I got a call today from a number I didn’t recognize. Usually I (not so) cheerfully ignore those, but since I was working from home today, I accepted the call… at which point I started down the rabbit hole.
Them: Hi, Mr. Tharp. I’m Casey from Whatever-the-Hell-Company. I’d like to talk to you today about your prescription pain management program?
Me: Uhhh. My what now?
Them: I’m Casey from Whatever-the-Hell-Company and I’d like to talk to you today about your prescription pain management program?
Me: Yeah, I don’t have one of those.
Them: Well, Mr. Tharp, I’d like to talk to you about…”
Me: *Ends call and wishes hanging up a cell phone felt any bit as good as slamming down the receiver of an old fashioned rotary telephone*
Now this was a live person who I’m assuming was working off a script based on my three days as an inbound tele-marketing center employee. Cold calls are fine and all and since she had a pleasant voice and didn’t immediately try to sell me on Amway I was trying to be cordial… but when I’ve told you for the second time that whatever information you have is incorrect, it’s best not to keep telling me that I do, in fact, have a prescription pain management program. Frankly I feel like that’s something I’d know about.
I’ll be reinstating my policy of letting all unknown numbers ring through to voicemail immediately. I should have known better.
1. Forgetting Tuesday. So as it turns out, when I have more than two days off I lose all sense of time and do things like completely forget to write a blog post in the middle of the week. Since the chances of finding too many four-day weekends in the course of a year is slim to none, I’m not worried that this will become a regular occurrence… but really any deviation from the normal schedule is enough to make me just a little bit twitchy, especially when it’s something as built into the daily schedule as writing. Maybe we are all entitled to an occasional misfire, but I like to think my inner sense of consistency is stronger than that. Apparently it is not.
2. Luddites. I work from home one day a week. To make that possible I rely on a lot of decades-old technology such as email and the telephone to stay connected to the home office. When I discover that my normal day for working at home is going to be shanghaied because I’m “needed” at the office, that usually translates into having to have someone available to flip the slides. That’s fine. Whatever. But when you’re going to want to do things like that could you please not let me find out that the person we’re staging this meeting for will be talking to us from his car on the way to some other meeting while I drag myself in to the office to huddle around a single land line like a congress of latter-day Luddites. If only there were a fancy device that let people hear voice communication from more than once location simultaneously instead of trying to pretend we exist in a universe where the best solution is two tin cans and a bit of string.
3. The oblivious. There are any number of awkward things that can happen in the modern office. Of them, the one that annoys me the most is probably the people who have no natural sense of when a conversation has hit it’s logical conclusion. They just continue to stand there looking at you as if you’re supposed to stop the world and entertain them for whatever duration their attention span can muster. Look, even when I’m not pressed for time, I don’t want to spend any significant part of the day in idle chatter. I’m just not that social. If you’re that desperate for social interaction, hit me up on instant messenger like a normal human being. I can work with that. But please, for the love of all the gods, don’t just stand there with your arms draped over my cube wall hoping that I’m suddenly going to get chatty. And yet I’d be the asshole if I just looked directly at someone and told them to go the fuck away.
1. Fuzzy thinking. I whore my brain out an hour at a a time. Clear thinking and the ability to assimilate large amounts of information into a coherent structure are sort of the baseline level expectation. I think one of the biggest reasons I’ll never be a “drug person” is how much harder it is to take on and process information even when just under the influence of fairly innocuous over the counter medications. Being stoned is fun an all, but I’ll be happy to trade it away for not having to will every single synapse to fire individually in order to get through a complete thought.
2. Taking ten minutes to tell a two minute story. If you have something to say, or if you think you have something to say, go ahead and get to the damned point. It’s bad enough that you’re calling me on the telephone, but when you don’t keep it to an absolute minimum amount of time required I’ve already tuned you out around the two minute mark.
3. A Day Without Immigrants. I don’t know anyone who is downplaying the roll immigrants had and continue to have on this country. I don’t know anyone who is arguing in favor of slamming shut the doors to American citizenship forever. What I do know, though, is the Day Without Immigrants protest refuses to make a differentiation between legal immigration and those who have arrived and/or stay in this country illegally. You can flail your arms and shout until you’re purple in the face and you will simply never convince me that I have a moral responsibility to provide for the care and feeding of those here outside the law beyond what is necessary to adjudicate their case and return them forthwith to their country of origin (or next convenient parallel dimension). So you can close all the big city restaurants you want for as long as you want, but I’m going to continue to insist that 1) legal immigration is a net positive overall and 2) illegal immigration should be stopped.
A wise old Prussian told us that “Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult.” Of course every strategist’s favorite general was talking about war, but I’ve found that in application it is a truism in nearly every field of endeavor. I mention it because that’s precisely the kind of week it has been so far. At first blush everything has looked so bloody easy, but has turned out to be harder to get done than anyone could ever imagine.
