Friday, May 13, 2011

The Busy Signal

My first real job out of college, in the mid-1980s, was at a computer book publishing company in the Bay Area. You will recall—or, if you’re too young, I guess I will make it clear—that in the mid '80s there was no such thing as “the Internet,” so people tended to get their information from such now archaic forms of communication as print. LOL.

The books that this company made were instructional books on the then popular software and programming languages at the time: Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect, dBase, and so on. My job, as a recent graduate of UC Berkeley with a degree in English Literature, was proofreader. I would proofread the galleys (page proofs) for spelling and grammatical errors, and then to paste the galleys on to boards that would get sent to the printer. These were the days of literal “cut-and-paste.” We’d use Xacto knives to physically cut lines of text and paste them onto the boards. So you Ctrl-X/Ctrl-V people? We used to do that, like, for real, okay?

Anyway, my boss at this place was an amiable but utterly absent-minded kinda guy, as well as sort of spineless and cowardly when it came to dealing with the higher-ups. The latter part, unfortunately, pretty much negated the fact that he was amiable, because, in critical work situations, it was clear that when push came to shove, he was always going to side with upper management, rather than his employees, out of fear for his own job. Thus a pattern of distrust was established.

One particular week, the upper management dipshits got it in their heads that the proles were wasting too much company time on private phone calls. A crackdown was ordered.

Our boss returned to our area and informed us of the crackdown. There will be no personal calls on company time, except in emergencies. People were abusing the privilege. To prove his point, he pulled out the most recent company phone bill, with all the itemized calls. As he scanned the bill, he noticed that one particular phone number in our area had a grotesquely large number of long calls.

“Look at this one!” he exclaimed. “Who the hell is this on the phone all the goddamn time!” he said, waving the bill around in the air. “You know what? I’m gonna CALL this number and see who the hell answers it!” He dialed the number, while a few of us watch him. “It’s BUSY!” he yelled. “IT FIGURES!” He slammed down the phone.

A few minutes later, he left his office. A couple of us walked in to peek at the phone bill, and the offending phone number.

It was his phone number.

He had called himself.


Tyler Dodge said...

I imagine in five years, we'll all be saying "Remember when phone calls used to cost money? Before there was [predominant VOIP brand name of the future]?"

Anonymous said...

So this was your first job, and you were just starting out?

Hey, this guy sounds like he was the Level One end boss - more bark than bite, easily defeated, etc. etc.

Great to have you back, Jeff. Your writing is just... so clear. You make it seem effortless. I've been following your Twitter feed, and have been astonished at how much information you've been able to communicate using so few words (there's a lesson to be learned here, I think) - but it's nice to see something more substantial from you. To be honest, I really miss the old Greenspeak column from CGW in which you were writing about my favorite subject: gaming.

Hopefully, we'll see some gaming posts in the future from you (accompanied, no doubt, by the occasional blog about Bob Dylan, or your motorbike).

Just remember... sentences... when combined, they form... paragraphs.

The Goose

wfs said...

hmmm, i think so.

Unknown said...

Hey Mr Green, what about the Cudgel of Xanthor? Ever since your foray into the quagmire of novel writing I’ve wanted to read this fictional book of fiction. Is there a crowd sourcing method you could use to hammer on the keyboard for sparse recompense? I would gladly contribute. I’ll do a bit of research into it if you like. Jeff Green in long form would be reading the Jewish Mark Twain of video games stranded on a raft of old game boxes.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely cannot picture anything except Michael Scott when reading this. Keep it up Jeff! Tweet less, blog more! Yes!