Friday, November 02, 2007

You Make It Easy 

“What time is it?” asked Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, during this morning's predictive blame storm.
This is a meeting where you decide who to blame for a project which hasn't gone wrong yet, but you know is about to.
We met her question with a surly silence.
“Come on guys,” she said. “I've got Mars bars.”
“Ten o'clock?” I offered tentatively.
“Too literal,” she snapped.
“Beer o'clock?” suggested Mike.
“What Mike said,” said Terry. “It's always beer o'clock somewhere.”
“Well done Terry, you're closest,” said Stella, and threw him a Mars bar.

The correct answer is “Now.” Well, duh.
“Worldsourcing is the new market force in town,” she said, absentmindedly shuffling her Rubik's Cube. “It wouldn't be inconceivable for a successful IT company like ours to be staffed entirely by low cost workers in, say, China, or India, or the Outer Hebrides. Or all of the above. Customers expect us to reduce our costs or they'll look elsewhere. Bill Surname says everyone else is going to do it even if we don't.”
“Low cost wokkers in the case of China,” contributed Terry.
“In tomorrow's 'Always On' twenty four hour Company X,” continued Stella, her flow uninterruptible, unlike our electricity supply, “the only workable answer will be 'Now'. From this moment on, the time is always now. Get used to it.”

Terry yawned. Stella put down the now solved Cube on her desk with a triumphant whack. Mike let out a silent one.
After a brief pause to consider our prospects, we pressed on with the meeting. We agreed unanimously that the cause of Project Binbag's untimely demise will be Pestilence, in the comms room, with a badly specified network switch, then were despatched back to our workstations with a Mars bar each to enjoy how and when we pleased.

Later on, after the going home bell had rung and everyone had legged it, I told Stella about my eighties.
“There were two types of kid at our school: those who'd worked out how to do a Rubik's Cube, and the rest of us.”
“That was my friend Becky on the phone,” replied Stella. “She wanted to know if she gets a Mars bar too. Cheeky cow.”
“The brainy kids used to pull theirs to bits and smear vaseline all over their parts to quicken their times.”
“I said, “Why don't you come round tonight? And if I decide you're good enough, I'll give you one.””
“The rest of us had to buy the book,” I said ruefully. “That's how I learned. It's not the same though, is it?”

“She still owes me for fixing her PC last Friday. Graphics card had come loose from the motherboard. I had to get the case off and everything.”
“I bet Mike and Terry smeared vaseline on their parts. Spods.”
“She keeps it in her little box room, under a tiny little desk. And you know that I'm no techie, Tim. So I'm scrambling around for ages on the floor trying to get the case off.”
“I don't mean to sound grumpy, but that's my entire career in a nutshell,” I said.
“So there I am, squeezed under her little desk, fumbling around, and I realise I'm stuck with my head wedged between her legs.”
“Sometimes I feel so, you know, thick next to Mike and Terry. They're naturals. I'm not.”
“And Becky says “I really appreciate you doing this for me Stella, but you've been down there twenty minutes and it's just not happening, is it?”
“That's exactly what I'm saying, Stella,” I said. “Some days you just need a small victory, some piddling consolation to keep your spirits up.”
“And I'm determined that I can do this, but my friend Becky's saying, “Don't worry about it. We can come back to it later. Let's go downstairs for a bit, yeah?””

“Am I being grumpy?” I asked. “Is it so bad to admit that, you know, sometimes things can get on top of you?”
“So I said, “You're a genius Becky! It was staring me in the face. So we take the PC and my toolset downstairs.”
“That's what I'm saving my Mars bar for. As an incentive for when, I dunno, I decode all my DNA or something.”
“And, of course, we have it off on her dining room table in next to no time.”
“It'd be nice to think, just occasionally, that I'm good at what I do. Fucking worldsourcing.”

Outside her window, Rex the security guard was raking leaves in the descending darkness. He gathered them into a bin bag harnessed to Geraldine's back. There was a smell of woodsmoke and rotting apples.
Creepy Keith from Accounts swaggered out to his new Audi Razorblade. At lunchtime he'd tried to persuade Stella to join him for a spin and she said, “Keith, that's not a car – that's a symptom. You need help.”

“ I'm being grumpy, aren't I?” I said. “Just ignore me.”
“Oh Tim, I wish you'd been there to see it. I felt so proud. A few quick screws and job done.”
“Yes. I'm being grumpy. I'm going to stop now.”
“Back of the net,” she said. “Everybody happy.”

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