Thursday, February 22, 2018

Story 226: Tunnel Vision at the Workplace

            The employee stared at the spreadsheet on the screen in front of her, wondering how on Earth to reconcile the columns of numbers there with the columns of numbers that she previously had been given.  The data had not changed in the meantime, so this certainly was a puzzler.
           To take a quick break and hope the math would resolve itself, she checked the e-mail messages that she had ignored for the past two hours during the vain attempt to finish this project.
            Ten new messages – oh boy.  Most of them would be meaningless.
         One did catch her attention: Emergency Mandatory Meeting at 10:00 a.m. in the Blue Conference Room.  She shifted her eyes to the bottom right of the screen and saw the time was now 11:47 a.m.  Oops.  Oh well, no other related messages; can’t have been that important.
           She unwillingly returned to wading in the sea of numbers and saw at last what needed to be done: she proceeded to do it, in triumph.
            An hour later, one of her co-workers stopped by on her way to lunch: “Wow, can you believe what’s going on?  I mean, I just, there are no words.”
          Not wanting to admit that she had not attended the meeting that required attendance, she noncommittally replied with: “I hear ya.”
            “You’re not kidding.”
            She buried her head in a random file folder to signal that she was significantly busy and had no time for idle chit-chat about important issues; the other employee took the rude hint and looked for other company with which to share the misery.
           The employee stared at the papers in the folder and could not believe her eyes: How could such a glaring typo have been included in this policy for… eight years?!  And no one noticed it!?  Now it’s going to have to go through committee review all over again; who knows what else is wrong with it?!  The worst part of the whole thing was that she was the one who had written it.
            She was engrossed in cross-outs, inserts, and transpositions when her phone interrupted: “Yes, what is it?” she answered with her standard greeting.
            “Can you believe what’s going on?  I’m beside myself.  I mean, can you believe it?”
            She quickly reviewed her options and went with: “No.”
            “I know, right?  So, any ideas on what you’re going to do about it?”
            Another unnecessary apostrophe?!  Son of a – “Listen, I can’t talk right now, I’ve gotta go.”
            “Ooooh, I understand, say no more.  Good luck!”
          She hung up the phone and stared at it for a moment: Should I start being concerned about whatever it is everyone else seems to know and I don’t?  That was overridden by the shame in seeing her correction-riddled document, which she originally thought she had written so well.  If I had messed up so badly with that, what else in life have I messed up without knowing it?!
            “Hey.”  She looked up from the cross-referenced papers to see her manager standing next to the desk.  “Got a minute?”
            Not really; there is too much to be done and too much is at stake.  “Sure – what’s up?”
            He sat on the edge of the desk, threatening her precarious piles.  “You know, what they said at the meeting today, that affects all of us.”
        “And, frankly, we’re not certain what’s going to happen down the road, and everyone’s worried.”
            “Is there anything you’d like to talk about, with me or with Human Resources?”
            He raised his eyebrows at her.  “‘No?’”
          “Wow.  OK.  Then I guess there’s nothing left to discuss here.”  He stood to leave, then hovered again.  “You know, I’m actually a bit surprised – I figured you of all people would’ve had a few choice words to say about all this.”
            “Well, you know me.”  She looked back down at her papers.
            “What?”  She looked back up at him again.
            “Never mind.”  And he finally left.
          She went back to tearing her work apart when a new e-mail caught her eye: Please meet with Human Resources and your manager at 3:00 p.m.  That was in five minutes, and it would take five minutes to walk down there.
            Oh, bother.  She threw her pencil and papers onto the desk and stalked all the way to H.R.  How am I ever supposed to get any work done around here with all these interruptions?!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Story 225: Retro Tech

            The Customer walked into the office and dropped a small disc onto the Representative’s desk.  The latter stared at it, then up at the Customer.
            “What the blazes is this?” she asked.
            “It’s a CD-ROM,” the Customer replied as she sat down uninvited on the only other chair in the room.  “I found it with a VHS tape that I had completely forgotten about, and it’s got a whole bunch of extra features from the movie I want to see but can’t because it won’t fit on my laptop’s disc drive.  Or any computer’s disc drive.  That’s where you come in.”
            The Representative gingerly picked up the disc.  “First off, how old is this?”
            “Um….”  The Customer looked up at the ceiling momentarily.  “It’s about 17 years.”
          The Representative would have done a spit-take if her coffee had been handy: “Seventeen years?!  Not days, not months, not even quarters?”
            “No, years – the movie’s held up pretty well, both in content and in format, but I still can’t believe it’s been around long enough that babies who were born then are now graduating high school.”
            “Yes, but really, 17 years?!  In the world of tech, you might as well have said ‘1776’!”
            “C’mon, it’s not that old – it was made in this century, for crying out loud!”
         “Same century, yes; same decade, no.”  The Representative tossed the disc back at the Customer, who let it land on the desk uncaught.  “At the rates things move, I’m surprised DVDs and Blu-rays are still hanging around!”
            “They wouldn’t be?  I just finished changing over all of my tapes!”
            “I’m not even going there.  Look,” the Representative said as she inched her chair closer to the desk; the Customer reflexively leaned in.  “New stuff’s being made every day, and the more you try to keep up the more gets left behind.  I mean, look at the 1900s: everyone was just getting used to the car when all of a sudden they could fly in the comfort of an armchair!  Could you imagine telling people from the beginning of that century that before they hit the next one they could instantaneously speak with someone on the other side of the planet as easy as if they were talking to someone in the next room?  Or that the plays they watched in the theater could be viewed in their own homes, repeatedly, with magical effects and surround sound?”
            “I think if you told them all that they would have locked you in the attic.”
            “You’re missing the point: if you have a piece of tech now, you’d better use it now because as sure as you’re sitting here, it’s going to become inaccessible in less than five years.  And I’m being generous in that estimate: two years is probably more accurate.”
          “Oh.”  The Customer picked up the disc to stare at it.  “So I’ll never get to see the extra features?”
            “Just go buy the DVD before that’s gone!”
            “It won’t have the same features and you know it!”
           “Fine.”  The Representative rummaged through a drawer and pulled out a small drive with cables that she then dropped onto the desk.  “Here.”
            “What’s this supposed to be?”
           “A CD-ROM adapter.  You plug it into your computer and pop the disc in.  It’s yours for $19.95, plus tax.”
            “Why didn’t you just give me this in the first place?!”
            “You needed to be taught a lesson on the evanescence of life.”