Working in the Twilight Zone<tm> is always interesting, for better or worse. Sometimes, to appreciate the hilarity, one has to see things from the other side of the meeting table.
I’ve spent ten years in the Zone and only recently realized that I should be documenting some of the things to which we’ve been subjected. Just today I took a picture of a bunch of chairs.
A bunch of chairs, you say… what could possibly be interesting about a bunch of chairs?
They were arrayed by the pond (yes, we have an indoor pond – don’t ask) in the manner of a cattle chute: two long rows facing each other. I made a leap of faith that most everyone who works doesn’t have a cattle chute (or a pond) by their main entrance so I took a picture. The young lady at the desk nearest the chute was amused and we struck up a conversation.
It turns out that in the last two weeks, she has been front and center for long food lines, a cattle chute, and several poetry readings. This is at her desk. She mentioned that it has been very difficult to get any work done. Fortunately for us, it is not specifically required that one works in the Twilight Zone, as evidenced by the poetry, food, and cattle chute.
Incidentelly, the cattle chute was set up for the fashion show.
A few weeks back, there was a company-wide email requesting models for a fashion show. This message had some seriously bad timing, as it came on a day when there was more spam than email. You see, we generate our own spam internally. The spam filter blocks all external spam, so in order to make up for it, our coworkers send worthless email all day (when they’re not putting on fashion shows).
Part of the alleged charm of the Twilight Zone is that way too many of the people who work there get dressed in funhouse mirrors: the ones that make you look good in your daughter’s clothes that are many sizes too small. Because of the Mirror Phenomenon, there was a serious overage of models for the fashion show (and no doubt a serious overage of body parts spilling out of clothing).
I went to give something to a coworker and discovered that there was almost no one at their desks. Since it was Friday, there are usually twenty there (out of 250) so this was odd. Then I heard the insistent throbbing of what certain segments of the population refer to as music. Following the headache-inducing sound as it got louder led me to – you guessed it – the fashion show.
Just about the entire company was standing there, taking in the spectacle. Some were clapping, some were simply staring, aghast and unbelieving, at what they saw. I just turned and ran back to my desk, hoping that I’d be able to eat sometime in the next few days.
Like I said, it is not specifically required that you work when you’re employed in the Twilight Zone.
But the fashion show is not the crux of my biscuit here. The other day was Meeting Day. I don’t think anyone made it official but everyone I talked to had meetings for the greater part of the day, totally guaranteeing that no progress would be made on anything for at least that day.
At noon, I got dragged into a meeting on an I.T. initiative for the next few weeks. It was very informative, counter to Regular Meeting Policy<tm>, and will be a great success.
The meeting that followed (they graciously rotated the meetings around us so we didn’t have to move) was the kickoff meeting for some Important New Software. Surprise! My boss signed the contract and had consultants right there to tell us all about the Important New Software.
Never mind that we’re the I.T. department and have to set up the Important New Software. No one had informed us of any decision and now we have Important New Software, a phalanx of consultants, and a five-figure contract.
Did I mention that it all has to be done in four weeks? Along with the three other Urgent I.T. Initiatives? With two new-hires who started this week?
Stunned but not out, we were left to make the best of the situation. This is where we decided to start having fun with the project.
No meeting is complete without a round robin set of introductions, so my boss introduced herself then looked at me.
I said, “My name is lefty and I’m the linux nazi.”
It is at about this point that I started wondering what it must be like to be a consultant coming into the Twilight Zone for the first time. As the project involves some sort of Microsoft crapware, they must have been elated to see us.
After the intros, a big deal was made of our snacks. Like nobody has ever seen a Halloween-size variety pack of candy bars before. I.T. runs on candy, coffee, and Mountain Dew Code Red, after all.
Shortly thereafter, as the lead consultant is going into his shpiel, in walks my teammate with a four inch diameter, two foot long salami. I can’t exactly see what is happening but he’s at the other end of the table with a huge butcher knife, slicing off huge pieces of salami.
As the consultant continues, a pile of plates with salami slices and plenty of napkins starts making its way around the table. I strongly suspect that this poor fellow would not have been surprised to see some of us walking up the walls at this point.
I interrupted the salami-munching to start asking stupid questions, like `what’s our time frame’? My boss gives me five minutes on the benefits of the software and doesn’t answer my question. I asked her, very slowly, when we planned to start. The answer was something to the effect of `tomorrow’.
We collectively dropped our salami onto our candy bars.
Recovering quickly, I came up with another completely impertinent question: I asked why we were using Microsoft software that had been released the week before for a major project. It is customary, in I.T. departments where people actually use their brains for something other than to hold the sides of their skull out, to wait six months or until the first service pack is released before using any new software, particularly any new software from Microsoft, which considers the world its beta tester.
The consultant assured me that it is solid and stable and they are using it themselves. We all looked suitably unimpressed (the giggling probably didn’t help) so he also mentioned that there were beta versions out for a year.
“Just like Vista?” I queried?