Archive for the From the Cubicle Trenches Category

Adventures With Outlook

Posted in Airing of Grievances, From the Cubicle Trenches with tags , , , , , , , , on September 12, 2011 by Bekka

I am not fond of Outlook as an email program. You could say that I heartily dislike it, which is about the strongest level of antipathy I can summon against an inanimate object. Despite its limitations and constant annoyances, most businesses rely on it exclusively for email. The last place I worked at least acknowledged Outlook’s suckitude by permitting us access to Gmail so that larger files could be sent — this happened so frequently that eventually They listened to me and got an FTP Server (I did something useful!)… Not that anyone there besides me would ever learn how to use said FTP Server, despite my repeated emailed instructions and job aids (with pictures and everything), so guess what became part of my job? But I digress.

At a very large workplace that uses Outlook — say, a thousand or so people — it can become quite the source of amusement. At one such company that I deigned to brighten with my cheery disposition for a few years, the servers would become overloaded on occasion and email would go down. The IT guys would very quickly be doing nothing but answering the phone and telling people that they knew the email was down and were working on it except they couldn’t work on it because they were too busy telling people they were working on it to actually do so and the longer email was down, the more people thought that IT must need to be told about it… “We are experiencing Technical Death Spiral. Please shut up and let us do our jobs.” They never said that, but I always hoped for it. Although one time, they did tell someone who called, “Hi. Yes, we know email and internet are down. We just sent out an email telling everyone we’re working on it.” Really? And you guys get paid more than me? Excuse me, I have some college degrees to go burn now…

Another time, someone in a different office decided to cc the entire company with a “You suck, I can’t work with you, so I quit” email to their manager. Almost instantly, 400 people replied all with “I think I have been copied on this email by mistake.” Email — and then internet and all systems — slowed to a crawl as thousands of people waited to receive and delete these emails that were mobbing the servers like so many Trekkies boldly going to a Sci-Fi Convention. THEN, about 200 people replied all with the message, “Stop hitting reply all. You are crashing the servers.” More downtime as these emails filtered slowly through the interwebs to be deleted from thousands of inboxes across the country. I guess that’s one way to get some revenge on a company you hate. Yes, everyone’s productivity slowed or stopped, making more work for the rest of the week, but one of my Favorite Things is laughing at stupidity — especially other people’s, but often my own as well — so it was pretty much one of The Best Days Ever.


Cubicle Conversations III

Posted in From the Cubicle Trenches with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2011 by Bekka
14 hour work days are not good for your mental health. Not good… I present Exhibit A, a conversation overheard about halfway through one such day.
Out of a long silence with occasional typing noises:


Daryl:  If you had your choice of a hundred dollars a week or a lifetime supply of fried pies, which would you take?… The pies, right?
Robbie:  I was gonna go with the hundred dollars, myself.
Daryl:  But pies?!
(mumbled discussion on the merits of fried pies)
Immediately following with no transition:
Daryl:  Would you rather be eaten by an alligator or a shark?
Robbie:  A shark. I think I could get away from a shark.
Daryl:  You THINK you could?
Robbie:  Well, either way you’re gonna lose something…
Daryl:  I’m terrified of sharks…
Daryl:  Boy, I can’t wait till they vacuum… I always look forward to that part of the day… As if your brains aren’t scrambled enough by this time…
(moment of silence, presumably for thoughts of vacuum cleaners)
Daryl:  I’m sick of popcorn…
Robbie:  Man, you eat it all day from breakfast till you leave!
Daryl:  Yeah, but I’m sick of it, they should get us a hamburger machine; have some old lady in there frying burgers all day, you know…

Cubicle Conversations II

Posted in From the Cubicle Trenches with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2011 by Bekka

I have had the Upper Respiratory Plague this week, so aside from plotting Dark Vengeance on the Carrier Monkey (Richard The Knave, I’m glaring at you…) I have not gotten much done. So I am publishing another overheard conversation for your reading pleasure:

Plodding through another sleep-deprived, 11 hour work day the following eavesdroppings cheered me up a bit. Our old friends “Daryl” and “Robbie” are present as well as a new character who we will refer to as “Mitch” – a smirking sort of fellow with an athletic, monkey-style build; fond of football and foosball, often makes funny snide remarks.
There is no conversation going on. The following dialogue interrupts the tapping of keyboards and occasional background work-related talk.

