Occasionally on The 12 Angry Men, we will post rants from invited guests. In lieu of our normally scheduled segment, today we feature an invited rant, from an Angry Guest Woman. You may remember our current guest from her previous appearence when she ranted about poor service, and tipping. – The Staff of The 12 Angry Men

My company, like many others, decided a few years ago to outsource all IT-related work in an effort to “save money” and have more “effective” business practices by limiting the people who worked on our IT systems to “specialists.” Of course, in reality, we ended up with the opposite situation.

Sure, there were the comical incidents associated with initial setup. Like the time I ordered my first Linux box through the new IT contract. It arrived, carried by a teen-aged-looking guy with slicked-back hair, wearing chains, presumably required to keep his pants covering the bottom half of his boxer shorts, whose cologne I started to smell about 10 minutes before he entered my building. He had a set of Linux CD’s in his hands and absolutely no clue how to use them. I ended up giving him a lesson on how to install Linux. (He had never done this before whereas I had trouble remembering how many Linux boxes I had installed.) He insisted on driving the entire time because he was the “specialist” and I was not. Incidentally, upon completion of my setup, several key settings needed to be fixed. Yet I was not allowed to have the root password or su power on my box so I had to keep calling the teenager and his associates to do things like set the correct date on my box. Each time he had to call me to ask how to do this; or just give me the password and then change it again when I was done. Apparently setting the date and time is not intuitive to some IT professionals.

Since then, I have taken the company’s system administration certification exam, applied to administer my own box, and have had relatively few problems, except having to re-negotiate my status every time someone new sees I’m defying the system. But, my boxes have consistently worked, no thanks to our IT contractors.

Well — until the *only* thing of mine over which IT has control, my email, stopped working yesterday. I kept getting weird server errors whenever my email program attempted to connect to the server to send/receive messages. After we went through the normal process of me calling; getting someone who has never heard of email but promises to have someone else call me back; and 5 different people calling me back with different reasons why it didn’t work AFTER insisting that clearly their server errors must be caused by the fact that I’m running Linux and my telling them they’re full of it because server errors occur *on* the server, we have the problem solved. Despite the fact that I was told that IT did not know they were going to start expiring passwords, apparently my email password had expired. But they couldn’t tell this had happened and they couldn’t notify me of the status of my email account because… get this… (this is my favorite IT excuse EVER) they didn’t have my email address!!!!! I should win an Oscar for making it through two phone calls this morning without bursting into laughter while two different men explained to me in very serious voices that my email address was not in their system (the system of the people who CREATED and ASSIGNED my email address and who RUN the email servers!) and that they needed to enter it. The first guy called to inform me of this epiphany. The second one called to check that they had entered my email address correctly. I presume both of them found my phone number in our company directory. (Incidentally, my copy of the company directory also lists email addresses.)

My sides hurt now.

When I stopped laughing, I was still unable to change my password because the web interface, which is the only way to do this from Linux, was broken. In response, IT has just released a statement saying that all of their problems are being caused by people running non-standard desktops and has issued a ruling that everyone must now use the same standard Windows desktop, with a few exceptions for Mac. I have been ordered to give up all of my boxes and replace them with one Windows box, which will have exactly the same installation as every other box at the company, including the machines running specialized equipment in the research labs and the box they give to our secretary. Did I mention that my job is to do research? I write experimental software for a living. On a machine with no compilers (because why does the secretary across the hall need a compiler?), this should be very interesting. Then there’s the issue that a lot of the software is written for operating systems that are not Windows… I complained to the decision-making head of IT about this change and he didn’t see a problem. Why am I not surprised? Probably because the person I spoke to didn’t know what a compiler was.

