My So-Called Job

This story is from the Old Stuff Archive. I’m going through the archive and re-posting a bunch of old items that didn’t make the cut when I migrated this site from FrontPage to WordPress. Enjoy!

Some people are under the misguided impression that IT jobs are “glamorous” and “exciting”. They’re not. I was once hired by IBM to answer phones for their internal Y2K Help Desk. Initially, the job kept me pretty busy: my coworker Janette and I were getting a fair number of calls. After a few weeks, though, the calls really died down.

Since Janette and I were contractors, we were treated lower than dirt. And because the site was originally owned by GE Financial and had only recently been sold to IBM, corporate paranoia ran amok. We had to give our driver’s licenses to the security guards every day to get our “visitor’s badge”. We weren’t allowed to have a company email account. The firewall blocked access to 99.99% of all interesting content on the Internet. We were relegated to sitting in the training room and had to use the PCs there… and were not allowed to customize them at all. In fact, there were originally three of us, but one guy was fired for – I kid you not – moving the taskbar to the top of the screen. Because of all this, if our phones weren’t ringing we literally had nothing to do. And when the calls died down, I started to go a little crazy.

To explain it to others, I kept a diary for a day. This entry is from September 1st, 1998 and is absolutely true. Enjoy my insanity!

07:55 – Entered building
07:58 – Logged in the phone.
08:00 – Unzipped a file that had some bitmap flags I was designing with MS Paint (why, yes I am a geek).
08:01 – Played with the flags with MS Paint.
08:12 – Bored with the flags, play a few games of Solitaire.
08:30 – Bored with that, and tired too! I think I’ll take a nap.
09:20 – A nearby phone rings, which wakes me up. Need a cigarette.
09:30 – Back, with coffee for me and Janette.
09:35 – ANOTHER quick game of Solitaire.
09:45 – Back to the bitmaps; made an English flag and a couple of others.
10:05 – Started drawing a castle with MS Paint.
10:33 – Yawn. Going for another smoke and a bathroom break.
10:41 – Back. Janitor left the bathroom closet unlocked – briefly considered getting high off Endust.
10:42 – Hmmmm. Bored with the castle – I guess I’ll start reading Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor.
10:50 – Woo-Hoo! The phone rings!
10:50 – Dammit! Wrong number!
11:35 – Read the first 28 pages of Wise Blood. Janette goes to lunch. Still no calls.
11:45 – Yawn again. Too sleepy for Wise Blood – back to Solitaire.
12:02 – WOO-HOO! A real call! A guy in Barrington, IL needs IDs created on the t2k4 mainframe!
12:05 – Through logging the call.
12:06 – Saw a commercial last night for a Carpenter’s CD; have “On Top Of The World” in my head – the Endust is looking better!
12:15 – Fuckin’ sick of Solitaire. Back to Wise Blood.
12:39 – Janette is back. Lunchtime!
14:01 – Omygosh! Another call!
14:18 – Well, that guy had the wrong number, only it took me 15 minutes to figure it out. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s still just 1 call.
14:21 – A maintenance guy comes in and fucks with a phone on the other side of the room. Leaves after 30 seconds.
14:25 – Maintenance guy comes back, picks up the phone, looks puzzled, leaves again.
14:26 – Mark comes in to say chat – he’s a guy who works in the NOC. I feel like a guy who just got off a deserted island….
14:42 – Mark leaves. I decide to write rant about a friend of mine that I’ll email ’round the world later.
14:50 – My friend Holly calls.
15:20 – Holly and I get off the phone.
15:32 – Holly calls back.
15:40 – Holly and I get off the phone.
15:43 – ANOTHER CALL! I’m getting carpal tunnel here! I log on to the mainframe and reset the ID.
15:45 – Finished rant, not in the mood to do my daily NT studying… Wonder where the maintenance guy went.
15:46 – Wonder if the Endust is still in the bathroom. Ah, never mind – back to Flannery O’Connor.
16:53 – No calls; I’m logging off for the evening.

Yep – eight hours and two phone calls that took a grand total of five minutes to log. We never used the same PC more than once and eventually I got so bored that I changed some of the hardware entries in the Registry so that in Device Manager all the hardware was listed as “another crappy IBM product”. I wonder if anyone ever noticed…

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