Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Ferd Who Ruined Christmas and Most of January as Well

I wouldn't say a monkey can do my job, but it's not like I'm welding jet engines together or taming lions or something. I'd say 25% of my job is meticulous organization, another 25% research, and the rest all public relations. Because honestly, sometimes I feel like I am this place's presidential press secretary. I've learned how to soothe people, smarm my way into getting what I want, and deflect questions so deftly that the person asking them ends up asking something totally different, and usually is happy with the answer they weren't looking for in the first place.

But sometimes I wish I had a monkey's sensitivity. That I didn't worry so much about what other monkeys thought, and could just respond in kind to the screeching and poop-flinging that inevitably comes my way. Case in point: the past 4 weeks.

The situation is complicated and silly, but in the end, simplistically stupid. We get stuff for people. Sometimes we end up failing to get that stuff on time and the people get mad.

Last October I began fielding orders for books needed in January. It's particularly important I receive orders for foreign titles early, as they have to cross the pond to get to us. Well I placed the foreign orders in November thinking all was well, that the books would be in by December. Because that is how a normal organization works. You acquire things from other people for a fee, then sell said product for a profit. Well, when December came around and still no foreign books I began to get worried.

Turns out our man paying the fees wasn't actually paying them. "Got to pick your battles," they said, referring to the fact that we were doling out what $$$$ we could to whom we could when we could. 'Stupid recession,' I thought to myself, but surely they'd get around to paying folks who needed a lot of extra time, right? Not so much. And since certain foreign countries take extra long amounts of time off for the Winter holidays (a month!? Can I live there?), my books were never sent out until January. As in when the classes they were needed for had already begun.

So for the last 3 weeks I've been fielding calls that should never have been necessary in the first place from white hot angry professors, confused secretaries caught in the middle, and uppity TAs trying to play hero calling to find out when their books might arrive. And I have absolutely nothing to tell them. I've endured dismissive exasperated shrugs, a truckload of yelling, cursing that would make a teamster blanch, and perhaps worst of all, polite little professors saying things like "I'm just dismayed by all this" which is somehow much worse than Mr. Named Professor popping his top like some sort of King yelling "off with his head!"

And it all could have been avoided. If the distributors were paid on time. If I'd emailed the professors and told them there was problem back in December when i first found out (see I'm partly to blame after all. But what could I have said besides your books aren't here? people usually require more information than that, and i wasn't comfortable defaming my place of employment or others who work therein). If the damn books were just here when they were supposed to be.

But in an odd twist of irony, if the books were actually here, well, I wouldn't have much of a job to do, would I.

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At 8:59 PM , Blogger The Cranky TA said...

Sounds frustrating F. It sucks to be caught in the middle. It sucks even more to know that part of your job security rests precisely on being in that middle. I remember it well in the non-academic world. My experience would call into question your assumption that if the distributors had been paid they would have come through on their end of the deal, but I don't know jack about how to acquire books, so...

Also, I should clarify that The Cranky TA has enough friends in administration and the concretized knowledge industry to know when to turn off the crankiness.


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