I’m off to fight again for the right to have a computer I can use to do work on. Please, if you’re a manager out there, think long and hard before outsourcing your IT department to another company. Each year or three we change IT contract companies, but they’re all the same: they charge you too much; pay their employees so little that none of them stay to complete the “training” process; and waste your employees time while contributing to your IT problems instead of solving them. Then they fill out their own “customer reviews” instead of sending them to the employees, like they’re supposed to, so they insure they will keep the contract. I’ll hold out as long as I can in an effort to be able to effectively do my job. Each time our entire building is taken down by a computer virus and my Linux box is one of the few machines left standing, I’ll take the time to smile and feel vindicated.

– Angry East Coast Guest Woman

Occasionally on The 12 Angry Men, we will post rants from invited guests. In lieu of our normally scheduled segment, today we feature an invited rant, from an Angry Guest Woman. You may remember our current guest from her previous appearance when she ranted about poor service, and tipping, and her second appearance where she discussed the traffic situation in Hampton Roads.
– The Staff of The 12 Angry Men

I’m a huge fan of good comedy. And, as everyone knows, the funniest comedy is delivered with some element of seriousness: a deadpan voice, a serious look, something that doesn’t say “I’m just asking for a laugh.” Well, today I saw the funniest movie ever: Fatal Error. It is especially funny because it was mis-classified as a drama/suspense film and, in that genre, it flopped miserably. But now I ask all of you to forget about this “suspension of disbelief” notion and actually attempt to believe this movie as you watch it. You’ll fall out of your chair laughing! It’s the most unintentionally funny movie ever! Here’s a plot summary. (Warning: Spoilers below but don’t let that discourage you — this movie is funnier every time you watch it!)

Fatal Error centers around the activity of a computer virus which is supposed to be especially powerful because it is descended from “the original computer virus” (which would be what exactly?) Without any AI subroutines, it somehow manages to feel threatened by humans who attempt to turn off machines running it (because, of course, viruses can see people reaching for the power switch) and it sends out signals which tell the person’s body to turn into dust. They had to get a blind hacker to find it because he can’t see the video waves the virus uses to attack its victims. The techno-babble in this movie is so ridiculous if you know anything about biology or computer science you won’t be able to stop laughing! And somehow the Army virus unit spends all of the movie trying to stop a major corporation from using the virus because, of course, the Army would never be interested in a clean weapon that kills large numbers of people by simply sending out video waves but a TV sales company would be interested in distributing the virus in the television sets it sells and killing off its customer base. And, of course, television sets have the computing capabilities of your average supercomputer, thus providing the virus with a place to mutate and adapt.

A suspended doctor, who we know is good because he worked in a place called “Africa” once, spends the movie chasing down the virus with an Army virus unit investigator woman. The evil genius who invented the virus is almost thwarted by the Army virus investigator woman but he catches her and straps her into a chair in front of a TV so she can’t move her head away. This deadly plot is made even more menacing by showing the evil genius kill another agent the same way in the same chair just moments before. But then the Army virus investigator makes the amazing discovery that the virus’ deadly video waves can be thwarted by… closing your eyes! And since the evil genius who invented a human-hunting computer virus forgot to tape her eyelids open when he strapped her head in place, she escapes the virus and lives to team up with the doctor to surprise the evil genius at the TV control center. The two of them manage to avoid being scanned by security by picking up a mic, camera, and jacket from an open, unlocked car left unattended by a local TV news station. Gosh the security at this place is good!

Guess how the movie ends? Guess! The evil genius who invented the virus accidentally knocks over the water cooler in the supercomputer control room. Because every supercomputer control room has a tipsy water cooler in the middle with the supercomputer built in a circle around it. Yeah.

And somehow this also simultaneously kills all of the instances of the virus saved in everyone’s TV sets around the world. Now the world is saved! Woo hoo!

If you’re ever in the mood for really stupid-funny and you don’t mind your sides hurting the next day, rent this movie.

