Oh, the Humiliation

This picture illustrates why I can never take a sick day.

Shirts

I stayed home to nurse a cold a couple months back. In my absence, my co-workers decided to get matching shirts so we could all dress alike for “Technology Day,” which was today.

Ugh.

Also, I need a haircut.

Back to Work

I’m back at work today after a three-month leave. It feels weird to be sitting in my office instead of taking care of baby or sweating some renovation details.

It seems today is also my boss’ birthday. Funny thing, her husband is a local blogger, but she doesn’t read his blog as a rule, just like my wife doesn’t read my blog. After a talk we had last year, my boss said she wouldn’t read this blog either, because we agreed it could produce some odd dynamics and also what’s the point of reading someone’s blog when you see them every day?

Of course, over the past months I haven’t seen much of my co-workers, so this blog may have been a good way for them to catch up on my life. But I do sincerely hope that my boss isn’t reading this now…
Continue reading “Back to Work”

Have You Seen Me?

I found a tiny gecko today on the fifth floor near the freight elevator. At least I think it’s a gecko. I almost stepped on him. Bending down I discovered he was incredibly cute, so I scooped him up in my empty coffee mug and took him back to my office.

Gecko in a Cup

I thought he would become an office pet or some such. However, both Janice and Olivia seemed to be frightened of him, so I decided I’d take him outside and release him.

Unfortunately before I got around to it, he escaped from the mug. I didn’t think he could escape but he did. Olivia is not very happy. She put her feet up on the desk to avoid having her toes nibbled on. She said if she sees him he’ll be “one dead little creature.”

I put up a sign with this picture and the words, “Have you seen me?”

I’m not sure what my boss would think if she was here. She’s oddly squeamish about spiders, but I think geckos eat spiders. If, indeed, this is a gecko.

Dating the Severed Head

Olivia and the Disembodied Head

Olivia brought this thing into the office last week. Press the button and it comes to life and recites a variety of different spooky-humorous messages.

Update: I assumed this item would be put in storage once Hallowe’en had passed. But Olivia tells me that “since our boss is a psychologist” she plans to leave it in place in perpetuity.

E.M.A.N.S.

We’ve just had E.M.A.N.S. boxes installed all across the campus, including here in our office. The acronym stands for “Emergency Mass Alert Notification System,” and it’s designed to let people note about emergency situations, like if there was madman roaming around with a gun. It’s a fairly discrete system, designed to avoid mass panics. It’s not a blaring bullhorn. It’s a small box, mounted on the wall, that broadcasts an audio signal and displays a text message in emergency situations.

This morning they were testing the service. A technician just came by to ask if we’d heard the alarm. At first, we didn’t think we had. Indeed, I was oblivious. But it turns out that Janice and Olivia did hear it. It’s subtler than we expected, and Olivia said it sounded like “aliens.” The technician confirmed it sounds like the Asteroids game, or a chirping sound. You can get an idea of what it’s like from the manufacturer’s website.

The funny part is that, since I have a penchant for playing avant garde electronic music, both Janice and Olivia thought they were hearing music coming from my office. “Yeah, we heard something strange, but we thought it was you.” And they didn’t pay it any more attention.

Footnote: A student worker asked my boss if I “just play video games all day” because of the sounds emanating from my office. For the record, I don’t play video games at all. It’s music, damn it!

Protest Haircuts

Eric and I are both letting our hair grow because our barbers haven’t come back since the storm.

Protest Haircuts

But I don’t know how long this protest will last. I’m considering shaving my head bald — it’s getting hot. Eric is considering dreadlocks.

B Stupid Cops a Plea

I read in the paper last weekend that B-Stupid copped a plea.

B-Stupid

In exchange for pleading guilty in federal court Thursday to drug-trafficking and gun crimes and his agreement in state court that he was involved with a friend’s murder, a 22-year-old New Orleans man will face a possible sentence of 25 years instead of life, according to federal prosecutors.

Following his 2006 arrest in Kenner on a fugitive warrant, Ivory Brandon “B-Stupid” Harris called his associates from jail asking them to try to track down the witness who had fingered him in the Fat Tuesday 2006 slaying of Jermaine “Manny” Wise, the prosecutors said in documents handed to the judge.

