What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. RFID. Rolling our RFID at access points was supposed to make getting to work faster and easier while reducing the manpower required to make sure everyone showing up is actually supposed to be there. Over the last two weeks of the roll out period, seven of ten attempts to use the fancy new “no touch” pass system failed to function properly. It didn’t work and ended up being about two times slower than it would have been if I’d have used the regular access lanes. EZ Pass makes it work on the interstate at 70 miles an hour for anyone with a transponder from a dozen different states, but we can’t seem to figure it out in a limited deployment under controled circumstances at five miles per hour. To quote General Beringer in War Games, “After very careful consideration, sir, I’ve come to the conclusion that your new defense system sucks.”

2. Human feelings. Its been a year since I made the decision that any further treatment for Winston was really just me staving off the inevitable while making him suffer for my own benefit. I’m just now getting to a point where I can look at pictures or the occasional video of him without becoming a blubbering mess. Feel free to ignore me if my eyes still happen to get a bit misty from time to time. Sigh. Human emotions are dumb and I’d like to have mine removed, please.

3. Finding “no.” I am a professional bureaucrat. Over the better part of two decades I have learned many useful tips and tricks. One of them, most assuredly, is how to use process and procedure to slow progress on an ill advised adventure to a bare crawl. Believe me when I say that I know how to run out the clock with the best of them. Sometimes, though, a project is going to take wing no matter how ill advised or badly developed the concept. It’s such a high priority to someone that it’s going to happen. Once a special someone is committed on that course of action, what I need the master bureaucrats to do is fall their asses in line and manufacture ways to find yes instead of laying down every possible hurdle. I see what you’re doing. I know those tricks, So please, get the fuck out of here with that douchbaggery just this one time.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. A crowded room. There’s something (well, maybe everything) about the roar of a crowded room. It’s truly the sound I hate most in the world. So many people. So needy. So many questions. All overlapping, running together, and becoming indistinguishable from all the constituent sounds, as every voice gets louder in a failed attempt to project itself above the others. Just listening to it consumes every bit of energy I can muster. Truly hell is just a room full of other people.

2. Own it. One of the marks of a decent human being, in my opinion, has always been their willingness to accept responsibility for their decisions and actions. A decent person owns it, even when they’ve cocked up. I can’t list the number of times this week, “Yep, I fucked that up” has come flying out of my mouth. I might not do it with a song In my heart, but the one promise I can make is that I’ll stand the hell up and be counted for the bad as well as the good. If only showing that kind of personal courage was part of some kind of organizational system of basic values. You can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes.

3. Slobs. You are grown ass adults representing some of the largest corporations in the world. Stuffing a banana peel beneath your seat for someone else to deal with, much like an ill-behaved toddler, really should be beneath your dignity. Even if it’s not beneath your dignity you should damned well be old enough to know better. Even if neither one of those is the case, I’m more than happy to disabuse you of the notion that you’re in any way special and deserving of delicate treatment. You’re just a douchebag. Hopefully I’ll see you doing it tomorrow so I can tell you to your face.

Today I am that douchebag…

I’ve spent a not insignificant part of my career railing against people who have meetings warning-stay-away-emitting-douchebag-2just to have meetings or the ones that could have been just an email. I run a standing Tuesday morning meeting. It’s been on the books for longer than I car to remember. Usually it lasts about 45 minutes, we hit the highlights of what changes took place in the last week, and we go our separate ways. I try very hard to never miss a chance to cancel it when there are so few changes from week to week that they can be easily pushed out as an email.

I fucked up today. I had a chance to cancel a meeting and I didn’t. Honestly, I basically forgot about it even being on the schedule until 30 minutes before it was supposed to start… and that’s only because Outlook stood up and told me I needed to dial in to the conference number. Because I spend my life online calling other people out, it’s only fair that I make this full and complete confessions of my sins.

Today I was the douchebag that held a meeting that could have easily been an email. I’m embarrassed and ashamed and have brought grave dishonor upon myself and my ancestors.

A trip to Walmart (or Barbarians at the gates)…

When it comes to grocery shopping in southern Cecil County, Walmart represents the least objectionable of three craptastic choices. Right off the bat that should tell you everything you need to know about the grocery situation here in the northeastern corner of Maryland. I would seriously consider selling a kidney if someone would build a Giant, a Safeway, or a Kroger somewhere closer than the current 90 minute round trip drive to get to any one of those options.

