December 10, 2002

Finding a Life Purpose Through

Finding a Life Purpose Through Total Hatred of Someone Else

I sat in the IBM office, a bauhaus square of filtered flourescent luminescence, metal desks, soft temporary walls, and the omnipresent buzz of computer gadgetry. No windows, no music, no indication that the sun was actually arcing across the sky, or that life in general took place outside the walls.

I tapped furiously at my workstation, laboring to edit a 400 page manual before my Friday deadline. Nearby, my manager, Jenifer (one N, and don't you forget it) sat at her desk going over my last piece of work, a 500 page tome of technical whatthefuck. I had decided early on in my job that Jenifer wasn't probably one of my favorite people in the world, and this decision was awarded with Jenifer and I sharing an office.

Jenifer was one of those people who sacrificed all semblance of a personal life in order to advance her career, a strange decision because, in our department, no one could really advance anywhere. If you were fast and could turn around editing work quickly, you were rewarded with even more work and, at the end of the year, you were given a Salary Action, a term that simply meant your salary would increase to reflect an increased cost of living. None of this apparently dissuaded Jenifer.

I probably spent more time trying to understand Jenifer than I did at actually trying to get work done. An attractive woman with Latina blood swimming in her system, giving her the appearance of being perpetually tanned, she could have probably had some fun living life, but she chose to throw herself into her work, while maintaining a condescending air over practically anyone who had the audacity to pop into her office. As luck would have it, I was ALWAYS in her office. We were an editing team, and we had to adhere to her pedantic process.

The process worked like this: Jenifer would edit a book and cover the pages in red editing marks. I, in turn, would enter her changes online while also checking for additional errors. Then, Jenifer would get the book back and edit it once more, at which point it would be handed back to me to, once again, enter her changes and make even more additional changes. That's right, folks. This job was F. U. N.

"Ryan, you really messed up here. It's a good thing I caught this or IBM legal would have been down our throats," said Jenifer unexpectedly.

"Well, let me see what I did, so I don't do it again."

"Right here, you have to be sure to know the difference between AS/400 and AS/400e. You're still pretty new to this stuff, so we won't dwell on it too much, but it's something to keep in mind."


(Fast Forward to the Next Day)

As I went back through Jenifer's editing marks, I discovered that it was her, not me, who had made the grievous error that would have surely brought IBM crumbling to the ground. It was right there, in her prissy little handwriting, the smoking ink. I started to laugh.

"Sigh. What's so funny?" asked Jenifer, not taking her eyes off the computer screen.

"Remember that mistake you found yesterday that you gave me such a hard time about?"

"Yeeessss. But, there really wasn't anything funny about it," she said with an authority that came across so bitchy I couldn't wait to spring the news on her.

"Well, it turns out that it was your mistake," I said smiling, and I circled her red error with a big blue swath of ink of my own.

The storm clouds that gathered over Jenifer's head as I repeatedly circled the proof would have caused most dogs to cower and scamper from the office with their tails between their legs. I, however, had commited to this bit of self-justification and redemption, so I was ready for her. Or at least I thought.

"So it's my fault! You know, it really wasn't a big enough deal that you have to make such a display of it! Just fix it next time and save me the drama!" she roared, her face now 12 shades of enraged red. She then turned back to her computer and started clicking away with overt animation.

I rolled my eyes, desperately burning for a response, but nothing popped to mind.

"You know," said Jenifer, swiveling quickly in her chair. "There are a lot of managers who would take what you did very personally. You should really learn when and when not to bring something like that up!"

With that, my insult dam burst.

"Oh, just shut up!" I blurted, turning to face her. "Just yesterday you made the mistake sound like the biggest error ever to cross an IBM page! But when I point out that it was actually your fault, and rightfully considering how big of a deal you made it out to be, you totally lose it! It wasn't my fault. It was your fault. Your damned fault! Grow up and live with it!"

I think Jenifer was actually trembling with rage as she stormed from the office. One month later we were awarded separate offices, although we continued to hate each other for the next year and a half. Truth be told, I still hate her.

Some day, if I ever get to be rich and famous, I'm going to make it a point to find out where Jenifer lives and pee on her lawn.

Posted by Ryan at December 10, 2002 02:55 PM
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