– Angry East Coast Guest Woman

Occasionally on The 12 Angry Men, we will post rants from invited guests. In lieu of our normally scheduled segment, today we feature an invited rant, from an Angry Guest Woman. You may remember our current guest from her previous appearence when she ranted about poor service, and tipping. This time the issue which has our guest up in arms is the traffic situation in Virginia’s most populated region.
– The Staff of The 12 Angry Men

I have recently had the unfortunate displeasure of spending an extended amount of time in the region of Virginia known as Hampton Roads. I find this name especially puzzling because the most distinguishing characteristic of the area is the distinct lack of roads! (To be fair, the “Hampton” part of the name is confusing as well. Hampton is just one of the collection of loosely-defined interlocking regions of suburban decay … er … sprawl … er … “communities” which call themselves “cities” yet in no way resemble actual cities. As far as I can tell, the area names Hampton because it is roughly in the middle.) I personally think the region should be renamed “Suburban Waterways” because it is as well-characterized by its myriad of waterways as it is by its distinct lack of places to cross them.

Truthfully, there is exactly one road in Hampton Roads and it is called I-64. For any two points A and B in Hampton Roads, unless A and B happen to be located within the same strip mall, you pretty much have to take I-64 to get between them. I must also mention here that I-64 is only very loosely a road itself. Throughout half of Hampton Roads (the half called “the Peninsula”) I-64 is only 2 lanes in each direction and at any given time, at least one lane in each direction is closed for “construction.” Because of all of this “construction,” I-64 is not so much a road and more of a ragged, flooding, hodgepodge of potholes and badly misaligned patches of asphalt with worse traffic backups than occur on real roads (the kind that actually have street-lights and connected regions of pavement to allow cars to drive effectively on them). I grew up in Washington, D.C. and have spent a significant chunk of my adult life living in America’s fourth largest city, Houston, and I can safely assert that the traffic in these two cities pales in comparison to traffic in Hampton Roads. This is not because Hampton Roads has anywhere near the number of people or cars or places to go but simply because Hampton Roads has no… roads! If there is a backup in any real city, there is always at least one other road connected to the road on which you are currently located. In a real city, you can then turn off onto this road and continue driving. Your route may be farther out of your way but at least it is possible to *move* in some direction. In Hampton Roads, you are just stuck on I-64. There are very few exits and most of these lead right back onto you guessed it I-64, usually by way of a strip mall and a waterway or four.

It has recently occurred to the residents of Hampton Roads that, perhaps, maybe, they should consider building more roads. There was a bill proposed and voted upon this week to establish a local transportation authority which would commit to widening and fixing I-64 and adding more ways to cross the local waterways. Surprisingly, this was a highly controversial proposal! The bill narrowly passed after a 3-2 vote by the 5 members of Isle of Wight board of supervisors. Ironically, the “city” of Hampton voted “no” and plans to appeal the decision. It seems the local residents prefer the region’s name, “Hampton Roads” to be more ironic than descriptive.

– Angry East Coast Guest Woman

Occasionally on The 12 Angry Men, we will post rants from invited guests. In lieu of our normally scheduled segment, today we feature our first invited rant, from an Angry Guest Woman. Our guest in this article had a run in with customer service which was so severe that she couldn’t help but rant about the situation, proving once again that not only men can be angry.
– The Staff of The 12 Angry Men

This morning I had an early morning flight from Oakland Airport. Since I had to leave so early in the morning, I had booked an airport shuttle from my downtown San Francisco hotel the day before. In my early-morning groggy state I asked for directions to the shuttle pick-up point from the hotel bellman. I found the shuttle exactly where it should be. The driver immediately asked for my name, remind me there was a strict policy of “reservations only.” He said he had checked me off on his electronic manifest, took my bag, and asked for my receipt. I should mention here that my receipt said “OAK” across the top and that the concierge had circled this for extra emphasis as well. After waiting for about 10 or 15 minutes, another shuttle arrived. The people on my shuttle were annoyed that we were so late another shuttle had arrived already. The other shuttle driver was looking for someone to pick up, compared manifests with my shuttle driver as they were each missing a passenger, and eventually both decided they should leave anyway after one last check of the lobby. I overheard them stating that someone with my name was going to be left behind then.”Wait!” I yelled out at them. Did you just call my name? “No” they replied in unison and then the other shuttle driver stated there was no one matching his passenger’s name in my shuttle. I got out and argued with them for a bit, finally discovering I was supposed to be on the other shuttle. (The one I had been on was leaving for SFO.) We were already late and still had to pick up other passengers. At at least one other hotel, my shuttle driver parked in the wrong spot and had to drive around the block and change locations. At one point, we were waiting around in front of a hotel and I expressed concern that we were behind schedule and asked to pay the remainder of my balance while we waited. My request was denied.

