The story of a day in the life of an unsuccessful office worker

The final part of the story

Dear readers, 

This is the last post in this story and will be the final post on this blog for the time being. 

I am currently working on developing a new blog, in which I will give my opinions and share discussions with readers in relation to ethical issues relating to business. I aim to launch my new blog by about mid-late April. 

I would like to thank all readers. Writing this story has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I hope all readers have enjoyed reading it. In particular, I would like to thank Iron Pugilist and Brad Shorr for their frequent contributions to discussion relating to this story. 

I would also like to thank my mother, who, despite living on a different continent, has kindly proof-read all of my posts prior to publishing. 

In time, I hope to write stories about a day in the life of other, different characters on this blog. But for now, this will be the last entry. 

So, here goes – the last post:  

 

6:15pm Is there a better way? 

Sigh. The end of the day. 

Another up-tight, frustrating day. 

At this time of day, I sometimes reflect on my life. I get up, battle traffic, work under constant pressure to meet unrealistic deadlines and then battle traffic again on the way home.  

Leave home in the dark, arrive home in the dark. Home to work, work to home, home to work, work to home, home to work, work to home, and so on and so on. The story of my life. 

There must be a better way. But what else could I do? Here are some possibilities: 

 

·        Find another job. 

This action could produce a better pay and conditions, as well as a more positive work environment.  

However, on the downside, traffic chaos, tight deadlines and office politics are common features of many work environments. So too are modest salaries, unless you’re a senior manager. 

No. More drastic action is required. 

 

·        Go into business. 

A few problems. Firstly, business owners work long hours. Secondly, I would need capital. I’m flat broke and don’t have any rich uncles. Finally, I need a unique product or service.  

Ok, legitimate businesses are out of the question. 

 

·        Join Amway. 

I could always sell Amway.  

I’ve heard you can do well out of that. My brother’s friend had a colleague at work who knew someone whose neighbor went to one of those Amway seminars and heard someone speak who retired at twenty-three - all from selling Amway. 

Then again, I don’t really fancy calling up my friends, relatives, neighbors and acquaintances and trying to con them into doing Amway with me.  

 

·        A get-rich-quick scheme 

I could always try one of those deals where you just pay fifty dollars, with promise that within six weeks you’ll be making three thousand dollars per week without having to do anything – ‘the cheques will just come in the mail.’ 

I once responded to such an advertisement. The kind gentleman promised to give away his ‘proven secret to wealth’ for only fifty dollars. That he did. After sending my money I received a prompt reply. The reply simply stated “Do what I do.” 

Unfortunately, promoters of such schemes typically make a star appearance as scam artists on current affairs’ programs shortly after my money has been sent.  

 

·        A property investment seminar 

I could always go to a ‘free’ property investment seminar and learn how to get ‘great deals’ on an investment property.  

My friend went to one of these. In the end, he bought a property from a development company associated with the presenter. Later, he discovered that the price he had paid was about twenty per cent above the fair market value of the property. 

 

I am not certain about my future direction, but I do not see a promising future in my current position over the long term. Accordingly, over the coming weeks or months, I will need to give serious consideration to the types of opportunities which may hold more promise for me. 

But now, it’s the end of the end of the day. Time to relax. 

At this point, many would kick back, smile and say, “Another day, another dollar.” 

But my salary does not warrant this. For me, the appropriate version of the saying is: 

“Another day, another ten cents.” 

4:15pm Life as a ‘bean counter’

Accountants like to think they play an integral role in the success of their company and that their profession makes a valuable contribution to the effective functioning of society.  

Some managers, however, do not hold such a rose-colored view. Instead, they view company accountants as ‘bean counters,’ men or women in suits who sit at office desks on floor twenty-eight and play with numbers on spreadsheets all day. ‘Bean counters,’ they feel, have little or no connection with the real operations of the company. 

Managers dislike interference from ‘bean counters’ in their business. Many would be happy if bean counters simply kept to playing with numbers and stayed out of their way. 

Lewis Grier is one such manager. Mr. Grier joined our company this week as a plant manager.  

I have not met Mr. Grier yet, but I am just about to. I have a meeting with him and other managers at the plant to discuss the costs involved in various options for upgrading plant facilities. 

