Thursday, May 29, 2008

Deus ex Machina, Hold the "Deus"

I DON'T BELIEVE IN A SUPREME being, or a team of them; or in fate, karma, destiny, or (reluctantly not) the Force. I believe in science, evidence, statistics, and probability. But I am willing to accept coincidence. Thus it was today.

May has been an up-and-down month for me at work. After again successfully striving with a deadline during the first week of this month, I was exceptionally burnt out. I took a "sick day" the Friday of that wek after a strong feeling of being "done" at work. You can read about some other random discontentment in that post too. Despite some later optimism about my new coworkers, it was tough to feel motivated during the first two weeks of this production cycle.

This was risky, even with the extra hands on deck, because we were facing a couple of artificial obstacles on the schedule. We lost two days midmonth while bringing the new gang up to speed on their duties, and I naturally took Memorial Day off. We will face higher postage costs if we don't get the magazine out by this coming Monday. We'd beaten this deadline the past three issues, despite being told about it at the last minute the first time, and with only two editors versus the usual five. But I was finally getting very fatigued over this breakneck pace.

I've been training the new staff at the same time as I've been giving them work to do. They seem to be fast learners, but because we have no departmental guidebook or procedure manual, I have to tutor from scratch. So I've had to interrupt my workflow to assist with this at irregular intervals. Did I mention that I despise training, even though I'm good at it? Yes. So throw that in as another leech of my will.

I also got my review around the middle of the month, which was quite good (I should know, I wrote most of it). After a couple of days of not hearing about any raise, I took the loathsome step of asking HR. I would rather argue with a steroid abuser over a parking space than speak with our HR person. Apparently, the small adjustment I got out of the blue at the beginning of the year was my 2008 raise; I won't see any result of the good review I'd just gotten until 2009. (Considering this person sent the review forms out late this year, a New Year's bump is not likely.)

Taking my own advice to ask for anything that might be available, I asked if there were any chance that part of the raise could be applied earlier, perhaps in recognition of all of the hard work I had done in keeping the book moving — which apparently is something even the top guy knows about and appreciates. All she did was shrug and say maybe my outgoing managing editor could appeal to her boss; but she said the economy, company budget, blah blah, blah, made this unlikely. Pissed but restrained, I pointed out that, because they hadn't been paying three higher, veteran-level, New York City–area salaries since the beginning of the year for my departed coworkers, there ought to be a little left over for an advance in good faith. This didn't register with the person, so I bailed on the further waste of time this had become and returned to my desk.

(I did have a fallback position. I summarized this exchange for my outgoing manager, and said that, since any early raise seemed unlikely, perhaps they might consider a few more paid vacation days. This is a briar-patch strategy; given the choice of time or money, I will take time any day. She said she'd look into it. At worst, they know I look out for my own ass.)

With all of this going on, the issue is not going to hit prepress on the date my eternally optimistic former boss has been trumpeting. It's something I've had to fight against each issue we've had to do together — we get to a certain point and I start warning folks we're going to have to suck it up and eat the extra postage — but three times so far, we've managed to make it under the deadline anyway. So my Cassandra routine has failed to sport fangs thus far. This time, I suspect, will be different. Because with the three days we've lost in the schedule, with all the training, and the time I've pissed away trying to squeeze a few more benefits out of the system, very little finished copy has transited my desk.

And of course there's one more major obstacle coming next week: I bail for at 5:00 Tuesday night to get things in order at home — and make some ridiculous effort to sleep — before the Vegas trip the next morning.

Not that I haven't been trying to hit the mark. I rescheduled an eye doctor appointment this Friday to devote more time to finishing the issue (and let my bosses know I'd done this). I had intended to stay late last Tuesday, but — once again — the building's AC died, and I was forced to leave on time, at less than full strength in any rate with a pounding, heat-induced headache. I stayed until 9:00 last night, with a break for dinner . . . and I did send finished work to folks at that hour to let them know I'm breaking my ass outside normal work hours. (Always document any extra effort.) Heretical for me, given my resolution this January not to emulate my departed manager's habit of clocking in one or two hours each night, to the point where she needed an anxiolytic to get through it.

Far more heretical was my plan to come in this Saturday for a spell. Packing for Vegas is a reflex by this point and can be done at a sprint. With rain in the works this Saturday, I thought — even if I couldn't completely get the issue out — I could put in a strong final effort to shove it along as far as possible, and then leave folks with a list of what still needs to be done. Plus the artist called in sick this morning after coughing like an exploding munitions factory through most of yesterday, leaving his work in the overburdened hands of another designer. So shit's getting slowed down as it is. And my hints about not making the deadline were not registering.

And this is where my aforementioned faith in faithlessness might be shaky. Early in the afternoon, we got a note from our facilities manager. They're doing massive work on the building this weekend; we need to be out promptly at EOB on Friday, and there will be no admittance throughout the weekend, nor any access to our servers. So my plan to come in Saturday? Impossible.

Some might say God stopped the bullets. Others could claim a cosmic balance has compensated me for busting out a few extra hours last night. I will only go so far as to say, I appreciate the coincidence that this shutdown will keep me from working through Saturday. Any proximity on my part to the office will also be coincidence, and a transient one at that.


Amy said...

wow. I will just say wow and leave it at that.

Schizohedron said...

We didn't even make it to five today. The HR person swept through the office at 4:45, waving people into the lobby . . . where we found the elevators and the stairwell lights both had been shut off. Oh, I couldn't make this shit up. . . .