I work with Manny’s mother, Donna. I wondered what she thought about all this. She was out Monday and Tuesday, and I figured maybe she was upset by the news. But today when I talked to her she said the deal is fine by her. After all, the witness had to be moved three times already — who knows how much longer she could have held out, especially as B Stupid was trying to discover her identity for presumably nefarious purposes.

Donna says she plans to speak at the sentencing hearing.

Sick Out

Donna told me she almost couldn’t get to work today because the buses weren’t running.

“Why aren’t they running?” I wondered.

“Because the drivers are on strike,” she said. “Check nola.com.”

So I did, and sure enough, they’ve posted a story about it:
RTA sick-out strands riders, may affect Jazzfest

Recently nola.com has moved to what appears to be a real blog format, meaning that visitors can leave comments on any story and rant anonymously. As one might imagine, there are a few comments on this story, and things are already getting kind of ugly.

I support the idea of organized labor, and I like to see working people flex their muscles and remind society that we need them to function. But this action also hurts thousands of people, mostly working people like Donna. Regarding the drivers, she said, “They should just be glad they have their little job.” Donna’s co-worker Juanita couldn’t make it to work at all today because of the strike. So I’m not sure what to think about this.

And right now getting around the city is further complicated by heavy rainfall which is causing street flooding. Out my office window I can see some kind of horrendous jam up on Carrollton.

Happy Administrative Assistants Day!

I arrived at work yesterday morning to discover a sign on the front door of our office suite:

Happy Administrative Assistants Day!

The sign had been put up my none other than Olivia, who is — you guessed it — our administrative assistant.

Here’s a picture of Olivia:

Olivia's Hand

I knew this day was coming up, because I heard someone talking about it at the garden shop last weekend, but then it slipped my mind.

A couple of profs from Philosophy came over with cards and a gift bag, looking for Olivia.

I immediately went to Janice and said, “We are in big trouble.”

Olivia services Philosophy and Languages, but those departments require very little from her. Mainly she works with our unit, wherein she is officially housed.

Janice and I are the only other full-time employees since Katrina. We made a plan to run to a nearby store and get a potted plant, but the day proved to be too hectic. We couldn’t get away.

Since Olivia was at an all-day training session across campus, I didn’t see her until she came by for lunch. I quickly told her that “Janice and I thought this was tomorrow.”

As we were talking, another administrative assistant popped by, to ask Olivia how she’d made out. Olivia displayed her gift bag from Philosophy. For her part, the other assistant said, the Education faculty were taking her out for lunch.

“They must really like you over there,” I said.

“They love me,” she said.

Later that day, the Languages faculty upped the ante with a big floral arrangement for Olivia.

Floral Arrangement

There was no way that Janice and I could compete with this monster. We didn’t even try. We got her the potted plant and a card, but they seem paltry in comparison. We knew we’d been beat.

Now we’re thinking we’d better get that office refrigerator Olivia’s been wanting…

Now It Can Be Told

A couple weeks ago I mentioned that we had interviewed a candidate who could be my new boss, and I alluded to the fact that said candidate is the spouse of a local blogger. I didn’t want to say any more at the time because there were still some negotiations underway. Everything has been resolved, though, so there’s no need to make a mystery of it any longer… drum roll please…

The local blogger is HammHawk, and his wife will take over directorship of my unit this August.

I’m pretty excited about the prospect of working with her. I was on the search committee, and I can say with confidence that her application was second to none. She’s exactly the sort of candidate we were looking for, and I think we were lucky to get her.

She had to endure a rather grueling interview marathon, which included everybody from the janitorial staff to the president, and people at every level were impressed with her qualifications, her intelligence and her ideas.

Prior to the interview, Janice and Olivia and I were talking about the applicants for the position. Olivia noted that the top two candidates were both female, which alarmed her. She exclaimed, “I don’t know if I could work for a woman!” Janice and I found this both outrageous and amusing. It led to my favorite moment on the day of the interview. When Olivia discovered that our prospective applicant was from Alabama, she expressed her delight. (Olivia’s from Birmingham.) Then she turned to me and announced, for everyone to hear, “I changed my mind.”

That still cracks me up.

Althea

I just learned that tomorrow will be my co-worker Althea’s last day here at the University.

