Category: Office

Mob. Mentality. [Repost]

“People are a problem.”
– Douglas Adams

[Dumplings, it’s that week of the year, when the campus is invaded; it’s also the week that I am processing nearly 200 raises.  Ergo, I’m dead to the world.  Please enjoy this re-post of this time last week, and be assured it’s just as relevant this year.  Upon reflection, this is also the week where my optimism about humanity at large takes a beating…]

As if we were not already desperately busy, especially with Fall semester looming, this is also when the University hosts a conference open to the public. For a mere $44 dollars, you can come spend week going to classes about academic topics, theology, personal development, and probably basket weaving for all I know. This wouldn’t be so bad if it were not for the people.

And we're not leaving without our commemorative mugs!

It is impossible to convey how boorish these invaders are. You’d think they owned the place! Office supplies go missing, we have to lock classrooms so that they can’t get in, they knock people down rushing to classes, they yell at everyone…genuine menaces to society. However, it’s their propensity to complain about everything, usually consequences they’ve brought on themselves by their rude behavior, that really bleaches us of all sympathy. Some favorite complaints:

I couldn’t find a parking space so I had to park in the road against oncoming traffic.
No. You didn’t. That’s like saying, “There were no cigarettes so I had to smoke crack.” Not at all. The circumstances are probably aggravating and cause withdrawals and make you irritable (not unlike frustration with parking), but the solution you propose is still illegal.

We paid good money to come to this conference, get out of our way!
We pay much, much more money to go to school here for four years. Full time. And do you think any of us get our way?

We paid good money to come here [again, please note $44], so we should be able to park wherever we want.
Hm…not really. This is, in fact, a fully functioning university 365 days a year. Which means that we have anywhere between 20,000 and 60,000 people here on a daily basis who are actually working and taking classes who need to park. To put it simply, we trump you. You are visitors, we are permanent.

We can’t find anything on this campus of yours. Don’t you label anything? And where are we supposed to park?
Yes. You will find them on those handy maps you were given on your first day. And you can park in any one of the half-of-the-entire-campus-lots we took away from those mentioned in the complaint above this one and gave them to you to use. For a week. For free. Ingrates.

The bishop encouraged us to come so, since the bishop sent us, you should give us food for free, because of the bishop.
This is not the parish potluck!

We drove a long way to come here, why can’t we leave our car in a handicapped stall?
I don’t care if the Vatican called you personally and declared all your sins would be forgiven if you invaded campus. I don’t care if we get an email from Mecca declaring this the site of this year’s pilgrimage. I don’t care if St. Thomas a Becket re-capitates himself and orders Chaucer resurrected to write another masterpiece about our humble university town. You do not, under any circumstances, get to get away with such unpardonable behavior!

(Cutting in front of whole lines of people, including one in a wheelchair, to buy things at the campus store and then snapping at the people who ask you to move to the back of the queue, “We’re with the conference!”)
Who raised you?!

Redding, ‘Rightin, ‘Rethmetic

“My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places.”
– A. A. Milne

Pumpkins, you know I try to blend the everyday with humor, toss in a pinch of cynicism, and baste it lovingly with hyperbole before serving it up to you, piping hot…but there are some things that cannot be sugar coated.  I hate to break it to you if you didn’t already suspect it, or alternatively confirm your worst fears if you did: the kids are not alright.

"May I have the word again, please?" "Your word is 'cat.'"

At least, their spelling isn’t.    I’m again convinced that autocorrect is killing our brains. Here’s a few of our most recent puzzles (from witness statements, appeals, emails, and letters) and our best guesses as to what they are supposed to mean:

hared = hard
vary = very
ad = and
mastak = mistake
whey = why
exspesholy/espetially = especially
roung = wrong
lugudge = luggage
situadion = situation
oll = all
agaon = again

Dear Me, You’re An Unpleasant Person, Aren’t You?

“Whoever one is, and wherever one is, one is always in the wrong if one is rude. ”
~ Maurice Baring

Dear World at Large,

Me again!  You know, if you could just learn one or two of these little lessons I’m trying to get across, we wouldn’t have to speak so often.  You could go along your merry way and I could kick back and return to chuckling benignly at your expense.  But alas, you seem determined to thrust yourself rudely at me, and here we are.

This one will be pretty short:

We salute you, brave barista.

It is an almost laughable fallacy of yours that customer service will get better as you get nastier.  Snarling (literally) at us, calling us foul names, rolling your eyes and making “under your breath” commentary about the person trying to help you (heavy on the word “incompetence”) might be a nice, passive aggressive way for you to make your feelings known, but it will not speed us up.  It will not imbue us with bureaucratic powers we do not currently posses and it will not endear you to us.  Screaming at us will actually make us less inclined to work with you, as we will be primarily concerned with getting you out of our hair.

And, here’s a tip, if you are determined to be a b***** or a b******, being surprised when someone responds to you in kind doesn’t become you.  Because someday, some brave soul not confined to office-job-obligated politeness will let you have it.  And you will find it a harrowing experience.

