Thursday, October 30, 2008

Speaking of things things that are here, then just go away and sometimes (please, dear god) come back again...

First off, I have to admit that I am still cold and cranky and probably will be until at least April or so. I am probably allowing my bitterness over the premature end of fall to impact my extreme hostility towards Special K at the moment.

I am the big spender in the company. I rack up hundreds of thousands of charges without batting an eyelash--EXCEPT that the boss lady is a penny-pincher, and thus I scrutinze every invoice that crosses my desk, knowing that if I don't she'll call me out on it later. Raw material costs went up since you created an estimate for us 4 years ago? She doesn't care, she thinks that we should be invoiced exactly what you quoted in 2003. The cost of fuel has gone up and therefore affected shipping charges? Well, it just so happens that we don't acknowledge fuel surcharges here, so can you please delete that line item? It's retarded. But I am used to retarded around here.

So on Monday I was doing my oh-so-favorite task of reviewing and coding invoices to pass along to our accountant, including one with a couple of charges that were actually the responsibility of a partnering institution. So I carefully marked up one copy of the original invoice for accountant, telling her exactly what to pay, and exactly what amount of foreign currency to order a check for in order to settle the bill. The other copy of the invoice was to be submitted with our payment, so again, I carefully marked it up to show the subtraction of the contested charges.

Our accountant ordered a check in foreign currency, then carefully explained to Special K that when it arrived, she was to:

1) make a photocopy of the check for her records
2) give the check and the marked-up invoice to me

This shouldn't require explanation, we do it very frequently and have for years, but we know what we're dealing with here...

The check arrived when I was at lunch, and Special K dutifully photocopied the check, and left the original (AND a copy of the purchase order for which I have utterly no use) on my chair. But no coded invoice. I thought perhaps our Accountant had forgotten to give Special K the invoice, so I went up to her office and explained that I really needed that copy back to send with the check, since it was critical to understanding why we were submitting payment for less than the full amount of the invoice. Seh said that K had been instructed to return it to me, and sent me back to Special K, who first claimed to have given it to the Accountant, then claimed to have given it to me, then shrugged and said it had just mysteriously disappeared.

I have actually asked her to call the foreign currency check issuer to see if she might have somehow handed it off to their courier (which would not be surprising--although I would expect her to randomly hand off odd pieces of our mail with it). So far that has turned up nothing. I also requested that she go through the various "files" on her desk (not really files, per se, as they have absolutely no order other than being an assortment of colored folders into which she inserts papers in an entirely random fashion). I even told her to look through her trash, since I have seen her sitting in her chair for long periods over the past few days and randomly tossing papers into her bin--I am quite certain that she is probably tossing critical financial records, and holding on to old annual leave requests from 1996. But alas, no luck.

I guess it's time to give up and request another from the issuer of the invoice, but as we all know around here, the second I do, the one I have been seeking will probably mysteriously appear on my coworker's chair. Grr.

The Bcc field teaches S something about life and loss

I was at work late last night, along with D and Special K, and after a particularly arduous and annoyingly hectic afternoon, was waiting to smoke a much-needed cigarette with D out back. I went to get him and found him hovering with Special K over Her Machine-- she seeming very flustered. Seems that Boss Lady had asked her to send an email with a "Bcc," and the "Bcc" field was not just not there. It was late, so I can only imagine how long after work hours Special K was trying to figure out this conundrum. I restored the Bcc field for her, she asked me how I did it, and I showed her, slowly, all the while knowing this information would never be retained. In any case, I assured her that this just happens. The Bcc field can go AWOL. It happens to everyone, it's not a big deal, and it's not her fault. Then she started mumbling and rambling about how things are here and then they just go away and sometimes they come back again. And sometimes they don't. And it happens to her all the time. Things are here one day, and gone the next. And it's not anything she does and is beyond her control and understanding.

I found this pretty profound, poetic, and telling.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The heat is supposably working

In many offices, the office manager would be aware of things like "there's water dripping through the ceiling," "our security cameras don't seem to be working" and "damn, it's downright arctic in here since the heat won't come on." Not Special K. It took having Awesome Accountant coming in and mentioning "Special K, it's pretty cold in here, have you turned the heat on?" for her to say "My, but is IS cold" and scurry off to figure out whether the fact that it's been about 65 degrees may have something to do with our heating system.

