Sunday, October 22, 2006

More adventures from the whiteboard face

Earlier this week, having failed conspicuously in my attempt to obtain a library card I decided to try for a computer username.

After reciving the now familiar set of instructions from yet another kind fairy on the recepton desk in my department I duly set off to acquire my password etc., and walked the 3/4 mile to hunt out the secret grotto that is Computer Services. I knew of course, on the basis of prior experience with the library and human resources, that it was a fool's errand and I was right. I will have many miles to walk before the holy grail of a college computer account comes my way.

I presented my staff card, which seems to have no function other than to bear my photo and the college logo. The smiling techno-gnome at the desk looked at it and spoke words I could have scripted before trekking across the many windswept concrete piazzas of the campus. "We can only process a request that comes from the school. You need to go back and ask them to send an email on your behalf." I muttered something about Kafka. He, I and his gnome-clone colleague at the next terminal shared a nervous giggle.

I turned back and walked another 3/4 mile back through cloisters of concrete, reflective glass and red-brick cladding to find a different kind fairy (they are all kind fairies on the reception desks here, except the gnomes at computing and the troll maidens of the Library). She was busy conducting an impromptu inventory of the stationary supplies and studuiously ignored me for what seemed like hours. I coughed politely and shuffled my feet but she was intent on the brightly coloured forms and continued to ignore me. Eventually after an outburst of coughing that almost deposited my right lung on the counter, she acknowledged my presence.

Inevitably, she had no idea who I was or what I was talking about.

I produced my Staff card and she looked at it and then at me as if my photo had suddenly developed 2 heads. I realised that a kind of reverse Dorian Grey effect had taken place in the 7 days between the photo being taken and today. The face on the card was dark haired, confident, healthy and smiling. The face that she saw on the punter's side of the glass was an old man's; pinch cheeked, sallow and grey-haired with stress.

She dutifully copied down all my details onto a post-it note and said she would pass it on to someone. Who, she wasn't quite sure but she would ask. Another someone possibly might know. I didn't ask whether the someone who might know might be the same someone who might send the email, or just someone who knew someone who might accomplish that task. Or even what it was. It was, she explained apologetically her first day on the job. I consoled her by saying that she was being as helpful as any of her colleagues who had many more years service than she did.I'm not certain but I think she recogised the ironic tone in my voice.

This is the 3rd or possibly 7th time my details have been recorded on a post-it note by a kind fairy at the School office in the past 3 weeks. I stopped counting some time ago. In a perverse way I'm looking forward to the next time which no doubt will come when I request a new white board marker or possibly a pencil. They are kind fairies indeed, but their magic powers seem somewhat limited in scope.

2 days later I received the following email:-

"Dear Liam

You will need to contact the relevant faculty office to arrange this - if you don't know what office you are attached to, please get in touch with any other admin. person you have been dealing with thus far. The reception area where you made your initial query is for the School only.

I hope this is of assistance to you."

Not really.

I indulged myself in a small outburst of intemperance by way of reply. I presume my response was passed up whatever bureaucratic chain exists in the fairy glen and the following day I received a slightly apologetic email from another kind fairy inviting me to phone her to discuss my needs. Needless to say I have been conned by the 'phone me' stratagem before so I restricted my response to emails. Within two days I received a college computer user name and a password. Progress indeed. I haven't tried it yet, but I imagine I will have to undergo some esoteric initiation
ritual before I can make use of its technological bounties.

Meanwhile I received an email from the library. Apparently I had made the mistake of putting my staff number on the pink form. I should have put another number on it. With the aid of a magnifying glass powerful enough to meet the demands of Sherlock Holmes I located this other number and duly emailed it back. The following day I received an email from my department informing me that there was some post being held for me in the school office. I collected said post on my next visit. There were 2 items: A small white card liberally covered in barcodes and no explanation as to what it is or might be for. The second was my pink library application form which was returned to me because I had put my staff number on it not the other, microscopic one.

I resisted the tempatation to tear up the form and instead tugged out a few strands of my now thinning hair. I'll deal with it on Monday perhaps if by Monday I haven't given up the ghost and taken a job delivering pizzas.....

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