You know that feeling you get when you’ve been away for a few days? By the end of the holiday it feels as if you’ve been away from the office forever; but when you get back, hardly a thing has changed.
My desk still has piles of useless paperwork on it, and Big Dave is still stressing about the amount of work he has to do. It doesn’t help that he still keeps getting “help!” calls from random people when he’s in the middle of urgent work, of course. From his mother-in-law, for example, who this morning put Dave’s stepson’s new £250 mobile phone through the washing machine, and wanted to know how to fix it. A full cycle, apparently, although I’m not sure if it was a boil-wash. Big Dave’s advice: “put it in the airing cupboard for a bit, and whatever you do don’t tell him about it until you’re sure it’s knackered.”
In the meantime, I have a big pile of mundane and tedious things to do, which haven’t been done since before I went away. Updating all those files that need updating every few days but don’t work automatically. Generating nice reports for the management. Doing the inter-departmental billing run. All those jobs that really don’t need any brain, but which for one reason or another can’t be automated very well, because of all the exceptions and special cases that go against the rules. Why they fall on my shoulders to do, I’ve never been entirely sure – possibly in an attempt to persuade me to work out how they can be automated, in order to avoid boring myself into a coma. If only they were so boring that I could daydream at the same time; but they’re not, that’s why they need a human to do them.*
This isn’t the sort of task, to be honest, that makes me sit and think “my god, I need another job.” At least this sort of task doesn’t involve inter-divisional politics, or any of the related nastiness. This is just the sort of task that keeps me bumbling away in “Room 3B, IT office” (as the new sign on the door almost says)** wishing I could turn off my computer and go and do something more interesting instead.
* We’re talking about jobs like: reconciling our internal phone system’s billing reports with BT’s billing reports. Which is a hard job for a computer to do because their clocks aren’t synchronised, and they disagree on how long each call lasts. I could write a program that would match on the phone number first then look for fuzzy matches in the other fields, but for a job I only have to do once a quarter it’s not worth the effort.
** that’s one thing that’s changed whilst I was away, a new sign on the office door. I have thought about editing the IT building plans so it is actually called Room 3B, but haven’t got round to it yet. We already have our own room numbering system for some parts of the building, because when it was last rebuilt the Facilities Management office didn’t get around to telling us what the official room numbers were until long after we needed to number the rooms ourselves.