Numerous phone calls and several days later, she finally managed to get "our" heating guy in yesterday. And yes, we request the same representative of the company each time because apparently if we don't, it's like "trying to reinvent the wheel" (this according to The Boss Lady, not Special K, as Special K hasn't figured out wheels yet). So "our" heating guy came in and (according to Special K) determined that--like last year--birds somehow destroyed it? Somehow this seems treatable, and like something you might think to monitor, or at least think of when the heat fails to turn on for the second year in a row. Instead I imagine her sitting outside watching flocks flying into our vents and saying "ooooh, birdies!" while clapping her hands.

So "our" heating guy returned with an assistant today. They fiddled around, and things seemed to be working upstairs, at least. However, this also happened to be a morning where we had a large shipment leaving the building, which necessitated leaving the exterior doors open for several hours. It's about 45 degrees outside, with 45 mph gusts. The end result? It's freezing. Inside. Like 57 degrees cold (ok, that isn't freezing but I am from a warm climate, deal with it). Not cool.

However, when I asked Special K about it this afternoon, long after the truck departed and the lack of heat was quite, quite clear, she announced that "supposably" they fixed everything. Oh really? Is this why it says it's 57 degrees downstairs? And my fingernails are purple? And despite the fact that I have gone scavaging for abandoned sweaters and odd articles of clothing to layer upon myself, I still cannot feel my extremities?

Then Special K admits that she wouldn't let them really test the downstairs heat control, so she didn't know for sure whether it was working. This is where I get really frustrated. For the past several months, I have had a temperature-sensitive consignment stored in our building. Thus I very, very clearly explained to Special K that the temperature MUST remain between 68-72 AT ALL TIMES. I made a post-it and stuck it to the thermostat, lest she forget. I was impressed that she seemed to be handling it well, even going so far as to leave a large, hastily scrawled note for our cleaning person to let her know not to adjust it.

But alas, Special K didn't QUITE grasp the whole memo. In her mind, the temperature could not go above 72. Somehow realizing that it must also stay ABOVE 68 degrees was entirely too much for her to take in. Thus she warned "our" heating guy not to touch my thermostat for the downstairs temperature control. I told her that I put it on 80 degrees and "ON" rather than auto, and no fan had come on. So she called the company and they announced that "our" guy couldn't come back until tomorrow. Then she came down to check for herself, standing in the adjacent warehouse and waving her little hands around in the cold air to see if maybe she'd catch a draft of warmth and be able to claim the heat was working. During this special little heat dance, I went upstairs and told The Boss Lady that it was freezing, I was miserable, the shipment I had been storing was made vulnerable to the TOO COLD temps that Special K couldn't seem to acknowledge. So I got permission to have Special K call the company and announce that this situation was dire, and called for extreme measures--we could have someone besides "our" guy return.

The phone rang a moment later, and Special K went scurrying past me and suddenly a great blast of warm air started surrounding my office. When I asked her what had happened, she explained that the assistant to "our" guy--the one who was fishing for dead birds in our building's vents--had turned off the downstairs "system" this morning. And despite the fact that the whole point of their service call had been to turn the heat on for us, he didn't think to flip the switch before leaving.

Part of me is so grateful for this newfound warmth that I want to hug Special K. The other part of me wants to slap her for spreading her stupidity to "our" heating guy's assistant. Seriously, in the spread of the retard virus, another one bites the dust.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Knock-knock. Who's there? Me. Knock-knock. Who's there? Me. Knock-knock...

I frequently use my designated lunch hour to get some exercise. We are lucky to have a access to a decent running trail here at Crazyland, so I like to get out and get some fresh air, and if I'm lucky, forget the screwy work load I'll be returning to. It's a bit cumbersome to take my key fob with me -- I'm clumsy, and I'm apt to lose it -- so for the past few months I have been ringing our buzzer and waiting for Special K to buzz me in. I can see how this might be an imposition for her. After all, she could be busy responding to dinner invitations (see previous post) or taking medication (diddo), so who am I to take time out of her busy schedule with such an arduous task? It seems way better than constantly losing and replacing my key fob, so I burden poor K with this job a few times a week. I have yet to ask her how she feels about this.

