Today was better than I thought it would be. Better than work has been in a long time.
The morning went by pretty quickly. I had a calculation-based task to do which I worked on all morning, simple enough I could do it without too much struggle, complicated enough to keep my attention. I pretty much stayed in my cubicle, did some light office IMing with a couple of the guys my age on both work and non-work related stuff, listened to Bones in my headset.
When I glanced at my clock and it was 11AM I was surprised. Where had the morning gone? Why was today so much better? I was still exhausted.
Then it hit me.
As I’ve said, I work in a small office. There are about 40 people total. In my structural group there are officially 5 1/2 people, including me, with 3 more young engineers who are unofficially on our team but officially report elsewhere. (The half person is not scary, she’s a mom who actually managed to get hired on part time, UNHEARD of in engineering!).
About a year ago we hired a new person into the structural group. I shall refer to him as my three-lettered friend, as his first name is three letters long and that is the euphemism my coworker and I use to complain about describe him.In his own words, he works “fast and stupid.” Meaning he is constantly changing stuff around to see if that works better..but not himself to investigate and brainstorm..changing it the whole way down the totem pole. So having all the other engineers change their calculations and the drafter re-draft all of the drawings for the project. Until he thinks of something else that might work better..also known as the original idea 90% of the time. Needless to say, our styles do not mesh. I do my brainstorming, and then I go. If I run into a problem, I will rethink. Obviously if a brilliant idea strikes, I will stop and consider it. But I do not just have an idea and set everyone on my team to reworking their parts to see how I like it when they’re done, often with, literally, less than 5 minutes of consideration.
He, along with one other senior engineer, sit right behind me in our little corner of the office. We are the only 3 structural engineers in our region.
For the past few months I have been “working for” my three-lettered friend. Not officially. Officially my office works very hard to have no structure bureaucracy. But he is the senior engineer leading the project for which I am doing all the work the calculations and much of the other grunt work.
His proximity and the fact that I’m working “for” him mean I see him all.the.time. Usually several times a day. Usually when he stops by my desk to give me another asinine thing to do. Or to tell me to change something for no reason so that in a few days he can change it back. Or to ask me to explain to him why the computer program I use is giving perfectly reasonable output that may not be what we would get by hand given all the assumptions we have to make which is why we use the darn program in the first place! (Don’t get me wrong. Checking the computer is important. Which is why I check the computer. To the degree everyone else in my office agrees is reasonable.) Or to ask why I’m not done with something when the reason is that I have to keep restarting since he keeps changing the problem. Or to make passing snide comments about my use of Facebook (very few people in my office do not check it regularly), or work IM (on which I talk about work and non-work things with coworkers), or my attitude (“You look happy, thinking about when you’re going to rule us all?”), or how I “just think I’m so smart” whenever I do something well (and he will make such snide comments in front of our boss).
This all causes large amounts of stress. I cannot get in a groove because he is constantly interrupting and redirecting me. I cannot do anything poorly because he jumps all over it. I cannot do anything well because that’s being uppity. And if at any point I have an expression on my face/body that stands out in any way to him, he will comment on it and make fun of me, usually by involving other people around us (“Look, so and so, doesn’t she look _____?!”).
So why was today so easy?
My three-lettered friend was out.
Not in the office.
It was heaven!
Well, maybe that’s stretching it a bit. Purgatory anyway.
But it sure beats hell!