Gorged on guts, gouged-out eyes
Captives fill the breeding hive
Desecrate their sovereign world
Bloated, bloody, drunken churl
Cultures crumble, races die
Stench of midgets fills the sky
Smashing skulls with ghastly crunch
Pretty soon we’ll break for lunch!
—Gwar, “The Obliteration of Flab Quarv 7” (This Toilet Earth)
Now that the crisis I was facing has passed, it’s time, finally, for me to talk about my job — the true beginning of my IT career, and how I nearly lost it all…
My average day starts badly, due to it being the damn winter; it’s hard getting up in the cold and dark, and even harder trying to make lunch as well as breakfast, but mostly I manage at least the latter, and set off just after 8am, turning off Chris Evans’ breakfast show on the radio and walking or running (depending on the exact time) to Finchley Central Tube station. I’m wise enough to know the times that near-empty Northern Line trains come down from Mill Hill East, and time my arrival so I can get a seat on a train that’ll take the Charing Cross branch. I settle down to watch the first half of an episode of Science Ninja Team Gatchaman on my smartphone, pausing this and putting on music (be it classical, Gwar or recently-bought) in my Bluetooth headphones as we get close to Warren Street station, from which I walk across to the Marylebone area (via Fitzroy Square, with the BT Tower, er, towering above), petting any dogs I encounter.
(On a bad day I get off at Goodge Street station, which clearly was not designed to be a destination for commuters — it can take five minutes just to get into a lift to the surface, and walking up 136 stairs is no picnic either! And on a really bad day, I have to change to the Victoria Line at Euston… ecch!)
Turning off my music and clipping my ID card to a belt loop on the side of my jeans, I go up to my office, turn on my PC, have a drink of water, and see what IT support tickets we’ve got to start the day with, passing on any to do with the members’ database or the website to the appropriate people, and seeing what I can resolve out of what’s left. My tasks for the day can range from simple things like replacing printer toner, troubleshooting Outlook or network drives, through to helping home workers with Citrix issues, in between which I’m also working on preparing computers and laptops for people to use, perhaps in offices in other countries of the United Kingdom. My team support me as I support them (despite some bad jokes and playful mockery!), and I get on with just about everyone in the organisation, knowing some by sight and others by where they sit, but always trying to help.
Since I run around the building, up and down stairs (though I try to use the lift if I’m traversing more than one floor, sometimes it’s just quicker to use my legs instead), I get hungry and tired, usually buying lunch at Pret A Manger (it being a posh enough part of London that there’s one on every street instead of a Subway) and eating over a Stephen King novel, and, until recently, making myself a couple of mochas every day. I’ve had to stop the latter, however, because as my workplace is an association of health professionals, they can’t be seen to make chocolate or sugar too “available”, and thus I seldom make myself caffeinated drinks, since I don’t like coffee on its own. This is a shame, as the coffee-making machine in our office always made me think of a Gwar track, “The Issue of Tissue (Spacecake)”, from the same album as this post’s opening quote.
(And just to complete the trifecta, the name of my employer is a three-letter abbreviation very similar to the title of the most controversial song on that album… no, don’t look it up on YouTube, I’ll get in trouble!)
At the end of the working day, usually I go straight across to Goodge Street station and try to get a seat on the Northern Line home so I can watch the second half of the day’s Gatchaman episode (the mid-episode ad break buffer music makes me realise I’m on my way home), though often I have to stand as far as Archway, thanks to all the selfish people — gasp — using public transport at the same time as me, and not giving up their seat! On these occasions I stand there listening to Gwar, and find myself sincerely hoping people are offended by the noise leaking from my headphones — well, hey, Gatchaman is quieter, so maybe if I could sit down…?
I still go to social events now and then, and on these occasions I walk to a nearby Nando’s or Ed’s to get dinner, and perhaps then visit the shops on Tottenham Court Road before heading off to the event. Sadly my yoga teacher has left the country, but I still go to salsa classes in Old Street, or climbing or seeing my personal trainer at the Castle, and sometimes I even meet a girl for a date. One way or another, however, I come back here, either to make and eat dinner over post-2005 Doctor Who or Torchwood (or anything else I’m watching religiously at the time) and then play video games, or if I’m back late, just shower, write in my diary (and possibly this), watch Family Guy and/or American Dad! (at least until BBC3 goes off the air), and finally go to bed and read classic Judge Dredd comics until I’m tired enough to sleep, hopefully before 1am…
You probably don’t think this sounds much like a decadent playboy lifestyle, but it’s kept me happy over the past few months — more so than when I worked for Camden and only really enjoyed my life outside work (and then only once I started going to Meetup.com events). However, I came close to blowing it: four weeks ago my IT manager took me aside and spoke sternly to me, telling me I’d had numerous complaints against me (including from the chief executive), and that perhaps customer service wasn’t really for me, the technical side of my job being something “anyone can do”. She also thought I was condescending to people without necessarily realising it, “huffing and puffing” when asked to do things, and making users feel I didn’t know what I was doing, but said I had two weeks to sort myself out…
Naturally, this tete-a-tete left me shocked, as although I know I’ve made a few mistakes in my interactions (the trigger seems to have been an incident that week where I asked the nice lady in the office services team to resend an e-mail to helpdesk with the description of the problem in the body rather than the subject), I’ve never really felt impatient or snappy with people, especially compared to my time at Camden, and honestly thought I was succeeding as the “face” of my team. It completely blindsided me, and I spent the following three weeks (yes, I know she said two, but still) wondering if I’d have a job by the second week of February…
Fortunately, my follow-up chat on Monday confirmed that I’d been doing a hell of a lot better, earning no further complaints; my boss said I’d “turned it around”, and that she knew how hard I work every day (even if a lot of it is just elbow grease). Thus, I no longer fear for my job, or indeed that my entire career in IT has stalled before it’s even begun; obviously I won’t let myself get complacent again, thinking they can’t possibly fire me (though part of me wonders whether my boss was facing a rebellion from the team and chose the path of least resistance), and will continue to be scrupulously nice to our users, while also (it has to be said) lying to them to cover up any more serious issues we might have.
This week I’ve felt an awful lot better about my life, back to my old self — or further indeed, as I’m acting more confidently at work, making hardware-related decisions (with proper confirmation where necessary) instead of deferring everything, and resolving many problems with help from behind the scenes. One member of my team has been a real mentor throughout my time with the organisation, to the point that I would call him senpai… but since he’s away for a few days (he has a family, unlike decadent playboy Dave-ros here), I’m once again the main person in IT that the users initially speak to when they have problems — so I’m back to being the redoubtable “face” of the helpdesk. And with the boss away during the half-term holiday, and the loudmouth joker of the team also off today, one might describe my Friday as almost blissful…
(Now if only my love life could follow the same improvement, instead of setback after setback — but that’s a story for another time, inevitably!)