Ponder this:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Even the best needles are not sharp at both ends. ~Chinese Proverb

I agonized for years over the imperfections in my personality.
I remember telling a junior high school guidance counselor,
“I want to be perfect!” Well into adulthood, fear of imperfection crippled me and I was so happy when I accepted that nothing is perfect.

I work in the same building for the same employer all day. Since January I have had two jobs and two bosses: a Morning Job/Boss and an Afternoon Job/Boss. In the Morning Job every week and every month has scheduled dates for specific step-by-step tasks that must be finished within specific periods of time, and it is all about perfect ending balances.

I am awed by Morning Boss’s skill and knowledge and her patience with her work. Like M*A*S*H’s Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, M.D., she does one thing at a time, she does it very well, and then moves on.
Morning Boss keeps perfect records.
Perfect.
Not a pencil mark or a speck of eraser lint on any of the perfectly hole-punched and bound records that, in compliance with state law, will
be archived for fifty-five years.

A few weeks ago, I prepared and checked some of that paperwork, making tiny pencil checkmarks next to the figures. When I was ready to put it away in its fifty-five-year binder, Boss asked if I wasn’t going to reprint it. “It’s going to be around for fifty-five years: You might want it to look pretty!” In response, I thought (and did not say), “Why? Nobody’s going to look at it ever again.” I've been around for more than fifty-five years and "pretty" doesn't matter so much to me anymore. But I reprinted it before I filed it because Pristine and Perfect is the rule in the Morning Job.

I am not a number cruncher: If I’m $4,000 off, and I find $3999.93 of it, that makes me happy. The first time I said “Yippee!” Morning Boss sent me a shocked and astonished glare. There was not a second "Yippee!" Also [literally] frowned upon: Talking; humming; too-noisy tapping of fingers on keypads; leaving seven cents unfound. At noon, when my four hours at the Morning Job are over, I leave with a huge sigh (silent, sighing also being a frownable offense) of relief, feeling as if I have spent the morning failing.

The nature of the Afternoon Job is different and there could be no two people with more different work styles than my Morning Boss and my Afternoon Boss.

The Afternoon Job is all about laws and schedules, but it’s also all about people. I never know when or what number of people might come through the door, or what issues will arise, or how they’ll develop. Every application, every applicant, every project is different. So in the afternoons, I work differently. When it’s busy I work faster on more things. When it’s slow I fill in the blanks that got missed while I was serving the person in front of me. There is no slow and steady in the Afternoon Job.

In the afternoons I usually work on five or six things simultaneously. Preparing a Certificate of Occupancy, I return a phone call to someone about the zoning of a parcel. While I’m on that call, I’ll reach over to my fax/copier and make photocopies of an application for distribution to board members for a meeting. With one ear I listen to my boss talking to someone at his desk and I call over the name or the telephone number that he can't bring to mind.

If a taxpayer comes to my desk I shove everything to one side and chat with him about his building project or his complaint about his landlord or his neighbor. At any given point, I would be hard-pressed to stop and say exactly where I am with all of the tasks I’m working on, but I know I’m progressing.

We laugh a lot.
We joke.
I break into song.

A few days ago, I got a call at my Morning desk about an Afternoon Job issue. A woman wants to open a new business and I asked her some questions about her plans. After I hung up, Morning Boss said, “You’re so supportive! What enthusiasm!” Unknown to Morning Boss and to the applicant, what I was doing was determining, via interested conversation, if the business suited the zoning in the area where the woman wants to locate. It’s easier for people to talk to me about their plans than it would be for them to answer questions on a checklist.

At the end of the afternoon I always have a million threads to tie up. The tying-up is a signal to my brain that I have accomplished a great deal with great enthusiasm. I leave my desk happy, drained and satisfied.

Even the best needles are not sharp at both ends.

6 comments:

Tigerbi said...

I wonder if Morning Boss ever steps outside at dawn to watch the sun rise............I wonder if she affixes orange slices to her trees.........or thrills at the sight of a bluebird's nest?

I doubt it.......Morning Boss is probably too busy making sure her house looks........perfect... and that her check book is balanced :(

kt said...

Tigerbi--you might be surprised. I'm a bit like Morning Boss when it came to my work as a teacher and also when it comes to the checkbook. But when I wasn't working( which now is all the time! LOL) forgetaboutit. My house always looks like a hurricane flew through, I play with crayons, take pix, laugh with the family, cook like mad etc,etc,etc and thus it has ever been. But, I would like the work that Ageing does in the PM better--more challenging and people oriented--like teaching. At any rate, AG, you are simply perfect just as you are!

Carolynn said...

Wow. It shows a tremendous amount of flexibility & skill for you to transition so dramatically between two such diametrically opposed roles in the course of one day. That's impressive!

June said...

It WOULD show that if I were successful at it, wouldn't it?

Lynette said...

I'm with kt on this. At work, I am close to maniacal in my quest for order. Because it is easier to get work done when things are in their place. If no one else depends on your work, do it any way you like, but as soon as one other person enters the equation, things have to go by the rules. Of course, extremes in any personality trait are anathemas to co-workers!

Lynette said...

And thank goodness the punctilious pettifogger is your MORNING boss!