Thursday, June 25, 2015

Story 88: Conference Call on the Party Line

            (In multiple offices, a teleconference takes place with a vendor and managers – they all can view the vendor’s computer screen)
            Vendor: Welcome, everyone – is everyone here?
            Caller 1: I think so?
            Caller 2: Hi!
            Caller 3: Someone’s missing from the queue.
           Vendor: All righty, I’ll just start and they can catch up.  Soooooo…. how’s everybody doin’ today?
            Caller 3: This is an hour and a half demo: just cut to the chase.
            Vendor: All righty.  Can you all see my screen on your end?
            Caller 3: Yes.
            Caller 2: Yes.
            Caller 1: No.
            Caller 4: Yes.
            Vendor: Good.  I’m going to demo how to run that report you had requested the other day.
            Caller 2: I don’t have it.
            Vendor: Pardon me?
            Caller 2: No, I don’t have it, I’ll even check my inbox – (A voice is heard saying something unintelligible) You never said anything about needing it for today!
            Caller 3: Turn off your mic!
            Caller 2: Hold on a second – what?
            Caller 1: We all can hear you!
            Caller 2: Right, sorry.  (Clicks off)
            Caller 3: Sorry about that – you were saying?
            Vendor: Thank you – oh, I see the last caller has just joined us.
            Caller 1: Hi!
            Caller 3: Turn on your mic!
            Caller 5: (Clicks on) Oh, there it is, hello!
            Callers 1 and 4, and Vendor: Hi!
            Caller 5: I was stuck in a meeting – how far did you get?
            Caller 3: We’re losing precious paid seconds here that we’ll never get back!  Keep it going!
            Vendor: Right.  OK, so you’d open the window here, and select “File”.  Everybody see how I did that?
            Caller 3: Not for nothing, but we all got computer basics down pat decades ago.  Just advance to the part we don’t know, please!
            Caller 1: Can I leave early?  I forgot that I have to go to H.R. soon.
            Caller 3: Do whatever you want.
            Vendor: OK, I ran the report and this is what it will look like for you.
            Caller 3: Looks good.  What does everybody think?
            Caller 5: That should work.
            Caller 1: Yeah.
            Caller 4: (Sound of a page turning)
            Caller 3: Are you reading a book?!
            Caller 4: Noooo…..?
            Caller 3: Get off the line!
            Caller 4: You told me to call in!
            Caller 3: And you’re supposed to pay attention!  You’re going to have to run this thing on your own soon, so you’re gonna have to know how to run it!
            Caller 4: But this demo’s sooooo boooooring!
            Vendor: Um, would you like me to call back later?
            Caller 3: No!  We paid for one session, and we need it done now!  Continue, please.
            Vendor: OK, so if this report has what you need, I can show you what else you can do with the program.
            Caller 1: Does this demo really need to be an hour and a half long?  Can’t you just send us a slide show and we’ll call if we have questions?
            Vendor: Uh….
            Caller 3: Our package includes this, so we’re doing it!  Why are you wasting even more time questioning it?!
            Caller 1: `Cause it’s wasting my time!  I have to go to H.R. soon!
            Caller 3: Then go already!  We don’t need you!  You’re all useless!
            Caller 5: Hey, I didn’t do anything!  I was stuck in a meeting!
            Caller 2: (Clicks on) OK, I’m back – what’d I miss?
            Caller 3: Everything!  You people have ruined the demo, and we’re never getting that money back, never!
            Vendor: Actually, that slide show suggestion was a good idea –
            Caller 3: No it wasn’t!  We are doing this demo if it kills us all!
            (Sounds of clicking)
            Vendor: Everybody else just disconnected.
            Caller 3: Finally – I can never get anything done with them around.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Story 87: Driving Without the GPS