Daryl (out of nowhere to no one):  Would you rather be suffocated by eating a donut or a hoagie?
Mitch:  What?!
Daryl:  (repeats)
Mitch:  Donut.
Daryl:  Why?
Mitch:  Donut tastes better.
Daryl:  What if it was one of them sugar free ones?
Mitch:  Do they suffocate you?
Daryl:  No, you’re suffocating either way —
Robbie (interrupts):  But donuts have holes, right?
Daryl:  What do you mean by that? You’re sick.
Robbie (mock surprised):  I’m sick? I just said –
Daryl:  You’re violating borders, man…

Is this a typical male conversation? Is that what they think about? Or were these guys just addled by the relentless overtime and overwhelming futility of that particular job?

Cubicle Conversations

Posted in From the Cubicle Trenches with tags , , , , , , on August 24, 2011 by Bekka
At all of my cube-farm jobs, I have always popped open a notepad window and typed verbatim any random entertaining conversations I happen to catch drifting through the office. The following is one such relic.
Instead of the usual droning of football stats and discussions on the latest reality show, this filtered over the cubicle wall one fine day:
There is about a five party conversation going on something like this:
“Outback is good.”
“Yeah, and Logan’s.”
“You been to the Chophouse?”
“A lot of Chinese places have good seafood… I like Red Lobster…”
and so on until this developed between two coworkers we will call “Daryl” (40-50 something rural Southerner with the accent, likes NASCAR and domestic beer) and “Robbie” (20 something, lanky, smart-ass type with his hair moussed straight up about 2 inches).

Daryl:  You like Sushi?
Robbie:  Yeah, I love it!
Daryl:  Heh, you eat them sea monsters?
Robbie:  What?
Daryl:  You know what I mean.
Robbie:  No, I don’t know what you mean.
Daryl (taunting):  That’s cuz you don’t want to know.

Daryl:  You ever eat squid?
Robbie:  Oh, no, I don’t like the squid…
Daryl:  You like eatin’ trout though?
Robbie:  Yeah they have a – (laughs) — they have a really good smoked trout actually.
Daryl:  HA, smoked trout!! He likes smoked trout (mumbles incoherently)…
Robbie:  You’re disgusting.
I have a feeling that in his head, Daryl was being remarkably clever and witty. We may one day have the technology to get inside people’s heads and understand them better, but would we really want to go there?
And that’s your random thought for Wednesday.
What entertaining conversations have you overheard recently? Tell me in the comments!

Flagrant Violation of Office Dress Code

Posted in From the Cubicle Trenches with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2011 by Bekka

Every workplace has a dress code of some sort. From construction sites (hard hat required) to the stock market, The Man has an idea of what workers should wear and enforces it. Sometimes there are practical reasons for a particular dress code and sometimes the owner of the company just wants to micromanage employees into wearing what they deem “acceptable.” My most recent office job required “business casual” which turned out to be a wildly subjective term. When I first started there, dressy jeans were permitted, then they weren’t, khakis were ok, but no cargo pants… and we had several meetings a year to “remind everyone to adhere to the dress code,” but no one would actually say what offensive article of clothing had recently been worn to prompt the meeting. One lady always looked really put together but consistently wore tank tops — they had rhinestones though so that was ok. Another lady wore “nice” black flip-flops almost every day, but always had her toenails painted so that was fine, but someone got written up for wearing Sketchers (the ones that look like mary janes); WTF?! I could tell stories about ridiculous rulings on various things worn to that office (by people who didn’t even have contact with the customers no less), but that is not today’s topic. Today I am going to tell you about the day I definitely violated the hell out of that dress code.

It was a day like any other I suppose. Incidentally, I was wearing a light blue, long sleeved, button down shirt and gray slacks. On morning and afternoon breaks, I would walk up a nearby dead end road with several coworkers to enjoy the fresh air, exercise and company. After one of these breaks, I was back in my cubicle when I heard a buzzing noise. I checked my cellphone, which I kept on vibrate in the office, but it was not doing anything. I chalked it up to someone else’s cellphone nearby and went on with work. Again the buzzing, definitely in my cubicle. I slowly looked around. Nothing untoward seemed to be happening. But there it went again, like it was right next to me. And there was a certain stinging sensation on my right arm that finally clicked in my head that there was an insect of some sort in my sleeve. I yanked my arm up into my shirt and vigorously shook out the sleeve. Nothing. I unbuttoned my top button and cautiously peered down the sleeve. And saw this:

we can call it a bee, but it was bigger and freakier than any bee I've seen.

