Wednesday, 13 August 2008

An Empty Desk

Day One – and this week I’m determined to make the Post Room do their own job for a change. 100% determined.

So I’m slightly dismayed when, within half an hour, I get a call from reception about a package that’s been delivered to an unused section of the building (the project closed down about 6 months ago) which might be for our department. Only there’s no name on the package.

So I go down and speak to the receptionist and we open the box – sure enough it’s full of computer parts which are probably destined for the Engineer who sits on the far side of my office. So I run back upstairs and ask him if he is expecting said parts. In fact, no, he isn’t – because he actually packaged the parts himself and was under the impression that they had been sent out. So somehow our post room had managed to sign out a package to the courier and deliver it all of 30 metres across the corridor. Genius.

Day Two – and the Nice But Slightly Dim Spanish Lady (NBSD:SL) who comes around with the post trundles her trolley towards me: wearing a slightly worried expression. She has several varieties of worried expression which range all the way from Mild Paranoia to The Building May Be On Fire. Today she is wearing Number 3 expression – the “Did I remember to put my trousers on?” look.

On this particular day she is trying to palm off several bunches of payslips – only one of which actually has my name on it. I point this out to her and she counters, “But it’s got your department on it”. I’m far too polite to point out that the only reason it has our department on it is because someone, probably her or her boss, has written our department name on in blue biro, which has been circled twice just to make sure I don’t miss the point. Sure enough when I open it after she is gone I find that the package is not for me – so I wonder over to HR/Admin and ask them to ensure that it gets to the right people.

Day Three – NBSD:SL has two Letters With Random Names on today, as well as three that I recognise as having moved to other projects and can be re-addressed. One of the random names appears to be for our client, who have a small office on the ground floor – so I underline the department and put it back in the post. The second Random Name becomes the subject of our near-daily conversation which goes:
NBSD:SL “This person is on my list as your department”
ME: “Well, I’ve been here 12 months now and I’ve never heard of them”
NBSD:SL “But it says your department on the envelope”
(yes, but only because you’ve written it on I think) “Tell you what” I respond, “why don’t I check on the global email address?”

For those of you who don’t work for a company with lots of different addresses, we have a “global” email finder – into which you can type the name of anyone working for the company and it will find them and display details of where they work. For some reason, still a mystery to myself, the Post Room seem unable to use this tool. Sure enough I locate the person’s name and see that they are now based elsewhere
ME: “Look, they’re based in Edinburgh now”
NBSD:SL: “Would you be able to re-address it then?”

Fine, whatever…

Day Four – and NBSD:SL has been replaced by Cornet Playing Lady. At least I think it’s a Cornet – I forget. She’s in a Brass Band at any rate and, at the drop of a hat, will reveal all sorts of details about how the theme to Raiders Of The Lost Ark is bloody difficult to play. My only recent experience of a Brass Band involved the local Police band: who only seem to know “One Moment In Time” by Whitney Huston and play it repeatedly at local functions, but she doesn’t seem too impressed when I tell her this. So anyway, the letter for our client is back, with my underlining scribbled out and my department written on in blue biro – circled three times.

As the letter is a certificate and also says “Customer Services” I walk over to HR/Admin and ask them to check their staff lists just to ensure that the person on the address is who I think they are. Turns out that the Post Room tried to deliver to HR/Admin first and it was them that have been writing my department on when they can’t be bothered to investigate something themselves. So, knowing that the only alternative is to see this same letter in my in-tray tomorrow morning, I trundle down to our security room, who have a full list of staff, and ask the long suffering guards to check. Turns out I was right after all and the certificate is safely delivered.

And as I walk slightly wearily back to my desk I pause to ask myself, yet again, why it is always me that takes responsibility for making sure a job is done correctly when it is so much less effort just to do a job properly and get it right first time - and I think about what my friend says about work. He says that he gets sick of people coming up to him and remarking on his empty desk, saying “You must be quiet”

In fact – the truth is that any idiot can have a full desk. A full desk takes no effort whatsoever. It’s having an empty desk that takes work.


Michael said...

Ah, this is good. I can totally picture your work place now. This could surely be published someplace. Not sure where, but the appeal would be broad.

I laughed at "She has several varieties of worried expression which range all the way from Mild Paranoia to The Building May Be On Fire. Today she is wearing Number 3 expression – the “Did I remember to put my trousers on?” look."


The Cornet Playing Lady anecdote cracked me up, like a shaggy dog story without a punchline (which is the punchline). Very subtle and if I can generalize, very "British."

What's a blue biro? I googled, but only found out that it's a Hungarian surname.



Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Michael - glad you laughed in the right places. Sadly - everything detailed is 100% true, aside from the timescale.

A biro? Blimey thought that was a universal phrase - you know those disposable pens that have a tiny roller-ball pen that lets the ink out? Well they take their name from a French chap called Biro who invented them. We usually use blue or black ink - as red signals danger (true management speak)

Anne-Marie said...

Um, you retain your sanity in this situation ... how?

Are you still job hunting?

I too laughed at the part about the "several varieties of worried expression..."

Nice piece of writing.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

anne-marie - sometimes it's quite hard, because everytime i think they've reached the peak of Mount Stupidity they climb a bit higher. The thing that helps me most is just to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

I am SO looking for another job...

Lydia said...

I would be SO looking for another job too if I were you. Since I'm not you and I am me I am so very grateful that I am the me now out of the office for good instead of the me then shaking my head, rubbing my eyes, silently screaming inside. That me didn't have your gift for humor in the face of absurdity. This me has since totally recovered said humor, and today that was because of you.

Anonymous said...

That's a good reversal of symbolism about the full/empty desk.

I'm also looking for another job, as my current one is also full of lazy idiots, and customers who ask me where the bathroom is whilst standing next to a gaping hole in the wall with toilet in plain view.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

lydia - thanks for the comments. You should hear about some of my PREVIOUS jobs! (maybe one day i will recount the story of "Ears", when i have suitably recovered from the experience)

Samurai - good luck with the job hunt, you deserve better...though be warned; my experience to date suggests that all jobs are basically awful. Anyone who knows better - please shine me a ray of hope!

Honour said...

Samurai and DFTP - here's hope! My job isn't too bad. But I'm a consultant now, and my real "work" lasts only four months or so, and then I get to move onto something new. So - I suppose that no matter how bad my new assignment may be, I can do anything for four months!

DFTP - great piece of writing. Humorous and vivid ... like Michael said, I think it could be published someplace. I used to have that problem too; anytime someone called reception and they didn't know where to send them; somehow the call would end up in my voicemail. An old friend of mine gave me some wise advice when I started complaining of overworking, though. She said, "you have to learn the value of saying - 'don't know, boss'" (or at least acting it out and not doing anything) - so that your head honcho starts taking responsibility for all these crazy bad infrastructure issues. Otherwise, they think things are working just dandy.