Creative excuse-making 101: The internet ate my temp. Or something.

Cool random linkage of the week: From LJ-friend  briansiano comes this lovely clever little time-waster, riffing off famous fantasy first lines. (In the inevitable guess-the-source game, I made about 75%.)

Speaking of random postings…when I chortled at that PBS strip below, I had no idea it would prove prophetic. I probably should have, given I was about to deal with Bell Canada, but there you are – I’m ever the naiive trusting type when it comes to telecommunications giants who have my Net access in their hands. It’s my own personal kryptonite. “Oh, yes, please please please take wads of my money! You need a firstborn? Hey, fork over that list of approved adoption methods!”

The coherent version of this story begins when we recently tried to switch phone carriers while retaining our internet service with Bell. After all, we’d had no complaints…until now. I do not at all wish to denigrate the inhabitants of whatever fine Southeast Asian nation now handles their phone support, so let’s just say there is apparently no close translation for “Yes, we are switching phone carriers and would like you to set up a dedicated phone line for our DSL service”, let alone (a day or two after this was supposed to have happened) “No, we didn’t want to set up a new account, we wanted a new phone line for the old one!”

Anyway, after several phone-hours of runaround, we called the new carrier, all humble-like, and said “Um, can we please have an internet connexion?” and they said “Sure, take this setup CD and expect the guy at 11am tomorrow [Sunday].” And lo, without further fuss or pother, it was so. Thank you, Rogers Communications; you may be an equally uncaring, slipshod monopoly as a cable carrier, but as a Net provider, I have nothing but praise to heap at your feet. P.S. – Shoemom just lurves the new AOL-style customisable browser, too. After I spent an entire evening customising it for her, but still. The ‘Mountain’ template is “so relaxing!”

My other major excuse for not posting as much as I should this month involves the office situation. No, not The Office situation, although I freely offer myself as a consultant next time they want to explore the depths of the complete and total chaos that results when a six-person admin pool is reduced through various comings, goings and crises to four, then three, then two, then…yesterday…one. Sorry, there is no short version of this one. If I had to suffer through it, you have to read it, capisce?

Couple of background bits needed to fully appreciate the following tale of workplace woe: a) we’re a busy women’s fashion buying office for a major department store, meaning we admins provide support for a gaggle of great buyers who nevertheless have no clear idea what our jobs involve, and b) ‘temps’, in this context, refers to whichever random summer student the agency decides to send. We’re really lucky if they have a basic knowledge of Excel, let alone the complex spreadsheets we work with.

–Two months ago: Admin #1 hands in her two weeks’ notice. New temp is brought in. Training is begun.

–One month and three weeks ago: temp assistant to Admin #1 walks off the job in a huff after being personally insulted. Another new temp is brought in. Unfortunately, huffy temp’s departure leaves myself as the only one who can possibly train the newbie, on account of having dealt with that brand last year. I sigh – quietly, so as not to disrupt the lecture on how ‘we’ve all got to pick up the slack’ – and make ineffectual clearing motions at my own schedule.

–One month ago: Admin #2 abruptly goes on personal leave. Her workload is split among Admin #3 and myself. Temp training goes on apace – in my case, at a pace close to Mach 1, given that the brand in question has unbreakable delivery deadlines and thanks to the changeover we’re just about to miss at least forty-seven or so.

–Three weeks ago: Temp #1abruptly announces he’s got to go, having won a piano scholarship to Rome. This temp is to begin with an Englishman abroad. It is decided that temp #2 – an earnest young teacher – will move over to handle Admin #2’s order entry workload. Two fresh new temps are brought in, and the now-semitrained English and teacher temps commence training them in turn.

–One of these temps is apparently auditioning for the Canadian version of The Simple Life, as we assume from the short-shorts she appears in the second day. After a week of training-slash-handholding, she and her pink cellphone are canned and another temp takes her place. It is decided that teacher temp will not be moving after all, as somebody’s finally noticed that the cumulative training time is way outstripping the order deadlines.