Anyway, the very first time I enacted this procedure (out of necessity, actually -- I had forgotten my key fob), I buzzed, was let in, and then met by K speeding down the stairs, hand over her palpitating heart, spewing something about "not knowing who I was." Fair enough. I'm sure the view from the security cameras doesn't give you an accurate picture of my cute mug, so it was probably a good precaution to confirm my identity. I nodded my understanding (remember: always nod) and went about my business.

It probably doesn't surprise you that this happens EVERY SINGLE TIME I go running. Without fail, I buzz, am let in (sometimes I even have to buzz twice) and am met by Special K, always with the hand over the heart, always with the look of grave concern about who she may have just let in to our ultra-secure environment. I usually say something along the lines of "oh, just me!" or "ooops, sorry to scare you!" Lately, I've become more assertive and have asked, "didn't you see it was just me, K?" or the kinder, "oh, just little ol' me....same as yesterday."

It's not that I doubt the thief-dressed-as-runner-scenario -- I'm sure it's happened more than once in this world. It's just that idea that it might happen every single day, by the same woman (who waves, joyfully to the camera to facilitate her identification), at the exact same time. I mean really.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New calendars for the office can be a real mindfuck.

Today, M, L, and I were discussing the unique challenges that each of us face in selecting a 2009 calendar for Special K to order. We should ponder our individual work scheduling needs, weigh the office supply options available to us, and request the appropriate item from Special K. Done, and in real-world time, would take all of 5 minutes. Given that we work very differently here, the annual calendar-ordering process began at least 2 weeks ago with a hand-written note from Special K on a print-out of an office supply emailed ad that circulated with the mail.

From L: I just had to endure a 10 minute rant about ordering a calendar. I had marked which one I wanted and confirmed said information within the first 45 seconds of [my] conversation [with Special K], but it still isn’t enough. Oh no! Because I had to hear about the ordering process from The Supplier, the availability of calendars, the some-timey nature of a few of the customer service reps she deals with, the myriad options for calendars, our staff’s usual calendar picks (ahem, she said some people order TWO). She even tried to get me look at the catalogue to see if there was another one I might prefer. NO!!!!

S: Oh, the calendars…. Sigh. I order two. A book planner and a desktop. Sorry. That’s how I roll… decadence. Deal.

Special K said that the customer service reps she speaks to—and seriously again, she must be THE ONLY person to CALL Office Supply mail order companies. What office doesn’t just order online? Oh, and she mentioned that she’d requested a catalogue of more 2009 calendars, but that wouldn’t be available till December. "Just an FYI." They really push it, huh? I asked her, well, what about online? She had not looked, nor thought of that, but I’m sure thanked me profusely for the suggestion.

(I honestly think that Special K has not fully comprehended that they produced and sell 2009 calendars prior to 11:59pm, December 31st. Cause you just never know, but it's none of her business anyhow if this "2009" we speak of is really going to happen. 2009! Can you imagine?!? She also has not absorbed the fact that online catalogues have truly taken the place of printed ones... or that online catalogues, well, exist.)

My issue yesterday was that, since my usual desktop calendar of choice seems to be no longer available anywhere. I know, I know. It's really fine, and I'll be ok... I picked out a different one online and even forwarded her the link with item number. Well, she was VERY concerned when it arrived—she’d removed it from the box and examined it. Like a chimp might, turning it upside down, shaking it, poking at it with a stick, etc. It is a bit “fancier” than my old one. But, hey, I like to live it up. She grilled me as soon as I walked in the door from lunch as to whether this was, in fact, the actual item I wanted. It went on from there, and took a longer time than it ought to have to assure her that this was indeed the item I had wanted, from the link and description I had sent to her, that it was all ok, and-yes- I would like to please keep this new "controversial" calendar.

And speaking of controversial calendars, M doesn't need to order one this year-- you know why? Because she has a FOUR-YEAR calendar! Can you believe it? According to M, "I caused a tizzy last year when I decided to order a calendar that was good for 4 years—and therefore was more expensive. I don’t think that Special K understood that you could even do that..." We imagine her thinking, "you mean you can see the DAYS in 2012!!?? You can see THE FUTURE!!??" Come on, it's enough to blow anyone's mind.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

L Promoted, Rest of Office Totally Jealous!

I was promoted today.