I wait at the plant reception area whilst Mr. Grier is on a call. His office is directly behind the reception area and I can clearly make out what he is saying. 

“Yeah, I’ve got to meet with the bloody company accountant this afternoon.” 

‘Yeah, mate, I hate these bean counters. Mate, they come in their pretty little suits with their fancy spreadsheets, and they think they can tell you how to run the things. I don’t need some bean counter to tell me how to run things. If this guy, Stewie Robertson, I think his name is, just stays out of my way, I’ll be happy.” 

“Yeah, well, suppose I’d better go meet the bugger eh?” 

Mr. Grier puts down the phone and appears at reception, wearing an orange safety vest over a shirt and tie. 

“Stewart,” his voice indicates surprise at seeing me. Obviously, he wasn’t expecting me yet. 

“Mr. Grier. Nice to meet you.” We exchange handshakes. 

“You too, mate,” he gives me a solid handshake with his other hand reaching around and giving me a hearty slap on the back.  

“Please call me Lewis. Thanks for coming. I’m glad to have you with us on this project. There are a number of areas where your expertise might come in handy.” 

This working relationship is obviously off to a flying start. It sure helps that Mr. Grier, at least to my face, fully appreciates what I have to offer.

4:03pm The life story of a taxi driver

Toward the end of a hard day’s work, many office workers would like to unwind with a peaceful, relaxing trip on the way to that late afternoon meeting. 

Unfortunately, short trips in modern day taxis are anything but relaxing and peaceful. 

I have a late afternoon meeting at one of our plants in

North Melbourne. I go down the elevator, walk out of the eighteen storey building and step into the waiting taxi outside. 

Raj, the Indian born taxi driver, greets me with a friendly smile. After waiting for two cars, he veers out into the street and puts the pedal to the metal, reaching fifty kilometers an hour in less than five seconds.  

About thirty meters down the road, we approach a red light. Raj slams on the brakes and brings the vehicle to a screeching halt, with the nose of the taxi approximately four inches from the back of the truck in front. I am thrust forward by the impact before my seat belt jolts me back into position. 

Raj uses the opportunity to commence a full and complete description of his life story.  

It’s late afternoon and I’ve had a hard day at the office. I listen politely, but right now, I really don’t need to hear his life story. 

The light turns green, but we are behind four other vehicles and cannot move off straight away. Raj’s hand commences immediately to blast the horn. 

“Go, go,” he pounds the steering wheel before giving more blasts. In contrast, the driver at the front of the line waits until the old lady has actually finished crossing. 

Stuck behind a large truck in the right lane, Raj pulls out suddenly into the left lane, cutting off the vehicle behind and causing the motorcyclist beside us to swerve and narrowly miss a parked car.  

Raj swerves back into the right lane in front of the truck we just passed and puts the pedal back to the floor. He eases off slightly at the point when the nose of the taxi is six inches from the rear of the vehicle in front. For the next hundred and fifty meters, Raj skillfully maintains a precise gap with the vehicle in front - no more than one foot and now less than six inches. 

After telling me that he knows a ‘shortcut’ Raj proceeds to veer right, cutting across two lanes of oncoming traffic, narrowly missing both oncoming vehicles and an eighty year old pedestrian with a walking frame.  

He cusses back words which I cannot repeat after his maneuvers produce angry horn blasts from other drivers. 

We are now traveling up a narrow one way lane. Raj accelerates to about eighty kilometers per hour, glances in my direction and continues to talk to me, taking his eyes completely off the road ahead. 

Raj takes a break from his life story to give me his views on the problems with city traffic today. Drivers do not take enough care on the roads, he says, and too often people run red lights or cut in front of others. He also thinks that drivers are too self centered and should show more respect toward other road users.   

I couldn’t agree more – and Raj himself provides a shining example of a model road user.

3:56pm Messages of an inappropriate nature

In modern corporate life, you have to be careful how you respond upon receiving emails of an inappropriate nature. 

Our company policy is clear. All incoming messages which are of a sexual or otherwise potentially offensive nature must be immediately deleted. Under no circumstances can such messages be forwarded, whether to people inside or outside of the company. 

I’ve just received an email from my friend, Tim Simons. Suffice it to say that the file he sent through contains images which are not appropriate for a professional office environment. 

