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Milk (redux)

In which FP gets a reluctant refund


A couple of people have, for reasons best known to themselves, asked how I’m getting on with the office milk lady since we fell out. Well, I don’t think I’m any more popular with her than I was. Fed up of there being no milk, and fed up of the woman in question – Administrator Of The Tea Fund – refusing to accept that tea supplies were anything to do with her, I told her that in that case she could give me back the balance of what I’d put into the fund, and I’d make my own arrangements from now on. Which might have been a bit petty, the balance being only 20p, but there you go.

She said “I’ll give you it later.” A few hours later, she phoned me up.

“Have you stopped chucking your little tantrum yet?” she said. “We’ve got some milk in – are you back in the fund or do you still want your money back?”

“I’ll have my money back, please.”

“You’ll be very thirsty this afternoon then.”

“Er, no I won’t be.”

“Well it’s very silly of you, you’re cutting your nose off to spite your face.”

There was a pause. I wasn’t entirely sure what she expected me to say, other than possibly start begging for her forgiveness.

“So are you back in the tea fund now?” she continued, persistently.

“No, I’d still like my 20p back please.”

“Well, I gave you one last chance. I’ll get some change and bring it down for you in a few minutes. You said you don’t want your 20p back?” A nasty little switch at the end there.

“No, I’d still like my 20p back please.”

“Fine. I’ll see you later.”

So, a few minutes later she came downstairs, slammed 20p on my desk, and went away again. And since then, all has been peace and quiet. I can see why some colleagues, those who have to work with her more, don’t like her very much, though, after that conversation. This is someone whose job is to talk to customers over the phone, take orders, and so on – it makes me wonder if she tries doubling back on herself and making quickly misleading switches when she’s on the phone to customers as well as to colleagues.

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Milk

In which we upset colleagues


At the office, I’ve been doing more to make myself unpopular. Specifically: I’ve fallen out with the woman who runs the tea fund.

My complaint is this: if you run the tea fund, then you’re responsible for buying tea, milk, coffee, sugar, and so on. If I give you money, to buy tea, then your job is to make sure tea gets bought. Tea Fund Lady – who has only taken the task on recently – did not see things this way. She was there to collect the money. The money sat in her drawer, and anyone who wanted to go and buy supplies could go and get some. Buying supplies herself, though, was entirely out of the question. It was entirely impossible, she said, because she doesn’t have a car. I was tempted to set up a “Stop The Tea Fund Lady Starving!” campaign, because if buying groceries is that difficult I’m not sure how she manages to stay alive.

So, the way I see it, I may as well manage things myself from now on. Have my own tea bags and my own milk, and see how much it ends up costing me. We will see.

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Infamy

In which FP discovers more people read this site than he thought


I went for a drink with people from the office. This may have been a mistake – on the other hand, it’s better to know things.

“Oh, we all read your blog,” said someone from the Accounts department. “Your boss told us he reads it too. We know you change all the names, so we try and work out who everyone is. ______ was convinced that she was ‘the cute one from the Accounts office’ and we kept trying to persuade her that it wasn’t her.”

Maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t mentioned work much in the past few months, then. Or, alternatively, now I know they’re reading, that might mean I can mention them more. With it all understood and on the level.

(Yes, I know, I have to think about things to post before I can decide whether to post them or not)

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Something for nothing

In which our eyebrows are raised when we learn that Americans all have free healthcare just like us


The scene: the office conversation, a quick conversation with a new member of staff whilst the kettle boiled. He was telling me all about his past, his former history of self-employment.

“… but you can’t do anything in this country nowadays, it’s terrible for small businesses, this government, it really is, they want to get control of every little thing…”

I thought: I know exactly what’s coming here.

“…it makes it impossible to run your own life…”

… any second now …

“it’s this Nanny State…”

BINGO! As soon as someone, especially a certain type of person, starts along that line of argument, they’re going to mention the Nanny State, which rules every aspect of our lives and tells us exactly what we can and can’t do. These are the people who believe that Christmas is being banned, or that the government has banned blackboards for being racist, and that it’s Political Correctness Gone Mad. And I don’t understand them. Do they never look at the world around them? Do they believe anything they hear or read?

He rambled on about how much better everything was in America – how life is far better, the taxes are lower, everyone is better off and lives a wonderful life without government interference.

“Yes, until they fall ill and can’t afford to pay for treatment,” I said.

“No, no, medicine is free in the USA too,” he replied.

“Really?” I said, because that really doesn’t square with everything else I’ve been told about the USA over the years.

“Yes, it’s all free, just as it is here,” he said. I was tempted to ask if the land is also flowing with milk and honey, with dollar bills and chocolate coins growing on the trees, but I’m not sure if he’d have realised where the joke was.

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Voodoo terminology

In which we speculate on understanding, and on pretending to understand


There are three types of people that I’ve always had to deal with at work. By extension, there are probably three types of people in the world, because I’m sure that none of the places I’ve worked at have been particularly unusual. There are three types of people in the world, and they can be divided like so: those who know what they are talking about; those who don’t know what they’re talking about, and admit it; and those who don’t know what they’re talking about, but are desperate to hide it.

There are two ways I could look at this. One, being uncharitable: they know they don’t know what they’re talking about, and are just trying to hide that.

The charitable view, though: I don’t think some people realise that words do have meanings, precise meanings. They’ve heard people who do know what they’re doing talking, and they want to fit in, so they string together words they’ve heard other people use, in ways that make grammatical sense, without noticing that they are making completely meaningless sentences. Maybe they think that this is the way normal humans talk. Maybe they think that if they use a word that they’re not sure of the meaning of, its meaning will change to suit them. Essentially, though, they’re behaving like small children: imitating without understanding.