In the midst of an otherwise particularly mundane work day, I was assigned a task whose importance and impact are so great that I may be considered next in line to The Boss Lady. I was dispatched to measure the parking lot. Like so many unexpected accolades one receives (Paul Krugman, I'm talking to you!), this one happened when I was totally engrossed in something else. I was busy, even!

The Boss Lady -- whose heavy gait rivals that of an African elephant, despite her small frame -- stampeded into my office and asked me to help Special K. With what, pray tell? The alphabet? Tying her shoes? This mission was far more important, though, and I felt a special sense of honor and dignity as I was handed a measuring tape and told I was to help K measure the parking lot. Evidently, despite having no money for raises or other "benefits," our company is going to outfit our parking lot -- seen only by our 7 employees and a couple dudes from the company next door -- with a glorious flower bed. Special K and I were charged with the job of determining how much space this back yard botanical garden will take up.

The gripping conclusion to this story is that S overheard our accountant and The Boss Lady questioning our suggested figures, with the accountant insisting that she get out there and measure in order to obtain a more accurate number. Let's just say I didn't execute the most exacting procedures in quantifying our parking lot space.

Good riddance.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Incorrectly-typed email addresses haunt S.

“Someone” here recently sent out a mass internal email that included several incorrectly-spelled and very often-used staff email address. We all know the Special K does not know or have saved anywhere the email addresses of the 5-7 staff members here-- see previous post by L --but let me clarify this recent small snafu by noting it wasn't the staff names that were misspelled here - it was our company name portion of the addresses.

I have to ask yet again: a) why are our internal addresses not saved in contacts? There's not a whole hell of a lot of them, they follow an standard, easily-comprehended format, and are used by each of us about a billion times a day?, and b) why don’t the correct addresses just automatically pop up for her when the name is typed?… that requires no effort. Negative effort in fact. Outlook takes the work away from you. I'm going to speculate here Special K doesn’t trust The Machine and therefore simply refuses to allow it to complete an email address. That's so Special K.

Now here’s my problem, when this affects me. Since I did a respond all to these incorrect emails, they are now all saved and pop up when I compose an email to these staff members, whom I, again, email about a billion times a day. Since just their names, and not the addresses , pop up – I have to guess each time which ones is the correct one – with about 50% shot at a bounce back, re-send, start the fun over. Yes, this comes off as minute, and it is in the grand scheme of everything that is stupid here, but when my work day consists of frantically shooting emails left and right, having a 50% bounce back (and even having to check the accuracy of the email addresses as I send them) is a real bitch. (For the record, I investigated Outlook help to correct this, and after several minutes of searching unsuccessfully, I got mad and frustrated that I had to do this and gave up.)

And back up here: if the incorrectly-spelled email address is coming up as “Person's Name” and not the incorrectly spelled-out email address, does that mean the Special K actually has it saved wrong? Is it more baffling that she would know how to save a Contact?

It feels like my trusty steed of a computer caught her retard virus, and is now functioning at a remedial level.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Calling NASA to find out what time Safeway closes

Yesterday boss lady came back from her trip and the first thing she does is sneak up on me in my office and say, "I thought you were cleaning up in here." (Yes, I have A LOT of old file boxes in here, but it isn't something I'd planned on doing, nor been able to tackle lately.) Thanks for the hint, mom. Second thing she tells me is that Special K has been unable (for approximately 3 or 4 months) to figure out where she can order a specific office supply, and would I look around? Now if Special K can't find said office supply in office supply catalogues, an online search, or "traveling far and wide in search of office supplies" -- please see her yearly review sheet-- then how am I supposed to help? (I mean, beyond the fact that I do know what "Google" is?) (And why am I next in line, honestly?) Boss Lady must have got this from the withering look I gave her, so she said that I should call [a very prestigious national institution] and ask someone there where they ordered said office supply -- because she had seen it used in one of their mailings. Soooo, I am supposed to randomly phone a wold-renowned institution and ask what would be akin to, "I was just curious about where you buy your post-it notes?" I imagine it would go over as well as calling NASA to find out what time Safeway closes.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The get-out-of-work-free "note." Praise be!