Usually I delete these things. But this one’s actually quite funny. My mate Geoff Pearson would like this. Shall I forward it on just this once? Yeah, go on. No one will know. 

I click on ‘forward’ go to my address book, scroll down, select “Geoff Pearson,” and hit ‘send.’ Done.  

Immediately, I receive an ‘out of office’ auto-reply from Emily Pearce.  

That’s puzzling, I didn’t send anything to Emily Pearce. I did just send one to Geoff Pearson, but… 

Oh Bugger.  

Emily Pearce is one above Geoff Pearson in my address book. Maybe I didn’t send it to Geoff Pearson. 

This is not good. Emily Pearce is involved in several women’s rights groups. She is not likely to see the funny side of this. 

No problem.  I’ll just recall the message. I click on the message, select the ‘Actions’ menu and hit ‘Recall this Message.’ There, done. 

An error message appears, stating that the message could not be recalled. Bad news. I call her to tell her that I sent her a message by mistake and to ask her not to open my message. I get the answering machine on both her office phone and her cell. Great! 

Emily Pearce is close friends with Mia Gurdy, our HR director. Three unpleasant things are going to happen if Emily reads this message. First, Mia and Emily will have an unpleasant conversation. Less pleasant still will be the follow-up conversation I have with Mia and my supervisor. Most unpleasant will be my subsequent search for alternative employment. 

Appropriate treatment of these types of messages is essential in today’s corporate world. You must be careful about forwarding these messages on to others. 

Careful, that is, to click on the right name when you forward your message.

3:45pm “I’m so proud of you.”

Back at my desk.  

Ok. I’ve got an external meeting at four fifteen. That gives me fifteen minutes to finish a couple of things and get going. 

Let’s see now…I need to get the Ashley file… 

The telephone cuts off that thought. 

“Good afternoon, Cable Communications Finance Department. This is Stewart.” 

“Oh is that you, Stewart?” starts off a high pitched, friendly, familiar voice. “It’s your aunt Mary here. How are you love?” 

Aunt Mary is a sweet old lady who lives on a beautiful one acre property in Daylesford, a town in South Eastern Australia.  

We love Aunt Mary. She makes the best cakes and has a heart of gold. I always enjoy going up to visit her. 

Only one problem - she talks for long periods, and right now I need to get things done. How can I, well, promptly dispense with this call without hurting her feelings? 

“I’m fine, thanks Aunt Mary. How are you?” 

“Oh I’m going along just fine up here thanks.” she continues at one hundred miles an hour. “And how’s your job going? Oh, it’s so hard to believe you’re a working man now. You’ve all grown up so fast. It seems only yesterday that you used to visit us as kids and swim in the pool and make billy carts and play with Bouncer and we used to used to all eat cakes and scones out on the verandah looking over the valley and oh, where does the time go?” 

“Time sure flies Aunt Mary. Actually, speaking of time..” 

“That’s right Stewart,” she continues long before I can finish. “Now you’re all grown up and we’re all getting older. Look at me, I’m sixty-seven now and I was speaking to Mavis, from down the road just the other day and we were having a lovely chat and her nephew got married last week and my boys are all overseas now and oh, Stewart, I just don’t know how to keep up with it all!” 

“And how are things up at Macedon?” 

“Oh, Stewie, I won’t say I don’t get lonely. You know, it’s only been, what is it, nearly a year now since John died. But I’m getting along alright and Toby’s keeping me good company and I take him for a lovely walk around the lake every morning and some days I take him into town and oh he’s a lovely dog, and..” 

“Stewart” Lisa Rogers whispers as she approaches my desk. 

“Ah, just hold on a second can you Aunt Mary?” She doesn’t hear me, so I take the phone receiver away from my ear. Aunt Mary continues to talk into to an unoccupied phone receiver. 

“Yeah, Lisa?”  

“Do you have the keys to the journal file cabinet?” 

“Ah, no. Bill’s got them.” 

“Thanks.”  

Back to Aunt Mary, who has not skipped a beat. 

“and the bowls club’s still going well but, oh we had a break in last week and some young people threw a bottle through the clubroom window and oh, isn’t it terrible the what young people get up to these days drinking and smoking and doing burnouts and spinning their cars in one of those circles and oh, Stewie, what’s happening to young people these days, I don’t know…………………………………………………….” 

