23 July, 2010

La Mondaine: week one

The first day of our

La Mondaine arrived in a state of high excitement, eager to pick up where she'd left years ago, renew old friendships, and throw herself into the exciting social whirlwind that this place is all about (instead of that tedious, pesky "work" stuff that some of us spend our day grappling with).

Thus far it's been a deeply and horrifyingly painful experience. And that's before she's even begun trying to do any work yet. God knows what kind of agony we're in for once she actually has to start engaging her brain in the present rather than just leaving it idling noisily in the past.

(On a related note, I've never been so grateful for the delay in getting someone set up with computer and network access here. It meant she grew bored watching the Stress Fiend work and left early. Technically the Stress Fiend was trying to train her in how things are done these days, but in practice it was like watching someone take their nine-month-old to see Shakespeare: grizzling, intermittent crying fits, and constantly wondering why it's not yet time for the next meal).

Firstly, La Mondaine talks constantly. She's not exceptionally loud - she certainly doesn't boom out the way the Cow-Orker could - but her voice is pitched to penetrate, makes everything sound like a question, and just. doesn't. stop. Perhaps desensitisation will come with time, but for the moment she's impossible to tune out.

And then The Invertebrate decides in an apparent burst of sadism that we'll have a team afternoon tea just so we can have a chat about where things will be going over the next few months. I'd already given this some thought, but wasn't overly surprised when our visions diverged: his, for instance, seems to be a lot lighter on the bloody axes, straitjackets and padded cells that loomed prominently in mine.

The first day went roughly as follows:

"No, that system 's been gone for years, too. The staff club and the Friday afternoon 'lunches'? Well the club's been shut for a couple of years now..."  (Coincidentally business declined as the number of hard-drinking oldtimers retired).

"Is this person still here? How about this other person? How about all the other people I wanted to come back to socialise with?"

"You mean you don't leave stuff in the Inbox forever in case someone's on holiday when the email arrives? How do they know every little thing that happened while they weren't here? You still have weekly meetings to discuss every new email that's arrived, don't you?"

By day two she was repeating back to us as "news" the very things we'd told her the day before: that certain people had left, old systems had been replaced, work practices had changed, etc.  Not that this prevented her from reacting to each new example of change with wide-eyed, breathless disbelief and a plaintive cry of "But what do you do now?" ... which was usually her response to having just been told what it was we did now.

Looking back at my increasingly desperate and angry private Tweets from Day Two, I find this:

"Please. F**k off before I have to kill you. Or myself. One of us has to go if you're going to keep this up."

Which pretty much sums up the experience: if gnawing off a limb to escape wasn't enough, and your only only way out was cutting your own head off using a pair of blunt nail scissors, you'd be begging for the opportunity.

Getting her set up with computer access also turned into another adventure in pain. To begin with it was just because it can take a while to get someone set up with all the appropriate email and network access they need.

"Who was that person who used to work here years ago, but isn't around anymore? They'd know what to do!"

Because apparently what they'd do is wave their magic wand and cause the electrons carrying La Mondaine's login details to propagate at faster-than-light speeds across all our systems, and Physics be damned.

Then we had to get her access to our primary database. I really wish we didn't. The things she's likely to do to it are the kind of things that made Skynet go bad, and while out our database might lack the capacity to start a nuclear war (as far as we know), it does have the ability to wipe all our software license records and recovering from that will make snacking on tumour-ridden mutant rats in a post-nuclear wasteland look like a picnic (albeit a picnic of two-headed, eight-eyed cancer rats). But I digress.

While one of the techs came around to configure the database client for her, she began wanting to know where the instructions were for setting up the old database. The old old database. She was here when the current incarnation was being phased in, was shown that we use a more highly-developed version of the same, and so should know the old one just doesn't exist anymore. Nevertheless, the tech clearly couldn't do his job without instructions that were nearly a decade old and unrelated to anything he'd seen in his time here.

La Mondaine disappeared into our storage room for several minutes and, somehow, emerged with a printed copy of the old instructions. Quite how she managed that ... well, bluntly, I'm f**ked if I know. I'm almost prepared to believe she brought them in from home with her but, more likely, Ted had a copy secreted away someplace in the hope that some day we'd return to the good old days.

She then tried to get access to a service desk tool that the organisation stopped using a few years before she left. More breathless surprise: "But what do you do now?" By now, even the Stress Fiend was starting to sound a little ragged. She showed La Mondaine the current service desk tool (only eight versions behind the current version and counting!) but emphasised that La Mondaine wouldn't be expected to deal with anything in there.

"But what if-"

"No. You won't need to."

"But we used to - with the old system, I used to - "

No. No, you don't touch that. Ever. I don't care what you used to do in the past, we don't work that way anymore. I will personally raze this building - this whole organisation - to the ground before I let you have access to any more systems than are strictly necessary.

So two days with La Mondaine filling in for Ted, and I think it's safe to say we've already lost all the gains in productivity - not to mention the lower stress levels - his absence has brought us.Next week the Stress Fiend hopes to turn her loose in our database, telling herself optimistically "She'll be fine once she gets all the old stuff out of her head."

And I agree with her. There's absolutely nothing there that a little trepanation wouldn't fix.

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