Since it’s the lesser of the local evils, that’s were I end up most weekends. I was there yesterday and here are my studied observations on the experience:

walmart1. There are approximately 237 billion parking spots surrounding Walmart, yet nine times out of ten I end up pulling down the lane behind someone who will sit and wait for the family of six to load their two carts of groceries, buckle the kids into their seats, adjust their mirrors, turn on their GPS and select the “home” option, back halfway out of the spot, stop for no apparent reason for 30 seconds, back the rest of the way out into the lane, spend 20 seconds trying to shift into drive, stall out, restart the car, and then drift away at approximately .175 miles per hour. All of this might even be acceptable if it were midnight on the day after Thanksgiving, but it’s 11AM on a Friday. There are acres of open spots as far as the eye can see, but the douchtard in front of me wants this exact spot for some reason. Well, congratulations. You got it. You saved yourself at least 15 extra steps you’d have had to take from one of the already available spots. This trip is not going well and I haven’t even gotten out of the truck yet.

2. There are three carts inside the door. One filled with some combination of leaves, trash, and possibly a diaper, one that has apparently hosted a seagull convention, and the third and final option… That one apparently doesn’t have any bearings in one of its wheels, so I get to spend the next 40 minutes wiping bird shit off my hands or listening to THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE, THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE, THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE, THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE every time I take a step. I don’t know if there’s a hell or not, but If there is, I’m absolutely convinced the background noise is THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE.

3. Walked by the ammunition case. No ammo. Or more specifically no ammo for guns that anyone actually owns or uses on a regular basis. Can’t blame Walmart for that one, really. It’s just another disappointing part of this little voyage of the damned.

4. Milk, eggs, bread… Even Walmart cant screw up the staples too badly. Just when I thought things might be turning a corner a three year old girl came charging out of nowhere and flung herself at my cart. Looking up to see what she probably expected to be the face her theoretically loving parent, what she got was a surly look from an unknown middle aged guy with a goatee. Clearly this was not what she was anticipating as the result was a yelp that I can only equate with what happens when you step on a dog’s paw and the child attempting to sprint away and running directly into a bottled water display set up in the middle of the aisle. It seems that with enough momentum, one can really bounce off the side of a few pallets of bottled water. Who knew, right? The last thing I saw was her theoretically loving parent showing up from the next aisle over and clearly wondering why her little darling was lying flat out on Walmart’s floor.

4. I wanted to make a roast on Sunday. Roast beef was a regular fixture at Sunday dinner at my grandmother’s house and about once a month I pull out the stops and make one with all the trimmings. I have found decent cuts of beef at Walmart from time to time, but they’re few and far between… as you might expect, this trip was not one of the exceptions to the rule. It looks like I’ll be partaking in the much more recent family tradition of Taco Sunday again this week.

5. I walked up to a checkout counter that had just cleared its last customer. Not waiting in line to checkout is practically unheard of here at my local Walmart and I thought maybe I was going to get a break here at the end of this test of my endurance. Of course it wasn’t. The cashier was apparently engrossed in her conversation with the last customer. After unloading my cart onto the belt, she was still engrossed. I pushed the cart forward so I was standing directly in front of her and she was still engrossed. I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t started adding my two cents to their conversation, she would probably still be engrossed. Look lady, I don’t need you to be happy to be there. I don’t even need you to be pleasant. All I need you to do is slide my crap across the little scanner thingy, take my money, and let me get on with the rest of my day. The sooner that happens the happier we can all be.

Basically, the only good thing I can ever really say about a trip to Walmart is that no one has yet set my truck on fire in the parking lot. That’s probably only a matter of time, though, because truly the barbarians are at the gates.

Today’s post is the latest installment of “By Request,” where the readers pick the topic and I rant about it.

Welcome douchbag…

We’re getting a visit from one of our regional managers. That’s not really unusual. It seems there’s always one of them wandering around the building for some reason or another. This visit is only special because the manager in question is pretty much a giant douchebag. That’s actually speculative on my part because the guy has never actually bothered to show up or call in for any of the regional managers meetings that have been scheduled in the six months he’s worked for us. So really I don’t know anything about him other than he doesn’t do meetings, or return phone calls, or think policy applies to him. Come to think of it, I’m pretty ok with standing firm on my assessment of douchebag.

The issue isn’t so much one of the guy being off the reservation most of the time as it is that no one in a position to do anything about it seems to a) know it or b) feel compelled to take action. That’s just a solitary example of why having actual leaders in leadership positions might actually be important. You’d think by now I’d have developed a better ability to manage my expectations. It’s probably best to just go back to my cube, keep my head down, and get the day over with with as little increase in my blood pressure as possible.

Do you think hanging up a “Welcome Douchebag” banner in front of the building would be considered somehow inappropriate?

Editorial Note: This is part of a continuing series of previously unattributed posts appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.