“Aunt Mary, I’m sorry, I’ve actually got a meeting now. Can I call you back tonight?” 

“Of course you can, Stewie. Oh Stewie, listen to me, you’re old auntie Mary jabbering on when you’ve got a meeting to get to, hah hah hah. Oh Stewie, you’re such a busy boy, I’m so proud of you. Well, you go off to your meeting and I’ll talk to you later.  

“Ok Aunt Mary.” 

“OK Stewie. Bye.” 

Ten minutes have passed, as has any chance that I will finish anything before the meeting. 

I love Aunt Mary. It’s important to take time out to talk to those who are important in your life – friends and family.  

However, it’s probably best if relatives do not have your office number.

2:51 Paper jam at E4

In today’s corporate world, technology is supposed to make office life easier and less frustrating. 

But someone forgot to tell this to the manufacturers of our photocopier. 

My three o’clock meeting starts in nine minutes, and I have to finish copying my reports before the meeting. I can’t afford to lose any more time. 

So what happens? A bloody paper jam.  Great! 

The dreaded red light on the display flashes in four different places: the main compartment above where the A4 paper is fed, the side compartment just under the by-pass tray, the compartment where the finished product comes out and the A4 compartment itself. 

I take out the entire A4 compartment and look and feel behind the area where the A4 compartment sits – nothing there.  

Checking the compartments beneath the bypass tray and where the finished product comes out retrieves one scrunched up paper with messed up ink all over it  

Now, put everything back in position and hope for the best…please…please….no. There must be a sheet stuck in the impossible to get at main compartment.   

 I open it up and my worst fears are realized. A sheet of paper has been caught underneath the drum, between the register roller and the image transfer mechanism. Retrieving the paper from this position without getting ink all over my arm will be a near-impossible challenge. 

The majority of the paper is stuck underneath the drum, and is inaccessible. The best I can manage is a small degree of purchase on a portion of paper that is exposed to the right of the drum, just above the horizontal paper transfer system. 

Pull…damn, no good. Try again.  

Pull…this time I try to lever the paper from side to side in order to free it…still no good. It’s stuck fast. 

One more try this way…Hang on….It’s coming…it’s coming slowly….got it!  

Great, I can now simply close all of the compartments and, in theory at least, the machine will be ready to start. 

That’s in theory – but in practice, I close all of the compartments and the red light continues to flash. Bloody hell! 

Try switching it off and back on again. I switch it off, wait thirty seconds and switch it on again. A green light flashes as the machine goes through it’s warm up stage. This looks promising. 

Alas, the moment the warm up procedure is complete, the light flashes red again. ****! 

Right, this machine has just gone too far. My clenched fist swings through the air and pounds into its side.  

Immediately, the machine commences what appears to be a regenerative process. The red lights turn green again and the copying recommences. 

Important lesson – violence against co-workers leads to trouble and potential physical injury, but violence against electronic office equipment gets results. 

Both my right hand and the sleeve on my right arm are covered with ink stains - not a particularly good look for the meeting.  

Still, I should wear these stains with pride, a true badge of honor.  

An ink stain from the photocopier is a true mark of a non-managerial office employee.

2:47pm The highlight of my career

“Robertson, I need that right now!”  

As a Certified Practising Accountant (CPA), making photocopies for my supervisor is not a highlight of my career.  

Neither is what’s about to happen. 

“Move over, Robertson. I need this machine right now,” a commanding voice bellows at me from behind. I do not need to look around to identify the owner of the voice. It’s Malcolm Kennedy, manager of the Business Solutions department.  

I am now confronted with an interesting predicament. I’m in deep trouble if I don’t get these reports copied before the meeting, but Mr. Kennedy has considerable influence over my performance review, and any confrontation with him is simply bad news. 

Survival instincts dictate that I swoop up my half copied papers and step out his way. He steps straight up to the machine and commences to make his copies. 

I make a desperate plea to his backside. “I’m sorry, Malcolm. I’ve just got this meeting in ..” 

“I don’t care about your bloody problems or your bloody meeting, Robertson!” he spins around to confront me, with a menacing look on his face.  “I need these copies now. And it’s Mr. Kennedy to you – alright?” 

