Archive for March, 2009

Our photocopier breaks down regularly. Almost daily in fact.

And our photocopy repair guy is a barrel of laughs.

His name is Baltazar. He has dark circles under his eyes, a scowl that could make children weep tears of blood, and from what I’ve seen, one shirt.

I feel badly for him. He seems profoundly angry. Maybe it’s because he’s asked to fixed the same photocopier over and over and over again.

And yet for all his fury, Baltazar is a miracle worker.

I’ve made it a habit to avoid him.

But today I needed photocopies. And there he was, fixing the obviously dead photocopier.

His photocopy machine repair methods included pounding on it with his fists, swearing a blue streak, and then making noises that some might describe as speaking in tongues.

After delivering several blows to the machine with a rubber hammer and then putting in the boot, he put his head on top of it and sighed heavily.

I asked him how he was doing.

He looked me over like I was something he’d just dug out of his ear and said: “My lungs are thick with the stink of toner and my eyes burn under the light of the photocopier. I’ve poured my lifeblood into this building and in return I’m forced to chat with idiots. My back is sore, my balls are swollen, and my son wants to write screenplays.”

Then he made a kind of barking noise and pounded on the photocopier – and just like that it kicked back to life.

Another Baltazar miracle.

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Otto called in sick yesterday.

Apparently, his blood wasn’t coagulating properly. At least that’s the excuse he gave when he phoned in.


He can’t just say “food poisoning” or “coming down with something.”

No, Otto has to have issues with blood coagulation. You know, something you can easily follow up on.

He’s back today. And he’s remarkably tanned. Apparently getting lots of sun is good for your blood. Golf too, I expect.

I know I should let it go. Everyone takes a mental health day now and again. And if anyone needs to address their mental health issues, it’s Otto.

But it’s just too much fun. So I spent the morning asking him about symptoms, about the diagnosis and the long-term implications of blood that isn’t coagulating properly.

He shifted nervously in his chair and said his doctor advised him to “take it easy for a day or two.”

By noon, word of Otto’s rare form of blood illness had spread throughout the office.

Everyone was interested and asking him about it. Was it permanent? Could it be treated. What caused it?

I asked him what his blood type was. He didn’t know.

Mary Margaret asked him if he’d need a transfusion. He wasn’t entirely sure what that meant.

Typhoid Mildred suggested he needed more iron. He nodded meekly.

All in all, it was quite the outpouring of concern.

By noon, Otto was hunched over his computer and appeared to be reading from an on-line medical journal.

Guess it didn’t help because he left quite suddenly at 1 p.m.

Apparently, he had a headache and needed to go home.

Good call, Otto. Stick to the unverifiable in the future.

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Mary Margaret brought her five-year-old daughter to the office today.

Everyone fussed all over her and cracked out the usual old chestnuts.

“So, you must be the new customer service representative.”

“We’re hiring them young these days.”

“Can I show you where the coffee is?”

The kid look horrified. And rightly so…

I don’t have children and I’m no expert on early childhood education but I don’t think children should be exposed to cubicles, recycled air and office politics until they’re at least old enough to smoke.

It seems cruel.

“Hey, kid, look what’s waiting for you in 20 years: Stale coffee, staff meetings and a tiny horse stall all your own. Enjoy your freedom while you can!”

This is more traumatic than walking in on your parents having sex…

Then again, maybe it isn’t quite that bad…

Maybe it’s possible that seeing all the mind-numbing paper pushing first hand will drive the kid to aspire to bigger and better things.

I sure hope so.

In any case, Mini-Mary Margaret seemed to fit right in. She sat in her mother’s chair, plunked away on the computer and even forwarded me a joke email. A chip off the old block.

She even cried when we ran out of cookies.

Maybe we should just get her business cards printed now. Looks like she has a future at Hamish Industries.

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Mike is such a piece of work…

Along with everything else, he’s also a story topper. Any story you tell him, he always – and I mean ALWAYS – has to top it…

Mike: So, how was your weekend?

