Thursday, August 22, 2002
The Vendors came today. The Vendors bought us lunch.
For my non-IT readers, the “Vendor” phenomenon requires some explanation. Even if you are an IT person, but you are a vendor, you may need to know what it looks like from the inside.
I work for a company. And companies, in many ways are all the same. I do what I do for them, and they need someone to do it, and they are glad that they have someone reliable like me doing it. But mostly, I am not that important. I solve problems when they arise, mostly. I do other things, but as far as everyone else in the company knows, I solve problems.
People are sometimes grateful when their problems are solved. But usually, the intensity of their gratitude does not equate the intensity of their distress when they came to me with the problem.
So I am not that important in my company, not really. I just do my job and continue to solve problems.
BUT! There are vendors. Vendors are special. They are the people we pay to do certain things that we don’t know how to do or don’t have the time to do. They are not us. They are other people, other companies, who do only that one thing that we happen to need right then. And we pay them to do that one thing, because we need it.
Naturally, we think that they should be so excited to just be near us, that they would offer to do the job for free.
Naturally, they think that since we need the job done so badly we should be willing to pay top dollar.
Somewhere in the middle, we have to find a way to get what needs done. Usually, the vendor has to do some things for free. Usually, the company (us) has to pay top dollar for some things.
As you can imagine, it takes a lot of shifting and discussing and pushing back and forth to achieve the mutually beneficial balance between free and top dollar. Exaggerations on both sides, promises on the one, threats on the other. Poking, flattery, courting and playing hard to get, all these things play into the vendor-company relationship.
I usually enjoy meeting with vendors. Because I’ve always been on the company side, and I get to be the one to play hard-to-get. It’s nice to be treated like you are important. I like to make vendors take me out to lunch.
But I like meeting with vendors for another reason, too. I have to spend most of my time buried in a technology that most people don’t know that much about. But these people (or at least some of them) do know about it. They can talk about it, and answer more questions and tell me about new things that are about to happen, or things that happened in the past that I hadn’t heard before. It’s almost like a fan club.
These vendors hadn’t met me yet. I just started work there, remember? So when they met me, they wanted to know what I had done. When I said I had 5 years experience in Video Conferencing, they just about fell out. Not so many people have that.
They asked me about this and that and gave me kudos and all kinds of respect for knowing things. It felt kind of good, except there was no way to forget that these were vendors and sucking up is what vendors do. At least in those kinds of meetings.
But I think they really were quite impressed with the breadth of my experience. We were talking like equals in nothing flat. They were impressed by my experience, but even more than that.
I was a girl.
There was an additional reason I was looking forward to this meeting with the vendors. Even more than being treated like I was important for the duration of a lunch hour, I had some ISSUES that I needed to take up with them. Some of the equipment wasn’t working right, and I have problems with their service that I wanted to take them to task about.
My boss has indicated that he is pretty direct with vendors and getting what he needs from them. He has told me to do the same. No problem. That would be my preference anyhow. Isn’t direct the shortest distance between to points? Or something.
The vendors were talking a mile a minute, and telling about this and that and all the things that can be and could be and should be. I had questions, and I had no problem saying, “stop! What do you mean by that? And what about this?”
I didn’t learn without asking questions.
A lot of what I wanted to know, they didn’t have answers to. Well, I don’t appreciate that. I like to think that the people who do the ONE thing, and the ONE thing they do is what we are paying them for, should know all about it.
Whatever. They are trying to sell us something so that they can stay in business and get their bonuses. That’s fine.
Anyway, the vendors took us to lunch, and we were all talking about this and that. The guys were asking my opinion about this company and that company, what I thought about different products, etc. Then, from the other end of the table, I catch one of the guys saying, “Well, I’m sure that if it wasn’t done right, we would hear about it from Murphy…and loudly!”
Loud? I hadn’t been loud. “…i wouldn’t be loud….” I said.
