Tag Archives: old-school

Who steals grocery carts? The homeless and accountants.

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We’ve all worked in a variety of jobs from the time we were teenagers.  Almost every workplace has some sort of unique asset that helps us get the job done.  What am I talking about?  Here’s an example: at one accounting firm I worked at we actually used a grocery cart to truck files around the office.  I’m sure it was just a coincidence that we were within walking distance of Stop & Shop.  We found a good one though that didn’t have a funky wheel.

At another accounting firm I worked at we were right down the street from one of the local news station headquarters.  Occasionally you could see the anchors in their cars as they cut you off after a long, crappy day and we’d just laugh, laugh, laugh.  One day we got a knock on the door.  It was the police.  They said we should probably not leave the office as they got a report of a man walking around with an AK-47 looking to have a little meet and greet with one of those anchors.

Every workplace seems to have a little charm, in that respect.  I worked for Market Basket briefly as a “sacker.”  It is an institution here in Massachusetts and New Hampshire known for its narrow aisles and sawdust.  Oddly enough, I’ve never seen an ad on TV telling me to use sawdust to clean up spills, but go into a Market Basket anywhere and there’s a big, old box of sawdust.

At Sears Hardware the guys in the back decided to drag race lawn tractors until the manager decided to can them.  I worked at another small accounting office that was in the same building as a hospital.  I’d have to walk through the wing of the hospital to get to the office.  No, I did not shortcut my route by hopping on a gurney, though I guess I could have.  At one job I had a boss who ate tuna fish every day so there would be stacks of tuna cans in the cabinets.  How could I forget about the phones in the toilet stalls where he would talk to his stock broker or his unfortunate administrative assistant?

I’m sure you’ve got some behind the scenes stuff at your workplace that keeps things interesting – the room no one is allowed in, an ironing board in the conference room.  Make us jealous or creep us out.  Just tell us about it.

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My day off belongs to everyone, but me

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You ever wish you had access to a guru?  Not a religious one – enlightenment should be limited to the books on tape you listen to during your commute while you’re trying to figure out what the vanity plate ‘PPLBON’ could possibly mean.  Give yourself a dinosaur sticker if you knew Jonathan Papelbon pitched for the Red Sox.  Consequently, he would not be allowed to drive a rusty Camry.  I’m not sure he can even spell his own name, but even he knows it’s dumb to have a vanity plate in New England that references a player who is now sucking fumes in Philadelphia.  So we could all use some enlightment, but that’s not the point.  The point is it would be nice to have somebody just show up one day and say “Geoff, I’ve reorganized your whole life an I actually came out with a profit of $60, 302.44.  Is it OK if I just put that directly in your bank account?”

Well, that’s not going to happen.  Here’s the reality.  You bust your butt every day.  You’re a smooth cat.  Even the auditors can’t always find you.  Todd, the Accounts Receivable contractor, is asking you for the same information you gave to the previous two contractors.  That’s annoying, but the trade off is that Todd is the weird nephew of Ray Liotta, and you get to mention you work with him at every bad party you’ve been to.  You’ve got a system at work.  While it still results in flashes of heartburn and numbness some days, on the whole it’s OK.  The problem is…actually we longer use the term ‘problem’ on this blog…the indirect cost of doing business this way is your personal life gets backed up.  Most of the time you are divorced from life outside the office anyway.  Your employer would prefer that you just paid alimony and were done with it. You’re more interested in visitation rights.  The odd compromise is the  Day Off Errand Run (DOER).  Wow, that sounds like a program HR invented when they realized it was the end of the year and they hadn’t actually created any initiatives.

Usually there is something that predicts a DOER is on its way.  Maybe you have a trip planned over the weekend to go up to Vermont and stare at trees or, simply, your shirts have become unevenly stained.  There’s nothing like being ridiculed by people who have better stains than you or who have been eating granola bars for lunch for the past week.  Yeah, those granola bars she got as a sample at that hippy-dippy concert she went to last weekend.  The moral of the story is that your boss should come up to you and put his hand on your shoulder and say “You’ve been working real hard.  We’ve all noticed it.  Let’s get you a day off.  How about next Tuesday, does that work?”  Again reality versus fantasy.  In reality you get to about 3:00 on Wednesday and you realize if you don’t see your boss about a DOER, Bernice, the hypochondriac, is going to get in there and take all the days for at least the next week.  You slink in to the office.  While he finishes up a phone call, your mind tries to reconcile the pencil cup on his desk that says “Even the successful know the value of an eraser” and the mousepad that has a picture of his baby daughter who is now, you know, eight.  What is this, an after-school special on work-life balance issues?  Well, upon hanging up he neglects to notice your head’s on all sideways.  When you mention you need a day off he probably gives you a look like he’s trying to pull off the cover of a half used paint can that’s a mix of crust and liquid at the same time.