–Meanwhile, Admin #3 and I are still splitting Admin #2’s workload, also providing spurts of temp guidance (rather after the manner of frazzled camp counselors in a cheap summer comedy) plus tackling our own work. Somewhere in here is the entire holiday sample styleout, involving collection, labelling and tracking for about 25-75 pieces per admin.

–Also in here are repeated – as in daily – complaints from the replenishment manager that the fall ‘set’ (orders) have to be in NOW! In fact, last week! Why aren’t they in yet?! The only reason she remains alive is that we have no time to kill her.

–Planners start making noises about spring clearance markdowns.

–Last week: English temp leaves for Rome. Half-trained replacement starts throwing panicked questions at anybody who’ll respond to her. By now I have bite scabs on my tongue from attempting to maintain a professional attitude.

–Four days ago: Admin #4 gets word of a dying grandmother and takes off to…we don’t know, really. Iran, maybe Syria. She’s the outerwear/swim admin, we don’t have much idea what goes on over there anyhow. But boy, are we about to learn…just as markdown week descends.

–Three days ago: Admin #3 haphazardly continues training the others, while I work on crisis management for the outerwear/swim buyer, who’s just noticed that her new fall rainwear is scanning @ 50% off and has no idea what happened. (Note to bargain hunters: Don’t bother, it’ll have been corrected by now.) Later, buyer appears proudly leading yet ANOTHER temp, who’s apparently there for ’emergencies’. The rest of the day, she’s on us. Won’t that be a big help? Thought so, bye!

–Friday: Admin #3 goes on vacation. Yours truly is left to deal with (deep breath): Two half-trained temps, one brand new temp, an entire pile of markdowns to be keyed/approved NOW, the 50% off rainwear crisis that needs to be fixed NOW, orders that need to be sent to replenishment NOW, an entire complicated series of marketing forms that need to get to the co-ordinator NOW, SKUs that need to be flipped to A/R NOW…plus whatever other random emergencies five (very creative!) buyers can come up with in the course of a day.

…So Admin #2 says she’s gonna be back on Monday, but I’m not holding my breath. Admin #4 is still totally AWOL.

As my aunt used to say, Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how’d you enjoy the play? Tune in, uh, soon, when I finally get my Agatha Christie act together. Also, Mythbusters! Plus bonus Bob & Ray musings! Oh, the fun never ends here @ Shoe Central. I may have to pad the walls to get it done, but by God there will be happy careless fun at some point!

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. anonymous
    Jul 27, 2008 @ 01:11:28

    Especially the quote from your about Lincoln…

  2. shoebox2
    Jul 27, 2008 @ 11:23:54

    Thank you! On my aunt’s behalf, as well. 🙂

  3. anonymous
    Jul 27, 2008 @ 14:51:09

    I missed a word in my response, but you got it. Your aunt is funny like you.

  4. shoebox2
    Jul 27, 2008 @ 18:55:40

    [grin] Yeah, if you’re going to aspire to write comedy it helps to have been raised that way. Shoemom’s entire family are the most engaging combination of sweet looks and razor-sharp sarcastic streaks…I think this is where the Bob & Ray appreciation may have come from at least partly, the subtlety of it.

  5. anonymous
    Jul 27, 2008 @ 22:43:41

    Indeed. most comics induce a kind of ‘pain’ quotient in their comedy, as the standard equation most touted being ‘pain=comedy’. Or I guess tragedy can equal comedy… Sound’s like Woody Allen’s ‘Crimes and Misdemeanors’ where Alan Alda’s pompous character was trying to define comedy as ‘tragedy plus time’. I guess what I mean is most comics come from a painful upbringing of some sort. Writers too; it seems a lot of creative drive can be gotten from a, oh let’s say ‘challenging’ upbringing. I hope this was not the case with you, but likely there is always something there to cull a story – or driving muse – from. Sorry to blather on, don’t get to much opportunity to chat about the creative process. 🙂

  6. shoebox2
    Jul 28, 2008 @ 17:49:16

    Hey, blathering’s the whole point, around here. 🙂 You might want also to check out some of the blogs on my friendslist – there’s usually a decent discussion of the creative process going on somewhere.

