth an unspoken communication borne of years enduring persecution together, CHRISTINA, KATHY, RENEE, KAREN and LAURA shove JACKIE as one into the elevator. They throw their own suitcases at and on her, spit, and poke her eyes. Someone starts to throw a punch, but is pulled back by the others as the elevator doors begin to close.

They wave cheerily. As the elevator descends, faint strains of "Ding Dong, the Witch is FIRED" carry down the shaft, accompanying JACKIE on her lonely ride.

A taxi cab sporting a large add for this season's sponsor, "Hot Jobs" arrives. JACKIE is helped in by the doorman, seemingly in a trance.

In the cab, JACKIE blearily blinks.

Why, it looks like she's...been, sleeping? Is that possible? She was ASLEEP during the most important meeting of her life!

JACKIE: Wha? What happened?
*fade to black*

Monday, March 7, 2005

Third Base Coaches, Listening and Perspective

I had some time to kill on Saturday while waiting for a friend of mine, so I found a local community park where a Little League practice game was in session. The boys looked to be between 8 and 11 years old. The fathers/coaches, were of course, more competitive and demanding than the children themselves were; nevertheless, it was a friendly game. It was clear to see that many of the boys knew each other from school or other activities.

All of the sounds were just as familiar to me as if I was one of the players on the field. In fact, if I closed my eyes and listened, it could have just has easily been me on the field ready for the next ball, praying I didn't miss it when it was hit to me, or settling myself into my stance in the batter's box hoping to at least connect with the next pitch. The banter of the coaches to the boys, parents cheering and teammates encouraging each other -- all these sounds brought me back to my own days of playing softball in high school.

The most confusing part of the game for the boys seemed to be running the bases. As a bystander, it was easy to chuckle at some of their rookie mistakes and know that with time and practice, that part would come easier to them. I listened to what the coaches were telling the boys, and I wondered if it really made any sense to them. They are, after all, only young boys. Can they see through the inanities of things such as, "Focus!" "Don't hesitate!" "Listen to me!" "Watch the ball!" "Way to be there, Johnny!" to understand what the coaches were really trying to tell them? I guessed not.

About the time I had the thought, though, that the boys just needed more practice instead of useless phrases hollered at them, I remembered again what it was like to be a base runner. It can be confusing, which as a spectator, you wouldn't think it should be, but it is. It's easy to hesitate, not because you're dumb and don't see what's going on, but because you don't want to make any mistakes. You want to be sure that the ball has gone bast the outfielder before making a clean break for third base. You want the ball to go past the catcher before taking the full leap towards stealing second.

Nothing can make you doubt yourself more in baseball than being a base runner. Sure, running towards first after hitting is easy, plus you've got a coach right there telling you to "Run it out!" That part becomes instinctual in no time at all. And even running towards second is pretty easy. After all, you've still got the first base coach there to tell you when to tag up, when to hold up, and when to make a break for it.

But somewhere between first and second you hit no-man's land. "Should I slide? Where's the ball? Head first or feet first? Did the catcher throw it?" These and a thousand other thoughts go through your mind as your legs pump and you think about the timing to slide under the tag. Sure, the coaches are probably hollering either "Stay up!" or "SLIDE!!!!!" but you may not be able to hear them because you're farther away from them than you were before and there's a lot of other noises, both of the other team shouting and your own internal monologue.

So now you're on second base, adrenaline pumping, smiling a little because you were safe, and the stress starts all over again. Even though you've got coaches at either end 60 feet away, they're far enough away to really not be easily heard. Now is when you really feel like you're on your own. Now is when the self-doubt really settles in. I watched it happen with the boys on Saturday. Before they took off for third, either on an in-play ball or to steal third, there was always a hesitation about whether or not it was totally safe to go. And that hesitation would be just enough to make it not safe to go. The coaches would be yelling, "GO! GO!" and it didn't make any difference. By the time the boys decided to run, it was too late and the coach had to quickly say, "Go back!"

The boy would look a little abashed that he hadn't gone, always with a determined, "I'll do it next time" expression, while the coach invariably yelled, "Johnny! Don't hesitate! You've got to just GO!" And the boy would nod obediently, but just underneath the determined look was also a little bit of fear.

As I was remembering those feelings of being a base runner and feeling all alone and not knowing what to do next, I started thinking about how much like life that is. It's easy to make it to a certain half-way destination with a little bit of encouragement. But once you get there, it's just as easy to wonder how you got there and what should you do next. It seems like you're on your own with no one to offer encouragement and only the derisive voices of the other team hoping that you fail -- that they can get you out next time.

It's at that time of feeling hesitant and doubtful that you need to listen to your third base coach. He doesn't have the same stresses you do of needing to concentrate all your energy on getting the perfect jump and running as fast as you can with excellent timing. He can just survey the playing field, where the ball is being played, and the opposing team all at the same time and is in a perfect position to tell you what to do next and when to do it.

You have two jobs at this point. The first one is to know how to tune out the other voices and concentrate just on that one. That means you need to have been at practice to know what the coach sounds like.

Your second responsibility is to trust what the coach tells you to say, even if you don't believe you're capable of what he's telling you to do right then. If he tells you to run, you run like the dickens. And if he tells you to slide, you hit the ground as low as you can go. And if he tells you to keep going, you round the corner with as much speed and as little space as possible, put your head down, pump your arms, and run for home.

Isn't that just like life? You have to know which voice is the right one to listen to and you have to trust it even if you don't trust yourself. The right voice will never tell you to do something you shouldn't.

Got your cleats on? Get ready to run, then, 'cause the third base coach wants you to get home safely.