The Safety Dance

June 2, 2010 at 11:27 PM | Posted in The Corporate World | Leave a comment
  On the day job, I’ve been trying to learn more things, pick up more work, and be more useful.
  Altruism, my ass.  I’m trying to cover mine.  Ass, that is.
  The world is a scary place.  But, like politics, Armageddon is local as well.  I mean this for everyone, not just me.  If the world falls apart–when civilization goes down in flames–it is not going to matter to you what is happening even fifty miles from you.  What is going to matter is what is happening to you, directly.
  This job I have is in the mortgage industry, and Christ is that ever a scary place to be right now.  I have to have faith and rely on the wisdom and decision-making of the bosses over me to ensure that we can maintain our jobs.
  Luckily for me–so far at least–my bosses seem pretty adept at navigating these turbulent waters.  And they have the same vested interest that I do:  keeping our jobs.  Them maybe more so than I; these guys all make way more money than I do.
  So they keep doing their thing, and I keep doing mine.
  Originally my job was just scanning.  I have a high speed scanner at my desk and I put file in, click a button, and it feeds through, and I enter it into our imaging file system.  Not brain surgery by any stretch…not even a minor procedure, like a hangnail.
  But I’ve been doing it for five years, so I’m about the best there is.  Then I started to learn more about various documents, but also about the equipment itself.  When the guy who took care of that moved upstairs, I slid into his spot while the chair was still warm.  I have half a dozen high speed scanners on this floor, about that many large copiers, some fax machines, and over thirty printers.
  When there is a problem, they come to me first.  If it’s something simple, I can fix it.  I spend about an hour each day on average clearing paper jams and so forth, babying finicky equipment and moody women, trying to get them to interface without bloodshed or mechanical damage.
  I also order the paper and the ink and toner for the machines, and maintain that part of the supply closet.  On my own, I documented all the machines and their requirements, and try to keep track of them when IT moves shit around.
  When there is a serious issue that I can’t fix, I am the contact person for our service vendors.  I call, I relate the issue, I’m there to show them to the machine, and I’m there to learn what to do so I can fix it myself if possible.  Frequently, they can talk me through how to fix something over the phone, saving them a trip out and getting the machine back in operation sooner.
  Our own IT department handles the printers; nonetheless I am the first line of defense for those.  If I can’t fix it, or it needs parts or further maintenance, I place the work order, and help the people who are on the printer switch to another one on the network.
  I also dole out some regular maintenance, 90% of which is cleaning.
  Of course, rumor has it that they want to eliminate all or most of the printers and switch to a couple of big network printer/copiers.  Rumor also has it that they want to switch to a different file system program that would eliminate alot of scanning.  Since that is my primary job, hearing that makes me wet my pants a little.
  Diplomatically, my boss hedges as she explains that there will still be some scanning that has to be done.  However, I’m a realist (I hope), and I know that nothing lasts forever.
  And, you know–remember in the 70s and 80s when the dawning of the computer age really arrived for business, and it was heralded as the beginning of the paperless society?  The one hundred thousand-plus sheets of paper moved through the copiers each month would beg to differ.  And those are copiers of pages printed on the printers, so let’s call it an easy quarter of million sheets of paper each month…just on my floor.
  But I have often hinted–both subtly and directly–that I would like to learn some new skills, so that I can be more useful to them, and continue to have a job–for me.  Naught had come from it over the years, but recently I lucked into a better opportunity.
  The same federal regulations and interference that caused the financial mess we are in–
 
  [Oh, yes–I blame the lax standards of Fannie and Freddie for our current collapse, and the directly responsible for that is Barney Frank, among others.]

  –has caused a shift in our structure.  It used to be that our "FHA Department" was one person that was part of the Suspense Department.  But now, a larger and larger percentage of loans are FHA.  Now we have an actual department:  Linda, Stacy, Mallory, Pam, Kim, and Janet. 
  I had given Kim a ride home off and on a few times over the last few weeks.  We have gotten to be friends–I went to her grandmother’s funeral, and we have chatted and talked a lot.  In fact, I had started associating with them more than others on the floor.  Although I was technically in the shipping department, that was more of an ersatz hybrid; I feel like I am a department unto myself.  Besides, it’s mostly younger women in Shipping, and I didn’t have much common ground with them.
  But the ladies in FHA are more my age (except Mallory, who is a cute younger chick), and we could talk.  I didn’t try to weasel my way in; I got lucky and it just happened.
  So on a few occasions taking Kim home, she mentioned how busy they were in her department.  It fell on my deaf ears the first few times…until I had an idea.
  That morning I talked to Linda, and then to Erica, my boss.  Instead of asking her to find me something–which would place the burden on her–I had found something and asked her if I could do that.  She said yes.
  So now I help out in the FHA department.  It’s nothing more than clerical work.  Honestly, it’s all I’ve ever done anyway.  But my scanning the last month or so had gotten dangerously light.  I was working hard to milk a full day’s work out of an hour or two’s worth of scanning.  The first day I helped in FHA, I felt like it was the first time I had actually worked in weeks.
  I’ve managed to pick up a couple of duties that I help out with, depending on the flow, and it has made my day go by faster to have work to do.  Praise Jesus!  Hopefully I can learn more and more of this–
  And it also helps that they needed help and wanted to hire another person but the big boss didn’t want to.  I hope it helps make me look good.  I’m just happy to have work.

  In the meantime, I picked up a temporary duty from the in-house title company.  Most of what I scan is for them, anyway.  But they have someone who goes just about every day to the county court house and to the one in the city to get deeds and so forth recorded.  Lynn does this. 
  She was called for jury duty, and they asked my boss if I could fill in on that position.  Hell yeah!  I went with Lynn a couple of times to see how it was done, where to go, and who to talk to.  However, she got her jury duty postponed because of illness, and I filled in for her for a couple of days.  They still need someone who can do it if she is out on vacation or for a sick day–she has cancer, and occasionally battles with it.
  In the last few weeks, I have finally felt useful and good about the work I do.  It’s been a long time.

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