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A guy walks into an office and says…

Posted by on October 29, 2004

This guy just walked into my office. He was about student age, dressed in student clothes, and clutching some student-type documentation, but was not actually a student. “Do you know where I can get help with Microsoft Access?” he asked.

“Next door,” I said. Our office is right next to the computer guys, so we get these queries a lot from students who aren’t hip to things like numbers on doors.

“I talked to them already,” he said. “They don’t even have it installed on their machines.”

“Well…what kind of help do you need?” I asked, well aware that I knew nothing about Access and was letting myself in for a world of customer service pain.

“I’m trying to design some forms,” he said.

“Oh,” I said. “Well, we’re all pretty computer illiterate around here, which is why we have those guys next door…I don’t think we’d be able to help you.”

“Ok, well can I talk to the department head?”

“You want to ask the department head of EECS how to create forms with Microsoft Access?” I said, for the sheer pleasure of hearing the idea aloud again. Those of you who don’t work in a bureaucracy or massive corporation might not get why this is such a hilarious, beautiful idea. Lucky you. To me, it is comic gold.

“Yeah,” he said, “why not? This department teaches a course about it.”

“You could go talk to the professor of that course, maybe,” I suggested.

“I tried. He’s out or something.”

“Ok, well…they’re having a big ceremony down the street a little ways that a lot of professors went to. Maybe you could just try tapping people on the shoulder and asking them?” I was actually trying to be helpful here; it seemed no stranger to me than the idea of going to the feared gazillionaire department head and asking him a software question from MS ACCESS 101. He did not seem thrilled with this suggestion. “Sorry,” I said. “You’re caught in the cogs of a Brobdignagian bureaucracy, and we just live here.” I was hoping he would take a little pity on me, but he just rolled his eyes and slunk out through the posterior entrance of the House of Pride. (If I may mix my lit a little.)

So that was my entertaining job experience. My frustrating one was this: I could not in any sense be considered poor, because I have a three person financial safety net which will catch me whenever I need it. However, with only $88 remaining in my checking account for the month, I don’t think that a professor who pulls down seven figures a year should be asking me to spend $35 of my own money on someone else’s birthday cake. (And where was my birthday cake, I wonder?) Sure, I’ll be reimbursed for it eventually, but what if I wanted to buy a $54 drink on Halloween or something? I’d have to sell a kidney. In conclusion, pumpkins.

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