Just a heads up,

Paper. Work.

“Oh, my giddy aunt!”
– C.

Good.  Bleeding.  Grief.

We are in that inverted paradox that exists on university campuses, the storm before the quiet.  The term just ended and people are scattering like insects, and I am kept busy because lots of them need paperwork done for bar exams, licensing boards, visas, internships, and jobs.  Soon they will all be gone and silence will descend until Fall term – disturbed only by the occasional conference and the heathen invaders those entail.

The great trouble with this need for paperwork, is the propensity people have to leave it all to the last minute.  For example, we have designated times for fingerprinting.  And yet, invariably at this time of year, at 2 o’clock when the sign says we should be done, four or five people fall through the door panting and beg us to make an exception and fingerprint them just this once.  And I inevitably do.  Because I am a nice person, damn it.

But there are some days that this high-minded benevolence mixes with irritation, today was one of them.

This poor girl came in and we spent nearly an hour trying to help her out.  The trouble was that it was awfully difficult to help her, because she’d made a right mess of her job application.  First of all she hadn’t filled out any of the paperwork that needed to be done before I could take her prints, then it transpired that she needed traditional ink fingerprints and not digitally taken ones so I had to beg an officer for help, and then she discovered that she still didn’t have all of the things she needed to send off with said fingerprints anyway!  It turns out she hadn’t actually read through her hiring packet – which, if my job depended on it, I think I would have taken the time to do.

Emotionally stunted, useless lump that I am, I patted her arm awkwardly and promised to do my best to help her as she sobbed all over my counter, but inwardly I shook a schoolmarm-ish finger at her.  “And what did we learn from this, my girl?”

I’m the Doctor

“We do have a zeal for laughter in most situations, give or take a dentist.”
~ Joseph Heller

Accustomed as we are to dealing with characters, you’d think we’d be a bunch of cynic old cranks unperturbed by any but the vilest of persons.  That we would have long ago reached the impossible to amuse, world weary, emotional wasteland of a DMV employee at 4:55pm on a Friday.  That we would have, literally, seen it all.

But let me tell you, pumpkins, when a wizened old man with his pants belted almost up to his ribs marches into your office, slaps his liver spotted hand down on the counter and declares roundly, “Hell, I’m John Smith, and I’m a dentist,” you crack a grin, sit back, and prepare to be entertained.

I'm not sure we can help you. Did you choose the correct police box?

And Doc Smith did not disappoint.  We all sat in rapt attention as he told nearly one dozen jokes in a row (several without a discernible punchline), used racially, sexually, and culturally insensitive language, and told us his life story.  He has been an Air Force reserve colonel and “FBI police officer,” owned his own dental practice (his teeth were more metal than organic, please note) and now owns a few apartment complexes.  Which, in the end, was what brought us to the purpose of his visitation (calling it a mere visit would simply not be adequate).  Apparently some kids who did not live in his buildings were using his parking lot and he wanted it to stop so, enterprising old cook that he was, he took himself to the nearest police station to purchase a car boot.

When we could get a word in between his jokes, we told him we were completely unable to help him, as we could not sell university owned equipment.  The best we could do was google some information for him and wish him the best of luck.  He stayed another ten minutes telling jokes and his adventures as an airline pilot before disappearing.  To parts unknown.

Best customer we’ve had in weeks!

Some Perfidious Fiend…

“We should start a witch-hunt!’
– Daisy

Currently wailing in sackcloth over this thing...

…stole my favorite kitchen implement ever, my orange peeler!  The niftiest thing ever invented for a consummate citrus lover.  I left it with an orange to chill in our (fortified and limited access) dispatch room’s refrigerator and when I returned a couple hours later, it, my orange, several salad dressing packagers, and a bag of carrot sticks had been snatched.

In spite of the jokes and sitcom stories of this sort of thing, this is my first incident of food being stolen in nearly 3 years of office work.  Also, what sort of ruffian steals healthy food from the office fridge?  Aren’t the soda cans labeled “Property of T-Dawg” and the “secret” candy bars in the freezer usually the first to go?

So, orange peeler thief, you’re on notice.  Either return it unharmed and be spared, or suffer the vicious voodoo curse I am prepared to unleash on you!

Hot. Mess.

“I’m at my best in a messy, middle-of-the-road muddle.”
– Harold Wilson quotes

If I were a superhero, pumpkins, my skill would be earthquake-causing klutziness coupled with a magnetic attraction to things that stain.

Oh, you're no help!

Yesterday I barely left my desk due to working on a particularly patience-shattering project (Susie, Hennessy, Wise, and I all tried several times, but Mail Merge simply would not work for over an hour), which meant I took breaks at my desk.  In a four hour period I spilled salad dressing, orange juice, copious amounts of water, and an open ink pad on my newish trousers.  The true miracle is that nothing stained it!

Primordial. Soup.

“That’s disgusting…thanks for taking one for the team.”
“But I don’t want to take one for the team.  I want to leave the team to its moldy fate.”
– Student employee, C.

