Tales from the office

I know you have all been dying to hear more about what’s going on with my co-workers.  You are probably especially interested in the small man that is cold all the time, so I will indulge you and share a few more tales.  Well, my impression of the little library mouse has changed.  I now see him as more of a little gopher.  I had to put some thought into that.  Well, I guess I didn’t put a ton of thought into it.  I admit I went to google to find the right term.  I googled “semi-intelligent ground digging animal” and “gopher” was the best match for how I see my freezing office-mate.  Gophers aren’t horrible, but they aren’t great, either.  Those of you that don’t work in software might not be aware of how demanding the industry is.  I’m sure plenty of other jobs have their demands, too, but when you write software for other people, it’s expected to be perfect all the time, and when it’s not, you have to do whatever it takes to make it perfect, day or night, no matter how much time it takes.  As the project manager of software projects, it is compounded somewhat by the fact that you have to do whatever it takes to get others to do whatever it takes – and my office gopher is very good at finding a little hole to dive into whenever it seems we might need him to do what it takes.

Last week, we needed some work done on a Sunday.  The guy that would normally do the work was not available because he had to leave Saturday to travel around the world to be with his ailing father.  Gopher-man wasn’t amenable to working on Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, and as I thought about it, I decided that was reasonable, so I changed the deployment schedule for our system, which affected tons of other people, in order not to interrupt his Sunday.  On Wednesday, the three of us talked numerous times about this schedule and my decision to move our deployment to Monday.  This would give gopher-man all day Monday to do what we needed him to do in time for me to have the people in China finish the process.  On his way out of the office Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, he stopped by and said, “So, we’re on for Monday.” I said, “Yep.  Have a good weekend.  See you Monday.”  He took a few steps towards the exit, then dramatically remembered he had jury duty on Monday.  I wanted to shoot myself in the head.  I had to run into a meeting, though, and a few minutes into the meeting I saw him sneaking towards the exit.  Good thing we have glass walls to our conference room.  I almost tackled him on his way out.  In the end, though, I really could do nothing, so I let him leave.

When he first mentioned jury duty, I asked him if he knew he had to report on Monday.  He said, “Yes.  I’ve rescheduled it two times already.”  [Insert image of small balding man with large glasses that should come with a sign for his forehead that reads, ‘Objects behind glasses are smaller than they appear.’]   “They wooon’t let me oooout of-it.  It’s really upsetting because I-won’t-get paid, but they said I still had-to-go.”  [Splice in a rather whiny voice for a fifty-something guy that articulates his t’s as though they are ice-picks while also running words together randomly.]  It still seemed odd to me that he knew he had to actually report to jury duty that early.  Normally you call in the night before and listen for your group number, fingers crossed that your group doesn’t have to report.  After he was gone, I brainstormed with his boss about some other solutions to our resource problem, and we came up with only mediocre solutions that none of us thought would work well.  After I got home that night, it occurred to me that maybe gopher-guy didn’t realize he had to call in to check if he had to report for jury duty.  He is not of American origin, so perhaps he didn’t get how the system worked.  So, I called him.

When I got him on the phone, I explained to him that he might not actually have to go to jury duty on Monday.  He insisted over and over that he did.  I patiently asked him to get his jury summons and just look it over a little more closely.  He reluctantly agreed, then lightened up a bit, and I asked him to read it to me.  He mumbled in his accent that I can’t really place, and as he read, his diction became clearer, he read with more emotion, and by the time he got to the part that said, “Call in or check http://www.countycourt.com after 4:30 p.m. the night before your summons date to see if you have to report for duty,” you could even say he was passionate about what he was learning.  With utter surprise and gratitude in his voice, he said, “Oh, so maybe I don’t have to go after all!”

I should try to explain here how gopher-guy talks.  It’s difficult to characterize.  His accent is different than the typical accents I hear.  It’s not Indian, it’s not Asian, it’s not Hispanic – I really have no idea.  But, he cannot pronounce ‘in’ if it is part of a name or other word.  Someone named Dustin would be called Dus-teeeeen by gopher-man.  Heavy emphasis on the second syllable.  He speaks at a slow pace, not because he’s translating as he’s speaking – he speaks English quite well – he is just very deliberate about everything – nothing can make him rush, and he likes to talk a lot.  Sometimes it is all I can do to sit still long enough for him to get the point I knew he was trying to make five minutes earlier.  Anyway, back to the story.

Again, I began to explain this part of the American legal system – getting a jury summons doesn’t mean you actually have to do anything – and he just kept repeating that he had no idea, he’d never done this before, and it was good I made him read it or he would have just showed up on Monday.  At that point, I took a little leap of faith and said, “You know.  I bet the courts are closed for Thanksgiving and the day after.  And I bet that means that they’ve already posted which groups have to report on Monday.”

“Reeee-ally,” he said.  “Hmm….  I wonder if you’re right.” (Spoken with the wonder of a child realizing Santa is coming tonight)

“Why don’t you check,” I said. (Spoken patiently, matter-of-factly, only slightly encouragingly)

“Well, if you really want to wait, I guess I can check now.”

“Sure, I’ll wait.  It’s no problem at all.”

I waited for quite some time as he checked the website, read silently to himself, started reading bits of it aloud, mumbling.  “Just give me a minute….  I want to make sure I’m reading this right….”  More silence.  More mumbling.  More pausing and restarting.  “Group 116.  No, that’s not my group…  Oh, here.  Group 117!  No, that’s not my group, either…”  And so on, until, “There it is!  There’s my group number!  And I don’t have to go in on Monday!  Oh my God, I don’t believe it!  Wait, let me read it again to be sure.  Wow!  This is so wonderful!  I really don’t have to go!”

“Yes, it’s really great, isn’t it?  OK, well, I’ll see you Monday then.  Have a good weekend.”  With that, I finally got off the phone, failing to tell him he might just have to go Tuesday, and settled in to watch some TV and relax.

And that is the end of this gopher-man update.

5 thoughts on “Tales from the office

  1. The first thing that comesmind when you described gopher-man’s accent is Squiggy. I think the accent is referred to as Whiny Italian.

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