Thursday, March 01, 2007

Technical difficulties, trillwing style: skirt, workshop, biz cards

I felt today was going to be a good day. I had found my contact lenses--lost since our move in December. I was having a good hair day--rare in the trillwing-Bastardson household, I assure you. And I was wearing one of my favorite outfits, which includes a neat knee-length skirt. I felt great.

So I catch the bus to campus. It's the wrong bus, I realize after I've gotten on it, but that's OK--it just means I have to walk a few extra blocks. Big deal.

Except that half a block from work, I slipped and fell on my ass in the street, exposing myself to three male students. I landed on my back, protected, thank goodness, by my really dorky super-padded computer backpack. Also fortunately: the laptop wasn't in the bag.

Small blessings.

I worked through the morning, trying to ignore a sore wrist and bruised butt. I got a mediocre lunch at 11 a.m. because I had to teach a workshop at noon.

(Cue ominous "dah-dah-DUM" music.)

I've given lots of workshops on Sakai, the course management system my university has implemented. In fact, about 90% of my job is to help faculty navigate Sakai and use its tools, where appropriate, to improve and extend their teaching. Today's course was for the campus's teaching resources center, the place grad students and faculty go when they want good advice or other resources about teaching.

Thank god I've come to know these people fairly well.


Last Saturday morning, the campus upgraded to Sakai 2.3 from Sakai 2.1. I had used 2.3 on a test server, so I'm pretty familiar with it. But this was the first workshop I had given on 2.3.

As usual, I made practice sites for everyone who would be attending so that they'd have some place to muck around. I work with a lot of programmers, and I'm not yet trusted (rightly so, I'm guessing) to be given too many administrative privileges because I could really eff things up, you know? But I have this one little thing I'm allowed to do, and it's to make practice sites.

So we sit down in the lab and I ask everyone to log in to Sakai, and none of their training sites appear.

Great. I worked around this, albeit in a kind of clumsy way. In other words, my teaching sucked in front of the master teachers. Nice.

And then every 3-5 minutes someone would stumble across a new bug. That's a lot of bugs in a two-hour workshop.

I usually emerge from workshops energized, but this one really sapped my energy. I felt like a vacuum salesman who turns on his product for a demonstration, and then the thing blows up, spreading dust and dirt and doghair everywhere.

I returned to my cubicle and was soon confronted by not one, not two, but three people--one of them the very busy executive director of my organization--because I had sent an e-mail to my supervisor asking if I could order my own business cards next time because mine had errors--things were not the way I wanted them. Some of the errors were little ones, but a couple were really irritating. And since I've worked as an editor, I really do care about these things. But then of course the exec director accuses me of trying to drag the woman who ordered the cards "through the mud," which is not what I wanted to do at all--I wanted to handle it through back channels, and all of a sudden it's a huge kerfluffle. And since I work in a cubicle, everyone knows what's going on. And this is the only real contact I've had with the exec director. Yay me.

By this point I felt like a complete idiot and just wanted. to. go. HOME. Wanted to call Mr. Trillwing, but I work in a cubicle, so there's no privacy. Wanted to scream and cry and stomp and hide under my desk all at the same time.

I know I'm not alone in having days like this.

Anyway, it's emotionally exhausting, and it takes a lot to really drain me to the point of tears. But somehow today's constellation of events--which, taken on their own, would not have pushed me over the edge--did just that.

So I need to know: What are your strategies for coping with emotional exhaustion when you're stuck at work? I know most of my readers are academics who can go home early or close the office door, but what happens when you can't? How do you make it through the rest of the day?

This bruised-butt, editorially obsessive techo-idiot wants to know.


Jeff Mather said...

So I need to know: What are your strategies for coping with emotional exhaustion when you're stuck at work? I know most of my readers are academics who can go home early or close the office door, but what happens when you can't? How do you make it through the rest of the day?

I usually drink from the bottle of courage I keep in my desk drawer for emergencies and then send threatening e-mails to my subordinates. (If you don't have subordinates yet, find someone mousy in another department.) That usually makes me feel right as rain.

Anonymous said...

yah, lack of privacy is a problem. sorry for your bad day!

maybe if you want to call mr. trillwing, next time you can call your cell from your office phone, and then say to no one, yah i can't hear you, let me walk outside, and then call in the help. or make that person "calling you" give you an errand that makes you have to leave your cubicle. or send emails about how things suck. or ho with jeff and drink from your "water" bottle.

hope tomorrow is better!

Anonymous said...

clearly i meant go with jeff. ho-ing with jeff might not work, unless wait, is he mr. trillwing? ok, nevermind. i need to stop writing. looks like i have hit the courage bottle too much myself.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

I'd ask Chris how he deals with these situations, but I already know how he deals with these: he turns on robot mode and pretends like nothing's wrong. It's like asking him "How do you teach when you have a migraine?" His answer is "I apologise that I have a bit of a headache, and then I teach, even though I can only see the students directly in front of me." Robot.