It was dizzy and mad and not going to be dislodged from the sleeve. I have no idea how that big, scary bug got into my sleeve without me noticing it, but that really didn’t matter at the time. I quickly grabbed the sleeve between it and me before it could leap into my eyes and ran to the bathroom where I proceeded to yank off my shirt and then grab the other end of the sleeve, trapping the bad, bad thing.

As I grinned in triumph, the situation slowly dawned on me. I was in the ladies room, topless, holding a large hostile insect captive in my shirt. I swiftly went through my options. I could get it out of the shirt now, then I’d be topless in the ladies room with a large hostile insect probably flying at me. No. I could stomp it to death in the shirt. Then I’d have bug guts and shoe prints all over my nice shirt… and… what if it didn’t die but just got madder? No. I could call a coworker to bring me the sweater from my cube and wear that while I released the bug into the wild — YES! Was my cellphone in my pocket? No. Shit.

I cracked open the bathroom door and looked out, hoping someone would walk by or be within earshot.

I saw my boss (and president of the company) in the temporary corner cubicle, talking loudly on the phone to a customer. His back was to me. OK. The insect buzzed angrily in its shirt-prison. How long would it be before it realized it could sting through cloth?… I very quietly called “Janieeee!” “Gleeeendaaa!” I had to not get my boss’s attention or interrupt his phone call, yet make my voice carry over the cubicle walls and possibly over Glenda’s headphones which were likely blaring some Metallica. It could not be done. And if I walked back to my cube, the Boss Man would totally see me since he was facing the hallway and my cube (see illustration for office layout). Double shit.

Make a Perception Check. The lights in the showroom were out. Which meant that no customers were in there admiring the shiny objects and high end clothing. Yes, clothing. New plan. Angry captive insect in hand, I made a successful Sneak Roll and slunk behind my boss into the showroom where I grabbed the nearest shirt and put it on, keeping an eye on my shirt in case the Bee-Thing erupted out of it. Then I tried the showroom door to the outside. Locked. Because there were no customers scheduled today evidently. Ok, fine. I collected my shirt and walked purposefully through the office to the front door, wearing a nicely screenprinted t-shirt (which was not allowed under the dress code, but better than bra only, right?). If you look confident enough, no one will question you. I strolled outside and turned my shirt inside out. The Bee-Thing wouldn’t let go. I scraped it into the flowerbed with a stick and dashed back inside before it could get me. The receptionist noticed me coming in and I screamed in a whisper to her “THERE WAS A BEE IN MY SHIRT!!!” While I am cool in crisis situations, I do permit myself to freak out afterwards.

I went to the bathroom to change back into my blue shirt and returned the t-shirt to the showroom. Boss Man was still blathering away on the phone and knows nothing of it to this day.

I’m In Your Corporation, Mining Your Gold

Posted in Evil Deeds, Sneakiness & Skullduggery, From the Cubicle Trenches, In the Gaming Realms with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by Bekka

Howdy, y'all

While cleaning out closets recently, I found this hat. It reminded me of a team building exercise a former workplace had inflicted on everyone in the corporation in an attempt to make us want  to do mandatory overtime and be more accurate and faster all at the same time because the Big Bosses really didn’t want to have to freeze raises and lay people off while still collecting their eight million dollar bonuses because that decreased morale… But I digress. Has anyone else ever played The Search for The Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine? It’s a corporate team building game based on a real legendary gold mine. The game was developed by motivational speaker Scott Simmerman and the following summary is (loosely) paraphrased (interpreted) from his site:

Participants are seated at a table with 4 or 5 other drones in need of an attitude adjustment. On each tabletop is a map, a Grub Stake of resource cards, planning tools, job aids and other information. After being subjected to cowboy hats and bandannas, the group listens to the Expedition Leader tell the history of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine and the nature of the challenges they will face.