These are the people who brought you the phrase “log on to our website”. They call the main case of a PC “the hard disk”. They will refer to “the system”, and expect you to know exactly what you mean. One colleague today, scrolling through her inbox looking for an email, said: “I know it’s in the system somewhere.” “That is not,” I wanted to say, “what that word means.”* These are the people who call me and say “the system isn’t working! We can’t do anything at all!” when what’s actually wrong is: they have pressed Num Lock and don’t understand why numbers are no longer appearing.** These are the people I have to work with, and the chances are, this is what the people who run the country are like too. These people, who not only don’t understand words, but don’t understand the importance of the right words, nevertheless get into important positions. And that scares me.

* She was looking for an email, because she wanted to print it out. She had called me over because her printer “was not working”. She didn’t have a printer selected in the print dialog box, and did not understand the error message she received, that said: “You have not selected a printer.” When I pointed this out, she said: “That’s never happened before. I don’t understand all these technical terms.”

** Yes, this has genuinely happened.

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Ouch

In which we wonder what happened to Big Dave


Talking of Room 3B (the IT office): long-term readers (who remember the air-conditioning fight) might be wondering what Big Dave has been up to for the past few months, since he left, and what he’s been up to.

Well, the answer is, I don’t really know. He’s popped into the office, once or twice, since then. He’s kept in touch with a few people round the building. But I don’t really know what he’s been up to. The only news I have is: Big Dave’s broken his jaw. How he broke his jaw is a mystery. It’s very possible that he doesn’t know himself, of course. So, unfortunately, no tales of entertaining-but-horrific fights outside bars. No tales of unlikely-but-possible accidents involving server racks or poorly-secured hard disks. You’ll just have to use your imagination.

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Back away from the phone and breathe slowly

In which people refuse to be in the wrong


Or, the support call from hell.

I will summarise. A known nuisance. She says she’s reporting an error that she’s told me about many, many times before. I, of course, have never heard of the error message she’s reporting. I tell her the general resolution steps: click on X, Y and Z in that order. It doesn’t work, so I ask her to reboot her computer and phone back.

She phones back, ten minutes later. “I did Q, Y and Z, like you asked me to…”

I ask her to repeat, to confirm she isn’t confused.

“Yes, you definitely told me to do Q, Y and Z.”

“I’m sorry, but I thought I asked you to do X, not Q?” For one thing, Q doesn’t take you to a place you can do Y. So if you did that, you’re clearly lying about having done anything at all.

“I know what you told me to do – you definitely asked me to do Q. Now, can you just fix my computer instead of arguing about you said this and that?”

I despair, sometimes. I wonder how people who don’t listen to anything they’re told, who expect the world to organise itself around them for their own benefit, ever get to where they are in life.

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The returner

In which we have a visitor


A quiet afternoon at the office yesterday. Everyone sitting around waiting for the bank holiday weekend to start. And then, the bell rings.

Someone’s back.

It’s Big Dave.

He wandered round the office, saying hello to everyone, complaining about how noone would let him get away, looking slightly dazed as everyone stopped work and gathered around him.

He was only visiting, which sadly means I still won’t be able to fill this blog up with vicarious stories about the women he’s slept with and the men he’s beaten up. In fact, he didn’t seem to have many things to tell us at all, aside from: his new job is great, he gets on with everyone, and he’s really enjoyed the past three months since he left. It was strange to see him back here, especially next too Wee Dave. In many ways, Wee Dave is the Anti-Big-Dave, so I was kind of expecting an explosion and puff of smoke if they ever did meet, the two mutually vanishing in some quantum space-time event.

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Lecturing

In which we discover a hidden talent


I was still thinking idly about teaching H how to drive, the other day, when Colleague K came down to Room 3B (The IT Office) and said: “FP, do you know algebra? Wee Dave said you would.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s just that my daughter’s got her GCSEs coming up, and she’s stuck on algebra, and I don’t know how to do it so I can’t help her.”

So, I took half an hour out to scribble down some basics about solving linear and simple quadratic equations, the sort of thing I assume everyone knows anyway. Ten pages later I had some rough notes on algebra done, making it as simple as I could, trying to explain why it all works instead of just giving the textbook answer. And she seemed to like it.

“Wow, FP, this is really good! Even I can understand it! Did you really just do all this off the top of your head?”

“Erm, yes, it’s only what I remember from when I was at school myself.”

“You should go into teaching or something!”

Which I’m not going to do. You have to work with children, annoying children who don’t want to work with you and don’t want to listen to what you have to tell them. But it set me thinking: why don’t I put notes on that sort of thing up on here? How to solve GCSE maths problems, or how to drive a car, or program a computer; that sort of thing. I could call it The FP Lectures, or something like that. And they’d have all the obvious stuff that noone ever tells you, because, to people who know it already it’s as obvious as breathing, too obvious to be worth teaching.

The only problem, of course, is finding the energy to actually do it.

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Shredder update

In which the broken shredder is sensibly disposed of, to our disappointment


The shredder didn’t go anywhere, in the end. Before anyone could lift it, the branch office phoned up and said: “don’t throw it away! Fix it!” I explained it was unfixable, by me at any rate. So, they phoned up the office secretary and said: “don’t let FP throw it away! Find someone competent to fix it!” The office secretary told them to stop being silly, and started shopping for a replacement, before throwing the broken one out in a sensible, unimaginative fashion. I was mildly disappointed.

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