Firefly in Japan, Part 11: “Shane and Bill”-a-thon
I was working at a customer site doing a server build. It was a routine job, and I’d done it a number of times before. While the progress bar crawled across the screen, I looked around for people to chat with. Everyone seemed pretty busy. I sighed, and returned to watching the progress bar. It was just about due for a CD change, when the client manager walked past.
Tanaka : “Oh, hey Firefly. Hows it going?”
Firefly : “Pretty good thanks! How are you?”
Tanaka : “Fine, fine. So, I need costings for next month. What are we looking at?”
Firefly : “Uh, costings?”
Tanaka : “Right. I’m doing the budget.”
Firefly : “Sorry, but I don’t know what you mean.”
Tanaka : “The move. Are we looking at above 5 million yen? Below? Have you put together a proposal yet?”
Firefly : “Sorry, the move?”
Tanaka : “Right. Look I don’t have much time, whats a ballpark figure?”
Firefly : “I really don’t know, I didn’t know there was a move. What kind of move?”
Tanaka : “The OFFICE move, course!! We’re moving soon. You didn’t know about that?”
Firefly : “Oh, um, actually, I hadn’t been informed yet.”
Tanaka : “Well you better get informed, I think you’re the main tech on the project.”
Firefly : “I’m the main tech?!”
Tanaka : “Come on, get with the program. You’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Tanaka briskly walked off, irritated I was unable to supply him with the answer he needed. I sat there feeling stupid for a moment, before I realised that I wasn’t supplied the information that I needed! Plus I looked like an idiot when I wasn’t aware of the biggest project involved with that client. My irritation grew into anger. I sat there, finishing the server build. Another worker walked past.
Matt : “Hey what do you think of the new office?”
Firefly : “Oh, I haven’t actually been there just yet.”
Matt : “You haven’t seen it? Bill and Shane were there just last week. I saw them when I did my inspection.”
Firefly : “Oh yeah? Great. Nice place?”
Matt : “Yeah it’s great. You should go and check it out.”
Firefly : “So, er, where is it?”
Matt : “Behind Akasaka, next the TBS building.”
Firefly : “Ok. Thanks.”
I grimaced and returned to my server build. 30 minutes later, I finished. I walked around talking to users and fixing some various problems. I looked up, and noticed Bill and Shane walk in. They both walked into the conference room and sat down.
Odd, I thought. I didn’t know they were coming today.
I finished talking with the user, then I walked over into the conference room. Shane and Bill were engaged in conversation. They briefly paused when I walked in, and then resumed talking to each other. I stood there for a moment, waiting for them to finish. After a couple of minutes, it became clear that they weren’t going to stop talking on my accord. I cleared my throat. They looked at me impatiently.
Bill : “Do you need something?”
Firefly : “Actually, yeah. I wasn’t aware you guys were coming in today.”
Bill : “….and?”
Firefly : “And I wasn’t aware that there was an office move either.”
Bill : “Is this going somewhere?”
Firefly : “Yes, it’s going somewhere.”
Bill : “Hurry up then. Our meeting starts soon.”
Firefly : “Thats exactly the problem! You guys are keeping me in the dark. I don’t have enough information to do a good job for these guys, and I don’t feel good charging for the work I’m doing. I had no idea this company was moving. And the client told me I’m in charge!!”
Shane is silent. He looks to Bill. Bill eyes me with relaxed indifference.
Bill : “Right. I see what you’re saying.”
Firefly : “You do? Thats great. So what I’m saying, is that I really want to be part of meetings. You’re having a meeting with the client now, right? I really want to take part, even if I’m just listening. That way, I can be a better resource to the client, I can learn more, and I can appear informed and in control.”
Bill takes a deep breath, and slowly exhales. I look at him, waiting for a response. Suddenly, the client Manager Tanaka walks through the door.
Tanaka : “Sorry to keep you waiting gentlemen.”
Bill : “No problem, we just finished our conversation anyway. So, thanks very much Firefly. I appreciate your work, it’s very helpful. I’ll see you later then.”
I stand and stare at Bill. My lip curls up in disgust.
Bill : “Thats all for now. Thanks Firefly.”
