Sunday, 15 February 2015

Antenna Things and Stuff

For the three months before I found my new teaching role, I worked an administrative office job with a small company that deals in industrial remote control and telemetry products. I have never done anything else business related, and I still don't understand a thing about the technical side of the company, but it was a good job. While I am no longer with them, my time there would be incomplete if I didn't write something about it. Especially since my boss there seems to be one of my most loyal readers.

When I first arrived for training, Ted happily showed me my desk. The next desk over, buried by towers of stacked paperwork, sat Clayton.

"Clayton is our tech guy," said Ted. "Eric is our admin guy. Unfortunately, Eric is sick at the moment, so Clayton will train you in all the administrative duties."

"Uh, ok," I replied.

About two weeks into the job, I saw Clayton doing something tech-like. He was trouble-shooting malfunctioning hotbox detectors or something along that vein. By that point in time, I had forgotten that he was actually the tech guy, so it was a bit strange to see this. Previously, the only evidence of his being the tech guy were the antennas on his desk, lined up in order of their evolution. Once, he noticed me standing there staring at them.

"Do you know what these are?" he asked.

"Uh," I said.

"They're antennas for the Digis," he informed me. (I'm still not sure what exactly Digis are)

He proceeded to explain why they were in various shapes and how different ones were used for different geographical locations. "This one works on Canadian frequencies, and this one we need for the US, and this one works for either. Have you seen a Yagi antenna yet?"

To my great pride, I had. Ted had shown me one in his office just a little earlier. I was eager to show off my expertise. "The Yagi antenna is the one that looks like a mascara brush, right?" I said.

"Like a what?" asked Clayton.

"A mascara brush," I repeated.

"What's that?" he asked.

"You know," I said, and mimed applying mascara.

"Oh," said Clayton. He deadpanned, "Yes. That's exactly what I thought when I first saw one, too."

So while I may not have added much technical prowess to the company, I clearly added something, in terms of fresh ideas and new ways of looking at things.
The receptionist, Sonja, said that Yagi antennas reminded her more of Christmas trees, but seriously, does is not look like a mascara brush?

I lucked out in getting to work for such a company, even if it was for such a short time. Everyone was very welcoming and made me feel appreciated. They even said "Thank you," after I coerced them all into trying some kimchi that I had made.

Plus, they knew how to take breaks. We threw a small party during the solar eclipse, complete with Tim Hortons doughnuts and a gigantic telescope. I have fond memories of Ted showing Sonja a homemade arts-and-crafts eclipse viewer box that enabled us to see what was going on without burning out our retinas.
The solar eclipse was actually slotted into the work schedule.

Now, I have heard some people say that work in an office is dull, but I would like to point out that this is not necessarily the case. You make your own excitement. If, for example, you are an adrenaline junkie working in an administrative role, you could easily get your daily fix merely by not preparing any product for shipment until ten minutes before the shipper is due to pick up your packages. Naturally, this entirely hypothetical situation never ever happens where I worked, but it could, in theory, be quite effective in breaking up any routine monotony.

I might also point out the excitement that new promotional pens can bring - especially when there are built in lights on the pens. You may not have known this, but pens in corporate culture appear to be some kind of status symbol. I remember one meeting we had with a potential partner. He arrived and began dealing out to us his company's promotional swag, which included pens.

"Look at these pens!" he exclaimed, with light in his eyes. "They're so cool! We just got them!"

"Oh, I know!" said Ted. "We just got ours, too. They have lights on them!"

The rep's eyes dimmed. "Oh," he said. "Well, I did think ours were cool."

As far as I was concerned, status in our workplace consisted mostly of who had the highest score on the order ticketing system. You could win several shout-outs on the program simultaneously, and it would feature your smiling face on the homepage. Somehow, I never earned more than about five points, while Clayton and Eric seemed to rake them in effortlessly.

About two weeks before my last day, Clayton tactfully pointed out to me that in fact they had been raking them in effortlessly. Literally. You scored points based on who a ticket was assigned to, not based on who actually dealt with the ticket. I had been assigning tickets to both Clayton and Eric, too nervous to actually declare any of them my own. I had also been doing most of the work on a lot of them. As a result, I had been giving everyone else the bulk of their points and completely hosing over myself. I made an abrupt change to my tactics, assigned everything to myself, and managed to take over the scoreboard before I had to leave.

One of the extra perks of that was that Eric always forgot to replace my name with his own on any messages he sent using the system. I liked reading about all the things I had done by proxy.

Nevertheless, my favourite part of the day was always looking at the various signatures of people who had signed for the deliveries of our shipments. It was just the right amount of artistry and social interaction for an analytical introvert like me. I was always vaguely disappointed when the shipping company stated that "no signature was required" for a package and so left the signature field blank.

There are many more little anecdotes I could share about life as an office worker, but the most important thing left to relate are my interactions with Sonja and Bev, who were the other two females employed there. It was nice to have female company, even though Bev could kick my butt with heavy machinery and circuit boards. Even though Sonja left me in the dust with all her financial accounting wizardry.

Sonja and I enjoyed eating lunch together, and spent more time on the phone than we probably should have, practicing how to transfer calls back and forth. But I swear it was legitimate! Meanwhile, Bev and I made a habit of enthusiastically discussing linguistics every time we were both in the shop. Eventually Eric was forced to close the shop door because he couldn't focus on sales orders with us incessantly pontificating over English vowel length and Russian consonants in the background.

If I have any regrets from my time with this company, it is only that I was with them just long enough to get into the swing of things, and to get attached to the people. I was there just long enough to start taking a load off of everyone before I had to tell them to take it all back again. Nevertheless, they were all very supportive of me when I told them that I was moving away to take a teaching job. They even threw me a farewell party.
Thanks for the experience, everyone! I feel blessed.

Here is the quote for today:

Me: Brr. It's chilly in here.
Clayton: I'll show you how to turn up the thermostat.
Me: Yeah. I see it over there. I'll go bump it up.
Clayton, disappointedly: Oh. I guess you could do that. I was going to show you how to change it *remotely*.

So I did, in the end, learn how to do something with remote control technology. 

Also, I have discovered a new use for spring bolts. There is no further need for Jamberry parties.