Monday, April 14, 2008

Emily Latella Goes to Work

If you're as young as you feel, then tonight I am 103.

Today was my first day at my new job, the first real live sit-at-a-desk-on-a-regular-schedule job I've had in 18 years.

Lots of things have changed since then, some of them for the better.

Take pantyhose. The last time I had an office job, you were expected to wear them, at least if you were female. Thank God that's over. Frankly, they'd have had to give me a major signing bonus and a corner office if that were still a requirement.

But some things have gotten worse. One of them is my memory. Another is that something called "technology" has absolutely overrun America's workplaces. The stuff is like kudzu, for God's sake.

My sieve-like brain and I have been at home since 1990 doing just fine with a pen and paper, thank you very much. I mean, sure -- I've got e-mail, and I know how to Google, and I actually even set up this blog all by myself. But as far as most other technology goes, I've either stuck my head in the sand or called on my personal assistants (aka Bob, Billy, and Ben).

Unfortunately, they were not allowed to come to work with me today. Which meant I was out there all by myself in a big wide wired world. Just me and my brain, which was about as useful as those old pantyhose. I felt like Emily Latella, only I could hear.

Let me tell you a story that shows what happens to gals like Emily and me when you put us in the modern workplace. Let's call it "Fun With Phones."

Chapter 1: I see a phone on my desk. I pick up the receiver. It has a dial tone. All's right with the world.

Ch. 2: Mid-morning, a nice man -- we'll call him Mr. Telephone -- comes by my cube. "I'm here to tell you your extension," he says. That's nice, I think. Actually, it's the first time I'd realized that I only knew the first three digits of my number. I didn't let on.

Ch. 3: "It's ####," Mr. Telephone tells me. I write the words "extension is" on my pad. (I'm keeping a running list of everything anyone tells me because I'm a momnesiac. If that pad should spontaneously combust overnight, I can't ever go back.)

Ch. 4: Feeling all chipper and girl-on-the-go, I immediately asked if there was a list of other people's extensions.

What I meant was whether there was an old-fashioned piece of paper with extensions printed on it. Silly me. They don't have those anymore.

Ch. 5: "I don't know of one," Mr. Telephone says. "But I can show you how to find it online."

Ch. 6: Mr. Telephone tells me to type in a Web address, which leads me to a site where I can search for people's numbers. He suggests I make this site a "favorite." I say a little prayer as I click on "bookmark," as I'm not really sure if that's the same thing as a favorite or not.

Ch. 7: I thank Mr. Telephone, and he departs.

Ch. 8: I look back at my pad. THERE'S NO PHONE NUMBER WRITTEN THERE.

In my eagerness to figure out how to find phone numbers for other people, I had forgotten to write down my own.

Nor had I written down Mr. Telephone's real name, or what his title was. Frankly, if he'd magically appeared at my elbow right then, I'm not sure I would have recognized him.

When in doubt, call Bob. As I dialed I thought I heard a few random digits knocking around in my brain. When he answered, I whispered, "Help me figure out what my phone number is. I think maybe it's--"

He cut me off. "I'm looking at it right here on my phone. You just called me from it."

Well, what will they think of next!!! I jotted down that number. It bore absolutely not one digit's resemblance to the number I thought I remembered.

Not long afterwards, my new boss came by to give me the four-digit number I need to access my voice mail. (Note to technology people: could you maybe just once give something a five-digit number? If every number that you need to participate in modern life has four digits, how on earth are we supposed to tell them apart? It's like telling George Foreman's kids apart.)

I told her I hadn't yet set up my voice mail, so she gave me a (four-digit) number to call to start that process and an "option" to choose. We return now to "Fun With Phones."

Chapter 9: At the end of the option was a human -- we'll call him Mr. Voice Mail. (I guess Mr. Telephone is really busy helping people remember their extensions.) I asked him what to do to set up my voice mail.

Ch. 10: Mr. Voice Mail gives me yet another four-digit number to call and a three-digit password to use for something -- I'm not sure what.

Ch. 11: I tried these two numbers. Nothing happened.

Ch. 12: I called Mr. Voice Mail back and asked what to do. He says he'll get back to me.

Ch. 13: Mr. Voice Mail calls back with yet another four-digit number and the same three-digit number. Then he tells me to call "Rob at 5600" if I have any further problems.

Ch. 14: I try the new batch of numbers, and a recorded female voice welcomes me to the voice mail system. She tells me this procedure will help me "increase communication efficiency." Oh, really?

Ch. 15: When it comes time to set my new voice mail password (the one my boss had given me wasn't good enough, I guess), Recorded Female Voice helpfully suggests that I "may want to write it down for reference." She does not mention tattooing, which I suspect was an oversight.

I also had "Fun With Computers" and "Fun With Parking" and "Fun With Remembering Where the Bathroom Is." But those are stories for another day.

And if I forget to tell them, well then ... never mind.


Mayberry said...

oh boy -- nothing like day 1 on a new job! Hope days 2 through ... ?! are better and better.

Thanks for dropping by my blog -- I loved your comment!

MommyTime said...

And this is why the voicemail message on my office phone, and I'm serious here, says "You have reached the voicemail of ... I cannot access this voicemail when I am not in the office, and the system is not very reliable, so the best way to reach me is by email at ..." And then I literally NEVER check my voicemail. Maybe this is bad -- but I share a phone line with 5 other professors who have different office, and there's no way to remote check, and I just figure WHY BOTHER? So I don't. Just a "helpful" coping thought. You're welcome. :) said...

I hate that I'm laughing at your expense - but that's priceless!! Better luck tomorrow - hang in there!!