Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Workaround.

Well, right off the bat, here, let me just say I realize this doesn’t really rank very high up there on the death/pestilence/disaster/mayhem scale. It is a complaint born of a soft modernity; a trivial thing in a trivial time where something so minor as a scrap of cardstock can be the subject of discussion.

Now then, having dispensed with all of that: business cards.

When I first came here, oh so many years ago, I ordered up some business cards. We have our own print shop down in the basement that prints up such things as well as envelopes and letterhead and directories and ballots and fire department giveaway calendars and other such bureaucratic chaff. It’s a pretty cool place, by the way--full of big pounding machinery and ink.

Anyway, after a few months, my cards arrived (it IS a bureaucracy, after all) and they looked fine--a plain buff-colored, uncoated paper with a faintly inked official seal, name, title, department, phone, fax, address. Plain, but of that Joe Friday, ‘just the facts, ma’am’ plainness that says you’re a serious and conscientious keeper of the public trust.

I used them happily for several years, until about three years ago when a small white box showed up on my desk. Hmm. How odd. I wasn’t out of my old ones, and I hadn’t ordered new ones. I opened the box--bright white, slick, and wrong.

First off, my name. I use my middle name--yes, it creates all kinds of confusion with the uncreative amongst us who think that it’s illegal to use your middle name, but that’s the way it’s always been. My first business cards had it exactly right. These? First name, middle initial. Grr. Second? Well, my other cards had my actual telephone number on them, while these--due to a command decision made at the highest levels of power--were saddled with the telephone number of the front desk. In order to appear as though we’re so hotsy-totsy that we can’t answer our own stinkin’ phone (like Sgt. Friday had to do) it was thought that all calls MUST be directed to the appropriate party by the secretary.

What this resulted in (after I finally finished using up all my good OLD cards) was the necessity of inking over my first name, writing my REAL name on the card in lieu of the middle initial, and scratching out the outer office phone number and writing in my direct line number. Yep, that’s real professional-looking, alright.

The telephone thing is the worst--it wouldn’t be so bad to ring the outer office, if we had a dedicated receptionist, but the two secretaries we have are burdened with doing everything else, and answering the phones on top of all that makes them just that much more inefficient.

And then there is the whole issue of personality.

You know, when you call someplace, you kinda hope to get someone who can operate a telephone with a minimum of fuss. A calm, pleasant voice; one untainted by not-so-latent instability. But you see, unless you SPECIFICALLY hire for that, you’re really rolling the dice when you let just anyone pick up that handset. And since I’m going to all the trouble to write about it, you pretty much have to figure that the reason is, that when our turn came to roll the dice, we crapped out. I MUST make sure that I don’t let people call the front desk. I can say no more than that--I realize that truth is a defense to a claim of libel, but I dare not risk such a thing. Let’s just say, I feel COMPELLED to consistently, without fail, write in my own direct line.

But, let’s face it--having to do all that marking out is a bit silly. I would be better served by just getting some cards with the correct information. Right?

Yeah, right.

BUT THEN, I walked into my boss’s office last week, and noticed on his file cabinet a box of business cards. I was waiting for him to finish a call, so I absent-mindedly pulled one out of the box and WHOA! An even MORE updated format than the bright slick white cards I had. The general info was all placed above the middle, with the address and junk over to the right, and the name below a line. Spiffy. But even more intriguing was the fact that the cards bore my boss’s direct line. AND they had his e-mail address at the bottom! Wow! It was all so--so Late 20th Century!

After he got off the phone, I inquired how he managed to get his cards done that way.

A long, roundabout story ensued. See, the format is set from on high, as I mentioned, so when he reordered his cards, he asked the secretary in the ordering-stuff division to let him know when the order went to the print shop. When the word came, he sneaked down and had a little friendly chat with the guy printing them, and told him he had a correction to make on the phone number, and, oh, by the way, could you put the e-mail address on there.

So, when the cards showed up, nice, correct, cards! And a ROYALLY peeved supervisor of the ordering-stuff division. One doesn’t just go and MAKE CORRECTIONS like that--it’s not sanctioned by Holy Writ! All sorts of huffing and puffing and bluster of the sort that comes about in a martinetocracy.

Well, fine. As always, it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission, so I figured I’d give this a try too, in spite of an almost certain visit from Torquemada over this soon-to-be committed felonious act of nose-thumbing at the RULES.

But, best to do a bit of groundwork first.

First step was to attempt to make the new order look as though it was something that had already been done before. I didn’t want to just come out and say, “HEY! I want some just like My Boss with the e-mail and all on it!”

Some subterfuge need be applied--I took one of his cards, whited-out his name, e-mail, and phone number, and then produced my name, my extension, and my e-mail address on Word, adjusted the font and font size to match the original (easy when they use plain old Arial italic), pasted it place, and ran a copy. It looks just like I had made a copy of a real business card, with my name and other information on there as if it had already been printed like that.

This was then taken to the secretary who had given My Boss the head’s up in the first place, with the explanation that I knew it wasn’t exactly policy, but I like the idea that my business card would actually have some useful information on it. (A novel concept, no?) And she was already quite aware of why I wanted my telephone to ring at my desk rather than it being routed through Another Person. I took her aside and conspiratorially whispered, “Now, I know that Ordering-Stuff Boss was all upset with My Boss for doing this the first time, but, you know, could you maybe let me know when this order goes down, too, and maybe I could ask a favor of the print shop like My Boss did?”

We’ll see how this turns out.

If it doesn’t work out right, I’m just gonna print my own derned cards.

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