Vignettes: The Lighter Side

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I apologize again for the rather somber post yesterday. I try to be honest about what I am feeling and going through, and sometimes that does not make for upbeat reading.

But life is rarely all one thing, good or bad.

Even in the midst of what has been a particularly challenging month, it is still possible to find moments of laughter and light.

My job is very challenging, but I am very fortunate in that the people I work with on a day-to-day basis are almost without exception an absolute pleasure.

We have a small team, are all juggling multiple tasks under a great deal of pressure, and work far too much.

Yet in spite of - or perhaps *because* of - that, we all get along famously.

I thought of several recent examples that illustrate this point nicely.

I have been meeting regularly with J, one of the two lead developers on our team, to review outstanding documentation bugs.

For various reasons, nearly all of which are beyond our control, we are faced with a daunting challenge when trying to address the issues raised in these bugs.

In most cases, we are discovering that the problem described by the bug only hints at myriad problems associated with the issue raised in the bug. Hence our estimates of how long to fix each bug are proving to be useless in light of what we are uncovering each time we work on one.

We spent two hours on a single bug (our informal goal is five per one hour meeting), which resulted in us:

Gutting three Help topics to rewrite them from scratch.
Writing one new, extremely complex topic, with multiple procedures that involved multiple fields on multiple screens
Deleting four shared topics, but not before salvaging various bits and pieces for use in the other topics.

We thought we had it completed after I finished writing/rewriting them last week, so we decided we would review it at today's meeting.

I opened it up and displayed it on the overhead projector. J and I went through it line by line.

"You captured everything we discussed last week," he told me. "Great job. This was a nightmare."

"Thanks, J," I replied. "We make a good team."

"Agreed," he said, and held out his hand.

"So," he said, "Think we can wrap this one up, right?"

I looked at the twelve plus pages we had just reviewed, and the whiteboards we had filled in on two sides of the conference room, attempting to unravel the mysteries locked in these screens (none of which had specifications or useful Help, of course - both of which should have been produced long before we came on the scene).

I looked at the screen again.

Then at J.

He looked at me, then looked at the screen.

"One more time," we both said simultaneously.

We both sensed something was missing - and it was.

We finally realized that one procedure had two steps that told users to specify a date in a specific field, labeled Start.

In the first step, the date you enter is used as the start date.

In the other step, the date you enter is used as - wait for it - the end date.

In the same procedure. lol

"Well, I can't imagine that possibly confusing anyone," said J, once we finally rewrote all of the procedures accordingly - for at least the fourth time in a week.

"We could always put it in code," I suggested.

"Or else just list W's number," joked J. (W was the other lead developer, who is on vacation this week.)

"No good; he forwarded his calls to you before he left last week," I replied.

"That's OK - I've stopped answering my phone," said J. "Problem solved!"



On another occasion we we were trying to figure out another procedure with yet another mystery field name.

It was a math term, but neither J nor I thought it was accurate.

"It's called... it's called... damn, it's on the tip of my tongue," he said. "Jeez, it's not as if I studied this or anything, right?"

(J is absolutely brilliant, I should point out.)

A moment later desperation clearly set in.

"Do you remember what this thing is called?" he asked me.

"J, think about what you're doing," I replied. "You're asking a writer a math question."

"Oh, yeah... good point," he said.

We then lapsed into silence.

A moment later J spoke up.

"Let me ask R (a recent hire straight out of college)," he said. "He's smart."

We both chuckled.

I heard him get up and walk over to R's cubicle, right behind J's, followed in a few moments by laughter.

J's voice came back on.

"Got it," he said, and told me the answer.

"Oh, right," I said. "So... did R laugh at us?"

"Yes, he did," said J, solemnly. "Although come to think of it, he *did* correct his original answer."

"Sweet!" I replied. "So that means we get to make fun of him the next time he wears his bow tie, doesn't it?"

"Yes. Yes, it does," said J, his voice deadpan.

A moment later I heard R's voice in the background.

"You're both going to make fun of my bow tie again, aren't you?" he asked.

"Yes. Yes, we are," said J.

And we all laughed.



One final story, about my colleague A.

I wrote once before about A, when she made a typically sweet, considerate remark as we were chatting about my woes earlier this year.

S, R, A, and myself decided to go out for lunch last Friday. A and I rarely stop for lunch, let alone go out for it. So this was a treat.

A moved here from China, and is married to one of our colleagues. She is young and brilliant, but still picking up some of the nuances of American speech and customs.

R asked A where she wanted to eat, and she immediately replied Italian. That is my favorite (as it is for my overly sensitive stomach), so I was happy with the choice.

As she looked at the menu, I had the sense that A may not have been able to differentiate the various menu choices. She reads and speaks excellent English, but this was a bit of a challenge.

When it was my time to order, I opted, after some internal debate, for the traditional spaghetti and meatballs. I ordered the large dish, knowing I would eat what I could, then bring the rest home for my dinner that night. (Which is precisely what I did.)

A immediately asked me what I had ordered, so I repeated it to her.

"Actually, I would like the same, please," she asked the waitress politely. "But may I have the smaller size?"

"Were you thinking of something else?" asked R once the waitress departed. "It sounds as if you changed your mind at the last second."

"Yes," A replied. "I think J (her husband) has tried to make this several times now."

"Tried?" I asked, attempting to suppress a smile.

"Yes," she said earnestly. "He attempts many different dishes."

"Do you like to cook?" S asked.

"Oh, no!" A replied. "If I get home first, it means we either wait until he returns, or we go out to dinner!"

"But J does like to cook?" asked S.

"Oh, yes," said A. "Very much."

"And how would you describe him in the kitchen?" I asked.

A thought for a moment, clearly trying to be diplomatic in her second language.

Then she spoke.


We must have laughed for a solid minute!


And *those* are the people who make what can be a dreary day just a little bit brighter.

What would I do without them?

Thanks, J!

Thanks, A!

Thanks, R!

Thanks, S!

And thanks to all of my friends there!


A wonderful song from Led Zeppelin II:


Calie on August 17, 2013 at 4:12 PM said...

It's so nice to see that you have friends at work, Cass. Friends, especially at work, are so important for someone in transition.

I enjoyed the stories.

Calie xxx

Cassidy on August 18, 2013 at 6:13 PM said...

Hi Calie!

Thank you, hon!

I couldn't agree more about my friends. This has been a challenging job, as you know, but I am convinced now that I got it so I would meet S, R, L, B, and my other friends. They will all be part of my life long after I move on to greener pastures. They are far more than simply work friends.

Thanks again, sweetie!!!

Hugs & love,

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