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Monday, April 7

Outburst

It's perhaps worth noting separately that I had another outburst today. I'm a bit pissed off with the way that certain things in my office building are done. Maybe I'm wrong, but I like to think that when I produce a system, I do it with the user's needs in mind. Now, I do make compromises and even ignore what I consider to be unlikely or low-value demands from the user. So, maybe I make people the victim of my system, as well as provide them with a service. However, I try not to optimise the system for my own convenience.

Perhaps people don't believe that they have optimised a system for their own convenience, but when a system fails me, quite frankly, it's easy to believe that it has been set up for someone other than me, its user.

What am I talking about in this case? Well, as always, it's something apparently trivial. The work café. Let's quickly look at it from their point of view. Then, I'll look at it from mine. Before you know it, this will be a balanced view, though I'll probably admit that I had an outburst earlier. Ooops, already admitted it.

So, I'm the canteen manager. Let's see. I want to serve breakfast, so we'll get the staff in nice and early - before 7.30 - they'll make a cooked breakfast and serve it and coffee around the 8am mark. They'll also be responsible for preparing buffets, in order not to have them sitting around. Then from 12 until 2, there will be a cooked lunch, and you can have sandwiches. We'll pack this all away when lunch ends, so that the food doesn't go off and the staff can then prepare for the last couple of hours of the day when we lock the fridges to keep them out of the way, and everything is clean for a nice sharp exit, some 8 hours after we open, at about 4ish.

Sounds great.

Now, let's look at my view.

I'm a person who wants breakfast, but I don't want a fry up, nor cereal. How about a sandwich? Oh they provide a selection of one, sometimes two pre-made sandwiches. How about a sandwich from the selection of bread and fillings? No? Too busy to make one? Ah? Too busy to take my money at the till too? Right? So the service is where? Why do I care? Well, if I were at a shop in town, they'd want my money and they'd provide service. Plus, I'm at the work canteen because I've a busy day ahead and I kind of haven't got the time to hang around to wait for you to become free.

I'm a person who works very hard under a lot of pressure. I don't get to take my lunch when I want to. Lunchtime isn't "all tools down at 12.30 for an hour". I do what I have to do to get the job done and I'm released for a few minutes to get some food in. If I'm lucky, I get to take a shit sometimes. Oh, the canteen is not going to provide me with any food and the staff will get shirty with me if I ask if they are still making sandwiches.

Today's outburst, then:

Me: Are you still making sandwiches?
Her: No, this is all going away now.
Me: (under breath) Sorry.
Another her at lift: Oooh, going out for lunch are you?
Me: (heading into town as quickly as possible) It looks like I have to, since I've clearly inconvenienced the cafe staff by needing to eat in the few split seconds I get between meetings, like I have a choice when I get my lunchtime.

I don't really blame the staff member in the canteen for being, for the second time this year, a bloody bitch about not making me a sandwich when I'm hungry for one. She has responsibilities that are simply utterly opposed to my needs as a customer. If my own works canteen cannot provide for my needs in a company which is making my needs bloody difficult... like the fact that a good coffee (as opposed to a vending coffee) wouldn't go amiss after 4.30... though I guess they should probably be able to provide good coffee before I demand that they stay open long enough to do it... then what's the point. Am I the only person who works like this?

I wonder.

Maybe there are a lot of people in the company who are time-servers. Arrive just before 9, take lunch at 12.30 - 1.30 and then leave dead on 5.30. Perhaps I'm the misfit. I'm a get-the-job-done. I don't want to arrive at one time. I don't want to hear people muttering, audibly, "but that's 15 minutes early" if I choose to leave at 5.15 one day. I'm working longer hours each week than I know is sensible to do. I'm packing in extra hours in the middle of the night to make ends meet. I'm being put under stress, running between meetings, trying to write good code after someone hired the code-amateur to produce a series of amazing WTFs that I should probably submit to various websites dedicated to this sort of thing. In a nutshell, I feel like a bit of support from the people who provide the services to make my job comfortable wouldn't go amiss.

But they squeeze the support services down to "save money", thus disenfranchising some staff and making it harder to do a 150% job, because you're impeded. I could have had 10 minutes more at my desk if I hadn't had to run into town this lunchtime. It might have helped.

In the sea of inadequacies, surrounding noisy, crowded office space, loud an unworkable air conditioning, and buildings that are left too long in the cold over bank holidays that you lose a morning to hypothermia, there are some genuinely try-hard helpful people about. I try to thank people who help me and I recognise that I can just ask people for stuff and it will generally be provided, unless they're working to a system at loggerheads with my needs.

Again, I'll just say that it makes sense to optimise the system for the customer, not for the provider.

I should stop this outburst, I'm sure it stopped being interesting a lot of words ago. Maybe about one or two sentences in. As a provider of this blog, I am, however, optimising it for the user - me. Not you. It's all for my own sanity. If I write it down, it becomes manageable.

No more raging now.

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