    I agree that there’s very often a defensive element to comedy – if not against emotional pain, then at least against intellectual aggravation. The need to deflate pomposity – or just plain banality – and expose absurdity can be equally imperative.

    As I mentioned above, I think I’m more about the latter. It is perhaps rooted at least partially in a strong aversion to pity, self- or otherwise. (As distinct from mercy, or compassion, which are two very different things.)

    Really, though, not so much with the challenging upbringing myself. A bit rocky, perhaps; certainly nothing to write Oprah-worthy memoirs over. One of my particular struggles with the creative process, in fact, is trying to extract novelty and insight out of your basic suburban WASP childhood. Douglas Copeland seems to have that market about cornered. 🙂

  7. anonymous
    Jul 29, 2008 @ 09:57:14

    Well, I certainly did not want you to think you were a wounded soul in search of outlet, but you are correct in the need to deflate pomposity. Sometimes the simple mediocrity of this world can get ones blood up, as what people accept as entertainment these days rivals Roman gladiator days and martyrdom of Christians. It’s a sad commentary on society when 5 movies are made about how to torture people in the most despicable ways imaginable (of course I speak of the idiotic ‘Saw’ series.) Good comedy, good entertainment for that matter, is really a lost art. Vaudeville days were for the most part innocent things where all the performers could at least sing, dance, act, do comedy, etc. Now, we have Keanu Reeves raising a lazy eyebrow and mumbles “Wow” and he makes $10 million to do it. Sigh.

    I know you like the classic movies. My favorite is of course Citizen Kane, greatest movie ever made, because it was so unique and influenced everything thereafter. I love Kubrick, and Sergio Leone films, Terrance Mann…. What is your favorite film of all time?

  8. shoebox2
    Jul 30, 2008 @ 23:21:11

    I agree completely re: mediocrity; it’s disturbing on a lot of levels. Ray Bradbury nailed the worst-case scenario, in Fahrenheit 451; the flat refusal to think and the subsequent lack of braking power on the need to feel, until…well, look at the Britneys and the Parises of the world. I do believe we’ve nearly reached the point where the only ‘sensation’ left for them to provide is suicide.

    Movies…I’m not sure if I can really pick a favourite from the three I mentioned at the outset. Were I forced to choose which one to take to a desert island, I think it would have to be Holiday, just because it resonates so closely with my own psyche. But I might try smuggling Singin’ in the Rain as well, for the sheer pure entertainment value.

  9. anonymous
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 01:06:44

    Yes, we are of the same mind about the mediocrity. It’s rather sad, but when big business runs on the fickle massess of squirmy, too-young-too-dress-that-old teens, tweens and really immature 20 year olds, I guess we get Arm-ediocrity. (Is that a cool word, or just trying to hard??) Maybe Medi-megedon… 🙂

    I love those old classics too. Frank Capra films too. Arsenic and Old Lace… so unsual in its tone, but crazy fun. Grant was genius. It really is hard to pinpoint a single film that totatlly says “Yep (sound of spitting into a spitoon), that’s my psyche!” I guess it’s not a fair question. Well, nice chatting with you. Sorry for the annonymous tag. Call me D. Just read that essay you did on Bob and Ray, who I never heard of until your essay. Nice work, btw. Very heady stuff. I definetly get the reverberations of Newhart and Letterman, et al from the few samples I heard. Take care.

  10. shoebox2
    Aug 01, 2008 @ 12:39:17

    Arm-ediocrity…not bad, not bad at all.

    It’s been a lot of fun chatting with you too, D. Thanks again for the support, and most especially for the good conversation. Hope to see you around again sometime…:)

  11. anonymous
    Aug 01, 2008 @ 14:17:57

    Oh, you are welcome. Not often does one find good convo and good writing to boot! Is there a way to give my email address to u without it being public? I am a nice guy, no shennanigans, and I am also a fellow JW (I will not be offended if you say no.) I just enjoy a good conversation now and then, and with one who obviously has a brain! : )

  12. shoebox2
    Aug 01, 2008 @ 20:36:26

    Oh! By all means. The email addy in my profile (clik on ‘about me’ at the top) should do the trick.

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