A parable

November 18th, 2007

Not much to say about the past week. I did keep up with the claims as they came in, and I spent Saturday dispatching the remaining backlog. But as the second (or third?) week of working overtime to quell the claims came to a close, my capacity to continue doing so waned. on Thursday and Friday I closed the log I was making of how I spend my work hours without ever having saved it. A couple of times I got very muddled trying to address a claim, and while they are almost always tricky, there was nothing that exceptionally tricky about those. I am not sure I can stay mentally effective for 10-hour days weeks on end.

The A-team, while certainly changing some portions of our operations, does not appear to be taking any kind of serious look at the underlying culture, or the root cause of why we were unable to change ourselves and they had to be sent in.

I’ll close with a parable, a true story but also an illustration. Probably any factory has a certain amount of airborne oils, but when you have older equipment, not designed for tidy operation and leaking at the seams to boot, there’s grime to go around. Although my actual workspace is in an office area, the compture will develop a visible layer of grime around its vents in a week or two, which I absentmindedly rub off with my finger. But the walls, the floors, basically every surface not touched simply accumulates grime.

The carpet gets the worst treatment. Early in the year we rearranged the furniture, and the places underneath the shelter of desks were shocking in their difference. Not that the carpet was never vacuumed–well, when I arrived I don’t know when it last was vacuumed. But I vacuumed it, I asked around why it wasn’t vacuumed by the janitorial contractors, and it has been vaccuumed on and off ever since. The besetting gray couldn’t be touched by a mere vaccum cleaner, though.

So I made mention of it, how filthy it was and how bad for morale, and how a carpet that filthy was not worth having. And I and fellow complainers were promised a new carpet. In January. Or February. Or March. Sometime in the first quarter of 2007, for sure.

Of course, no carpet actually ever was presented. So perhaps a month or two ago, some enterprising coworkers decided to rip out the old carpet, figuring nothing under it could be worse than the top. Underneath was a layer of glue, still tacky in some spots and worn to powder in others, a nasty yellow color. We shrugged our shoulders and said, “Yep, no worse than the carpet.”

But it did attract some more attention from outsiders, who seemed to think it actually was worse. More promises of carpet. More, “What, nobody got the carpet yet? I thought I asked so-and-so to take care of it.” Finally the manager, not technically the person designated for that level of renovating decision, called in some contractors, got some quotes, and ordered carpet.

I was there when the winning bidder said, “Please have all the stuff on the desks boxed so we can keep the stuff with the desks it belongs to.” So we did that, as asked.

We came in the next Monday and found a new carpet in the office and the office out on the shop floor. Not being a mover, I don’t know how they contrived to get those heavy desks out there, their boxed belongins, computers, and miscellany untouched. The doorway was barely wide enough to get the desks through–no knuckle allowance–and they were so heavy that ordinary dollys couldn’t maneuver them. I and one of the crew wound up hauling them through by hand, and it was about all I was up to.

Even when things were physically in place, it took a good while to sort out the cable connections. The office is a maze of discarded cables (I had three extra PC power cords and one extra phone AC/DC adapter when I was done), patched in wiring (a digital phone jack is literally just stitched into the side of a thick cable that truncates uselessly, and another thick cable sprouts from the wall with no termination whatsoever), dead cat-5 connections, and mislabeled jacks.

When the old carpet was torn up, we wondered if new carpet was really wise. But there are few kind of flooring cheaper than cheap carpeting, so when the manager had to chance a do-and-dare approach, he did not try for tile. I did mention to every contractor that we needed a fiber that would not trap the oil, but leave it free to be cleaned out.

By the time we had finished moving the furniture in, though, there were obvious grey-brown footprints over the blue carpet. When we had been asked, we choose a dark blue pattern mottled with tan and black. But that was offered by a contractor who didn’t win the bid. What we got was a somewhat lighter blue, and essentially a solid shade.

Once the desks were all back in I attempted to vacuum, but the footprints only got a little grudging lighter. The new-carpet fumes were going strong, though, so after heaving and hauling the office furniture over the new rug, staining it with grey footprints, and deducing my way through the perverse, inbred wiring, I got to go home with a headache from the fumes.

We finally got the new carpet we’d been asking for nigh on a year, and it was the most depressing day of the month.