Saturday, November 10, 2007

Daily Work Absurdities

Yesterday, I needed a certain photocopied yellow form for a document. The shelf on which the forms reside was devoid of all but one lonely yellow page, onto which was stapled a slip of paper (when was this written--in pre Post-It Note Dark Ages?) with the note ,"Last one. Go to mail room to get more." My document had a certain deadline, but the allure of a trip to the mail room to get out of my dark, hot cube for a few minutes was inescapable, pathetic cube-victim that I am.

After an exhiliarting ride in the world's slowest elevator, I presented the form to the mail room clerk.
"We don't do those any more," she said.
"Who does?" I asked.
"They do their own now."
"Do you know where I can get a blank form?" I asked, bemused.
"I don't know anything about that. My job is to tell you we don't do them any more."
"Um, you said 'they' do their own now. Do other people use this form?" I thought maybe I could ask one of these obviously more experienced people where to find the electronic form--if one existed in this time warp.
"Oh, yes. Lots of people use it."
"Do you know where they get the form to copy?" By now, I thought I was stuck in an Office Space sequel.
"No, I don't know. My job is to tell you we don't do it any more."
"Do you know who these people are?"
"No, I just know we don't do them any more. Oh, and I can give you yellow paper to do it yourself."

I lugged my prize ream of yellow paper back up the world's slowest elevator, intent on finding a blank form to copy for myself and my fellow worker bees. Not yet fully beaten down after only four months of daily absurdities in this job, I was determined not to be the one who took the last of anything--coffee, paper in the printer, etc.--without restocking for my fellow inmates.

A more experienced worker bee gave me the phone number of a senior secretary who might have the form (thank God some secretaries still survive in the age of do-it-yourself technology! Nurses and secretaries are the ones who always know everything and can get things done while their clueless bosses take the credit.) It turns out she had something similar, did I want her to email it to me? I did. I got it and told my experienced worker bee that I would alter it for our use and put in our template folder. "Oh, you can't do that. Only certain people can add new forms." I tried to point out that it wasn't really new, since the department had been using hard copies since the Dark Ages. But no, it just couldn't be done. I suggested emailing it to everyone in the department who might find themselves wandering the halls with a ream of yellow paper. OK, maybe that would work. But we might have to give it a new Quality Control number. One of us would have to look into that. I smiled a smile that to me meant, "better you than me," and probably to her meant, "OK, I'll get right on that."

I fixed. I emailed. I got the copy center to create 500 copies. It took an hour and a half. Oh, an hour and 45 minutes if you count the time I spent walking around outside, trying keep from screaming.

I have another kind of document to turn in next week. I wonder what delightful surprises await me there?


cinderelly said...

looky, i am your first comment! lol! as i was reading, a commercial for 'the office' came on the television, so the appropriate music was playing while i read this! really! it really did! how funny is that!?

Finnboy said...

Did you complete the MR-2501 Material Requisition form required to transfer the ream of yellow paper from the mail room to your department? No? I think I have a form here . . . oops, there's only one left. Looks like you'll have to make copies.

MJP said...

Wonderful....Life is full of surprises the other way round, too. I have worked in various Gulf countries (That's Gulf of the Arabian/Persian variety...) and one becomes inured to the kind of petty bureaucrat who thinks up different requirements every time one wants "x" done. "No, you need 4 copies of your grandmother's birthcertificate now". I once visited the main post office to obtain a PO Box and went armed with a veritable shopping trolley full of copies of this, photos of that. After, oh, 2 minutes during which time I handed over a sum of money and he gave me a key, I was flummoxed. "Is that it? You don't want all this stuff? I don't have to stand in line in the sun for over an hour?". In a way I was disappointed. I WANTED a battle!

Bemused Boomer said...

Ah, my dear MJP. If you're still in the mood for some fights, please come to the Pacific Northwest and stand in for me. Of course, you'd be standing in the rain, not the sun!

Bemused Boomer said...

OK, Finnboy, now I know who you are. You're that guy in the little office across the hall creating obscure paper trails and laughing maniacally as employees fall to the floor one by one, having various sorts of fits, aren't you?

No, don't try to hide under your desk. I see you! I'm getting the fire extinguisher now...