Cubicle Cultures
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Cubicle Cultures


3 Walls — Plenty of Stories

Illustration by Vidya Vasudevan,

0750 — In.

0815 — ATM training! I have no idea why I’m excited about it.

1136 — Just got out of training. Working with a colleague to modify ATM code. She’s relatively new with mainframe operations but doing a great job with her documentation, which is in very good order. We have a lot of folks here willing to learn new things and she’s jumped all over this…very impressive. Her part is creating packages to modify the code for opening new branches and the code is spaghetti because there’s 17 ATM programs (most of which are in the antiquated Assembler language) to update and 13 pieces of code in other spots making 30 programs total to update…tedious AF. Some modifications in the programs are alphabetical (add it to the list where it fits), others just add to the bottom of a list which acts like more of a table. One of the best things about all this is we can put the code to PROD at any time before the branches open so we aren’t stuck to the implementation windows. I love that!

From the cubicle: I’ve jumped into the middle of a fight between my daughter and my cousin. There’s a Facebook (yes I’m checking my phone during the day…sue me) discussion between the 2 of them regarding how hate tactics and actions have amped up in this country. Me…I am physically ill about the lengths people are going to spread fear and hate under the new regime. For folks to justify hate and be proud to show it is disgusting. My daughter feels the same. My cousin does to some extent but he’s trying to explain his side to her. No, he DOES NOT condone hate in any form but his view is from the alt-right and it’s hard to understand what has taken him to the dark side. I will say that he is trying to have a constructive debate but just won’t see how the world is working these days and infuriating everyone. Good luck having a calm debate with a 23 year old who doesn’t take shit from anyone including me. America was already great but now it’s sunken back into the 1700s and it’s sickening. I’m seriously considering leaving. Yes it’s better in other countries and I’d rather not be here when the administration, metaphorically or not, burns to the ground. Then again, knowing myself too well, I’d be leading the charge…just sayin’.

1449 — Listening to Clapton. Always a source of solace. The day has been good, thankfully, through the training I received. It kept my mind off the debate I mentioned earlier. We’re expecting anywhere from 6–12 inches of snow overnight. Since I live on a private drive, my neighbors and I have to dig ourselves out. Our little “street” is not county maintained so we’re screwed in that respect. I’m not considered “essential personnel” so I don’t have to come in, HOWEVER, even in situations of inclement weather I’m expected to be at work or take a day of annual leave which dwindles my already pathetic leave balance. After being here for 10 years I still only accrue 6 hours per pay period. It’s more than what some folks get but it accumulates very slowly. After taking a week off in February, my leave total went to shit. Being forced to take a day of BECAUSE OF A SNOWSTORM, is a screw job. The DC area is woefully prepared for snow.

1521 — Day has slowed to a stop…probably just jinxed myself.

1528 — Just got the biggest laugh at work I’ve had in a year. A dear friend of mine hit me through IM with ‘IT’S FRENCH TOAST DAY!!’. We have a long running inside joke about when bad weather hits our area and the masses hit the local grocery store for bread and milk. I laughed loud enough to be audible to others which is VERY rare. He works a swing shift, 3–2330 or midnight and will most likely be trapped at work overnight and probably some of tomorrow. He’s considered essential personnel as the team he’s on monitors on all our enterprise schedules. They’re the first to see if processes fail and take action, usually working with incident management to get things going again. There’s probably plenty of times where he had to wake people up and get them on a bridge line to help solve issues; I think I was one of them years ago. Damn I needed that laugh, it woke me up.

1626 — Out.

— In. Weather sucks and I’m one of about 15 people in the office. I live about a mile away and my wife’s car has AWD so I had no choice. Still haven’t been approved for remote access else my fat ass would be at the house. Probably spend more time on conference calls than anything else. Emailed my team to let them know I’m here in case they need anything. Most of them can dial in from home if they want. Meetings are getting rescheduled but some aren’t thanks to folks that work in warmer parts of the country.

From the cubicle: Folks are trickling in. We’re on a 3 hour delay but I’m betting that most won’t come in and I can’t blame them. Just a few lights are on and we all have desk lights to use. The biggest pile of BS we have to deal with is the fact that, even in bad weather (namely snow), we either have to burn leave hours or come in. If folks dial in then it won’t count against their leave. As soon as a single snowflake falls in the DMV everyone goes into catastrophe mode. We can see the local toll road and it’s moving pretty well, just the back roads to get to my building are a bit slick.

From the cubicle: SOMEONE TURNED THE FUCKING LIGHTS ON!!! How dare they interrupt my mid-morning nap. People are trickling in but…DAMN! Hopefully the coffee machine is working.

