Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Administrative Types

I had an interesting experience today with what we (that's a collective "we", as in the place where I work officially designates them as such) call an "administrative assistant". This experience got me to thinking. Especially as how this particular experience with this particular administrative assistant has been ongoing and has been humorous. (Humorous to me and to a select few of my exiled colleagues at any rate.) To the place where I work, not so much. More on all these various and diverse threads momentarily. (For those who enjoy my tangents, diversions and ramblings, you're in for a treat today. For those who don't, perhaps you should waste your time elsewhere today, because I will be rambling on rather randomly today. It's all connected but in a rather disheveled way. Expect a lot of alliteration as well.)

So, let us begin. First of all, I have a number of stories which involve people of this ilk. Call them secretaries, clerks, administrative assistants, receptionists, usw. (First tangent: "usw" is an abbreviation in German standing for "und so weiter", as in "and so forth", think of it the same way you would et cetera, commonly abbreviated etc. I'm just so tired of using "etc", it's so de rigueur don't you think?) Now where was I? Oh yeah, people who do forms of administrative work. For the purposes of this post let's use the term "Admins"? Capitalized of course. Everybody good with that? Kris in NE?

Before proceeding I have to make one thing perfectly clear: a good Admin is worth their weight in gold/stock options/Treasury Notes. A bad admin (note the lack of capitalization) is, on the other hand, such a detriment to an organization that, that... (no, I just can't go there, the concept is far too horrible.)

As many of you know, I like to start my posts with a photo of some sort. Kind of a tone-setter. Something to get me in the mood to write and something to put you in the mood to read. Works for me, YMMV. (And I am seriously thinking of starting up an acronyms page, my nephew (The Young Vermonter) and old school buddy Greg (in Fla) chastise me from time to time for my abbreviation and acronym usage. This will (might?) happen soon, as in maybe before the decade is out. Maybe not. We shall see.) So I go to Google Images (Safe Setting On of course) and type in "administrative assistant". Now I am an old-timey kind of guy and certain things don't annoy me as much as they may annoy your more modern fellow, but seriously? Google Images provided me with images of Administrative Assistants which were like 95% WOMEN? (And the very few men shown were, to my mind, not exactly the type of guy who would answer to "rugged and tough looking". If you get my drift. In a NTTAWWT kind of way.)

Also the female admin types were generally all rather attractive in a physical sense. I guess the folks who programmed the Google Image search function must generally be white guys of a certain age, OWGs I call them, ya know Old White Guys. Now I feel that I can use that term without hesitation or any sort of fear of consequences. Because I am an OWG. Not only that I am of the subset of OWGs known as OBWGs. (Old Bald White Guys, sometimes abbreviated OBG, a term coined by my work daughter and which encompasses older gentlemen who are follicly-challenged yet non-specific as to race, creed or color. I personally prefer OBG to the more specific OBWG.)

All that being said, I felt that none, repeat none, of the photos presented by Google met my requirements. So, knowing full well that an Admin's deadliest weapon most useful tool is the computer, I went with a stock line drawing of a computer. (A rather archaic computer now that I look at it!)

And the story today revolves around computers, in a peripheral sort of way. (Heh. Lame software geek humor.)

While exiled to the Far Northern Reaches of my company's vast holdings I used a laptop computer. But a simple laptop would be woefully insufficient and inefficient for the needs of your typical engineer. After all we do more than check e-mail and surf the web. Sometimes we look at "technical manuals" and "engineering drawings" which are a tad hard to read on a laptop screen. So I was issued with what I referred to as a "docking station".

To me a docking station encompassed the actual piece of equipment to which the laptop "docks", a full size monitor, a full size keyboard and a mouse. Four separate items make up what I refer to as a "docking station". Peripheral equipment really... (pregnant pause, laugh here, or groan, the choice is yours.)

Now when I began to split my time between Up North and The Home Office (THO), I decided that I needed another docking station. One for there, one for here. I tried working off of the tiny laptop screen for a while, it was painful. So I put in a requisition with my department's admin. (See what I did there. Think about it...)

My request was approved by my department manager and the order was placed. Our admin gave me a long involved explanation as to how previous equipment orders had been lost, misplaced and otherwise fouled up. So she has the equipment shipped directly to her. Rather than to me, the guy who needs the stuff. But she said "not to worry" she would stay "on top of things". (Key point, the admin is at THO, not Up North, where I was.)