Well, we were all having a good time. He meant no harm by it, I’m sure. But I began to think about it. Why would the vendor guy think of me as loud? I wonder if he thought of my boss as loud? Because my boss was probably as direct, if not more direct than I.
I think that assertive and smart in a female is particularly astounding. Women are not expected, are not taught, to demand from others. We are taught to get along, to compromise, to let it slide. “Oh, that’s okay. I don’t mind”
I wish that women could be as assertive as men and not lose femininity. Let those of us who will be women hunters and women warriors.
posted by Murphy 8/22/2002
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
I had to be at work this morning SO early, it broke my watch.
It is a hard thing, being awake at 4:30 AM. It is also a hard thing to stay awake at 4:30 AM. I suppose for full disclosure, I became permanently awake for the day at 4:36. There were some snooze-alarm fits and starts before then.
As a child of the universe and an employee of the global economy, I have to be able to work in the slivers of overlapping time zones. Today's time zones were East Coast and West Coast.
I rode in on the bus, with my nose buried in a magazine. When I looked up to see how close I was to my stop, I noticed how different the city looks in the dark. There are neon lights wrapped around the tops of some of the skyscrapers, and the lights were the focus points on the periphery of my vision, rather than architecture.
I arrived at work when the newspapers were being delivered. As I was watching the heavy stacks being carried to their individual vending machines, I looked up at the sky.
Someone at work had asked me about the Iditarod sled dog race the other day. He was asking about how long it was, and remarking about how the dogs and people would have to travel in the cold through the dark of night. I told him that dark is not so dark there, because the snow reflects all the light. There may only be a moon and a few stars, but the snow is so white that it glows.
I looked out at the sky of the dark pre-dawn morning in downtown LA and it was a dull red. All the lights of the whole city mixed with and reflected off the fog-smog of the morning, and kept the sky from being black.
Red. Or Pink. I would not have expected the sky to be that color. The lights the sky reflected seemed to be white or maybe yellow. I don't know how the sky came out pink. Maybe it is similar to how the sky turns red at sunset because of the pollution. Perhaps LA smog makes light red.
Much later, after I had gotten the video conference for the two coasts working and could finally relax with a cup of coffee in my cube I noticed that my watch had stopped. It had stopped at 6:40. I reset it, but it is done tracing circles.
I guess I will have to go through the rest of my day without it.
posted by Murphy 8/21/2002
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
So I live in Los Angeles now. Imagine that.
I've already talked about the prejudice the Northern Californians have towards Southern Californians. As near as I can tell, Southern Californians really don't care what people in the north think of them. However, I'm not moving from south to north, but north to south, so I get the prejudicial remarks.
My brother says, "You going to become all shallow and superficial when you move to LA"
Well, I personally think I could stand to become a little more shallow and not suffer much. I spend too much time in the deep end of the mind pool.
My mother says, "Everyone in LA does drugs all the time."
"Mom, don't worry. I'm too cheap to get addicted to drugs. I would never spend that kind of money frivolously."
"Well, okay. But how will you find friends? Everyone else will be on drugs"
I guess I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it.
Another friend says to me, " Oh no! You can't move there. They have no culture."
Yet another "All they care about is looks down there. People are not nice. And they are just not as intellectual as the people in the Bay Area."
These are serious problems, I have to say. If I am stuck in a place where people only care about the surface, and social interaction would be the equivalent of living on Baywatch, I don't know. That would probably suck.
But prolonged unemployment sucks too. I had a job offer in hand, so I went for it.
Now, I've been here less than a month. I have to say, I haven't really made any friends to hang out with yet. But take into consideration that I have only left my house to go to work and buy groceries. I have not gotten involved in the social scene yet.
I have been stunned and amazed by how nice people here are.
Everyone at work has been extremely friendly. I mean, really! My boss sent out a notice that a new person (me) had arrived, and to make me feel welcome. They really have. I chat with people in the break room and they all say, Oh you must be Murphy! I was meaning to meet you. Hi!
