Thursday, January 06, 2005


Weapons of Mass Communication

I am starting to become very, very afraid at work. I think there may well be some sort of giant technological conspiracy designed to make me look like a dolt.

Well, thank you very much, Computer Services, however I can look like a moron all on my own. No, rilly. it's very kind of you but I don't need your help. You can stop now. Your work here is done.

Part of my job is to take and then transcribe minutes of meetings. The sheer number of these meetings and the volume of the minutes are clearly part of an even larger conspiracy. "Job Description" my wobbly white ass. But I'll deal with THAT conspiracy all in good time.

No, this particular conspiracy has to do with the laptops upon which I take the minutes for these meetings.

I'm old, I admit it. I'm so old I can even take shorthand, however I choose not to, because there is pretty much no reason to do so. Also because it's been so long since I've used my shorthand with any sort of regularity that although I can WRITE it, well, reading it is another matter entirely. My translations are creative enough that "voting system" could easily become "vaulting sister" which, as anyone can see, would change the entire flavour of the record of these gatherings of great import and endless fascination.

Therefore I use a laptop. Or at least I try to.

A few months ago I noticed that the old laptop that they had assigned to my department was starting to act up. This machine was so old that nobody else on campus would use it, seeing the only thing it was good for was taking notes on a version of MS Word that has since been replaced by at least five or six upgrades. By "act up" I mean that it would take six tries to fire it up and maybe four tries to save my document. Being as how these documents are anywhere from three to eleven pages, this made me somewhat nervous. The last time I used it, it did something wonky to the diskette and I was unable to read it on either of the desktop machines in the office. Finally, in frustration, I set it up on top of the filing cabinet and, after some effort, managed to open the document. I then spent an amusing hour (amusing to observers; to me, not so much) reading a few words from the machine on top of the cabinet and then leaping through the office to transfer it by hand, word by painful word, to the computer on my desk.

After this festive but time-consuming exercise, I declined to use this machine any longer and consigned it to whatever interesting scrap heap they have out back of Audio Visual Services.

I have since just phoned AV every time I have had to attend a meeting and have requested one of the laptops from their inventory. This request has always been met promptly and courteously.

I have never once heard them snicker as I trot off, trustingly, to my meeting. But I'm pretty sure the snickering has been happening.

They're usually fine, however about four meetings ago they gave me a machine that had no log-in instructions, but which seemed to be password-protected in some manner. It took me until about 1/3 of the way through the meeting to figure it out, during which time I was scribbling notes while hopefully banging on keys like a (badly) trained monkey.

I admit to having the urge to fling poo more than once during this "logging on" exercise.

The next machine was just fine, which lulled me into a sense of false security.

The one AFTER that, however, had no word processing software on it. Not even Notepad or WordPad or anything along those lines. Nothing, nada. Seems that the person who had used it before me thought that "it might run faster without so many programs on it" and had deleted anything she didn't need at that point in time. They're still trying to track her down. I've just managed to finish translating my notes.

The one today took the cake. I went to the meeting, typed the minutes, popped in the disk to save it and was greeted with a "whirr whirr whirr" and then the friendly message that the disk in Drive A was unreadable and may not be formatted. I wasn't interested in trying to reformat a disk with other documents on it, so I saved the minutes to the hard drive and then removed my disk from the machine.

At which point the machine removed the slide from my disk.

I scuttled back down to AV and pleaded with them to make things right again. They removed the slide from the drive and then put in one of their disks. I was gratified when they were met with the same "whirr whirr" and told that their IBM-formatted disk wasn't formatted. They tried to format it and then were informed that they couldn't. They then had to get an external drive and when they tried to put that same disk (theirs) in the drive they were informed that there was something or other wrong with it. What the the message was, I don't know. I suspect it was something along the lines of "rabid weasels would not be able to force me to read this disk, so just lick me".

I'm convinced these machines have attitude.

Anyhow, they finally managed to get today's minutes onto a diskette and gave me that, along with the wreckage of my first disk. Whether I'll be able to recover the information on that, who knows?

I really think I should just start attending these meetings, doodling Betty Boop in my notepad while they drone on, and then going back to my computer in the office to create some sort of work of fiction to explain how they spent the noon hour ...

It certainly couldn't be more bizarre than the way things actually work around there.

Loved this post. I can so relate. Hhmmm I may work at one of your "campus" competitors across the bridge...been here 20 years in fact! VCC. I too am oooooold and know (Pitman) shorthand. I will often use it to impress people. They often think it is Persian or some other such exotic language. It helps in a pinch when on the phone and taking down driving directions, taking recipes down from teli...or just showing off at a meeting or some other type of geeky adventure. They even want us to have it in my job!!!! Though I am sure I am the only one that uses it now occasionally at this point. Loved the pics of you in your hat!!!! You make my day and believe me some daze I need a pick me up. Spent almost all of the Christmas break at LGH and it wasn't pretty. That hospital is getting bad - and especially at Christmas. At least they have a Starbucks type of coffee outlet though.
Anyways, I asked an intensive care nurse at one point what I could do as Jane Citizen to help with our medical crises, to which she replied "don't get sick". My best friend's mom (she lives on Parkhurst) was at first in intensive care and then moved to acute care to die a rather undignified and horrifying death this past Monday. I have post traumatic stress disorder and your blog makes me feel somewhat human again. Thanks,
Suzanne from North Van
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