A few weeks later I received a partial shipment. Just the bit the laptop plugs into. This came to me Up North and NOT to the admin at THO. So I called her and told her what happened. She told me to look inside the box again, perhaps there was a monitor, keyboard and mouse in there and I'd just overlooked them.

Let me explain. The box was just big enough for the docking thingy. I explained that to her. She bade me "go look again, sometimes those other items are actually underneath something else". I was sore puzzled and confused. I tried to explain to her that nothing else could possibly be inside the box, unless the box was somehow an "inter-dimensional portal". I actually used that term mind you, "inter-dimensional portal", the admin said, "No, I'm pretty sure Hewlett-Packard makes all of the equipment we lease."

At that point, I say, "Let me check. Okay, nothing else is in the box. Nothing."

Admin: Are you sure?

Me: <dead silence>

Admin: Hello, are you still there?

Me: Yes, I'm still here. The box is empty, devoid of everything except air.

Admin: So there's nothing else in the box.

 <dead silence>

Admin: Hello...

Me: Yes, I'm still here.

Admin: Hmm, I'll look into that for you.

And with that we went our separate ways. Now a couple of weeks went by, no further equipment arrived either Up North or at THO. Then the miraculous occurred and I returned from exile.

<Telephone ringing...>

Me: Hello?

Admin: Hi. Do you still need that extra monitor?

Me: Not really.

Admin: Do you want me to cancel the one on order?

Me: <Desperately wanting to say something snarky but...> Yes, please cancel it. I don't need it. I don't want it anymore.

Admin: Okay. I'll take care of it.

Weeks go by. The seasons change. My phone rings.

Admin: Hi. They received your monitor Up North. Do you still want it?

Me: Not really, but I'll take it.

Months go by. The seasons change. Thanksgiving comes, then goes. First snowfall occurs. Then, my phone rings. Again.

Admin: Those guys Up North won't answer my e-mails and won't answer the phone. By any chance did you receive the monitor?

Me: Uhhhhh, No.

Admin: Are you sure?

Me: Yes. Very sure.

Admin: Do you want me to cancel the order? I shouldn't be wasting anymore time on this issue.

Me: Yes. Cancel. The. Order. Please. And yes I'M SURE!

Admin: Okay. Hope to see you at the "Year in Review Luncheon"! <That's the company code-phrase for Christmas Party, by the way>

Me: Yes. Bye.

I fully assume that I have not heard the last of that monitor. Not to mention the keyboard and mouse. I'm guessing that sometime in the spring I will receive 20 monitors and an equivalent number of keyboards and mice. And the admin will ask me why I needed so many. I don't know what I'll tell her.

I feel as if I have somehow fallen into The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The sun now rose upon the right:
Out of the sea came he,
Still hid in mist, and on the left
Went down into the sea.

And the good south wind still blew behind,
But no sweet bird did follow,
Nor any day for food or play
Came to the mariners' hollo!
And I had done a hellish thing,

And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.
Ah wretch! said they, the bird to slay,
That made the breeze to blow!

The monitor is MY albatross. 


  1. Ah, the admin department! When I first was a plod in old central London we still had police officers working in various `admin` roles. They were generally occupied by men who had suffered incapacitating injuries but who had been retained in `support` functions because of the great value that their experience added to the organisation. Very occasionally there would be a really, really major demand on resources (in London there was always a demand because there were demonstrations weekly). Whenever we saw guys from the admin unit,easily identifiable by the thick dust on their hats and topcoats and the war-weary expression at having lost their precious weekend. The whisper would go round, `jeez, they've called out the admin`. We knew it would be big and bad!

  2. PS: But the administrators and accountants won the day because these days, when accountants rule, if you're seriously injured,there's only one place they find for you...

    1. Yes indeed, accountants rule because they virtually control the purse strings.

  3. Heh. I was blessed in my civilian career in that I NEVER had an incompetent admin. True story: After I was hired at EDS my Big Boss took me aside and told me "Admins run this company and don't you EVER forget it." Not that I needed to be told... I'm no dummy... but he said he gave that spiel to every new hire.

    1. I would bet that EDS would have been blessed in that aspect simply because that company (at least seen from the outside) was so damned well run. Couldn't picture Ross Perot hiring anyone incompetent. I'll bet you guys had the best janitors as well. Why oh why has the American business world forgotten all that stuff?

    2. You were right about the EDS of Perot's day. Things went to Hell in a hand-basket, albeit slowly, as those things always do, after he sold the company to GM and was forced out. The EDS I left in '99 wasn't the same company I joined in '85. It doesn't even exist any longer... I'm now an HP retiree.



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