Monday, March 28, 2011

How to be your own boss

I once had a career. I was in software quality assurance, which is to say that I found bugs in software. I was paid to be an anal-retentive nitpick. I wrote reports on the work software developers labored over and detailed step-by-step how to recreate the problem they created when writing their code. An editor, of sorts. I am a likable person, but my job was not a likable position, for when one saw an email from me, it meant that I had found fault in their work. I was always polite and professional but worst of all, I was good. Although it was generally accepted that good quality assurance was essential to a software team, QA members were not particularly appreciated by the developers. No one likes to be told that their work needs work. It was not uncommon for developers to get frustrated with me when I would return for the third time explaining that the image was still 2 pixels off. Honestly, it down right pissed them off. Can you blame them, really?

So it is funny to me that I'm fledgling writer, laboring furiously over my keyboard to produce the best work I can with the hopes that I can get my work past an editor or audience with the likes of me.

It is poetic justice, if you'll excuse the expression, that my career of fussing over the small stuff ended abruptly and my new career of motherhood began. The adjustment was horrendous. There are still days that I can't comprehend that I can't write a bug report and have someone "fix" my two-year old's toy throwing phase. It doesn't compute that being so good at my job of noticing and seeking out the problems would only bring me heartache and feelings of failure as a mother. About the time my second child was born, I realized that I cannot approach motherhood the way I approached my job. I don't have as much control over my day as I did when I worked at a desk. My husband, a program developer himself, has a hard time grasping this concept. Logic-minded like me, he doesn't understand how things can go so awry so quickly or how I can't just re-code myself to get a different outcome. You can imagine how well that conversation goes. I constantly tell him that to know it is to experience it and until he has done both the corporate job and the Mom Job, to just kiss me lightly on the cheek and ask if there is anything he can do to help.

Today however, I had a thought. While I was driving through the school zone, painstakingly staying under 20 mph so Old Man crossing guard wouldn't wave his knotted hand at me to slow down, I leaned my head back on my headrest and tried to tune out the demands of my two small children coming from the back seat. I thought of my husband, sitting in his cubicle, wearing headphones and working at his own pace. I longed to be back in that environment where my bosses were not two and five and were at least somewhat reasonable. I looked in my rear-view mirror and I pictured my two sons in little suits with little comb-overs, discussing the next software release and the possibility of outsourcing the code. I imagined little cell phones in their chubby hands, beeping every few minutes with meeting reminders and incoming emails. I even laughed out loud at how easily I could handle the corporate environment again after meeting the demands of motherhood. I drove home with a wistful look and evil twinkle in my eye as I imagined my husband's bosses acting like my bosses. For my own perverse pleasure, I came home and wrote out this scenario:

Rob, imagine yourself at work. You just walk and as soon as you sit down at your desk, one of your three bosses starts yelling at you, "ROB! I WANT THAT FIXED! I WANT THAT BUG FIXED, ROB! I WANT THAT FIXED! I WANT THAT BUG FIXED NOW!"

You say, "OK, Boss1, let me just log on to my computer. One second..."

But your Boss1 keeps yelling, "I WANT THAT BUG FIXED!" over and over.

Meanwhile, your other boss yells at you from across the office, "ROB!? ROOOOBBB!"

You call out, "Yes, Boss2?" but he still keeps shouting your name. You find the urge to scream, "WHAT?!@!, but you realize this is unprofessional and you can't do that, so you sigh, get up from your desk to go seek out Boss2. Boss1 is still yelling in a very high-pitched voice about that bug. You turn and assertively tell Boss1 that you'll have it fixed for him in one minute.

By the time you find Boss2, you realize he didn't need you after all. Your patience is wearing thin and the day has just begun. You walk back to your desk and hear your phone ringing. You answer and find Boss3 is calling. She isn't as outwardly demanding as Boss1 and Boss2 but is still needy in her own way. When she senses your haste, she asks, perturbed, "Do you have to go or something?" You reply, "Yes, I'm sorry Boss3, I can't talk right now. Boss1 and Boss2 really need me right now." She sighs and hangs up. She hasn't yelled, but you know you've made Boss3 unhappy and will pay for it later in your job, somehow.

You hang up the phone with a frustrated shake of your head and think of looking for another job when it smacks you square in the face that you're in this job for life! At least with Boss1 and Boss2. Even after they retire, they'll still be your bosses. Forever.