Teams have 20 days of 2 minutes each to manage their journey to the Mine and return to Apache Junction. There are 3 paths with different risks, weather changes and limited resources. Additional valuable  information is available, but delays the start by one or two days.

Teams have 15 minutes to plan. They must work together to make decisions about tactics, resource management and risk — or they can simply defer to the smartest person(s) at the table and sit there being as useful as a one-legged man at an ass-kicking party… They can also choose to get advice or collaborate with others (especially when the others are over a barrel) and then after the game, there is a break and then a debriefing on what was supposed to be learned.

The announced goal of the exercise was “For us all to return from the mine with as much gold as we can.”

I was assigned to a team with the Department Head and several other coworkers — some from my area and some not. I was elected the Big Picture Person, the one who looked at how everything was going and kept the Master Plan on track — this was because I didn’t say “not it!” quickly enough. But soon enough, it became evident that I didn’t mind all that power as I mercilessly dictated demonstrated my leadership skills. During our team’s initial planning phase, “Juan,” another designer who was put in charge of our resources I think, suddenly looked up at me and our eyes met across the table as we both said, “It’s a board game.” Thus I discovered the other Gamer in the office. Nobody else grasped the significance of our announcement, but from that moment on, he and I were running the show and we were going to win, by God.

the board looks like this

We decided to risk delaying our start to see the “valuable information” which led to us getting some cool extras like spare tires and tents or something. We then carefully cross-examined the “Expedition Leader” in true Rules Lawyer Form on some of the finer points of the game (it turned out that the Leader was there to Help and we needn’t have been so circumspect and cunning in our questions, but when you are used to a Game Master plotting your demise at every turn, you develop some trust issues in regards to authority figures). We planned our whole journey out with every possible contingency covered, day by day. Rather than stressing over each “day” as it came, we’d calmly perform the actions we’d planned, recheck the math as variables came up and then spend the other minute and a half chatting about our favorite web comics and RPGs. No one else at the table knew what we were talking about, but they did what we said and trusted that we had it figured out. We mined the shit out of that gold. We realized we could stay one “day” longer in the mine if we had some extra fuel, so we traded some of our extra tires to another team who were stranded (poor planning on their part; tsk tsk) and yes, we drove a hard bargain. The Dept Head Lady, who was really sweet and a team player, suggested we just give some our unneeded items to other teams to be nice. We replied with a slightly politer version of “That’s crazy talk! We must crush them.

Our team set a record for the most gold collected by a single team. It’s a shame you couldn’t steal the other teams’ gold as well, but it turns out that the objective was for us ALL to get as much gold as possible, so we should have really helped the other teams while getting nothing in return. That is what we were supposed to learn anyway. Juan and I just muttered, “yeah, well, we still won…

And the moral of the story is:

Gamers are awesome at team building games, but not necessarily the best “team players”


Not everyone can rock a cowboy hat. Fortunately, I can.

Why I Don’t Miss the Cube Farm Today

Posted in From the Cubicle Trenches with tags , , , , , , , , on August 8, 2011 by Bekka

At my last office job, we had a client that I got to do a lot of Special Projects for. She was a Very Special Customer. There were notes on how to interact with her left by my predecessor and notes on other people’s monitors reminding them never to call her, but to let So-And-So (or me) handle it. I referred to her as the Bad Karma From My Last Job — I’m not sure what I did there, but it must’ve been awful. I came across this old email conversation I had with her and saved it to remind myself that no amount of money was worth that aggravation:

My Email:
Thanks for getting this database updated so quickly!!
I will be needing these people’s email and mailing addresses to send them results:
{list of 3 people I’d never heard of, but needed to mail and email her stuff to}
“Evil Bekka”*

Her reply (no shit):

Why don’t you send them an e-mail and ask for same and tell them M– D– is sending sales incentive gifts and you need their home address.

I didn’t answer her email. I can be very diplomatic, but I was at a complete loss as to how to politely say “really? I’ll just … do that then… cuz in the time you took to write that, you could’ve given me their emails so I could do that!! ya big (bleeep, bleep)…”

So, yeah. Glad I don’t work there anymore… Happy Monday!

*names have been changed or omitted to protect the innocent and the guilty