Althea

Althea has been with the University for many years. I believe she started working as an administrative assistant in English. I knew her because she was working a computer lab manager for my unit when I was hired back in 1999. I worked with her for six years. After the levee failures, she was terminated along with many others, as the University made some deep and painful cuts. She got hired back at English when the University reopened.

She’s one of the sweetest and realest people I’ve met here. I always enjoyed talking with her.

But she’s been living in a trailer since her house was destroyed. Her husband found work in Texas, where they evacuated, and he’s still living there. Their son is enrolled in school there. That’s a hard situation. So she’s moving out there to be with her family.

I’m going to miss her. She’s good people.

Here’s a staff photo from the summer of 2003:

CAT Staff 2003

Of the five people shown here, only Janice and I are left in New Orleans.

I do understand why people move on, but this attrition is killing me.

Work

A few days ago I got an e-mail from one of the higher-ups at the University indicating that I still have a job there.

The message was informal but said that the University “is having significant layoffs and terminations” and that I will be the only staffer in my unit “who will continue to receive full salary between now and reconvening in January.” They’re even giving me some tasks to work on now.

Honestly I haven’t been too worried about my job. I figured even if I got laid off there would be plenty of opportunities for good work in New Orleans. My skills are fairly portable.

I feel bad for my co-workers. I wonder what this means for them. Will they be offered partial paychecks for the next months? No paychecks? Will they have jobs in January? How could my unit exist without them?

A friend in New Orleans tells me that the Times-Picayune had a story about the cuts: 58% of staff, 36% of faculty. And already I’m hearing tales through the grapevine of who’s been cut and who’s been retained.

Rising Water

We decided to go further than Jackson MS. We have taken refuge in Mandeville LA, at the home of Xavier prof Jonathan Rotondo-McCord. Mandeville is on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Outside the water is slowly rising, spreading through the streets of this subdivision and into yards and homes. We don’t expect it will reach this house, and we still have power so far. It’s actually quite comfy here with Jonathan’s family and friends who are also taking shelter.

Tomorrow we hope to make it into the city to Howie’s house in New Orleans, on the West Bank. It’s a short drive over the causeway bridge but we don’t think they’ll be letting people across, so we’re gonna try sneaking around the long back way.

News from the West Bank

A friend and co-worker sent this via e-mail. Hope she doesn’t mind me posting it here.

I journeyed into Algiers this weekend to work on my home and visit the area. As I’m sure you are aware, some areas of the city are opening up this week. Astoundingly, the Westbank and Algiers is bustling. As Susan and I worked in our yard on Saturday clearing branches and cutting bushes (the gardenias are history), the Salvation Army stopped by with lunch, the Army Airborne (didn’t catch the division) dropped off cases of water and MREs, and the FBI stopped to inquire as why “BIOHAZARD” was spray-painted on the side of my freezer. I laughingly invited him to open the top and investigate for himself. He said that wasn’t necessary: He could smell the contents from the street.

The sounds of chain saws were everywhere. Traffic on the main roads (DeGaulle, MacArthur, and Meyer) was constant. People’s voices could be heard calling to one another. But all of this stopped at 8pm when curfew began. Then the streets became deserted except for an occasional NOPD car or Army Humvee patrolling. My neighbors sat with Susan and I on our driveway burning cedar from a nearby fallen tree in our firepit. We drank frozen White Russians from the single daiquiri shop open in the entire city (on Clearview Parkway near the Huey) and told hurricane stories.

Phone Call from New Orleans

Just got a phone call from my friend and co-worker Howie. He’s back in New Orleans. He was lucky. His home escaped damage.

But he’s upset and wanted to rant about it. He said that there’s plenty of food and water getting distributed, but people can’t cut through the red tape to get the financial assistance the feds have promised. He spoke of eight-hour waits in lines that led nowhere and phone calls to hotlines that yield nothing but busy signals.

Bottom line: FEMA’s still screwing up.

He asked me to post this for him since he has no internet access.

He tried to visit my house but was blocked by still-flooded streets. He was able to drive around town more or less unhindered, because he “fits a certain profile” — i.e., he’s white. He also pretended to be with the United Way. He had a sticker.

He said he’s tired of people saying “at least we’re alive.” Yeah, we’re alive, but it still sucks.

I told him about Malik holding out in Algiers, so he plans to pay a visit tomorrow.