Heavy with that thought, you begin to work on the bug that Boss1 was screaming about earlier when you receive an email from one of your favorite co-workers. He has an issue and is asking for your help. You perk up a bit because you really like this co-worker and you are happy to hear from a professional peer. Due to the demanding nature of your job, you haven't spoken to this co-worker for quite some time, and you'd love to assist him with his issue. It is one of the few pleasures of your job. You attempt to answer the email while you're fixing the bug for Boss1. You know this will detract from the attention you give to Boss1's needs, but you tell yourself that it is only for the time being and you're working for Boss1 all the time and you deserve a little break.

Three sentences into the email to your beloved co-worker, Boss2 comes and stands at the entrance to your cubicle and you realize that he has shit his pants! He literally shit his pants and he is just walking around stinking the whole place up. He doesn't care. He'd leave the shit in there all day if he had his druthers, but then he'd end up with some nasty rash and it would ultimately be your fault, so you say, "Boss2, I think you need a change." But Boss2 doesn't want to be bothered and he runs away from you and starts throwing office supplies all over the floor. He is happy tossing paper and toner and dry-erase markers all over and you have to distract him long enough to convince him to change his pants. You even do it for him (because we all know bosses are mostly helpless.) After you wrestle with Boss2 to wipe his ass for him, you schlep back to your desk and just plain ignore the fact that he has returned to trashing the floor with office supplies. On your way, you step on a thumb tack and curse Boss2 under your breath, but then you realize you can't really be angry because he is after all, only a boss.

You're back at your desk and you review the email that you started to your co-worker. You realize that it is incoherent and grammatically incorrect, and you'd really like to start over and do a better job, but you know he'll understand because he has bosses too. So you send it off and return to the task of fixing bugs for Boss1 when suddenly you hear Boss2 shriek! You jump out of your chair and think he surely must've gotten his finger caught in the paper shredder! You race through the office to find him (he could be in any one of the numerous cubicles) and when you finally spot him, you stop with your heart racing and palms sweating, breathing hard. You find that Boss1 is standing next to Boss2 with the stapler in his hand. You don't see blood and you open your eyes wide asking the question with your expression, "What the fuck is going on here?" when Boss2 screams and yells and cries and you can barely understand him, but you get something about Boss1 took his stapler and he had it first! Boss1 starts talking in that high-pitched boss voice and he is getting louder and louder and argues that Boss2 has had the stapler all morning and that he really needs it and it isn't fair that Boss2 gets the stapler all the time! And you take a deep breath in through your nostrils and you calmly say, "Boss1, don't you have your very own stapler, just like this one?"

Boss1 squeals back, "Yeah, but it's out of staples!"

You reply, "Don't worry, Boss1, Rob can put more staples in your stapler," (you find that talking in the third person is often soothing to bosses.) You turn to Boss2 to ask him to come and get you next time this happens, but he has already retreated into the break room. You shake your head, realize it is almost lunch time and you haven't peed all day.

You make your way to the bathroom, one of your favorite places at work and you plop down on the toilet seat like a beanbag that has been dropped on the floor. You just sit. Quietly. You sit on the cool toilet seat with your pants around your ankles and you put your head in your hands and you hold yourself for a second, dragging this piss out as long as you can. You close your eyes and pee. When you open your eyes, you see the small feet of Boss2 toe-to-toe with your feet, and he is holding on to your drawers like a ballerina holds on to her bar. Boss2 has snot smeared on his face and glue in his hair. Finally, you lose it. That's it! You've had it! You lose your ever-lovin' mind on Boss2 and you yell, "WHAT?! CAN I PEE IN PEACE? PLEASE!?" And right there in the bathroom, with your boxers grasped in his chubby little hands, Boss2 melts into tears. You throw your head back, look up at the ceiling tiles and think to yourself, God, if only my wife worked and I got to stay home all day with the kids.


Clever Human said...

Hilarious! This seems spot on for corporate America. Including the boss shitting his pants. :-p

Unknown said...

That's a great story....Somtimes my boss does act that way :-) I'm also glad you are not testing my code, I would be in trouble.

m3mommy said...

Spot on.. bravo. Standing ovation.

Colleen said...

This is too funny!! Very clever!!

YogaGirl said...

I only wish I was really back in the corporate world throwing notes over my cube wall to you, my dear. Too funny.