1150 — Still cold and windy AF outside. We’re about 50–60% staffed in my building. If folks aren’t here by now they ain’t coming in. It’s all good, as long as people are safe is all that matters. Got off a short conference call and now searching for loose ends to tie up. Our compadres in FL are probably having a good laugh at our expense. It’ll come back on them when hurricane season starts. Karma is a bitch!!

From the cubicle: Just got word that a band wants me to sit in on one of their practices…I’M STOKED!!! Haven’t played with other musicians in a while and it’ll be fun to jam. I got a setlist from a friend and will start practicing tonight. Mainly classic rock tunes which I’m accustomed to so it shouldn’t be too hard to get back into shape. Gonna be a shit-ton of noise in the house.

From the cubicle: Just got off the phone with my dad. He’s back in the hospital with heart problems. Over the years he discovered he has congestive heart failure, probably dating back to his 30s (he’s 80 now). A couple of A-fibs later, his heart still races to and stays at ~140 bpm. He told me that there’s a few options on how to control it…one being another A-fib, one being a pace-maker, the other is do nothing at all. According to him much of this is stress self-induced, coupled with the congestive heart failure it makes for a rough combination. His cough has been persistent for a few days to the point of pain and bringing up phlegm with it. Mom made sure to get him to the doctor for a check up and he’s going to see another doc he calls his “electrician” (heart doc), tomorrow for more checks. It’s unusual for him or mom to call in the middle of the day. As soon as I saw his number I got worried. He didn’t sound good but I think he’s just exhausted from the coughing and probably isn’t getting any decent rest. He and mom are pretty tough; been married 57 years, 58 this coming July. I guess I’ll hear more tomorrow.

0745 — In and it’s still cold and windy AF. I hate winter with all my heart…HATE IT!! I have to attend what’s called a Post Incident Review Meeting (PIRM) at 0900 today and tomorrow. These meetings discuss why systems went down and how they were recovered, basically a root cause analysis. I’ve been to a couple in the past and they’re not fun and you don’t want to be on the agenda…EVER. Luckily I’m not this time. My manager delegated me to attend because my team gets affected when certain systems become unavailable because it keeps us from doing our work. So…I get to be a fly on the wall. It’s one of those “don’t speak unless you’re spoken to” meetings. I’ve not attended one that’s been brutal but I’m sure they’ve been that way before.

From the cubicle: I just figured out the total cost of my vacation last month, $1477.86. Why did I waste time doing this? Great question. I had some time to kill and my wife has all but demanded this answer for a couple of weeks. That whole exercise wasted about 20 minutes but it’s done. Nothing to see here people.

1155 — Got roped into going to a “Change Advisory Board” (CAB) meeting. These meetings are for our change control team to go over tickets/plans, etc. of implementations going to PROD in the upcoming windows. Basically, they let us know if there’s any requirements that haven’t been met on our paperwork and they’ll approve/deny accordingly. It’s a pretty good process but seriously time consuming. The meeting can run over an hour at times and boring AF. I’m in on this call because we had to get something expedited for code to go to PROD and needed an AVP or higher to sign off on it. Our AVP isn’t happy about it but he was backed into a corner for approving since this involves a new branch opening…I can see why he wasn’t happy. Putting an AVP on the spot isn’t a good career move.

From the cubicle: I should be a recruiter. A friend of mine that used to be on the team has hit me up a few times to see about getting off the team he moved to. He’s having serious issues with his manager and is considering leaving the company. I keep telling him to reach out to his former (my current) manager to see if he can come back but he’s worried about the politics of it all. I can’t blame him. He had no clue that his manager would end up being abusive to him and others on that team. I reached out to my manager and let her know, not sure what she can do but it’d be great to have him back. His skill set is specialized, mainly secure file transmission protocol (SFTP) and, when we lost him, others picked up the slack. Another problem is that we backfilled his position already, basically traded him for another person. I’m doubting that he’ll be able to come back to us but maybe a lateral move to another team would be best…politically best. It’s a real shame that abusive people, especially managers, don’t get reported or, if they do, nothing is done about it. Turns into a ‘suck it up’ situation. Procedure here is that you have to stay in a job for 6 months or more before trying to move off it unless it’s a promotion. There’s little I can do other than advocate for him to be reassigned back to us. Others have reached out to me for references and resume proofreading several times. I’ve gone to bat for all of them with the hiring managers and had good responses. One in particular is the ‘loud person’ that I’ve mentioned in earlier journal posts. Her hiring manager at the time is a good guy and I mentioned to him that she’d be a good hire. I highly doubt that my influence had any sway in the decision but I’d like to think it did.