Bill grins and winks at Shane, like he has won some kind of battle. I stand there smouldering, and finally turn on the spot and walk outside.
I stormed back to the server, sat down, and continued working. How humiliating. I sat there until the meeting finished. Bill and Shane left the office, and didn’t even say goodbye. It was just like Dilbert, but painful and real. I realised I wasn’t respected or treated as a person, just a resource generating money. The thought left me lessened, like my ability and even existence was not respected, and therefore inconsequential and useless. I swallowed hard, grit my teeth, and inserted the next CD.
A couple of days later, I was sitting at my desk, trying to avoid doing work.
Bill : “Firefly. Come here.”
My ebbing motivation for work had already been sucked dry. I slowly stood up, and grudgingly walked over to Bill’s desk.
Firefly : “Yes.”
Bill : “I need you to work on the weekend.”
Firefly : “This weekend? I have plans.”
Bill : “It’s really important. You’re the only guy available, and I really need your help. Can you do it?”
Firefly : “How much work?”
Bill : “About 5 hours on Saturday, and 5 hours on Sunday.”
Firefly : “Thats the whole weekend.”
Bill : “Come on, Firefly, I’m counting on you for this. I really need your help. We’re moving some racks, and you’re the only guy around who can do the job.”
I regarded Bill. He looked at me with pleading eyes.
Firefly : “Ugh, fine, alright. I’ll do it.”
Bill : “Good man! Thanks a lot.”
Firefly : “Ok.”
I walked back to my desk and emailed my friends to cancel our plans. Oh well, I reasoned. At least I get some overtime pay, and a bit of exercise. I scoffed. My own justifications felt lame and weak. I wanted to relax on my weekends, and remove myself completely from my weekday cubicle hell.
The weekend crawled around slowly, since time moves slowly when you hate your job. I woke up at 8:30am, 3 hours earlier than my regular Saturday wake-up time. I fell out of bed and pulled some old clothes on. I walked to the station mindlessly, and took the train to the job.
When I arrived, Bill was already walking around, preparing everything. He had rented a truck, and it was parked downstairs.
Bill : “Alright. The equipments over there. Grab the UPS first – careful, it weighs about 60 kilos. Use a trolley.”
I stopped for a moment to consider what he said. It almost seems like he’s looking after me. I felt oddly happy for a moment. Then I realised that if I snapped my back in half, he would need to do all the work. My happiness dissolved, and I returned to my previous dis-satisfied mood. I fetched the trolley and started loading.
We spent the entire weekend loading the racks onto the truck. They were heavy, and unwieldy. It took many trips ferrying equipment
back and forth, and we were lifting heavy objects all day in the thick of the sticky, ultra-hot Tokyo summer. I almost broke my spine when Bill dropped one end of the Rack too. Finally, after sweating through 2 painful and sweaty days, the weekend was over. Bill dropped me off home. It was on his way. I relaxed for a few hours, before going to bed and waking up at 7:30am the next day, my body wracked with muscle pain from all the heavy lifting. I slowly and deliberately went through the motions of getting ready for work.
I ended up missing my train, and I arrived at 9:05am. Shane saw me walk in, sit down, and slump at my desk. I flicked on my computer and sat there waiting for it to boot. I considered standing up to make myself a coffee, and decided against it after I stretched out my legs, and felt another stab of muscle pain.
Shane slowly pushed out of his chair, his chair wheels squeaking on the carpet. He stood up. He walked over, and stood over my desk. I craned my neck up to look at his awkward features.
“Do you know what the time is?” Shane asked with a hint of disapproval.
My computer had logged in by now. I looked at the PC clock.
“9:07am?” I asked.
“Thats correct.” Shane confirmed.
There was an awkward pause. I looked at Shane expectantly.
“Do you know what time you’re supposed to come into work?” Shane pushed.
“Uhh, is that 9am?” I asked increduously.
“Yes. So, er, ” Shane hesitated. “So make sure you come in from 9am.”
I nodded my head, grimacing. A pain ran up my leg, and I shifted my position on my chair.
“Alright. So we understand each other.” Shane said.
I stared at him, and he turned around, and walked off. I let out a long, deep sigh. Somethings gotta fucking give. I’ve had enough.
Fortunately, something gave. Next pay day.