I don’t multitask well. I never have really. Perhaps it’s because attaining any level of focus is such an uphill climb for me. Once I have that focus, I make best use of it with no distractions other than perhaps some music to keep the creepy crawlies in my head from going into open revolt.
My boss seems to understand this and as long as I continue to be productive, I’m pretty much left alone. I enjoy being left alone on the job and in the fullness of time, I’ve learned how diligence can earn me that privilege. If I were ever to write a professional-success guide, its overarching theme would be perfecting the art of making people go away for a finite amount of time.
That said, I am also well aware I have job responsibilities that go beyond just writing code. For one thing, I work for a consulting company at a client site so I essentially serve two masters. The client’s needs are straightforward. Produce results. They don’t care a whole lot about my morale, team spirit, or my plan for professional growth. I am not their employee. To them I am a resource, not an investment.
It is a bit different with the consulting company. There are performance self-assessments, quarterly staff meetings at the local HQ, and weekly timesheets so they know how much to bill the client. I don’t particularly like having to do deal with any of these things, but I treat them as necessities and do what needs to be done.
Not letting things slip has been a hard-won victory over my innate flakiness, but well worth the effort for its benefits. Not having any extra stuff hanging over my head means I can concentrate on work when I’m working and on whatever the fuck I feel like when I’m not.
This all works just fine until it doesn’t.
This Monday, I did my usual five-minute ritual of deleting spam comments in this blog (about 400 per day in case you’re wondering) and checking if any software needs updating on the VM where it is hosted. There was a new release of the operating system available and I was given the option of doing an upgrade.
Stupidly, I did the upgrade without creating a system snapshot first as an emergency backup. This would have come in handy as both this blog and another site hosted there got broken. It was annoying, but not the end of the world. I got poisonspur.com operational on Monday night. The other site, platypus.org, is more of a convoluted beast that I’ve set aside some time to deal with this weekend if I’m not too burned out to muster any enthusiasm.
So far, no big deal, just a hiccup for me to deal with on my own schedule.
Tuesday morning, there was an issue with submitting my timesheet. It’s due every Friday, but I like to get it taken care of early in the week. I took the laptop issued by the consulting company to work with me as that’s the only one I can use to access their intranet. I figured there was some technical snafu and I would call the technical help line and get it fixed.
No such luck. I tried three times and each time I heard “Hello? Hello?” followed by him hanging up. My guess is that he turned on mute and forgot to turn it off again. If I worked in tech support, I would probably do the same thing. I gave up and decided to try my luck the next morning.
My luck got worse. The intranet was down when I tried it from home and when I got to work, the guest-accessible Wi-Fi in the building wasn’t working either. I also found out that this was an administrative rather than technical issue. This meant having to talk to people and wait for an answer. I am not very good at either.
That’s what fucked me up. I know it’s a minor thing for most people, but for me it proved to be an unfinishable task that would haunt me through the rest of the week. Don’t get me wrong . I’m no perfectionist. I have no problem embracing Murphy’s Law as long as it does its damage elsewhere, but if a missed timesheet deadline happens enough times, that could impact my annual bonus.
So I fretted. To concentrate on work, I kept having to shove worst-case scenarios to the back of my mind, something I achieved with only partial success. My off time was worse. Instead of engaging in my hobby of thinking up terrible puns to say about a tragic news story I’ve read, my imagination ran riot with thoughts of me taking the blame for whatever the mix-up was even though it wasn’t my fault.
You see, I hate injustice, at least a specific subset of it.
In the end, everything worked out fine thank to the grace of my personal lord and savior: Privilege. Once again spared the avalanche of shit that forever rolls downhill, I am free to look at the world and amuse myself with all the wrong I see in it.