The boss and my co-workers almost always invite me to have lunch with them. This never happened in my jobs in the bay area. First of all, people were too busy to take lunch. I always worked through lunch anyway, but even if I didn't, I didn’t get invited to be with my co-workers. People didn't go out to lunch so much.
At my apartment complex, which really is huge, there is an elevator. It's pretty similar to the way Chris the man's complex is set up. All the floors and the parking garage share one elevator.
When I was moving in, and pulling in all these boxes and bags, almost everyone said something to me. They all were willing to help me hold the door open, and often they said, “Are you just moving in? Welcome!”
Even now, people are friendly and say hello in hallways and in the elevator.
This did not happen at Chris’s complex. If you were forced to be in the elevator with a neighbor, they looked sort of embarrassed to have to be near you.
This Sunday, I went to go check out my complex’s gym. I was trying to figure out the weight machines. It always takes a while to figure out what each one is FOR, you know? They all look like medieval torture device.
There were three muscley Italian guys also working out on the machines. The gym isn’t that big, so we were running into each other a little bit. I had stopped to try and figure out what the next machine I needed was, and one of these guys asked if I needed to use the machine he had just finished with. I said, “No, this is just my first time here. I’m trying to figure out what I need.”
“Well, if you have any questions, you can ask me. I could help you.”
Now, I thought that was very nice. I certainly did not look superficially fabulous in my crabby workout clothes and lumpy body. Not the expected gorgeous LA-type anyway. But this guy, Paul was his name, was quite friendly and helpful. He helped me out a little bit, and didn’t make me feel stupid.
I thought that was pretty decent.
So far, the stereotypes don’t seem to be true. I will have to report back after I’ve been here a while, but I am beginning to think it will be pretty nice here.
posted by Murphy 8/20/2002
Monday, August 19, 2002
The Uhaul journey I completed was complicated by the fact that I had to have my cat along with me.
Cats are not usually known as good car pets. And my cat is special. He is special in many ways, but one of the most obvious ways he is special is in how HUGE he is. He is fat, true. But he would be a large cat even if he were in shape.
Because of his size, I thought it would not be a good idea for him to travel in the usual cat-sized traveling case. I thought he would do better if I just put him in a box. So after I loaded up the truck, I set up a cardboard box with Skellig’s rug in the bottom. I thought he might like to have something familiar near him.
The box fit in the foot area of the passenger side of the truck. And Skellig fit in the box quite well. But he didn’t want to be in the box. NO! He used all his strength to stay out of the box. We shoved him in—after all we are much bigger and stronger than this housecat.
He Burst out of the box. Oh boy. I guess we’d better tape it down. That should hold him. We taped it to death. He yowled for a little bit, and then he was quiet. Al right.
So I started out, on this ragingly hot day. As I got on the road, kitty was a little too quiet. I called his name:
Okay, he’s alive. Drive a little further.
He’s good. Okay, I’m on the 101, getting up to speed but still in the slow lane. Suddenly, with a tremendous burst of strength, a large grey cat bursts out of his taped down box. He looked like the Hulk bursting out of his clothes.
Loose cat in the cab! Oh my goodness! What was I supposed to do? I couldn’t get over to the side! And he had already proven that he was capable of breaking loose his bonds.
While I was trying not to panic and trying to remember to concentrate on keeping this 8-cylinder leviathan on the road, my cat crawls up onto the seat and sits next to me, halfway in my lap.
He shows no inclination of moving from this spot of refuge.
My brave cat sat by my side the whole way to Los Angeles. He was calm and collected, only losing his cool when we stopped and had to turn the AC off.
He did get a little carsick, and had to throw up. If I had understood cat a little better, I probably would have pulled over. He gave several warning yowls. I cleaned it off with the spongy end of the Squeegee at the next gas station.
After that, he was perfectly fine.
I was impressed with my cat friend. That’s quite an adventure for a housecat that never goes outside.
Adjusting to the new apartment was a piece of cake, after that.
posted by Murphy 8/19/2002