Tag Archives: work

The beltway is no cause for alarm

My life working for the Federal Government as an IT person wasn’t far removed from your average Dilbert comic strip.

Web Developer: Hey Ev, please take a look at this one screenshot and tell us what we should change with this very complex information system.

Me: Uhhhhh, just from one screenshot?

WD: It’s all we could do on the color printer.

Me: Why?

WD: Our office manager is making budget cutbacks.

Me: Ah. (Stares at printout close to face) Well, it looks like you’re calling the system three different things.

WD: Just pretend they’re all the same.

Me: Okaaaaay. Which is the actual name?


Me: Can we spell out the name for new users?

WD: Just new users?

Me: No, spell out the name at the top here, so that even new users will know what system they’re working in.

WD: Oh, I don’t think we can do that.

Me: Why not?

WD: Because it’s an image.

Me: You could just put text there.

WD: Oh, but then it might look a little different on people’s screens.

Me: Well, not very different.

WD: The communications director wants it to look the same on everyone’s computers.

Me: That’s not actually possible, you know.

WD: Don’t tell her that.

Me: Okay, okay. How about we just change the color of this black font?

WD: Okay, why?

Me: Because against this dark blue background, it’s a little hard to read, is all.

WD: Well, but it matches a paper brochure.

Me: I’ve never seen a paper brochure for this.

WD: It came out in 1987.

Me: Uh. So we need to match it why?


WD and Me in unison: Communications Director.

Me: I don’t think I have any recommendations, then.

WD: Okay, great! Thanks!

Coming back to visit DC has been unexpectedly revealing; I almost instantly reverted back to my aggressive-is-defensive driving skill set, weaving and bobbling a tiny Hyundai Accent on the BW Parkway on the drive in from the airport. I feel like I’m getting out of a clown car every time I park, and like I’m entering a parallel Universe of Small Things each time I climb inside, folding into myself like an origami swan. Or maybe it’s like a beam of light being crushed into nothingness, since the interior is small enough to be black hole-sized.

I cavorted through the streets of the city, not stopping to take in the things I’ve seen many times, like the Washington Monument, Union Station, the semi-empty used car lot on Bladensburg Road. But I could feel the energy from them, remembering who I’ve been before, and enjoying their proximity once again. I certainly have a fondness for the Colville Street Patisserie in Walla Walla, as I’ve remarked before, but I don’t feel any sense of being when I’m walking down Main Street like I do on the grimy marble curbs of the District, and I’m not sure yet why that is.

I lunched with some of my old Social Security coworkers in a tavern yesterday that was all Baltimore: framed posters of Ravens glory, hard-looking women with over-styled hair, “limited” drink refills, and a certain filmy substance on all of the wood surfaces that gave you the impression they cared as much about you here as if you were a guest in their homes. I was back. We chatted about things, and although I wanted to hear how they were doing, they kept asking me about Walla Walla, so I coughed up all the funny stories I could recall. It helped that I was in a company of people who presumed, first and foremost, that I have competence; sitting around on my ass at home has almost erased my sense that I am good at some things other than sitting on my ass and memorizing lines from NCIS, just in case I have the opportunity to throw them into conversation. I was hoping for but didn’t get pictures of new spouses or children, but we caught up nonetheless. With them having to get back to work, a concept with which I was suddenly reminded, I hopped back on the freeway and battled the self-important traffic of the Baltimore-Washington corridor, feeling a little sleepy from my chicken salad and kaiser roll. My “limited” drink refill apparently equated to no refill at all, and I needed a nap. I could have taken in the cityscape, the Potomac, the Pentagon, as I sped back to my host’s house in Arlington, spitting distance from where I used to live, but instead I got a song from Ladytron stuck in my head that used to play during my long commutes home. Apparently my brain saw it fit to replay for me.

Speaking of work

I’ve started harping on my friends who have little kids to send more pictures of them, since Susanne and I have been going through some withdrawal and who likes withdrawal? I was amused to get this one of little A, because he looks very much like a former coworker of mine, Mark. So now I suspect Mark is a closet sperm donor. Those of you who know him, cast a gander at this and make your own judgment…


Spawn of Mark?

Spawn of Mark?

So I have a job — well, we’ll loosely call it this — interview today. Actually, I have half an hour to convince some woman in HR that they should find a place for me in their firm. I’ll have to sell myself without looking like I’m a salesman, be charming but not overcharming, specialized enough that I look like a great catch without looking like I’m too compartmentalized. Whew! Should be easy to thread that needle — though it might be hard getting the derriere of yours truly through it…

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