            “Ready to roll?”
            “Let’s do this!”
            The two best buds set off in the driver’s car for the road trip of their lives: taking the interstate deep into the heart of grain country and ending at the site of the World’s Biggest Hole in the Wall.  They began their journey with a spring in their gas pedal, and a song in their hearts.
            About an hour into the quest, the driver knew that a road they needed to get onto was coming up soon, but there had been a strange lack of sound for a long time.
            “Could you check the GPS to see if the exit’s coming up?”  She asked while looking for road signs of any kind.
            “Uhhhh….” the passenger said as she searched through the inevitable debris an extended car ride collects.  “It’s not here.”
            The driver slammed on the brakes and they both lurched forward in their seats; thankfully, there were no other cars for miles and miles.  And miles.  Plenty of cattle, though.
            “What do you mean, ‘It’s not here’?!”  The driver screeched, along with the tires.  “Didn’t you have it with you when we got into the car?!”
            “I thought you were going to bring it since you were driving,” the passenger volleyed back.
            “Oh no – oh no – oh no – oh no – oh no – ”  The driver was almost literally going blind with panic.
            “Relax, I printed the directions, we have about another three miles before the turn-off,” the passenger said.
            “Printed directions?  Printed directions?!  What if it’s taking us a long way?  What if it’s taking us the wrong way?  What if I miss the sign for the turn-off?  What if we lose our way and I don’t know how to get us back?”
            “What if the GPS loses the satellite signal?  What if it takes us down roads that don’t exist anymore because the system hadn’t been updated in years?  We’d be in the same situation!”
            “Those things never happen to anybody!  At least never to me.”
            “Fine,” the passenger said, popping open the glove compartment.  “Let’s look at the map.”
            “Map?  I have a map in there?”
        “Apparently a 20-year-old one, judging from the disintegration rate of the paper.”  The passenger opened it up fully across the dashboard.  “OK, we’re here,” she pointed to a spot on the page, “and we need to turn off at that exit there.  See?  Three miles, just like I said.”  The driver blinked as she stared at the map.  “You can’t read this at all, can you.”
            “All I see are lines!  Hideous, hideous lines!”
          “Yes, how did our ancestors from so long ago ever navigate the interstate without a voice telling them to turn in 0.5 miles?”
            “Well, I refuse to navigate by the stars, at any rate.”
            “Ah, that’s actually very easy.”
            “Says you!  It’s 10:00 in the morning!  There won’t be any stars out for hours!”
            “OK, see, turn around and look out the back window,” the passenger said as she turned the driver’s head.  “What’s that big yellow thing in the sky there?”
            “The sun – oh.”
            “Oh yeah, the sun, otherwise known as a star, and it’s behind us, so that means we’re going west, which is exactly the direction we want to be going!”
            “Sun’s not going to tell me when the exit’s coming up, though,” the driver grumbled as she released the brake and accelerated again.
            “Think of this as old-school navigation,” the passenger said, “using only a map, very specific directions, and extremely helpful road signs to get us to our destination.  Ooh look, there’s one coming up, saying our exit’s now in two miles!”
            “I suppose you’re right.  I’m going to be on edge for the rest of the trip, though – I just can’t help it.  I’m deprived of my electronic crutch.”
            “Just another example proving my point about humanity: after bending nature almost entirely to its will, it really is the only species who found survival not enough of a challenge anymore and had to invent hardships.”

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Story 86: The Most Boring Jobs in the World – Panel