We’ll skip the rest of the conversation and assume he relents and gives you a day off even though Bernice is already slotted in for a trip to the hospital.  There’s a couple slight chances during the weekend to stop what you’re doing and complete a couple errands, but that’s Tuesday stuff.  One time you used a DOER and got all of your errands done plus it was during the holidays.  That was a fantastic day.  But that was before the kids and the dog and it wasn’t this job so there was a little more flexibility.  Even NASA would struggle to figure how you’re going to make Tuesday successful.  It’s really just an oil change, drycleaners, library, get a gift card for mom, buy some dogfood, go to city hall, change out a lightbulb on the back porch, and maybe buy some underwear.  It really should take half a day and the other half you can spend reading a book, drinking a beer, stalking your coworkers on Facebook – whatever.  You ever notice that the people you visit on your day off never visit you on their day off?  That means the guy from Jiffy-Lube has time to drink two beers and chill out.  Maybe he and the librarian share a nice Beet and Apple with Goat Cheese salad while they discuss their mutual love for Bukowski.  Moral of the story: that’s not you.

Wednesday you’ve got work on your desk, your boss is aggravated, everybody’s asking you what you did on your magical day off (except for Bernice who has a bronchial thing).  All you have to report is that you somehow came out of the DOER with more things to do than you started with and less time off to accomplish all of these tasks.  Wonderful.  What do you think?  Does this pretty much sum it up?  Anybody have some handy-dandy tips for actual success?  Any epic failures out there like you went to pull weeds and got poisoned oak all over your body and upon telling your tale a thousand times the next day you were permanently nicknamed PO Boy and shunned by everyone including future interns who weren’t even there?  Just checking.

Another acronym or stab yourself with a pencil: choose your own adventure

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In addition to writing this blog I’ve been working on writing a novel.  The first draft is close to completion (!!).  As we start to work back out of this summer into the meat of the fall, it got me thinking about acronyms.  You’re like ‘What the hell suddenly got you thinking about acronyms?’ Well, they’re everywhere.  Being able to write out words and not use them in the regular degree gave me a chance to do some analysis.

When I was a kid there were a few acronyms floating out there.  You had the old reliable RADAR.  It was good to use IQ to belittle the other kids on the bus.  There were a couple others, but, for the most part, you were forced to write out everything…in cursive!  In fact, acronyms look weird in cursive.  We didn’t bend the rules.  Then you got to be a teenager and you knew about SATs and maybe RBIs if you were a baseball fan.  Hey, we got a vernacular – that’s pretty cool.  In health class they told you about AIDs and STDs.  If you were real smart you knew Lou Gehrig’s disease was ALS.  Still, you remained unfettered by adding too much to remember and decode to your already busy schedule of being a jerkwad teenager.  Even in college maybe you added on GPA or DPS.  It didn’t stop anyone from having a few beers.

Suddenly your bright eyes brought you into your first office job.  For me I was working for the CPAs.  We were battling against the IRS.  Did we ever call it the Internal Revenue Service?  Have you ever called it the Internal Revenue Service?  No?  Well, there’s your answer.  We used more form numbers than acronyms, but it’s still speaking in a language normal people consider…well, they wisely walk away.  If you learned how to say ‘I need to go to the bathroom’ in French you will probably get to go to the bathroom.  If you learn ‘I’ve got a section 1231 loss that probably needs to be put on a 4797 with possible section 179 implications’ you will never get to go to the bathroom and you might just get a wedgie for old time’s sake.

Many accountants get burned out by form numbers and move on (actually we get burned out trying to magically turn boxes of faded receipts into something approximating a tax return while the owners keep calling us asking how it’s going).  The corporate world is a slushpile of acronyms.  You thought you were the North America Accounting Manager, but suddenly you’re anointed the NAAM by the GAM.  You look across the table at the guy who washes his hands before he pees and he’s giving you the once over.  ‘I’m the VeepSO, bitch!’  And the other Knights of the Round Table (or misshapen table that your PS (Purchasing Specialist) bought when HP went out of business) sit stoicly with their awkward acronym armor protecting them from people trying to logically connect how the Director of Program Development (DPD) being a jackass has helped program development in your company.

Close your eyes.  Well, open your eyes because you have to read this.  Imagine if you read these two sentences:  Marty Richter is the DPD for 123 Systems and he’s here today to talk about why the company struggles with Program Development.  Marty Richter is the jackass Director of Program Development for 123 Systems and he’s here today to talk about why the company struggles with Program Development.  Wouldn’t you surmise from the spelling out of his title in number 2 that Marty is the reason they struggle, whereas he remains more anonymous when he has his acronym?

I knew for me it was time to return to the forest of tall, well grown words when I started using sentences with three acronyms or more.  “How can you be sure the TBL revenue is hitting the P&L properly in Q1 if we are using a JE instead of an MRE to book the transaction?”

Look, I live in an Amish Acronym world where I can get by on the bare minimum.  If a twelve year old makes fun of me for not knowing what TTYL means, I’ll just tell them I noticed their thumbs looked a little misshapen when they text.  Go find an acronym to describe that complex.

Do you have insane amounts of acronyms at your workplace?  Have you ever actually invented an acronym on the fly to sound like you know what  you’re talking about?  Have you caught others misusing acronyms?  Have you given up like me?  Tell us about it!