Me: It was okay, thanks. I had a sore throat. So… Low key.

Mike: Yeah, I had strep throat. I had to go the hospital. Doctors said I nearly died…

Me: Sorry to hear that… I got out for a short walk on Sunday. Get this, I left my keys in the house. Locked myself out.

Mike: I went jogging on Sunday. I jog 10 miles everyday… Got attacked by my neighbor’s dogs! Had to fight ‘em off with my bare hands…

Me: Wow. It’s amazing how they didn’t leave any scars.

Mike: My skin is unlike anyone else’s. It has incredible rejuvenating powers.

It’s usually around this point that I start to make things up just to watch him lie.

Me: You’re lucky. Speaking of which, I won 100 dollars in the lottery this weekend.

Mike: I won 10,000.

Me: Congratulations! Cool stuff like that never happens to me. Although, I thought I saw a UFO outside my window Sunday night.

Mike: It was probably the one that abducted me.

Me: Alien abduction?! I read about a guy who that happened to. He said they implanted a chip in his ear.

Mike: They implanted it in my ass.

Me: Anal probe? Unbelievable, Mike. I’ll have to tell my neighbor. He knows a lot about this stuff.

Mike: My neighbor is the world’s number one authority on it.

Me: Incredible… Anyway, I should get back to work. Clark asked me to get him the quarterly report.

Mike: Yeah, I’m working on the annual report for the CEO. Special project.

Me: See you later.

Mike: I’ll see you first.

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Mary Margaret walks into my cube crying. Someone stole her chair.
I sympathize.

I’m out of sympathy but she’s still crying. And she’s not leaving.

2 seconds later:
I tell her she can have my chair.

5 seconds later:
She says “No, I couldn’t, Alan” and then leaves with it.

53 seconds later:
I realize I can’t stand and type at my computer. I need a chair.

The hunt is on.

I pass Otto’s cube. He spins toward me in his chair like a Bond villain. Then he keeps spinning. He can’t seem to stop.

Farook from Accounting peers out of his cube and tells me to keep my eyes off his chair… He’s written his name on it.

I ask Nutless Tom if he knows where I can find a spare chair.

For some reason, he whispers. He tells me that chairs are a precious commodity at Hamish Industries. Then he sits down – quickly.

9.07am – 9.10am:
I discover a part of our office I’ve never seen before. I feel like Magellan.

But no chair to be found.

I ask Carlita if she knows where I can find a chair. She looks at me like I just asked if I could see her naked.

I need a chair!

Walk past Mary Margaret’s cube. She’s not in it. I stare at my chair…

I steal back my chair.

Back in my cube and seated in my chair.

Mary Margaret walks into my cube crying. Someone stole her chair. I offer sympathy. But that’s all she’s getting.

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Today I had my first Performance Review with my boss, Clark.

The word “performance” is entirely appropriate because Clark has to pretend he’s interested and I have to act like I care.

It was possibly the most painful 10 minutes I’ve experienced here.

Yeah, that’s right, 10 minutes.

And that included Clark spending 5 minutes trying to locate the paperwork and making uncomfortable small talk. Clearly this isn’t one of his favourite things.

From Clark’s perspective, I am a very “satisfactory” employee…

I have “satisfactory” attendance, “satisfactory” performance and “satisfactory” work habits.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m satisfied with that.

I didn’t take it personally, either… Especially since Clark had to keep peeking at his files to remember my name.

After the review came the even more painful part: Clark asked me about my “goals” and where I “want to be in 5 years.”

I was tempted to be honest and tell him that my goal was to ride out the recession and then look for meaningful employment. Or maybe buy a boat.

But that would’ve been awkward. And it doesn’t look good on the forms

So instead, I made some comments about moving up over time, gaining more experience, taking some business courses and basically committing my every waking moment to the service of Hamish Industries.

He looked relieved. Apparently that answer was fine.

In fact, it was entirely satisfactory.

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