Low Stakes, High Intrigue

A funny thing happened as I went to make a turkey.

Okay, some context is in order here. On Monday the manager of my manager was given a bag of craft supplies that his teams were to transform into a turkey. Because of reasons. Well, he was working in a different office that day, so by “was given a bag of craft supplies” I really mean that somebody left it on his desk. Today (Wednesday) he dropped the bag on my desk and asked me to tell the teams that we needed to make a turkey out of it. This is why I refer to him as a trap-door spider, because you never know when he’s going pop up in your cube and hand you some crafting materials.

I dutifully took the stuff to our morning meeting and mumbled something barely coherent about turkeys. Afterwards, I dropped it off in an empty cubicle. It might have all ended there, but a co-worker found where I hid the fixings. The next I knew I’d crammed myself into the cube to stare at the assortment of goodies. There were expected things such as construction paper, popsicle sticks, and pipe cleaners — federal law mandates the use of pipe cleaners in every seasonal craft project, due to the political sway of the hobbiest lobbies. There were also plastic cups, a styrofoam ball, assorted small feathers, and an enormous blue feather that was sprinkled in glitter. We marveled at this collection of oddities and then went back to our respective desks to, y’know, do our jobs.

Shortly thereafter, a woman from another department wandered over to see our progress. That’s what she said, but the way she was talking about popsicle sticks made me suspicious. Being arguably responsible for our turkey supplies, I walked over to keep an eye on our inventory. The larger, paranoid part of my brain expected to see her filching a stick or two, but the tiny piece of my brain-meat responsible for lucidity reasoned that an adult would have little urge to pilfer cheap craft material.

Here’s where things got weird, because it turned out that she in the midst of an Ocean’s Eleven level heist of utterly insignificant goods.

I found her eyeing the supplies, holding an enormous blue feather that was covered in glitter. That sane portion of my brain tried to dismiss this as her being someone who just has to touch everything, which the rest of me wasn’t buying because of the enormous purple feather that now lay on the desk. She immediately tried to distract me by asking about our turkey plans. I ignored her question and asked my own.

“Did you just swap giant feathers with us?”

“No!” she scolded, looking offended. “Why would you even think that?”

“Because the one you’re holding is blue, which is the color of our feather. Also it has a bent tip, like ours does.”

She responded by stuffing the feather up the back of her sweater and asking a lot of questions about how we were planning to build the turkey.

Now, at this point my paranoia had been proven more reliable than my sanity, so I could only assume that in addition to stealing our feather she wanted to steal our turkey-making IP. I got really cagey about everything.

“What are you going to use the ball for?”

“Making a turkey,” I said absently, watching her hands to ensure nothing else disappeared into her clothing.

Eventually she left, and two co-workers came to make the turkey while I kept watch. Occasionally I saw her, watching me from across the room, waiting for me to let my guard down. Not today, feather-thief. I’m hip to your jive.


In My Defense They Should Never Have Given Me a Phone

I’ve been at my new job for over a month now, and today the worst finally happened. My phone rang. I stared at it in confusion for a moment, as it had never done that to me. I’d set my password and said my name at the tone; weren’t we cool? Reluctantly, I picked up the receiver.

Me Sean speaking.

Unidentified Cheerful Guy Is this [name of a company that was absorbed over a year ago]?

Me Yeeees?

UCG Great! Is this the main desk?

By now I’m glancing around the cubicles, seeking an escape route.

Me No. I’m a programmer.

UCG How fun! What are you making?

Seriously? This guy calls me, apparently at random, and now he wants me divulge what development work is going on in a financial institution? I have to lock my screen when I leave my desk to ensure the safety of our precious secrets, like what kitchen has bagels today. Fortunately, my lack of social skills comes in handy for situations like not telling strangers what we’re working on. I ignored his attempt to be my pal and cut to the chase.

Me Can I help you with something?

UCG Oh. Yes, could I speak with [person I haven’t heard of] or [another unknown individual] please?

Papasmurf. Like I have enough degrees to work this phone.

