31 January, 2011

Destroying the Precious.

La Mondaine is rummaging through Ted's drawers. She says it's because she's looking for some extra copies of software she's sure he has*, but she kept burrowing well beyond that point until she found some of Ted's attempts at documentation and process management. Naturally it didn't relate to anything he did, but was about how he thought everyone else should be doing their jobs, particularly those parts that he didn't understand and didn't want to acknowledge.

La Mondaine takes it to the Stress Fiend, who casts her eye over it, laughs mockingly at points that are clearly directed at me, and then tells La Mondaine "Just bin it."

"Are you sure? Should I show it to The Invertebrate?"

"It's not worth it. Just get rid of it."

"But what if it comes back to bite me?" La Mondaine begins hyperventilating. "What if it comes back?"

She decides that rather than taking it straight to The Invertebrate, she'll take it to me instead.

Lucky me.

She hands it over with a level of anxiety beyond all proportion to the contents, as though it's a confession signed by the secret rulers of the world tying together every great conspiracy theory formulated by a desperate and paranoid internet.

I look it over. I  look at it again. The words are English, but...

... the document is pure Ted. So much so that I feel like I should be wearing lead-lined gloves and safety goggles to protect me from the malignant, self-righteous stupidity that practically radiates from the random assortment of printouts he's stapled together and extensively annotated with cryptic remarks in red ink. But that's only the supporting documentation: there's also a two-page cover document attached that's apparently meant to explain it all.

Page 1: three sections, marked "Stakeholder/s", "Current process", and "Suggested change & Why". Each heading is carefully underlined, and each section is completely blank.

Page 2 is where Ted gets down to his in-depth analysis of the matter at hand. Whatever that matter actually is: it's a little hard to tell in the absence of any identified stakeholders, objective, or context.

There's a point #3, and a point #4B, but no points 1-2, 4, or 4A. There's a Point "?" that seems to urge against updating details that other teams need to do their job. Unusually for Ted there's also punctuation, although this mostly takes the form of capitalisation that's obviously been copied from an existing document, and arbitrary use of block capitals and underlining where he appears to be indirectly shouting at either me or the Stress Fiend.

Naturally it's all written in red biro, using scrap paper salvaged from the recycling bin, giving it the look and feel of some impoverished descendant of the kind of ancient prophetic text traditionally scrawled by angry, raving madmen using their own blood and parchment made from human skin. (Moral: they don't make angry, raving madmen like they used to).

The general thrust, from what I can tell, is that we - or, specifically, Ted - shouldn't actually be asked to do anything, and should just pass all our work on to another team and let them sort it out. Although they could only sort it out by coming back to us for advice ... but then it would come back to me or the Stress Fiend to deal with, so I can see how Ted would view this as an efficient labour-saving process.

Trying to read it sequentially is just bewildering. Trying to think like Ted and read it out of sequence as a series of random points not only doesn't help, either, but threatens to induce catastrophic brain damage. Nevertheless, I've studied it long enough to safely conclude it contains nothing of any use.

La Mondaine is still hanging over my desk, eyes wide and staring, breathing in short, sharp gasps of muted terror, with  her hands extended ready to snatch it back. I move my chair carefully to place more of the desk between us.

"No, there's nothing here we need to keep. It can get tossed," I tell her.

"But surely I should show The Invertebrate?" She reaches for it expectantly. I don't offer it, as it's clear the pages exert some terrible power over the feeble-minded and La Mondaine still clings to the myth that Ted was the Keeper of Ancient And Terrible Knowledge.

"There's nothing here to show him. It's not even written in a way that would make sense to anyone except Ted."

"But what if I throw it out and it comes back to bite me?" Her hands open and close unconsciously.

"How?" It's unkind, I know, but I throw reason at her.


"How can it possibly come back to bite you? He doesn't work here anymore, he didn't do anything with it while he was here, and - " I glance at the printouts. "It's dated June 2009! Why are we even bothering with this? It's over eighteen months old!"

"It's not, it's recent!"

"What year are we in?"


But at least she's stopped hyperventilating. In fact, she's stopped breathing at all.


"But it might come back to bite me!"

I bin it. Her face is a mask of horror and, for once, it's not just due to the quarter-inch of make-up she trowels on each morning. There's almost something despairing about the way she withdraws her hands and turns back to her desk.

And then, a few minutes later, I retrieve it for posterity. Some things are such perfect examples of their type that they should be preserved for future generations.

Or, at least, for making fun of online at a later date.

* Teaching Ted how to duplicate CDs was a major undertaking that nearly made The Invertebrate's head explode and, for me, remains one of the highlights of The Invertebrate's learning curve with Ted. But once he mastered the art of clicking a couple of buttons, he never looked back. In fact he started mass-producing CD sets because it was less effort to keep churning them out and losing them than actually making sure loan copies were accounted for and returned.


Anonymous said...

I half-expected the story to end with La Mondaine retrieving the pages out of the garbage while you were away from your desk.

Now I'm really curious as to what this "documentation" looks like. Care to post a scanned copy for our viewing horror?

Anonymous said...

Hope all is well. Stay dry if possible. Cat 5 storms no fun.

Argh said...

Sean: The cyclone is well away from me, so I only have to contend with the normal Category 5 Storm of Stupidity. Appreciate the thought, though.

Anonymous: If my bin was more accessible to her I'm pretty sure she would have retrieved it. I'll see about posting a copy of The Precious if I can strike the right balance between making it non-identifying and still retaining all its Ted-inspired glory.