Our office is slowly but surely succumbing to the latest advances in technology. Of course, no one is mistaking us for the CTU headquarters on “24,” but, in our defense, we DO have a microwave oven, which is more than I can say for “24,” because I have never seen Jack Bauer eating a hot pocket at 9:15 in the morning.
One thing that needs to be understood is that our office is very old skool (the “k” is on purpose…act like you know.) The premises is littered with machines and devices that were outdated as of 1979, but some of those machines are actually still in use, like our manual paper cutter (injury free for 3 years now, mainly because nobody really has that much paper to cut). Our heating and air conditioning system pretty much shows up when it feels like it, and I doubt we will ever enter the scary world of “direct deposit,” because electronic transactions are an unknown, and should be approached very carefully, if at all. But, that said, we are making strides.
Our recent entrance into the technology age (1989-2000) officially started last week when we received our new copy machine slash fax machine. It’s both! It’s kind of like a transformer, without the overly dramatic transformation (all you have to do is press a button). Actually, I have to admit, we always had a copy machine slash fax machine, but there were serious drawbacks. For example, it did not copy or fax. I am fairly certain it was the first multi-task machine ever invented – even before the AM slash FM radio - and thus, it had “kinks” that even Thomas Edison could not foresee. In its last days, it was like a disgruntled old man that refused to perform the most basic of tasks, and also had unexpected bowel movements. It stopped printing from the computers altogether, and manually, it could not copy more than two pages consecutively. When it did manage to make a copy, it let out a screech that sounded like the preface to a very bad car accident. And then there would be a paper jam. As far as its faxing capabilities, to say that it faxed slowly would be an understatement of epic proportions. In fact, one day we had a race to see which method was more efficient – faxing from our fax machine, or tying a copy of the same document to a pigeon and then sending it off. The fax machine won that day, but we think it was because the directions we gave the pigeon were from mapquest. That site sucks. Anyway, the fax machine celebrated its victory with a paper jam.
Our new machine is so advanced in its capabilities that we needed to have a training session for it. The only people who showed up for the training session were myself and our production manager, mainly because everyone else in the office was content to know that the new machine a) made copies, b) faxed, and c) was in the same spot as the old one. And it wasn’t like the training session was in Atlantic City or something – it was IN our office, AT the machine. But no one got up from their desk to see what was going down. Basically, adding new technology here at the office is like when Jerry Seinfeld gave his father that blackberry-type device, and his dad was convinced that it only acted as a tip calculator. “It does other things!” There are about a million ways that this machine could make life easier for everyone in the office, like faxing directly from the computer, storing documents that are copied consistently, and creating separate folders for each employee. If you press the right buttons, it will actually refinance your mortgage. But nobody cares, because everyone is eating hot pockets. Let them eat cake, I guess.
The whirlwind of technological advances however, did not stop there. We also got a new phone system this week. Sure, we had telephones before, but they were mostly used as devices to have conversations like, “Hey, did you fax it? I didn’t get it.” And there were important features missing from our old phones, like a strange new thing called “voice mail,” which has apparently, been around for quite a while. In the old days (yesterday), someone would call our office, and if nobody was around, or if everybody was in the bathroom, or if we were all outside attaching papers to pigeons, the phones would just ring, and ring, and ring, and ring, and ring, and ring. You see, most of the calls we get at the office are from elderly people who are complaining that they didn’t get the paper on time (my department, by the way…we’re working on it), or they’re asking for the editorial department to complain about the fact that no one did a story on the unveiling of the new barstools at the local Elks. And elderly people think that if a phone is ringing, someone is going to get it eventually (morons). They have nothing else to do, so they’ll wait. I know this because, sometimes when I get to work early, and I’m the only one there, and the phone starts ringing, I will not answer it out of protest that we’re not technically open yet. I have heard the phone ring for upwards of ten minutes straight, and oftentimes I will eventually answer it out of pure amazement that another human being is actually on the other line, wasting away the day. I’ll answer in an out-of-breath voice, as if I had just entered the office, and rushed not to miss the call. And it always ends up being some extremely old woman, who will say “hello” about five times before realizing she is speaking with someone, and who will then ask about her “prescription,” which I translate to mean “subscription,” and then there will be a paper jam.
But that’s not all! Under the old telephone format, relaying phone messages was difficult, because you couldn’t just “transfer” someone to an “extension” or “voice mail.” For instance, if one of us answered the phone, and it was for someone else, we would have to 1) yell out their name using either a loud voice, or our advanced intercom system (we may be behind the times in other aspects, but our intercom system in state of the art, except for the fact the volume control is broken, and many eardrums have been pierced as a result), 2) tell them to pick up the line, and then, 3) hang up. This was okay, but you can only imagine the confusion that ensued when a call came in for someone who wasn’t in the office. We had to take down messages manually (with a pen or sometimes, a crayon), and it was often the case that crucial information was lost in translation, even though everybody here speaks English. It was like playing that game “telephone,” except, in this case, we used an actual telephone, and people’s jobs were at stake. My own job, for example, requires that I be on the road a lot, and I have often come back to the office to find on my desk various sticky notes informing me that “mr azcvxx~ called about sxxpoop call back at –oclock 732-45+x3.” Then, I would throw these sticky notes in the garbage can. But now, I can delete unwanted messages right from my phone!
Speaking of technology, our company website is currently experiencing technical difficulties. In layman’s terms, no one is really “working on it.” It seems as though we are so overloaded with new technology here, that the technology we used to have is suffering. Even the toilets aren’t flushing correctly. But all is not lost because the microwave oven is still up and running. Although, somebody should probably clean that thing soon. It’s pretty disgusting. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it appears as though I have a voice mail, and thus, a prescription to take care of.