I told him to hold on a second, and I quickly asked around to find out how to redirect this wacko to the reception desk. Forget figuring out how to contact who he actually wanted, I’d consider it a job well done if he wound up talking to someone without telephobia.

Nobody knew what to do. We work with computers, but these smurfing phones are like the blinking clock on a VCR for all we know about them. After a minute of embarrassed shrugs all around, I just hung up on Mr. Happy. He seemed like the sort to bounce back from defeat.

“Problem solved,” I observed. Everyone nodded and went back to work. If the problem ever comes up again, we’ll figure out how to address it. We’re developers. We concentrate our efforts where they’ll do the most good.

A Lovely Parting Gift

One of my final acts at the job I just left was to spend my Bonusly points. Bonusly is an incentive system that companies can use to pretend their workers are happy. Co-workers can reward each other with points for doing an excellent job or, more usually, for not being completely incompetent.

I’ll pretend that my lack of points had to do with the general isolation of my team and gloss over any implications about the low opinion of my performance.

Much like the awards for selling band candy, the merchandise seems to be selected from batches of overstock. Lots of cheap jewelry, garbage dishware, and low-end appliances (coffee makers and such).

Then there are the niche-market items, which make you question the life choices of people you’ve never met.

Tabletop golf shot glass set. For the executive who is apparently a college sophomore.

Tempted though I was, I settled on an iPod Shuffle. At least I could imagine that I’d use it.

In the Event of a Real Fire I Would Probably Die

I was in the rest room at work, resting, when I noticed a persistent beeping coming from the hallway. After wrapping up my business, I sauntered out to find the office admins, in coats, conferring on who would do the final sweep for stragglers.

Putting two and two together, and getting the square root of 16, I realized that this weird, repetitive noise was meant to be a fire alarm. I swear it sounded different last time we had a drill. I remembered it as being a deafening klaxon, but this was merely an irritating blatting sound. To my ears it seemed like a video game telling you to please stop trying to do something.

As I limped back to my desk to get my coat–

Okay, back up. This morning I tried to hurry in to the office, for whatever fleeting purpose, I managed to outrage my foot and ankle in such a way that it’s hurt for almost 10 hours now. I should probably take some anti-inflammatories or something. This was the same foot and ankle that precipitated my surgery, so at least the resulting limp felt like coming home.

I wasn’t going to count on the building fire keeping me warm all the way over at our emergency gathering spot across the street, so I limped over to my desk to get my coat. As I did this, the senior admin asked if my friend Tim had found me. Tim, and his entire department, had been removed from the org chart last fall, so it seemed odd for her to ask this during a fire. I said he hadn’t, wondering exactly what had transpired while I’d been facilitating.

Freshly en-coated, I hobbled down two flights of stairs and joined the seething mass of non-productivity. It took a surprisingly long time for a fire truck to make the 2-block journey to the office, long enough that I was told that Tim was elsewhere in the throng. I found him and learned that he’d had extra time after lunch so had dropped by to say hi.

We said hi.

Moments later, the admins announced that we could return to work. I briefly considered getting a brownie sundae from the diner across from the office, but I was just too lazy. So I said goodbye to Tim and got in one for the elevators. All in all it went better than the fire at the bookstore had, but that’s another story.


The alarm was determined to be due to construction on the 7th floor. Somehow.

Tim presumably finished his lunch break and returned to work.

Wendi made me a sundae after dinner.

Stick a Note On It, That’ll Fix the Problem

There’s a door in the office that the building managers would like to remain closed. Lest there be any doubt, there is a sticky note in place to keep us on task.


All the sticky notes in the world won’t make up for the following facts.

  • There is a closer mounted on the door that moves with excruciating slowness and resists attempts to push it shut.
  • No one is going to wait for that.
  • Once the closer gets the door to the jamb, it sticks because the door is just a tiny bit too wide.

I pass by the door several times a day, and I dutifully pull it shut. I hope in my small way I can make it feel a little more secure.