For the last two months the powers at echelons higher than reality have promised that during the most current reorganization, construction, and office move, everyone would be keeping their old phone numbers. It was the one thing that was supposed to be seamless and allow the other changes to happen without disruption to anyone outside who was unaware of the internal organizational churn. This afternoon, moving those numbers was proclaimed too hard to do and instructions came down from Olympus to turn off all the call forwarding and “fall in” on the phone number already associated with our new desks. That too should have been easy enough, except for the part where some numbers had already been moved – which allows the old “ghost” numbers to exist and continue forwarding calls indefinitely.
The only solution was asking the help desk to open a trouble ticket to have it corrected centrally. Anyone who has ever talked to the help desk knows with that one call, we’ve thrown simple or easy directly out the window. Then of course there’s the “new” number we’ve been assigned, which hasn’t actually been assigned to us… and requires a second call to the helpdesk so they can have someone open a new voicemail box and assign our name to the number.
That’s only supposed to take three work days. Honestly. Three days is the estimate. It takes AT&T about 3 minutes to do it when I upgrade cell phones, but it takes the single largest employer in the world three damned days. It appears there’s nothing about this week that isn’t going to be absolutely exhausting, especially the simple things… because they’re the very hardest things to do.
1. Getting moist. It finally feels like I have a good handle on the major issues that led to the basement here at Fortress Jeff regularly taking on water both over and through the side. After a good day and night of hard rain those problems may not be completely resolved, but have diminished to the point where I’m not obsessing and losing sleep over them. Now that I’ve got the water directed away from the path of least resistance, of course, it has wasted no time seeking out the path of next least resistance. In this case that path seems to be the joint between the poured concrete floor and the cinder block basement walls. In a few spots it’s not exactly a puddle, but it’s definitely darkening due to the presence of water. It’s getting moist. As much as some of you hate that word, I hate the actual issue that much and more. I get the distinct impression that the basement is going to be the ongoing bane of my existence for the duration of our stay.
2. Celebrity opinion. Celebrities are entertaining, almost by definition. In some cases they’re even pleasant to look at. However, being eye candy doesn’t qualify one to have an opinion any more informed than the rest of us. That’s why I’m always vaguely perplexed when anyone points to the celebrity-of-the-day and makes life decisions based on their opinion. I look to my celebrities for their entertainment value. That’s their skill set. Some of them are whip smart of course, but that’s not generally my first consideration when deciding to follow them on Twitter.
3. Voicemail. Looking at my phone I currently have 17 voice mail messages that I haven’t listened to. I don’t intend to listen to them. I know why those callers called and I responded with the appropriate information in a timely manner. Why in 2016 do people insist on leaving voicemail? I see your number. I’ll call you back as soon as I’m free, willing, and able to do so… but you could have saved us all a lot of time if you had just sent me a text or email in the first place. Those I get to right away.
“You’re going to be able to keep you current phone number,” might just prove to be as much of a joke as “You’re going to be able to keep your doctor.” After seven days of not having a phone at work, I now possess the capability to have voice conversations with people who are too far away for a good strong yell to be effective. That’s a plus. I didn’t realize how many times a day I used the damned thing until I suddenly didn’t have it. That’s the good news.
The bad news, because there’s always bad news, is that the number people have to dial to reach me is not the old number that “I get to keep.” That, it seems, is a “phase two” of this particular project. Given the sloth-like speed at which phase one has been carried out, I expect to still be waiting for my actual phone line to be assigned sometime when I get back from my Christmas vacation.
In the meantime, the telecommunications gurus have come up with a work around by which apparently every telephone in the universe is forwarded to a different number, somehow magic happens, and calls to our original number end up ringing through at our new location. It’s safe to say that I lack faith in this particular arrangement to be anything more than one of Uncle’s standard cluster fucks. Clausewitz tells us that in war even the simplest things are hard to do. It’s no less true in peacetime as it turns out.
I should have long ago given up on the idea that anything might just work as advertised, but God it would be nice to be pleasantly surprised just this once.
I feel like I should start off by saying there are a number of relatively decent things about my current employment situation. I’m paid reasonably well, I’ve got a fighting shot at retiring instead of dropping dead in my traces, and I don’t have to sling 50 pound bags of anything from one end of a warehouse to another. It’s important to acknowledge that, I suppose, before I start ranting and raving about whatever utter asshattery takes over any given day.
As a sat at the office for a second day with no working telephone and people getting increasingly irate that I was “avoiding them,” though, the perks felt largely insufficient. Look, I loathe talking on the telephone, but in an environment where “communication” is right there in the name of the organization, basic telephone service a pretty damned significant tool. The only thing worse than having one on your desk is not having one. It’s just one of those petty, but constant sources of irritation that makes the day to day minutia of getting anything done exponentially more difficult.
I don’t have the energy to get started tonight on the dull hum of two massive televisions spewing news in every direction or the dozen shouted conversations from one end of the room to the other or the score of other distractors that are apparently going to be a fact of life for the foreseeable future. But, the wise leaders tell us, this change will make us better. While I won’t entirely rule that out of the realm of the possible, thus far it hasn’t proven to be anything more than an enormous pain in the ass.