Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Non-WoW Storytime

Going to have a quick, non-WoW story time today. I promise it won't be a prolific bearwall of a story, but perhaps entertaining all the same.  I also need to do it right quick, because I need to get back to the grind of office life before someone notices I'm being naughty once more.  If the following is fraught with typos, please forgive me.

So I walk in this morning, sit down, and immediately get a call on the phone from my boss  We shall call him "B".  B needs my help.  "Now?" I ask.  "Yay, now," is the reply.  So I respond as any good employee would, "Give me just a second."

I then close up and save whatever I was working on, which, since the first day back from winter break is, officially, National Check Your Email Day, wasn't anything all that significant.  My laptop is likely needed, so I gather my cord, because as we all know, company laptop batteries never work for more than a year, and this is my third year with this overgrown paperweight.  Every office and conference room is equipped with at least one, maybe two power strips.  Standard office issue.  Some have even been cleverly zip tied up underneath the table to prevent people from kicking out the cords.  Nothing but the best.

I hustle up two flights of... I take the elevator to the second floor.  My boss has one of the high-walled cubes, as bosses generally do, so I meander my way in and plop down on a chair.  He then explains to me that his boss, whom we shall call "J", will be along shortly.  Cool beans, a two level encounter.   At this point, I wish I'd worn an undershirt because I am sweating a bit, but it's not that big of a deal.  This is a guy I've at least met before and can converse with easily enough.

As we're waiting the problem is explained to me thus: some other, vaguely related group has had a snafu.  There were given some software by a customer and just assumed it was good, neglecting to test it.  As a result, an error occurred down the pipeline.  In perhaps any engineering field, there is an obsession with "root causing" any error.  That is to say, we don't just acknowledge when mistakes are made, but we bask and wallow in them until the full weight of their errorness have been explored, felt, understood, analyzed, and dealt with.  We aren't satisfied until we know them in a biblical sense.  This isn't to say they're permanently remedied, because people will be people and history will repeat itself.  The goal, then, is to have a sheet of paper at the end of all this that says "The problem was X and is solved by process Y."  That way, when the error occurs again, you can simply point to process Y and say "process fail."

So what is my role in all of this?  Well, I'm sort of what you might call a "process expert".  It is an unofficial title born from the fact that I'm proficient in the use of computers, can communicate, and have excellent organizational skills.  A stellar memory helps as well.  Basically, I can read our crazy process, remember it, and recount it to others.  This makes me an expert.   In the world of the blind, the one eyed man is king.

If you are heading for a murder trial in which the insanity defense is to be used, you make damn sure you have your expert witnesses prepped and ready.  I am being called as such a witness to a procedural trial.  Is the process to blame, or the people?  There is no jury, mind you, only a judge.  A big, high up judge that makes significantly more money than I do.  Thus, this initial meeting is prep work.

Eventually J walks in, and recounts the problem to me.  That always has to be done - restatement of fact - each time a new person enters.  How else are we all to stay on the same page, right?  We then get down to the prep work, halfway through which it is decided that while the original intention was to have me explain things to B and J, and have them represent me in the court of procedural law, it is probably better if I just come along to give expert testimony.  So now I've been invited to attend a meeting with my boss, my boss's boss, his boss, and his boss's boss... the Judge.  Count them, that's like a penta-level meeting.  Did I mention I work for a big, global company?  Lot's of levels, and I think there are two more above what I'm seeing today.  I don't know, things get fuzzy that high up the mountain. 

"When?" I ask.  "In ten minutes," is the reply.  Great, now I feel like I should have worn a tie and prepared slides or something.  Oh well, elbow grease ftw.  Just need a piece of gum to get rid of my coffee breath... okay, let's do this!

I trudge down to the swanky executive area.  Being expected by the personal secretary, we're waved right in. We knock on the door, which seems to open of its own accord.  Inside we're presented with this scene: a collective of bosses of bosses, some of whom I've vaguely heard of, and behind the gigantic oaken desk, the Godfather of the Company.  The Judge.

He even looks like you might expect a Godfather to, sort of portly and smug.  If he'd had a snifter amber liquid dispensed by a crystal decanter and a cuban cigar in one hand, the picture would have been complete.  I feel like I should have been greeted with: "And what brings you here on this, the day of my daughter's wedding?"

Instead, he does what all executives do: finds a nearby clock (not the rolex on the arm, mind you) and rifles through an important looking scheduling organizer.  That's right, they're behind schedule.  Imagine that!  So this fella, who looks very much like a mob boss, gives us a semi-apologetic look and spreads his arms.  He then lets for with a thick Russian accent: "We have been very busy.  How about you come back, say, 3 o'clock?  Ok?"  Like I said, we're a global company.  I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that the mobster looking big wig would have a matching accent.  Especially since his name was definitely not like Vladmir.  More like John.

How does one respond when the Godfather asks you to come back at 3?  Well, if your schedule wasn't clear, it's clear now, but you can't say that outright.  You have to think for a moment, because we're all certainly very busy, yes, busy busy, precious.  Then, only then, can you say: "Sure, I believe my afternoon is clear.  I'll be here."  Like there was any other option.

And I spun on my heels and thanked the Lords of Corporate America (Bill and Steve, right?) that I'd escaped with my job and life.  All bets are off at 3, though.  I commute, so running home for a tie is out of the question.  At least we have some time to prepare, and I didn't spill anything on myself at lunch.  I'll call that a win, because that always happens when you've got an important, impromptu meeting.  Now, if only I'd gotten that New Year haircut...

All work and no play... I know, I know.  I'll get back to WoW tomorrow, promise.


  1. At least it wasn't a, "If this problem is not fixed by 3 o'clock, I will have you and your families sent to our Siberian Gulag."

  2. Heh! We started off the year with an 'Office Space' moment. I work in IT and as part of our job we close down the accounts of people who have quit/been fired/laid off etc...
    So Mr. J, a co-worker, gets a support ticket. The user can't login, can't access e-mail, nuthin. Turns out this guy is on the 'termination list' aka the list of accounts that need to be closed. And his had been closed.

    Turns out he had been laid off and no one had told him. He found out from IT. Nasty gram to project director in 3... 2... 1...

  3. Totally awesome story... I want more!

  4. @Bear - The climactic ending? We walked over at three and they told us they'd have to reschedule for sometime next week.


    Thanks for the inspiration though. Love the Trucker stories. Many a family member hath laughed at the knife-wielding terrorist et al... even when they think it's strange that I'm quoting a talking bear.

    @tkc - Classic Milton Waddums. Love it. "We just went ahead and... fixed the glitch."