“Sure, no problem. Sorry Mr. Kennedy,” a feeble, pathetic apology sputters out of my mouth.  

As a Certified Practising Accountant (CPA), being handed a photocopying task was not a highlight of my career. 

But now, I have experienced the ultimate low point of corporate life – being kicked off a photocopier. 

2:41pm The queue for the photocopier

Whether at work or at home, one thing is for certain – you always get stuck in long queues when you can least afford it.  

I have twenty minutes before the audit meeting to copy and staple together ten copies of a twelve page report. I must get cracking, so I grab the pages I need and hurry toward the photocopier.   

But, as I round the corner, an unpromising picture comes into view. Four people, with faces indicating impatience and frustration, are lined up behind the photocopier. Less promising still is that two of them are holding many pages.   

Both of the other machines on our floor are out of order. Great! 

C’mon, c’mon hurry up!  I try to be patient, but anger and frustration are simmering inside me. 

Two forty-seven. Finally, I reach the front of the queue. At long last!  

If I hurry, I can still copy the reports before the meeting. 

Long queues are inevitable when you have no time to wait. It’s when you run late for work that you get stuck in a traffic jam or are affected by train delays. It’s when you need to get things done that you wait on the end of the phone line for fifteen minutes, all the while being comforted that ‘your call is important to us’ and that ‘your call has progressed in the queue.’ And it’s when you have an urgent need to compile reports for a meeting that a queue develops at the photocopier. 

Long waits in queues when you can least afford them are one of the certainties in life.

2:40pm Ten Copies Now!

“Robertson!”  

Bill’s deep, commanding voice bellows in my direction. He marches toward me and slaps a file down on my desk.  

“Give me ten copies of this report before the meeting. Copy each page and staple them together, one for each person.”   

“No problem,” I turn around and say to Bill’s backside, which is already half way back to his desk.  

No problem at all.  This is why I put in three years at university - this is why I strove to achieve the status of Certified Practicing Accountant - so that I could make photocopies for Bill Mathers.  

The report contains a preliminary version of the financial statements for our company. The auditors want to use it to identify the key areas which they will focus on during the audit process.  

It’s twelve pages long, so to make ten copies, I must copy one hundred and twenty sheets of paper. 

Don’t you just love the degree of forward notice I am given for these things? They were in his ‘out’ tray only yesterday morning and he has kindly given them to me a full twenty minutes before the start of the meeting.  

No problem. As Bill’s humble servant, I will gladly drop everything, sweep aside all other priorities and copy one hundred and twenty sheets of paper in twenty minutes.  

No problem at all.

2:12pm Calling Technical Support

In today’s corporate world, information technology promises to help us maximize our productivity and effectiveness. 

Unfortunately, it rarely lives up to this promise. 

Computers are, however, extremely reliable - I can rely on something going wrong when I can least afford it.  

Today is no exception. I need to run off some reports and enter the figures into the accounting system. Predictably, I receive an incomprehensible error message, something about a “system error #_/#404” or something like that.  

It is not clear what the message is saying, but it is clear that the message was purposefully designed to be indecipherable to normal people. 

I shoot off a request by email to Helpdesk. I receive an automated reply, indicating that an “incident” has been created and that my ‘task’ has been logged into the system. I have been allocated a priority number – 00438.  

This does not sound too promising, so I call them to get an idea of how long it might take. According to the help desk operator, someone will be up in around five minutes. When asked if I should try simply rebooting the system, I am told not to take any action until the technician arrives.  

Twelve minutes later, Sarah Dykes arrives at my desk. She spends the next eight to ten minutes thoroughly analyzing my operating system. 

Finally, she turns and says to me, “Stewie, I don’t know what’s causing the problem. I’m just going to try and reboot the system to see if that fixes it.” 

Success! Upon starting up again, the system starts up normally and the problem has gone away. I can now continue with my work. 

But there is an important lesson here. 

Whenever you encounter problems on your computer – do not try to reboot the system yourself. This procedure, which involves pressing the restart button, is a very delicate procedure. It should be undertaken only by a suitably qualified technician.  

Even then, it should only be done after he or she has taken at least ten minutes to conclude that they have no idea what is causing the problem.

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