Making My Stand

A few years ago I set up a makeshift standing desk in my cube. I put my monitors on the bookshelves and my laptop on a box. It worked pretty well, and my back pain subsided, so it was all good.

Until a guy from the building’s maintenance crew blamed my setup for the problems with the heating system on my floor. Indeed one of my monitors was near one of several zone thermostats, but I usually didn’t bother even plugging that one in. Nonetheless he wouldn’t even consider anything else until the “computer” wasn’t next to the thermostat.

I removed my standing desk, and he finally did something about the heating problem that hadn’t been magically fixed by my returned back pain.

After that I found a chair that helped with my posture and threw a spring jacket over it to mark it as mine. I’ve moved that chair from desk to desk over the last few years, and in my mind there’s a montage of happy times that we’ve spent together: spinning in a field, watching otters at an aquarium, sharing a frownie sundae, watching old movies at a drive-in — all to the accompaniment of “So Happy Together” by The Turtles.

In the meantime adjustable standing desks have become de rigor for our new developer teams. When my latest relocation landed me in a super-cube berth (that, importantly, had no thermostat) I put in a request for my own standing desk. It had to be stronger than the ones others used, which supported a monitor or two above a platform for their laptops; I use an iMac, which is quite a bit heavier.

Now everyone can see my Tumblr feed...

Now everyone can see my Tumblr feed…

The desk came in last week in an enormous box. (I’d requested that the additional $18 be spent for constructing it before shipping. I am terrible at tasks that require screw drivers.) The stand itself just needed to be set on my cube desk, but I had to remove my iMac from its stand and install an adapter for hooking it up to the unit. This took a while for me to manage, but it was worth the effort. I even managed to not curse. Aloud. Much.

So now I’m standing again, which is nice for the hour or so where I’m actually at my desk. Maybe I’ll try standing at meetings. Who knows — it might make people stop inviting me to them. Then I could stand around all day and get work done!

Siri, Where Do You Find This Nonsense?

I was in rough shape today. Worn out from weeks of sinus problems and overloaded with work, i had nothing left in my energy reserves. I only dragged my carcass in to the office today because of a meeting I’d called to make sure I understood an operation that’s my responsibility going forward.

That turned out to be remarkably easy, and the rapid success brought relief that expressed itself as silliness. The co-worker I’d summoned for assistance suggested that we make a new project named for the tree that the Keebler elves live in, but neither of us were sure what kind that was.

So I asked Siri.


The Keebler tree! Of course! Intrigued by the US naval involvement, I followed the link.


Well, that makes all the sense! Thank you, internet. You may be filled with lies, but they’re beautiful ones that doubled me over with laughter when I really had no resistance.

A Commanding Problem

Last night I was working from home, overseeing one end of a data migration. I run a screen share application on my laptop to operate my work computer, and it works out fairly well despite the occasional delay in screen refreshing.

That is, it worked well enough until everything went higgledy-piggledy after the export and I had to react quickly.

As I typed commands into my bash shell, the Mac search pop-up kept intruding. After much cursing and forceful typing, I worked out that my work computer was under the belief that whenever I hit the space bar I was also pressing the command key — a combo that triggers the global search box.

Reckoning that there was something goofy about the shared screen session, I disconnected and started up a new session.

Still with the searching.

More cursing and smashing of keys.

I discovered that hitting the space bar twice in rapid succession managed to trick the computer into producing a single space before popping up the infernal search. Progress, of a sort.

I fired off a few commands, typing space-space-esc (the escape dismissed the pop-up) between words. Then I waited anxiously for word that things were back under control. Eventually that came, and I disconnected from my computer and went to bed.

This morning I came in to work and saw that my screen was still active. It should have gone into sleep mode shortly after I had disconnected. I approached and saw that my chair had been pushed in, and one arm was resting on… the command key!

The cleaning staff had pushed my chair out of the way to get to my trash can. A high-tech problem caused by a low-tech solution.

Tonight, before I left, I set my trash can out in the open. Just in case.