Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Take it.

"For single copies, it's fine. For multiple copies of a single sheet, it's almost always fine. Whenever sorting is involved, forget about it. Guaranteed paper jam." This was a local call to summon a technician to sort the problem, which was to involve a different jam, despite the warrantee.
 
I'd have told Joanne when we bought it that whenever a vendor offers two remarkably similar products for two different prices, they are guaranteeing that the cheaper of the two is exactly that. You're not to know what the more pricey machine would have given you. That's what you pay the extra money for. I mean, sure, for all you know, it's a dead cat. I'll bet it purrs, though.
 
But I'm not that different from Joanne. Despite her having asked my opinion on the matter only to support the notion that we were making a collective informed decision, I'd have decided on the cheaper one, too. That's the problem when money's an object that does not belong to you. It has a habit of adulterating the reckoned authority that makes up the universe of delegated decision making.
 
In the subsequent company meeting, my task would be like that of the hapless functionary who gets sent forth when the matter is too serious to be left to the press speaker, but is nevertheless not something a department head would put herself through. Telling everyone why I suck. I always strive to make sure the subtext is we all suck. Why should I be any different?

For the practical part that presented itself, I would make an analogy about how instead of calling the locksmith and issuing new keys, we need, each of us, to nurture the finer awareness of the mechanical precision involved when you stick your key all the way in the lock, and then pull it back ever so slightly to find that sweet edge where the key turns.
 
No, don't jiggle it. If you're conscious of the word subtle, it's not subtle enough. At first, you'd swear this is undoable, but before long you're not even aware that you're retracting the key. And maybe you're not. You've just found the right spot and committed it to physical memory. It's the second nature that comes only from experience.
 
With this in mind, I would tell them that for those who are like I had been, and could use a tutorial, I'd be demonstrating the delicacy of the "automatic" sorting and stapling feature in the copyroom upon request, and concluded my presentation with an allusion to their being the geniuses that keep this company afloat not literally on the Chicago River, and how I'm just glad to be of service.
 
This is the service economy. True, it didn't start this year, in 1994. Its origins are in a feudal society never quite abandoned but in name. Fortunately I find myself fully employed here out of the goodness of a temp agency that saw my potential and got me the interview, for a cut of my contract should I get one, of course.
 
For one year. Meaning: They'd have had me temping forever, all the same, had the company in question not made clear, with apparently remarkable precision, what it was they did not want. For their part (that is, the parcelling thereof), after the first year, my pay raise would probably be a fraction of the expired commission. But before we get that far, there's the matter of this year's prophecy for the next: Windows 95.
 
I'd heard enough about the coming of the Net before this but, to me (the cynic), this mantra of a future beneath which we would whither without was more than its promise to be "the" interface to face our greater interconnected world. It guarantees an interdependent, monopolized one. More than indispensable. Undetachable.
 
Everybody, it seems, not just our little company of a dozen-&-a-half first names (and a couple last initials for the duplicates not Cathy & Kathy), is jumping on the Windows wagon. "Buzz" was coined for these moments in time. It is like the pest that gets to spread because it's everybody's boss's brother-in-law. Every time his name is invoked, "bzzz" is the sound, high ninety-fiving against the window pain. Windowzzzzzzzzzz...
 
The advance orders alone would insure the financial success of an operating system that would be rife with problems getting going. Such bugs will not deter the people returning for more of the same, among them the big money, not only their delegated, jittery purse string pullers.
 
What was that Windows guy's name? Bet he's more obscenely rich, wherever he is.
 
However this paradigm shift in communications is to occur, as far as anyone seems to be concerned, this is the only way. No alternative springs to mind. At any rate, it's a no-brainer for our business. We do correspondence courses. All we got is intranet for email and data entry. As a mail boy cum backup receptionist cum assistance to the admin director, I am more keyed in, in that subtle phenomenological way, with the scope of our use of the US Postal Service.
 
Course registrations arrive by mail. Course materials get shipped out by mail. Progress checks and tests get sent in, sorted, stacked, repackaged in those red, white, & blue tear-proof bag-like envelopes, and overnighted to instructors contracted to grade the students' answers, which are then returned in yet another pre-stamped old glorified package included in the former. I have a lot of red ink on my hands.
 
Of course the use of a world wide web would make this process much quicker if not less tedious. Who knows, this interconnectedness may one day take the concept of the correspondence course and spread it from K to 12 and higher education. Once we work the bugs out. At least we'll have more time for our personal problems.
 
Joanne just told me I have another presentation to make. I usually relish this part of the job. A captive audience. And props! Like when I used a mini legal pad and a set of pens to make a fine point about imagining one's writing utensil as an extension of the self, instead of a soon to be missing sock.
 
I made the, some might say, gutsy admission that I had one of each of these office supplies at home. But having done the calculation (re-enacted live with a calculator to prove it), each of the thirty of us with one of each of these items does not account for the number of reordered replacements that had become necessary. I left them with, "So, please, have one of each at home if you must. But no more than that."
 
Months later I would be summoned to the copyroom on my birthday. In addition to the card that had been passed around and signed in secret (as if) I was gifted a mini legal pad, Post It notes, and a set of pens neatly ribboned together with the dedication: "Guard these with your life!"
 
I appreciated this because it proved they had appreciated the effort I put in to the irony. What's the point of irony if it doesn't stick? And they stuck back!
 
My next presentation is to be an introduction to our newly purchased communications software. I've struggled to find the irony that would justify being delegated so deep in bullshit.
 
A hard-sales operation with a heavy rotation of long distance calls both cold and lukewarm, also the product development side of the creation of correspondence courses requires a lot of co-ordination with freelance writers and graphic designers, not all of whom work out of Chicagoland. But like so much wasted paper, the phone bill, apparently, has reached a surface area unacceptable. Anybody (including me!) could just pick up the receiver and call someone not the boss's son-in-law. I was now to familiarize our collective with how this very soon would be shipped to the scrapheap of progress past.
 
The new software requires anyone who wants to make an outside call to have their own unique four digit code. They will use this code to access a line on any telephone, regardless of the desk on which it sits. My presentation need not go into the implicit lack of trust in that. I could, rather, highlight the double plus good nature of being able to assign, in greater detail, regional response and revenue to each's corresponding cost (and how busy people with deadlines to meet might forget to make that useful allocation when dialling from another room;-).
 
Already, I have been briefed on the weekly report that is to be printed out and delivered to Joanne's in-tray, and the monthly report, one each to her and her boss, our president. Featured will be what I have already monitored on the screen in the computer room just to see if it was really real: telephone extension, employee code (so far just the directors), date/time, destination, duration.
 
One might feel it's a degradation of one's standing to be placed as a matter of course at the end of a meeting's agenda. I rather relish the position of closer. The importance, no matter how insignificant, is elevated by coming last.
 
When it's my turn, I will dismiss my colleagues with this: "Being the youngest of four siblings, the baby of the family, I have always wanted a little brother..."  It'll be funny because it's not true. And they'll know it.