March 26, 2003
Index Fingers

The Main Nerdy Geotechnical Guy wants to know when the indexing job will be finished.  "Looks like you're cooking right along," he says, looking over my shoulder at the spreadsheet I've got displayed on my computer monitor. "Guess you'll be finished by ... when? Wednesday? Thursday?"

He smiles at me hopefully.

This is the first time that The MNGG -- or any of my Dirt Company co-workers, for that matter -- have spoken more than ten consecutive words to me all week. ("Hihow'sitgoing" ... "How's your back?" ... "I think we're out of coffee filters.") I can't really blame them. I know what's going on here. They've probably seen me sitting here at the front desk, hunched over my keyboard ... blearily typing row after row of teeny-tiny numbers into a massive Excel spreadsheet ... and they're afraid that interrupting Secra may prove hazardous to their health.

They may be right.

"TODAY is Wednesday," I reply.  And I fix The Main Nerdy Geoscience Guy with my sweetest, sunniest, scariest smile.  Run, it says. Run while you still can, and you may yet live to procreate.

The Copying Job From Hell has morphed, over the past week or so, into the Sorting/Collating/Hole-Punching (and now) Indexing Job From Hell ... and there still doesn't appear to be any end in sight. The original five cartons of documents that I photocopied two weeks ago -- one excruciating, back-breaking, double-sided/triple-stapled/11" x 17" page at a time -- have been magically transformed into an impressive set of identical black three-ring binders. Placed end to end, they stretch the entire length of the production room table ... like the world's most comprehensive (and boring) set of encyclopedias. Each massive binder is three inches thick and crammed full of documents, figures, charts, photos, fax transmissions, handscribbled notes, coma-inducing technical articles from various professional journals ... every piece of documentation ever created, basically, relating to this stoopid earthquake-damage legal case that we're supporting. 

Now that the copying portion is done -- a job that took more than a week (and two trips to the emergency room) to complete -- I've been asked to index everything. This means going through each binder, one page a time, and entering each individual document into the spreadsheet.

  • 04/03/2001 -- McClamrock Consultants -- No author noted -- (2) Residential distress observations, contact list -- document faxed and mailed
  • 05/11/1995 -- Torgrimson, Lambe, LLP -- Author: W. Torgrimson -- (1) Summary of responses from plaintiffs, 18 pgs. -- document mailed
  • 05/14/95 -- No company noted -- No author noted -- Job Memorandum, re: briefing Goodman Drilling on location and logistics of horizontal boring, 5 pgs. plus figures -- no distribution history noted

And on and on, ad nauseum, until my little indexing fingers are curled into permanent claws.

The main problem is that half the time I have no idea what the hell I'm looking at. I'm a SecraTerri, not a geonerd. Is this big squiggly bunch of lines a preliminary schematic? A contour map? A geologic cross-section? (A preschool fingerpainting?) If I can't puzzle it out on my own, I'm left with two choices: I'm either forced to track down a technical person and get their opinion, or else I'm forced to wing it. ("Preliminary geologic contoured cross-section, as rendered by kindergarten student.") Either way, it bogs the process down considerably. As for the typing itself, although it's not as tough on my back as the photocopying was -- it was immediately after I finished the copying that my back problems kicked in: I wound up bringing in a doctor's note, excusing me from standing up for the rest of the week -- it's still a big bunch of dull, repetitive, mind-numbing gruntwork. I've been doing nothing but indexing for the past seven workdays solid. I come into the office at 8 a.m. and open up the spreadsheet ... and nine hours later, I'm still plugging away at it. This has been going on for a week.

I'm on Binder #4 of 32 at the moment.

The Main Nerdy Geotech Guy has the good manners to look chagrined when he realizes he's being ridiculous and unrealistic. This whole Job From Hell is *his* baby, after all: he's the one who made the executive decision to have all of the reproduction done in-house, rather than shipping it out to a copying service (who would have probably charged us four thousand bucks, but would have had the whole damn thing done in 48 hours). This way he gets the job done on the cheap, no doubt about it.

But he also gets it done on *my* schedule. And he knows it.

"Well," he says, "let me know when you think you might be getting close to finishing, OK?" And then he adds the kicker: "The attorney is starting to make noise again."

Oh. OK. THAT'S going to inspire me to rev it up: the idea of some cranky overpaid attorney cracking the whip because *I'* am not typing fast enough. I lean back in my chair -- the twinge in my lower back has gone from polite applause to an Oakland Raiders pep rally, in the space of the past four or five hours -- and as The Main Nerdy Geotech Guy waits for my response, I leisurely uncap the ibuprofen bottle. Realistically, I tell him, I'm not going to be able to get all of the indexing done this week. Even if I did nothing but type -- even if I didn't also have to answer the phones and sort the mail and distribute the faxes and scour the burned spots out of the bottom of the coffepot and chase off the unctuous unsolicited salesmen and take care of all the 43,897,621 Dirt Company shidt jobs that are mine and mine alone -- we're still looking at the middle of next week.

"Unless," I casually suggest, "YOU want to take a couple of the binders and help do some of the indexing?"

The Main Nerdy Geoscience Guy is around the corner and halfway down the hallway quicker than you can say Preliminary geologic contoured cross-section. "Just let me know when you're done, OK?" I hear him shout, as he disappears into his office and slams the door. With a sigh, I turn back to my spreadsheet. Four binders down ... another twenty-eight to go. This is going to take a while.

Just wait till he gets my bill.

       *       *       *       *       *       *

A couple of quick personal notes:

  • Daughter #1 arrives in town tomorrow night for her first Bay Area visit of 2003. For obvious reasons, I plan to spend as little time in front of the computer as possible while she's here, so we should all probably consider *FootNotes* to be on unofficial temporary hiatus until she goes home next week. (In other words: sporadic bsuiness as usual.)

  • Tomorrow is my incredibly groovy mother's birthday, and in what is becoming something of a birthday tradition, I would like to invite you all to read my favorite Mom-related *FootNotes* entry. You can find it here. Happy Birthday, Mom ... and thank you for being such a source of inspiration, reassurance and support, for all these years. I love you very much!

  • Finally: I'm looking for *support-our-troop* links to post here on *FootNotes* ... preferably links to websites that provide ways to send messages and useful gifts (phone cards, postage, etc.) to our men and women overseas. Operation Dear Abby" is the only one I've been able to find so far. If you've got any others, please send them along and I'll start posting them when I get back to the website next week.

Until then, take care, treat each other well, don't lose heart ... and have a great weekend. I'll be back soon.

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seeya tomorrow night, jaymes!