I just got back from my first day at a real job. Since I hadn't really "worked" before in the traditional sense, I never fully appreciated Chris Livingston's hilarious temping site Not My Desk, except in the way that a cretin enjoys something that he knows nothing about. "Ha ha. He says sometimes his co-workers are unpleasant. That would never happen. There are no unpleasant people left in this day and age. What's this about the soul-deadening monotony of filing? What a wonderful, whimsical world Chris has created!"
Well apparently Chris wasn't making all that stuff up. There really are jobs involving cubicles and sitting at someone else's desk and reading their Dilbert cartoons and playing with their adorable stuffed fox terrier. (And if you get your job by listing on your resume all the computer programs you've ever heard of, but include no references or work history, you should consider yourself damned lucky to get one of these jobs. Believe me, I'm not complaining.)
So I was hired to work on this company's website. I arrived with a good attitude, some innovative new ideas, and one basic goal: before the end of the day, I wanted to be referred to as a "firebrand." As in, "Boy, Paul's designed a whole new website for us and revolutionized our intranet, and it's only lunchtime. He sure is a firebrand." Or "Who's that unshaven, sloppy-looking guy in the corner? He keeps on asking me to call him a firebrand." Or, at the very least, "Hey, let's fire Paul and hire a brand new worker." Imagine how chagrined I was to discover that they hadn't planned on giving me any actual duties, and they didn't give me any of the necessary codes and passwords to do, well, anything. Here's a quick unordered list of some of the things I didn't have access to on my first day:
-the company website
Luckily, I am very resourceful, so I was able to do several productive things:
- I borrowed someone's instruction manual for FileMaker, the database program used by the company, and, according to my resume, an area of expertise of mine. I made my very first database, in which I assigned various values to Yul Brynner, Bob Dole, Tawny Kitaen, and other heroes of mine, and I was able to organize them by first name, last name, or numeric value. I did this in lieu of companionship.
- I saw a company web page I didn't like and made a photoshop mockup of how i would change it, had I access to the server.
-I rode up and down in the elevator a lot.
After I finished my mockup of the new company page, I decided to convene a meeting to show people my design. I hoped to wow them with my initiative and top-flight design skills into actually paying me, instead of just permitting me to use someone's desk while he was sick. I made the appropriate calls and convened a meeting for 2:30 in conference room A. Now all I had to do was prepare for it.
I scouted out Conference Room A. Just as I had hoped, there was a computer in it, so I could show off my new design. All I had to do was get the photoshop file there. No problem, I thought, I would just zip it up, upload it to the internet, and then download it on the Conference Room A computer. Only problem was, I didn't have access to the internet. I moved to plan B, which was to email it to myself and then check my email from Conference Room A. This plan proved equally flawed, since I didn't have email. (Luckily, Conference Room A was on the same floor as me, so I didn't have to worry about using the stairs.)
All was not yet lost. All I had to do was find a 3 1/2 inch disk and transport the file the old-fashioned way. I went to the file cabinet where they kept the virtually free office supplies. Along with more rubber bands, staples, paper clips, and pencils that you could ever hope to incorporate into a giant slingshot device, I finally found some disks. 5 1/4 inch disks. You remember 5 1/4 inch disks, the data storage medium that was popular right after those mammoth 8-inch disks and right before cuneiform tablets inscribed with ones and zeroes. What's more, the disks all seemed to be backup disks for programs like "TurboDOS" and "DietMaker '88".
I finally asked the secretary where 3 1/2 inch disks might be found. "They're in the locked cabinet above the fax machine," she said, handing me a keyring. "Just return these keys when you're done."
I found the locked cabinets where they kept the really valuable virtually free office supplies. What treasures might be available to me once I had access to the locked cabinet, I wondered. CD-Rs? Toner cartridges? Pens?
Here's where the sequence of events gets confused. I went to turn the key in the lock, an operation I was sure I could handle. Somehow, though, the proper key slipped off the keyring (something which cannot possibly happen), flew out of my hands, landed on the fax machine, and slipped down into the slot where paper comes out. Efforts to dislodge it with a pencil proved to be stupid. A pencil is, by the way, admirably designed for pushing keys farther into fax machines.
Finally I had to resort to turning over the fax machine and shaking it. As I did this, a coworker passed by, looked at what I was doing, and pointed out, "Hey, buddy, that's not the way to get a fax." I fixed him with my iciest stare, and then began picking up and shaking other objects, just to prove that I was perfectly aware how one gets faxes, I was just insane.
After minutes of futility, I realized that my meeting was due to start. I ran to conference room A where my bosses and coworkers were convened. "I suppose you are all wondering why I gathered you here," I said. "I was looking at your online help documentation and I noticed that there is some important information missing. Just as an example: Nowhere is it explained what you should do if you get, say, a key, stuck in, say, a fax machine."
Instantly a buzz of excited conversation swept the room. I couldn't tell what people were saying, but it sounded awfully like "peas and carrots peas and carrots peas and carrots firebrand."