            Host: Welcome to tonight’s installment of "The Most Boring Jobs in the World - Panel".  I’m your host, Killian Time; we have three guests joining us this evening.  Let’s start with the lady on my right who requested to be addressed as “Ann”, as in “Ann-onymous”.
            “Ann”: Thanks for having me – I love your show!  It literally is the only thing that gets me through the day.
            Host:  Indeed.  And why is that?
            “Ann”: Because mine is the most boring job in the world, Killian, and I need something to look forward to in order to drag myself out of bed and across the many, many hours of each rotation around the Sun.
            Host: And what is it that you do?
            “Ann”: I’m a museum docent.
            Host: That doesn’t sound so bad; we all love museums.
            “Ann”: Oh, the visitors have a blast.  They can linger as long or as little as they want, or move on to the cafeteria, or leave the building altogether.  Whereas I’m assigned a single section of the floor and have to stay there for hours and hours, making sure people don’t touch anything.  Master’s degree in art history and I’m a glorified babysitter.
            Host: I’m sure that’s not all you do.
            “Ann”: Oh you are, are you?  I get to do tours sometimes, but that’s just babysitting on the move while trying to keep my patter straight.  Then, it’s back to the standing, and the staring.  The art starts to lose its appeal by the time I’ve memorized the cracks in the oil paint.
            Host: I see.  Well, you certainly have made a strong case for yourself on this show.  I award your job an Ennui Rating of 9 out of 10.
            “Ann”: Yes!  Success at last!
            Host: Next, we have another contestant with a pseudonym in order to protect his company: “Sharon”, the tour boat operator.
            “Charon”: Actually, Killian, it’s pronounced “Charon” – as in the boatman who ferries doomed souls across the River Styx into Hades.
            Host: Oh yes, I get it now.  So, I presume that that has some significance to our topic.
            “Charon”: Oh yes: much as “Ann” mentioned, I too must babysit on the move when I conduct tours.  The differences are that I have recite my speech while simultaneously operating a motorboat in a tidal river; the tourists sit there like slugs, stirring only to snap photos of nothing; my patter is so molded to the landscape that I could read my endless monologue off the rocks and trees; and I have to travel the same zig-zaggy circle eight times a day, six days a week, until the day I die.
            Host: Surely not that long.
            “Charon”: It could be any moment now: I can feel my heart stop beating with the tedium.
            Host: But you see such beautiful scenery every day.
            “Charon”: Yes.  I see such beautiful scenery.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Would you like to watch the same beautiful movie multiple times every day?
            Host: …No, I guess not.
            “Charon”: There you go.  Plus, all the boats and their waste have been slowly killing the habitat, so the company’s going to have to relocate the tours soon.  Suppose that’ll shake things up for a day.
            Host: You make some good points.  I have to award you an Ennui Rating of 8.5, though, because the constant threats of the gas tank exploding and/or the boat sinking with all hands add an element of thrill that deducts from your score.
            “Charon”: That is true.  Rats.
            Host: Finally, we have “Dickens”, who works in a box factory.  Sounds interesting.
            “Dickens”: It’s not.  I have one job to do: straighten the product on the conveyer belt as each piece passes me, for eight + hours.  That’s it.
            Host: Oh my.
            “Dickens”: On top of that, we’re always on edge because there’s the continual chance of losing a finger, eyebrows, etc.
            Host: I’m sorry, “Dickens”, but that does not qualify as “boring” – on the contrary, it’s life-threatening and therefore exciting.  Live up to your fake name and expose the dangers of factory life to the world if you must, but you cannot participate any longer in this game.
            “Dickens”: Typical.  Can’t make progress anywhere in life.
            Host: Try the “Is My Life Trying to Kill Me?” show next door.  (“Dickens” leaves)  Right, so, since we’re now short a contestant, I’d like to throw my hat into the ring and submit my job as a candidate for “The Most Boring Job in the World”.
            “Ann”: Really?  But you have new people to talk to each day, and you get to play games, for crying out loud.
            Host: Yes, yes – you’d be surprised at how people’s sob stories all start sounding alike after a while.  Why, I just had people with your and “Charon’s” predicaments last week, only one was a study hall teacher and the other was a forest ranger.  I disqualified the ranger because she gets to drive a truck and occasionally faces down bears.
            “Charon”: So, you find us all… boring?
            Host: Extremely.  I try to find new ways to ask the same questions, but I finally gave up and just read from my script.  Even my reactions are repeats.  I would be bored to tears if I weren’t on camera.
            “Ann”: I guess you can award yourself an Ennui Rating of 10, then.
            Host: I wish; technically, I can’t compete.  Shook things up a bit though, didn’t it?  And now, I name “Ann” the winner because it’s late and I only have my dreams in REM sleep to look forward to.  This is Killian Time, and thank you for watching "The Most Boring Jobs in the World - Panel".  Be sure to tune in tomorrow, where I’ll be here yet again, joined by an amusement park ride operator, a fruit picker, and a literal clock watcher.