The 9th floor of a downtown Richmond office building is a really shitty place to be when an earthquake hits. When ours hit, the building started rocking back and forth crazily, knocking picture frames over and making it really difficult for me to drink coffee without staining my favorite shirt.
So I power-slammed my coffee and jump-started my brain into Super Action Mode, which means that my thoughts at the time went more or less like this :
Fuck. I'm going to die at work. That's one of my worst fucking nightmares, ever, and here it is, getting ready to happen. If I'd called in sick today, I'd be alive tomorrow. This sucks.
I mean, if you are on the 9th floor of a 15 story building, what can you really do? Hiding under the desk isn't going to help much- there's nothing directly over my desk except for a few acoustic tiles and six stories of concrete, steel and glass. The acoustic tiles aren't going to hurt me and my desk isn't going to offer much protection if the building collapses on top of me.
Flee? To where? If another quake hits and the windows break, you really do not want to be on the street below. A few people could fit under the handful of vehicles scattered about, but there's no parking on most of the block and not nearly enough cars for everyone to hide under. But I didn't want to die in the middle of a goddamned archiving project either ,so I stepped out of my windowless office and into the main corridor- everyone was up and moving about, but there wasn't any real panic...until the building suddenly lurched again. It only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like forever...was it going to stop or was it going to worsen?
It stopped and a quick , not-quite-panicked consensus was reached that we should evacuate the building as if it were a fire drill. We all made it outside to our designated gathering spot but a quick tally showed that my co-worker, an elderly woman that I refer to as 'Grim' because of her humorless adherence to The Rules, was not with us
The Rules are something I openly mock and Grim hates it when I do so, which just encourages me, I can't help it- she once called me a 'scofflaw', which was meant as an insult but actually made my day...anyway, she was missing. I told my boss that Grim was probably standing around in helpless confusion and that someone should go back in and get her.
My Boss looked at me with eyes full of helpless confusion. He obviously didn't want to go. Great.
The tiny force of Security guards were trying get people out and handle the crowd outside, so it was not hard for me to get back in -and by that time most of the people were already outside, so it was relatively easy to run back up the stairs against the small current of evacuees.
Sure enough, Grim was standing in the 9th floor lobby, looking lost and confused.
What do we do?
"You come with me and we take the stairs to get outside."
But it isn't a fire. Are you sure we should evacuate the building?
"No, I'm not. But why don't we go ask the Boss? He's outside on the sidewalk waiting for us."
By the time we got out, the Boss had decided to close the office and send everyone home early, just in case we had another shock or a gas line had broken or something...I still get paid, so I applauded his safety-first attitude and went home to check out Facebook and the web news. Once the initial phone congestion cleared, I got a few calls from friends and from my brother in Chicago- I assured everyone that I was OK and that there wasn't any serious damage here.
And we all lived happily ever after.
Until the next day at work, that is. Twelve of our national offices have been freaking out for almost two weeks trying to comply with a Directive sent out by our National Giant-Ass Boss. After being unable to figure out how to do what they were supposed to do, several of the offices were directed to call me, since I pretty much know how to do everything. I'm not boasting, I just do...it is more curse than blessing, trust me.
Anyway, I went over the Directive and it made no sense to me- I mean, I understood what it said, but not how it applied to what we do- until I read the entire chain of emails FWD'd to me by our client. The very first email contained everything I needed to solve the problem.
So I called the National Big-Ass Boss and was a bit surprised that he answered on the second ring.
"Hi NBAB, this Allan in Richmond."
"What do you want, Allan?", he said icily. (He hates me for reasons too long to explain here.)
"I'm looking at the original email you got from the client and I think I found out why all the offices are so far behind on the Directive you sent them."
Then he had the gall to deny knowing what I was talking about. What email?, he demanded to know. So I gave the time and date stamp, the sending party, the CC'd parties and then read his own response to the initial email back to him. Verbatim.
"Oh. Yes, I remember now. So what is the problem with that?", he asked.
"Well, you didn't read the sender's signature line. If you had, you would have known he works for a different division than the one you sent the Directive to. The Division you sent it to can't comply, they don't handle that line of business at all. And the client deadline is tomorrow."
There was silence on the other end. I could hear veins popping in his forehead but he said nothing.
After a decade or three had passed , he said "thank you for that information" and hung up without a goodbye.
Ten minutes later a new email went out, clarifying which Division was responsible for carrying out the Directive and informing them that the deadline had been extended one week. No one in that Division was aware they even had a deadline or Directive in the first place, so what they were really being told is that they had one week to do two weeks worth of work- with no warning at all.
Shortly after that, I got a call from my Boss, asking me what I did to make the NBAB so angry.
"I told him he's an incompetent dumbass."
"You said that?"
"Well, I phrased it as a passive-aggressive attack disguised as a business call, but yeah, that is pretty much what I said." Then I told him about the mistake I found and conversation I had with the NBAB about that mistake.
"Wow." That's all that he could say. He said it several more times.
Thing is, they can't fire me. I'm the only one who understands what I do and if I'm gone, the client has flat-out stated that the account will be closed - and I was present when the client said it.
They never should have let me hear that because I have a meeting with HQ tomorrow and it is going to be a bit hard for them to discipline me when I have a client who is that strongly on my side.
The bosses keep promising me a promotion and I keep doing the work and I get a nickel here and a dime there but no new title or salary. Really, though why should they pay me more? I'm doing the work for what they are paying now, so why spend more?
Because they have to.