Friday, August 6, 2010


Earlier this week, we had our monthly department meeting (I call it the monthlies). I am so in denial of my employment that I blank each month and forget that we always go around the table and talk about what we've been working on. As people list their projects and special cases, I jot notes on my ruled pad about the stuff I've done, quickly editing mentally how I'll make the most tedious job in the world sound like a manned flight to Mars.

"I worked on the PM Book, the DO book, the Australian book, and I've taken over the bond processing."

Translation: "I muttered 'are you f*cking KIDDING me?!?!?' all week under my breath while my supervisor obsessed about completely pointless things in the books that I had to keep changing for her, refusing to understand that we have a department of certifiable anal retentives who find it physically impossible to let go of a document so I can proof it in time to hand off to the department head. These books are making my life a living hell of stomach pain and Prevacid, and I am hugely nostalgic for  unemployment."

Seriously, in a meeting my supervisor kept saying, "The department head wants these books perfect, so you have to look at all of the formatting to make sure that it is all absolutely consistent." And I replied, "To get that kind of perfection, you have to give me time, ideally a full day undisturbed. I have people handing me stuff at 4:57 pm and expecting me to take care if it."

"Well, as I've said--" (imagine, please, the most patient, condescending tone you can. Imagine a parent talking to  a misbehaving kindergartener with special needs) "-- time is not something we always have."

Translation: "Nobody here can manage their time, including myself. In fact, while you all were working frantically to get two books together by close of business today, I decided to announce at 10am that I'll be leaving early and need everything by 1."

I replied, "And what I'm saying (consciously not raising my voice or getting shrill) "is that I don't disagree with you about the desired quality of the finished product; I'm simply saying that without the time, I can't deliver it the way you and I would like."

I no longer die on the cross of unrealistic expectations. And I'm OK with that.

Then there's the analyst who literally hovers over my left shoulder as I take a nightmare of tabs and spaces and put the data into a nice neat table.


"No. No, you are NOT standing there being a back-seat typist."

"Well, it's just - are those LINES going to stay there?"

"No. They are not. I know what I'm doing. Please let me do it. Go away."

"It's just--"

"OH. MY. GOD, please don't make me kill you."

Seriously, there is nothing like poor time management and micromanagement combined with incompetence to make my day.

Did I mention each book contains about 20 files? So I don't have say, one Word document that I can use one set of styles for, or run one set of corrective find/replace exercises. Oh no, I have to navigate among well over a dozen files taken from last year and updated by several people who divide them amongst themselves, trying to get them all to look the same. Then there are the  multiple-tabbed Excel workbooks that, as part of the total INSANITY, cannot be allowed to round up. The boss literally takes her calculator and adds the numbers horizontally and vertically, and if they are off by a dollar due to rounding, it's unacceptable. We are researching Excel to see about a formula that might address this. In the meantime, I print the page for reference, and hard-type in the face values to keep everyone happy. Because a dollar matters so much when you're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yep, an underwriter is going to lose their shit over that dollar.

All this goes through my head during the meeting as I make it sound like I'm having just the best! learning! experience! in the world! I'm learning all right; learning how to not kill people who print emails and make me file them.  Because my supervisor doesn't want  to learn how to save emails as html in folders that can be put on a CD and stored, rather than printing out emails that I have to mark up and file in a drawer. Oh, and send to offsite storage in a year. Oh no.

The thing is, I'm liked in this department, because on some level they realize I'm good. I'm fast, I'm competent, and I'm grossly underpaid. And I'm also fun, and, it might sound odd, but I do like the people there, even when their work habits drive me up the wall. They aren't awful people, just terrified of anything new. Like effectiveness.

At the staff meeting, the department head mentioned reviews and personal assessments and goals and putting together a list of objectives preparatory to meeting with her. So on one hand, I need to come up with objectives that sound real, but that won't actually cost me a lot of effort, because I just refuse to give more of myself than they're already draining from me. And I can't be honest, because my real objective is another job.

So we had cake, as is the custom, to celebrate staffers who have birthdays this month. August is just me so far. And it was nice, and friendly.

Today was an insane day ending an insane week, and we were looking wistfully out the window at the people flocking into Millennium and Grant parks for Lollapalooza, and wishing we were there and not where we were. Lady Gaga there; flush-left bullet points here. *sigh.*

Then a beautiful Friday thing happened. My supervisor left early as promised, and the department head had gone for the next several days. For me the feeling of relief was palpable.

My coworker brought out the leftover cake, which we'd forgotten about, and I sang "Bad Romance" to it. Then I found mini Tootsie Rolls in a common dish and threw them at co-workers. When they looked up, puzzled, I intoned, "We are a very conservative company here," and threw some more.

When I wondered aloud whether the department head would find it funny if I put a picture of a flasher on the Exposure Data section of the book draft, my closest coworker laughed that I would almost certainly be fired.

"You wouldn't tease a girl, would you?" I asked.

Back Seat Typist sniffed, "A lot of people don't have jobs."

I said, "That's like complaining of your husband beating you, and all someone can say is 'at last you're married.'"

And then I scooped up a huge fingerful of frosting and said to it, "I want your loving, all your lover's revenge; you and me could write a bad romance."

And I ate it all.


karen said...

hooooooooo man! Have I been HERE.

So now ... I'm a SAHM of three little kids that are amazing, and wonderful and ... seriously?! There are days when I long for a coffee break. But ... but but.

I. do. not. miss. the. work.

Sorry. I do not.

I don't know that I will ever go back to ... an office where one has to behave, bite the proverbial tongue, hum inside of the head so as not to say the wrong thing(sss) ...

All's I'm sayin' is ... um ... happy birthday! and good job. better you than me.

As usual, I love yer post. g'night.

JC said...

Oh, you have it right on, Karen. I'm not someone who would miss being in an office, ever. And if i could have made decent money nannying the twins at sane hours, I'd have stayed with it. There is no perfect world and I don't mean to romanticize unemployment, but not having to answer to someone five days a week is a glorious thing. I'm getting good headshots taken next week , and will look into performance options as a way to escape this hell. One day at a time. I know several women who are SAHMs, and they love it.

I'd be a fantastic housewife: I can cook AND I have my own power drill.