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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Work is ridiculous

So, I've started re-watching the X-Files with Ben.  Just to give you some context, I was mildly obsessed with the X-Files in middle and high school.  And by 'mildly obsessed' I mean I put X's on all of the file cabinets in my parents' home office, and made my parents take us to Roswell New Mexico as part of a family vacation.  So, that was a thing that happened.

Anyway, this has led me to the amazing and slightly insane world of X-Files Tumblrs, which has in turn led me to this:


And also this:

I'd forgotten how much I love that show.  Moving on...

So work.  Occasionally when you work for a company that is literally the size of a small country, you realize that nobody really knows what anyone else is doing, or even what they themselves are doing.  When you encounter this in the normal course of doing your job, it sometimes makes you want to sink into a hole of infinite despair from which you will never emerge.

The following story is based on true events - and by based on, I mean they actually are true events.  To avoid discussing the exact nature of the project, I have changed the names of people involved to the names of my pets, and made the entire thing an analogy about pie.  It will still make sense, I promise.  Maybe.

For reasons of...a story that is too long and boring to be repeated in this blog, I recently offered my assistance to another team's project.  Basically they needed some extra manpower, their project is related to my area of expertise and I decided to be helpful.  Let's call this project "Pies."  Essentially, I am documenting how all of the pies are made -ingredients, baking temperature, process, etc, so we can prioritize them for baking.  If I realize a pie is terrible and/or expensive to make, or no one likes it, then we de-prioritize the pie.  If the pie is pretty good, then I will thoroughly document the 'recipe' for said pie(shockingly, this documentation does not already exist...I know...).

Guiding me in my efforts is a spreadsheet made about one year ago, by someone who is no longer with the organization.  It lists the name of the pie, a couple of generic facts about the pie, and the approximate number of people who eat that pie on a yearly basis.

Most of the time, this is not an issue.  I can usually track down at least one person involved in the makiing of the pie in question, that person helps me track down everyone else, and after a few hours of conversation we are good to go.  Sometimes the pie is very complex and we run into difficulties, but basically everyone is on the same page and knows what everyone else is talking about.


Last week I began working on...let's call it the Pumpkin Pie...and this is what happened.

I wrote to a colleague, let's call her 'Maggie', whose name had been given to me in conjunction with the Pumpkin Pie.  At first she was confused and thought I was talking about a different pumpkin pie.  I tried to describe the pie using the vague descriptors I had been given, and finally she said "Oh, sure the Pumpkin Pie!  Now I know what you're talking about.  You'll want to talk to Sidney and Mini."

So I set up a call with Sidney and Mini, feeling like I was on the right track. 


Here's how that conversation went:
Me: So, I need to learn how the Pumpkin Pie is made, and Maggie gave me your names in connection with the pie.
Sidney: ...what is the pumpkin pie?
Me: is a pie...made of pumpkin.  It's um, roundish, and it has a crust...
Mini: What kind of crust?  Whole wheat or white?
Sidney: Do you know what the ingredients are?  Is there cinnamon, or nutmeg?
Me: I have no idea.  That's why I set up this call, I was hoping you could tell me.
Mini: Is this the pecan pumpkin pie, or the pumpkin cream cheese pie?
Me:...there's more than one kind?

We went on like this for almost 30 minutes before I realized I was going to have to go back to Maggie for more information.  So, I emailed her again.

"Hey Maggie," I said.  "I met with Sidney and Mini regarding the Pumpkin Pie, and they need more context.  Do you know what kind of crust is used?  Does the name 'Pumpkin Pie' encompass all pies made from pumpkin, or does it refer to a specific type?"

I was very careful to repeat Sidney and Mini's questions verbatim, because sometimes if I try to paraphrase without really understanding what I'm talking about, I end up asking a question that makes no sense. 

Two days go by, no response from Maggie.  So I email her again, just to follow up on my previous note.

Another day goes by.  Finally, I get an IM from my colleague Sierra, who sits near Maggie.

"Maggie does not understand your question."

I actually facepalmed.

I did follow back up with Maggie, only to find out that when she said "Now I know what you're talking about," she did not, in fact, have any idea what I was talking about.  Basically, we are all working on the Pumpkin Pie because it ended up on a spreadsheet 12 months ago, and was somehow prioritized despite the fact that nobody knows what it actually is.  We soon realized that the Pumpkin Pie does not actually exist.

What even....I can't.  I just cannot.

Anywhoo - in my continuing efforts to bite off way more than I can chew, I decided to join both Christina Sell's Asana Junkies Practice club, and also a book club on Goodreads that's reading Proust's In Search of Lost Time in its entirety.  Obviously I am not going to give up my other books, or my other yoga classes, so 2013 should prove to be an interesting year.


  1. Goodreads has book clubs? oh no, I see my time just falling away to this...

    1. Indeed! They're usually just goodreads "groups" that are centered around reading/discussing a certain book, but this Proust group is hardcore. We have a reading schedule, and like a billion discussion threads going on at any given time, only two of which I can actually keep up with. It is really fun so far though, I highly recommend joining one! Especially if the hosts/moderators seem organized and engaged.

  2. My roommate was just going on about the shockingly incompetent people she works for, so I read this to her to make her feel better. It worked splendidly. Pie analogies make everything better.


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