1436 — We got an email saying there’s a new position open on the team for a resource manager which are little more than homeroom teachers. I’m not applying but I know others will be interested. The former manager moved to another team and now there’s going to be a mad rush to apply. Should be interesting. The guy that moved is a good friend of mine. We met for beers once and I can tell he’s great to his people. He and I have butted heads with our AVP several times and I’m betting that was part of the reason he left; that and just needing a new challenge. His former team is in charge of system monitoring meaning they run processes to see what’s running and what isn’t. Pretty stressful but it provides a great service as it became one of the 1st lines of defense when something breaks. He built that team from scratch and they are all well respected. I wish him luck on the new job.

1626 — Just got off a conference call regarding the new WSDL update for Visa. The guy training us was great but moved WAY too fast for me. It’ll take time to catch up but we’re in good hands. All of it started at 1500 and flew by. Frustrated but not to the point of walking away. It’s all good, we’ll continue tomorrow and I hope to remember a fraction of what I learned today. Currently waiting for my wife to call and let me know to pick her up at the metro. Rough day.

1724 — Out.

0759 — In.

1536 — Spent most of the day training for new ATM updates for branches opening soon. There’s a lot of tedious work and tough to keep up with but repetition is key. Early this morning one of my colleagues sent and email to our manager asking to be taken off the training and project. She brings self-induced drama to most everything she does and really went over the top with her complaining. Even said that it was affecting her health. I’ve worked with her several times, she’s nice and knowledgeable at the 1 thing she does, but really doesn’t follow through when asked to train on other things. The training included learning how to work on the mainframe for program updates. Granted, she’s not mainframe savvy and we all knew that. However, the primary developer has tried to help her so much that there’s been a backlash from her to management. Her biggest gripe outside of her health (yes, I’m doubting it) is with her other projects and activities as well as support duties, she claims that she’ll never get to a point where she can get the ATM processing down to 2 days. No one told her she had to know it all and be an expert in 2 days. However, the expectation is that when a new branch with an ATM (or more than 1) needs to open, the programming has to be done in 2 days. It takes motivation and a willingness to learn the processes and application, she hasn’t got either. She claimed that she was in a no-win situation even after I know she was set up for success. I stepped in and said I’d be the backup until fully trained so she can step away from the project. The guy training her is one of the most mellow people I’ve ever met and even he was ready to walk away from her. It’s been a good day but with a lot of shit. Not untypical but my patience is at its end which is very typical. There’s other pet peeves that I could point out about her but it’s just petty bullshit. Sooner or later she’ll be training either a backup for her or training her replacement.

0850 — In.

1232 — Busy morning learning more ATM stuff but it’s all good. Got hit up by my Service Manager to help an intern find folks to help him install drivers on a server we aren’t the admins of. Backstory: We handle end of month and associated incident tickets for basically archiving data for our member information for marketing. Keep in mind we handle JUST the data side. Another team handles the operations side meaning they make sure the application we use is up and running and do the upgrades for it among other duties. For YEARS we’ve had personality issues with a member of the operations team. Today it came to a boiling because that person was harassing an intern on my team to install some drivers on the aforementioned server. WE DON’T DO THAT!!! It’s been hammered into us that all that backend stuff is done by operations. The intern was caught between warring factions and I ended up having to speak with the ops person’s manager about the shit that always goes down dealing with her troop. There’s a lot of things that have been overdue to be said. Again, it’s been going on for years and no one on their end has done anything to curb that person’s attitude, meanness, and pawning off duties that are clearly not ours and getting away with it. I literally had to walk outside to cool off. Never in 26+ years of IT work have I worked with someone so frustrating. The manager I spoke with is a very calming influence. I’ve worked with her in the past and she’s EXCELLENT with dealing with conflicts. I’m not sure if anything will get done about it but something has to. Why do I have a bad feeling that this bullshit is going to continue? No doubt there will be a meeting or some sort of call to “straighten” it out but the past has proven it won’t be the case. I can’t believe how mad I still am so the rest of the day needs to go better…that’s on me. DAMMIT!!!!!!!!!

1515 — Done with the test implementation for our Visa update. Fairly painless. The guy training us is awesome.

1553 — Fed up!! Seriously want to hit the ‘fuck it’ button and go home. Today’s personality conflicts have driven me nuts. People, in general, are fucked up, myself included. Sick of it all. I swear that some people are only alive so they can piss off everyone else. It’s their lot in life. Gotta be. The only sane person I’ve talked to today is my boss. She’s normally a calming influence and was today. Started and stopped, all day, listening to tunes I downloaded last night for an audition next weekend. I’ll be drumming till midnight or better. My wife is cool with it, she knows it’s great therapy for me. Gotta get my musical mojo back and shake off the rust.

1627 — Out…thankfully.

Stories from within the 3 walls we call home at work

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John Rowles

John Rowles

Cubicle Culturalist. Everyday Dude.

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