Hm, a nice little murder. Or maybe a drug bust? Heck, just a lost textbook!

One of the downsides of working at a university is that everything is time is cyclical.  The wheel of life and work turns by semesters and even though you are out of school, you are directly affected by this fact.  For example, I do most of my hiring and firing of students at the beginning of new semesters – kids graduate, have tough schedules, or sometimes even drop out and have to be terminated or replaced.  During Fall and Winter terms I’m involved with projects related to various athletic seasons.  When Spring and Summer terms roll around I, and others, will be beating our heads on our desks for whole weeks at a time for lack of work – you can only reorganize the supply closet, update your all of your forms, and rearrange your staplers so many times before you’re quite longing for heinous crimes to be committed.

But there is a sneaky week or two in the middle of every semester, after you’ve finished hiring all of your new students and finished your major projects, and just before you have to start ordering next month’s supplies and prep next term’s spreadsheets, that you are stuck.

It is at this soul numbing point that I start wandering about the office begging for work.  Susie is usually pretty good at giving me some filing or shredding, or handing one of her own projects over to me if she is swamped, but even her ideas can give out.  And so it proved this mid-Winter.

I had my annual employee evaluation and told her that since I began working here I’ve tried to streamline and improve processes and I’ve been successful – to the point that I regularly don’t have enough to do, especially during mid-term deadlock.  When she asked what sort of small project ideas I’ve come up with, I listed the various tasks I’ve given myself over the past year and declared without guilt that the idea well has run dry.  After a moment she said she had a job that needed doing but didn’t want to offend me by asking.  I told her I didn’t mind.

So today I spent an hour on hand and knees cleaning out the two refrigerators in the break area.

And let me just state for the record, there are mothers all over the United States today, wringing their hands and weeping as they try to figure out where they went wrong.

I pulled seven one litre bottles of soda that were up to a year old (and fermenting), three packages of cream cheese that had turned teal (and grown eyes), almost an entire pizza that had dried out months ago (and fossilized), and several tupperware filled with various rotting mush (that had apparently evolved highly enough to invent a rudimentary form of communication).  Let us not speak of the fish I found.  Really.  Let’s not.

Ready To Run

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
— Marilyn Monroe

It’s official, poodles, winter turns your friendly household C. into a blithering idiot.  I suspect I have a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder – come the cold and dark I get moodier, need to sleep longer, and can stay on the sofa for hours doing nothing and seemingly only half awake.  And my brain turns to mush.  I am sure of it.

We got another coat of snow last night so when I finally managed to pull myself out of bed (which is not exactly an easy feat when your SAD-affected mind and body are yelling at you, “If you’d just give in you could have a nice little bout of depression and not have to go into work today.  Come on, just because it takes you months to pull yourself out of it doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.  Give in just a little…”), I reached for my trusty Hunter boots.

Stuffing legs and trousers into them haphazardly, I clumped about the flat grabbing fruit and granola bars (and maybe a couple of chocolate chip cookies) before J. and I dashed out into the cold to scrape off the car and gun it for work.

Pictured: said evil Being.

But midway to the office, I was hit with the nagging, suspicious feeling that somewhere in the vastness of the universe there was a Being chuckling at my expense.

I cataloged myself.  Something was missing.  Bag, phone, wallet, all present.  Gym bag complete with gym clothes, check.  Water bottle, snacks, diary, all in their proper places.  My hair was done, I had no bra straps on display, I was even sporting a pretty new cardigan and fabulous bright red lipstick.  What was it?

Bending down to rummage in my bag again, I glanced at my boots.  The nagging, chuckling feeling got stronger.  It became downright malicious in fact.  Boots, I thought, why would that…drat! Because, naturally, I had not grabbed actual shoes to change into.

Thus, here I sit in sharp black trousers, red lipstick, freshly painted nails, lovely cardigan…and my old running trainers – which squeak badly when I walk.  Much to the amusement of my co-workers.


“I’ve ridden the tiger ragged.  That tiger, it’s rolled over on its blazing back and put up its paws and just asked me to stop.”
– Glenn Duncan, I Lucifer

I really was expecting a slow day today, kittens.  It’s below freezing so no one’s about, my phone has rung exactly twice, and until 11 this morning I was staring at my empty inbox wondering how I would fill the time.  Woof, was I misled!

Hennessy and I are wrangling dozens of student uniforms that have gone “missing” over the past few months since we have nothing to give to the handfuls of new students we keep hiring.  Shockingly, all these “missing” uniforms have turned up in the very locker rooms students and supervisors have sworn blind they’ve not been in for months.

I’m up to my elbows in paperwork finding arrest records, dating from before I was born, on microfiche, running background checks, and logging hours of training for our officers.  Goodness knows whether or not I’ll get lunch before 3 at this point!

However, that quiet time was semi-productive.  After a period of Wiki-surfing, it is now a driving ambition of my life to achieve this honor!

Can I manage this without moving to Nebraska?  Somehow I feel as though I mingle well with the august company.  Admiral C. Small Dog of the good ship HMS Guppy!