Transcription of scrawled handwritten note from Special K found at the entrance to our office this morning:

Friday 10/3/08 (message was left on our answering machine)


Special Computer Friend [SCF] called to say that one of their email/webservers are "down." The (our) system may be "down" for a couple more hours or all day -- SCF wanted to let us know. If anyone has any questions, please contact him on xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thanks.
(Name of computer company here)

As 99.9% of my work is via email, I am pleased that I am simply unable to do my work. I am impressed that we were informed by the company that the server is down. Usually when it is "down," and I call them, they claim that no, it is not... uh, it's not up for debate.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

K Labels Scrap Paper As Scrap Paper

I've mentioned before that I print quite a bit. Since I usually have to go through several drafts of my work, (so The Boss Lady can change a phrase or word to another similar phrase or word that usually is just a superficial edit and then change it back while not realizing it is exactly the same as the original) I print on scrap paper. Recently I went into the library, which holds the stockpile of scrap paper, to retrieve more materials for my hyper word-smithed work.

The scrap paper sits in 2 1/2 foot pile on a lower shelf in the library, conveniently labeled "Scrap Paper" in Special K's scrawl. I took some and finished my printing job. For no particular reason, I turned over the paper, to see what mysteries of our company might be revealed on the other side, and I saw I was using old letterhead, with the name of the former director who was gone before I got here. On this particular sheet, his name had been crossed out -- perhaps a reminder to K not to use it? I'll never know. Curious, I looked at the other sheets of paper in my pile -- they all had the name crossed out too. I checked in the library, and the entire 2 1/2 foot pile of paper had the name of the former director crossed out, I assume so that we all knew that it was scrap paper. Since, you know, that initial sheet on the top and the fact the guy doesn't work here anymore isn't evidence enough.

I wonder how long it took her to tackle that monumental project.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

L Asks the Time, Finds Out How to Build a Watch

I just found out yesterday that I have to have dental surgery; I am not looking forward to this. I was expressing as much in the staff kitchen* with my boss, the Deputy, when he informed me that Special K recently had dental surgery. If I had any questions, he thought I might benefit from asking her. Yes, Deputy, I will benefit, only in ways you would never have imagined...

I walked up to K's desk and asked, quite plainly, if she had had dental surgery. Her eyes widened -- I think she was excited that I was asking about her! She informed me that she had indeed been through "several" dental surgeries, with more to come. As it turns out, as a "brain tumor survivor," K has to take "several medications daily." I know this, as does everyone else in the office, because she keeps these menacing medication bottles on her desk in plain view. Well, these medications evidently caused her teeth to deteriorate (she originally said "rot" but I suggested "deteriorate" when she decided that "rot" didn't quite describe it correctly). K has to have surgery after surgery to deal with this problem, and what's worse, she can't take the pain medication that is normally prescribed for after the surgery because of the offending medications! Well, that is one dentist says so. The other says it might be ok, if she is very careful and doesn't take too much at once (which she would "never do"). But really, who can trust dentists, K asked me, since they are probably just trying to make money since surgery is very expensive. Not only that, but you aren't even allowed to take the metro or the bus home from surgery, even if you feel alright! The dentist make someone come get you, and they won't even let you just get in a cab!!

I admitted to K that I, too, would have to have dental surgery and she asked if i was afraid. Before I got a chance to answer, K told me that the surgery is very painful, especially without the pain medication afterwards. She clarified this by saying that the surgery I was to have and the surgery she had were probably very different so she couldn't say for certain because she's "no expert." In fact, just last week, our accountant had a headache, and then K had a headache the same week! Even though they both had headaches there is no way to tell if they were related because the accountant's could have been from allergies and K's could have been from a cold, and did I remember a couple of weeks ago when K had a cold? It was probably just a coincidence, the two headaches, unless there is mold in the air ducts or something like that in which case probably more people would have headaches.

At any rate, K inquired as to whether I had any family in the area that might be able to pick me up after the surgery -- remember, you CAN'T take the metro home! I told her that I didn't, but that I had friends and a boyfriend that might be willing to do that job. She then told me that she really recommends asking for pain medication (no worries on that, K!), but that after the surgery I would probably just want to go home and go to sleep. Then she stood up and bade me good luck, and asked whether I should have S drive me there. I had to tell her that my surgery is some time in the future, and not today. She seemed relieved.

I kind of had a headache after that.

*Lest you see me as a belly-aching, senior citizen type that uses health problems as fodder for polite conversation, remember that we have to tell every damn person in the office when we have appointments, so someone is usually up in your business as to why.