Friday, June 11, 2010

The Invisible Man

I began working from home in 2006.  It started out as one day a week and then progressed to coming into the office once every few months.  The need to go into the office is rare and I never decide to just go into the office for the hell of it, but sometimes I just have to.  I got an email the other day saying that my laptop had reached the end of its lifecycle and a replacement was ready for me in the office.  I scheduled a time to meet up with the technician and headed into the office for the first time in several months. 

Some funny things happen when I head into the office.  The first is that I have to wake up at the butt crack of dawn.  My sleep schedule has changed dramatically since I had to regularly commute and getting up early is not a nice thing.  I live 42 miles from my place of business and that requires me to get up and out the door before 7 AM if I want to be there by 8 AM.  Traffic was never an issue when I regularly commuted into work.  Today, of course, there was construction and at one point, it took me 30 minutes to travel 1 mile.  I would recommend not listening to Hatebreed and Soulfly while stuck in traffic, it does not lighten your mood any.  After getting past the construction site, it was smooth sailing.

When I finally get to the building, I have to wait for 15 minutes to get my security badge reactivated.  I get to stand in front of the impenetrable guard station right next to the space age badge reader and automatic sliding doors and shout that I work from home and I am just coming in to pick up a new laptop.  You can’t hear anything through the bullet proof glass and I am not good at reading lips, so I usually end up saying “what?” fifty times and pantomiming the international sign for “I can’t understand or hear you.” which is cupping your hand behind your ear and making a constipated face.  You would think that if they could afford a huge security desk surrounded by bullet-proof glass and Star Trek sliding doors, they could at least install a little microphone and speaker so that you could communicate with the guard.  Even two soup cans on a string would work better.

The best thing that happens is the reaction I get from the people I meet while I am there.  I have worked for the same company for 15 years (well, 14 years and 8 months).  I pass by people in the hallways that I know and have worked with in the past and even talked to on the phone recently.  I say “Hi” to them as we pass and I get “Oh…Hi.”  Sometimes I get an awkward smile, signifying “I am saying hello to be polite, but I really don’t know who you are.”  I am fine with that reaction, even if I have worked with that person for 15 years.

I am a “forgettable” person.  I always have been.  I am someone that you could meet at work, at a party, or wherever and we could spend hours, days and sometimes years talking.  But the next time I meet you, you would not know who I am, you would not recognize me.  I don’t mind it, but sometimes it would be nice not to have to go through introductions every time we meet.  There is a person I run into about once every couple of months, we worked together for years, our kids even attend the same school.  And every single time I run into this person, it is like we are meeting for the first time.

There are some big benefits to this.  I get to tell you all of the same lame chit-chatty stories all over again, like you have never heard them before.  But at the same time, I already know your stories.  I can be polite and just smile and nod in all of the right places.  But if I am feeling ornery, I can interject something like, “Oh yeah!  I remember that because I was at your wedding” or “Right, I sat in the cubicle next to you for two years.”  Or I can really weird them out by talking about their kids or their spouse by name.  Sometimes I even tell you your own stories and just change them slightly to make them mine.

I even get called by someone else’s name.  My boss’s boss could pick me out of a lineup and knows that I work for him, but he would still put someone else’s name on my face. I can’t count the number of times that I have been called Andrew, Brian or Hudson by the people I work with.  My name is Henry, how friggin’ hard is that to remember?  How many Henrys do you know?

I sometimes imagine that I could be an excellent spy or serial killer.  I could easily blend in with a crowd, even have conversations with different people and then slip away and no one would ever know that I was there.

I don’t plan on becoming a spy or serial killer any time soon, but the latter will depend on how often I get stuck in traffic.  I have my new laptop at home now, so all is good.  I get to spend the next several hours downloading and installing dozens of applications. Unfortunately, I have to head into the office again on Monday for a face-to-face meeting with one of my business partners.  I don’t know why face-to-face meetings are important, no one will remember I was there anyway.

For those of you that are interested in the tech stuff, here are the specs on my new machine:

  • Dell Latitude 6400
  • Intel Core2 Duo P8700 2.53GHz
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 150 GB HDD
  • Windows XP SP3 (not my choice, this is what I have to run for work)

My “standard” suite of software includes:

There are a lot of little apps I have installed, and I won’t list them all here.  I come up with a complete list and post it on a separate page.

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