Friday, September 09, 2005

In which I ramble, try to prove I have tolerance, and end up proving the opposite.

I have learned how to hold my tongue! I can do that now!

Well, sort of.

For example, it's well known that I'm a health nut, both on this blog and here in Real Life at the office. And through some management changes that happened this week, I now have both an immediate manager and HIS manager in town, in the office, not more than a few yards away from my desk. And this is fine, although management changes always shake everyone up a little, and because I'm a people-pleaser, I really want the new manager to like me, and so I'm on my toes, trying to do the right thing all the time, for at least the first few weeks.

And so when the Big Manager brings the New Immediate Manager out to lunch, and Mentor goes, AND Lead Engineer goes, and Lead Engineer NEVER goes out to lunch, and they invite me, I decide that it would be a good thing if I go, too. (The Other Woman in the office didn't feel like going, apparently, which tells me why her career here at B----- has been so checkered. Turning down lunch with two managers and Lead Engineer? All card-carrying members of the B----- Gentlemen's Network? And then complain on a weekly basis that you feel "shut-out" of office decisions? And are surprised when your budget is cut? Are you STUPID? But I digress.)

So here we are at lunch, four men and a lady (ha!). Two Managers, Lead, Mentor, and me. I'm a little nervous, but I'm trying not to show it. Trying to get to know the New Manager. The rest of the guys all get pizza, chips, fried fish, etc. I get a big salad. (Hey--if I eat carbs at lunch I fall asleep, okay? I'm sorry to perpetuate stereotypes, but damn me if I'm going to get a slice of pizza when I want a salad just to BREAK a stereotype. That's just as ridiculous.)

Big Manager looks at my plate. Spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cottage cheese. "Baa-a-a-a-a-a-a," he says.

I've worked with Big Manager for my whole career so far, and I feel comfortable with him, so I shoot back, "Lead Engineer is eating vegetables too--why don't you make fun of him? I don't look at your plate and say, 'Oink, Oink,' do I?"

Everyone laughs. Big Manager looks down at his plate, confused. "I'm not eating pork, I'm eating fish!"

And, y'all, here's the key: I didn't jump in to explain the joke. I said to myself, Self, it's not important if other people think you made a dumb joke. YOU know that you were funny. If the other guys got it, they'll know that you were, too. You'll only insult Big Manager more if you explain the joke, hammering home that you called him a pig AND that he was too dumb to get the joke the first time.

And so I said, "Oh yes, you're right." And kept eating my spinach.

There's a very old guy who has also moved in to sit next to me. He's old (did I mention that?) and Hawaiian and reminds me a lot of the teacher from the Karate Kid, except so far I am NOT impressed with his actual brains--he was sure that IAM wasn't going to strike, for example. HA. He likes to ask me how to map network drives--wait, beg pardon, he didn't actually ask ME, he asked MENTOR. A man who was at that moment running late for a meeting, and this old, slow, blinking Hawaiian guy asked him how to map a network drive. I offer to help, instead, shooing Mentor out the door. Old Hawaiian looks at me. "You can do that?" he says.

It was clear to me that he thought that mapping network drives is something that only skilled people can do, a learned technique, and that only old experienced guys like Mentor could do such a thing. It never occurred to him that since I was younger, I would automatically have more computer skills than Mentor.

In fact, I have very little patience with old people in general. Slow blinking ones are more irritating than others, but what's annoying is they don't understand that in today's world, they may have engineering experience, but their very age counts AGAINST them. Or at least it does with me. They are slow to understand that computer skills are linked to age because, once they realize that, what does that make them? Archaic and useless? Yes, it does. And no one wants to realize that their very age--something they cannot change--is a large black mark against them.

This is why B----- annoys me--they value age and experience, not skill. They value tradition, not innovation. They may SAY they do, but they don't. They have retained all their old engineers all these years, and fired only the new engineers in the layoffs, and so now all these 65 year-olds are begging to retire, and B----- is facing a real brain drain. (I think it's high time, but I am concerened that there's no middle generation to take up the load--there's barely anyone between 50 and 25.)

If they had only fired some of their old engineers earlier! They could have saved money--new engineers demand a lot lower salaries--and kept the knowledge flowing, but now they're stuck, and unions haven't helped. Our union requires this thing called a retention index assigned to each person, which is based 85% on seniority, so the more senior you are, the less likely you are to get fired. And that's a union thing that B----- can't change.

Anyway. But this Old Hawaiian was gone for lunch one day and because he doesn't know how to set up his voice mail, when his office phone rang 25 times. And then whoever it was tried him on his cell phone, because it clearly wasn't a business call (the Old Hawaiian works less than I do) and his cell phone rang--with a very loud annoying musical ditty--another 14 times. Because Old People have absolutely no cell phone etiquette whatsoever. And never ever think of turning their damn phones on mute. (I would DIE if my cell phone went off at the office.) And when he returned, this is what I said:

"Hey, would you like me to help you set up your voicemail on your office phone?"

And he said sure. And we went on.

Later on, I was getting lunch, and a cubemate stopped me in the hallway. "I just want you to know," he said, "that you were so polite and deserve a medal. I would have beaten both phones to a bloody pulp."

So I'm improving! Really! And I made friends, as has been previously mentioned, but the REALLY cool thing is that it turns out that THEY have friends who WORK ON MY STUFF! I made my own business contacts! On my own! With no hand-holding! Now I have toys! It's awesome.


The World Against Me said...

haa.. I agree with your co-worker.. kill the phones!

kt said...

what is it with the lack of 30-45 yr old engineers? we don't have them either.. and neither did my old company. it's like everyone in that age range wised up and changed careers because they saw what was coming..

and you are SO right about old people and computers. i think i should be able to knock off an hour early every day because that's how much time i probably save a day just by being able to TYPE and click quickly. it's so funny when you're showing an older person a computer shortcut and they are just so incredibly amazed.

alex said...

If you really want to knock their socks off, write a Visual Basic macro in Excel. Even many otherwise competent and knowledgable technical people don't realize the power and potential of programming in Excel. It makes shitty graphs and I want to gnaw my arms off every time I see one in a presentation....but it's still a powerful spreadsheet program.