Thursday, January 03, 2008

water cooler first bubble

I used to post on a now-defunct website and in the spirit of slacking off and phoning it in right after the christmas break, I'm resurrecting the posts I put on it since you can't link to it anymore.

They will appear as bubbles in the water cooler whirlpools and I'll tag them as Cubicle Digest.

I miss it a lot and I hope cubeguy finds a publisher for his book soon.

Here it is: the first post from me on Cubicle Digest (how I miss it so)


A fond hello from the city-dwelling mermaid. I'm happy to join this group of enthusiastic people who truly understand how much a break from the monochrome of fluorescent boredom is a requirement, nay, a necessity of the workday. I have many stories of nonsense, defeat, dissent and disappointment, but since this is my first post, I will begin with a story of triumph. This is not a huge win. This is not one of those stories about changing the workplace for the better or indeed even trying to. This is one of those things I think everyone can relate to about office diplomacy in the face of extreme frustration. A day to day moment of standing up for myself. Believe me, I won a few tiny battles, but the people in this particular office won the war.

It begins at 8:15 am, a far-too-godly hour of the morning. For no reason at all my trains and the bus I took to get there had conspired to bring me to the office building earlier than usual. As such, I was enjoying an early morning cup of coffee, this was before they started charging for it. I worked in the Construction Department at that time. We had undertaken a project the night before, so I wandered into the area to see how the work was coming along. Anyone who has done such a thing will know that it doesn't matter whether a project is yours or not, whether you know about it or not, you are treated as an ambassador for your department wherever you go. I should have remembered that. I went over to one of my friends who did tech support and asked how things were, if there were enough drop-cloths to protect the screens from the drywall dust, how did he like his new car, good morning, god it's early isn't it? His supervisor came over and immediately started demanding loudly and in an oddly high-pitched voice about we weren't told about the extent of the work and how are we supposed to accommodate this and that. She was extremely irate and didn't seem to calm down at all as I sipped my coffee at her. She was getting more and more hysterical as she talked that I couldn't imagine what I could say that would make her relax enough to speak coherently. Not only that, I knew if I said anything even remotely like I'll get back to you or I'll take care of it, suddenly I would have this to manage along with my full-time job.

The net admin was sitting nearby; I had an audience. Also, it was not the designated time for me to start work. Also, I didn't recall signing on to come in early to be shouted at by panicky call centre supervisors. I picked up the nearest thing to me, a piece off a nearby stack of 8.5x11 white paper (ah the heady days of office procurement) handed it to her and said quietly, "Heather, this cares more than I do." The look on her face pretty much paid off in that moment for the inevitable trouble I was going to get into for saying something like that. Her jaw dropped open and her eyes went wide making her whole head resemble a bowling ball. I went straight back to my desk and told the manager overseeing the project what happened, including what I had said. It is to her credit that when Heather came to tell her that I had an "attitude problem" that she immediately said, "why, what did you do to provoke her?" Our friendship was forged at my interview, but solidified that day when for the first time, another human in my office recognized a cardinal rule that it is unfair to immediately pounce on the first person you see from one department and assume they are there to fix your problem. We worked together to finish that project properly and since then, according to those who know me in other offices in the city, it's become legend.

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