When we got to the airport and the driver noticed I had paid him the exact balance (with no tip) he approached me and asked for more. “I got you here before your flight” he said, “how can you be unhappy with my service?”

I reiterated to him: the shuttle to Oakland was late to begin with and both drivers missed the obvious signs of my name and receipt which indicated where I was to go. They very nearly made me miss my flight — I would have ended up in the wrong place had I not eavesdropped on their conversation! “But that was the other driver’s fault” insisted my driver. “At this point, I don’t care whose fault all of this is” I told him. This is not behavior worthy of reward.

Since when did “I didn’t screw up as badly as I could have” become the sole merit for a juicy tip? Maybe in the eyes of my fellow Americans this makes me a soul-less cheapskate but if someone proves to be incapable at doing the basic job for which they are being paid, they do not deserve a bonus for their incompetence. Sure, as my driver pointed out, things could have been much worse. He could have showed up significantly late instead of just a bit late. There could have been horrible traffic (although I doubt there is horrible traffic anywhere at 5am on Sunday). He could have gotten lost on the way to the airport when in fact he took a fairly efficient route. And the shuttle service didn’t actually drive me to the wrong place and cause me to miss my flight, they just almost did.

But those things are irrelevant! The shuttle driver’s job was to pick up pre-booked passengers on-time and deliver them to the airport. Just approximately completing this task is doing your job. Going the extra mile and doing it well is what earns you a tip. And before all of you living-wage-liberals out there jump down my throat about the driver needing to eat, I’ll remind you of the real details of this situation. This shuttle carries 6-8 pre-booked people at $25/head for the 20-30 minute drive to the airport then picks up a waiting crowd for the return trip. Do the math and it’s pulling in at least $300/hour; they can certainly afford to pay the driver. And if he really wants a tip from me, it’s not that hard to do a better job.

We do the same thing with waiters at restaurants. How many waiters take your order, drop off the food, and then ignore you for the next hour? Frequently they get your order wrong or you finish your drink and need a refill or you decide to order something else and they are no where to be found. Yet they still expect a 20% tip! Restaurant prices seem to grow exponentially each year yet the food doesn’t improve, the service slowly gets worse, and the tips go up with the food prices. Has no one else noticed what’s wrong with this picture? And I can’t remember the last time someone actually thanked me for a tip as if it were a gift instead of a requirement.

Perhaps I’m just more critical because I just moved here from a college town in England were a generous tip was 5% and groups of students frequently just emptied the change from their pockets onto the table at the end of a meal. In this country that would be considered an insult but over there the waitress always thanked us sincerely for whatever we left. It was nice.

In France, people in service industries take so much pride in their work, I’ve even had a tip returned to me because the restaurant staff said it was too generous. I thought the food was excellent but the chef felt he hadn’t done as well as he could have that night. This would absolutely never happen in the US.

So the moral of this story is, if you’re hired into a service position, do your job. And if you want a tip, go the extra mile. Streamline your work and be efficient and attentive. Add those little extra touches. Throw in some humorous retorts if that’s your style. If nothing else, good, old-fashioned courtesy goes a long way with me. But don’t ever tell me I should gift you my hard-earned cash just because during our brief encounter you weren’t as incompetent as you could have been. Band together with me, my fellow Americans, to bring tipping back into its proper place. Tips need once again to be an incentive for doing well, a reward for excellence, an expression of the customer’s gratitude which must be earned. They are not just an un-written tax to be paid to whomever shows up for work independently of whether or not the job gets done.
– Angry East Coast Guest Woman