By the way: Trillwing-Bastardson household? I actually said "Ooooh" out loud.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

(I don't think I made sense in that last statement. "Ooooh," as in "I get it now.")

Dr. Brazen Hussy said...

As much as I make jokes about drinking from a "bottle of courage" in a desk drawer, I don't actually do that. :) Taking a walk, getting a cup of coffee, and calling Arbitrista on my cell phone to rant usually helps put things in perspective.

Sorry you had such a crappy day! But hey, today's Friday!

Leslie M-B said...

Thank you all for your support!

JustMe, Fang is Mr. Trillwing.

Unknown said...

I have a ton of strategies, since this has happened to me quite a lot lately. :(

I will often walk down to the cafe and get a cup of tea. It's a far enough walk that I can clear my head and a warm cup of tea cheers me a little. Often I will IM with people who used to work here who understand the politics. So I can vent a little and look like I'm working at the same time. :) Scheduling a beer with some friends works too. Then I have something to look forward to.

Phantom Scribbler said...

In my cubicle days, I was all about the loooong walks on my lunch break. If the timing was such that lunch was no longer an option, I either did the cry silently in the bathroom thing, or the furious email to Mr. Blue.

It was no fun either way, though, if I couldn't get the walk. I hope your terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day is only a dim memory soon!

Anonymous said...

Oh, what an awful day! No good suggestions for you, but you have my sympathies, and I hope that today is going better.

Anonymous said...

No real suggestions but profound sympathies from a fellow Sakai sufferer.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I send really sarcastic e-mails to my best girlfriend or hubby. They generally describe all the nastyness, and if you look intent enough on your task people don't bother you.

I also do the brainless stuff that piles up -- sorting, filing etc. It makes you look busy, but gives you a mental break.

Fake phone calls work to buy a little time... Pick up the phone, dial your home number (assuming nobody is home), ask for someone and then fake talking to them for a bit, mostly short answers -- like they are doing most of the talking.

Anonymous said...

Goofy knick-knacks help. (How do you spell knick knacks oh editor?) Like a mug or sticker with a sesame street character on it. (Something you can keep in a drawer if it's too hokey to have out on your desk.) Brings a smile.

As for bad days, check out what happened to my friend C. yesterday: she was presenting a workshop on globalization to one of the area studies departments when she said "I don't feel well" and promptly collapsed on the floor. She's OK fortunately.

It sucks to be on your back in public. Sorry your day was such a downer.

Heather Clisby said...

First of all, I'm glad that you and Fang's torrid affair is finally out in the open. Best for the love child, don't think?

I would say Laura has a great suggestion, just make sure to turn off your volume so people can't hear the IM announcements.

Also, reading celebrity gossip seems to help me when I'm feeling fried and tormented. You may think you've screwed up in front of EVERYONE but when you take a gander at Britney and her ilk, it sure minimizes your own global reach.

Debra said...

It's been a while, but those totally crappy days still stick in my mind.

I kept a stash of goodies in a desk drawer (favorite candy bar, granola bar, something! OK at the moment it would be a GoLean chocolate toffee bar). That and a fresh hot cup of coffee would give me the time to take a deep breathe and recover. After work, if possible, a long walk sets me straight.

I agree, if you can step out of the cubicle and get some fresh air, that would help too.

Mon said...

You know, I've been really struggling with this same question myself and I haven't found I good answer. I thought that as a faculty member life I would be on campus and in an office less, but I'm actually stuck in an office more than I ever was as a graduate student. And I'm in the temporary (albeit increasingly less temporary) situation of sharing an office. I empathize with all of your feelings. I think music soothes me at times I feel like the day is too crazy and too long, but I need to find some better strategies. Most of the time I just become completely unproductive and frustrated!

The History Enthusiast said...

I'm a take a walk, or cry in the bathroom sort of girl, but I really like justme's idea of faking a phone call. When I'm upset I generally need to talk to my mom. I'm sorry that you had a rough day, and I hope things go better for you this next week!

Jenny F. Scientist said...

Mr. S's lab keeps a bottle of emergency tequila for such situations.

I go for the five-minute nap, myself, whenever possible. High-up stairwells are handy for it when available.

Scrivener said...

Sorry you had such a terrible day at work. I have no good strategies for such an event, mostly I go with some version of QoWP's husband's robot mode.

Anonymous said...

When I worked in cubicle-land and had a meltdown, I'd go to the restroom and brush my teeth.

That usually made me feel better.

Now that I work from home, I either go outside and stand on my deck for 2-3 minutes, breathe deeply and look westward to the Rockies..or I brush my teeth.

Sometimes both.