A day in the life of an I.T. Bachelor, chapter 2: Check up

Here is part 1. As I was transcribing part 2, I realized that the ponderious dadabudality of Ashok from 7 years ago was getting rather tiresome. So I decided to brutally hack long sentences and banish every GRE word to 14 years of exile. Also made it a little more contemporary.

Chapter 2: Check up

After managing to retrieve my ID card using the neighbour’s broomstick through the front window, I boarded the office bus, a big hulking beast that had several shock absorbers, each of them optimally (or is it pessimally) placed to provide the least amount of absorbance where I was seated. The conductor (ok, the chap who was not driving) first made me fill about 3 generations family tree data on an attendance sheet and also demanded to see my bus pass with his scanning electron microscope.

Why, I asked. Rules, he said.

Of course, I did not bring my bus pass because it was in the back-pocket of my one good black pant that was currently in the washing machine’s dryer. I had, after a few months, decided to wash that pant but had forgotten to take it out of the dryer. A week ago.

I asked him to make an exception. No, he said

Why, I asked. Rules, he said

I told him that unless I get to the office on time and feverishly type on my keyboard, the stock market would crash. I don’t care, he said

Why, I asked. Rules, he said.

I asked him if the bus would wait a couple of minutes as I climbed up 4 flights of “stares” to retrieve my bus pass from back pocket of a crumpled black pant. In a washing machine dryer. No, he said

Why, I asked. Rules, he said.

I asked him if he had a heart. Compassion. Understanding. Empathy. No, he answered.

Why, I asked. Rules, he said.

I de-bussed and walked away, sulking, with my bag slung strategically to cover gaping hole in trouser and hailed an auto, which was going in the direction opposite to mine. With no regard to oncoming traffic, he dramatically turned the auto 180 degrees, exchanged a few pleasantries involving home-notification prior to departure with other motorists nonplussed by his sudden change in direction, swerved at the last moment to avoid hitting me, stopped, looked me up and down, and asked me where I wanted to go.

Thiruvanmiyur, I said, instead of saying “TIDAL Park”. I wanted to throw his profession detector off.

150 rupees, he said.

Clearly, my trick had not worked. Must have been the ID card I was wearing. Not in a mood to haggle, I got in, and 20 minutes, and some casual disregard for other vehicles on the road later, I was deposited at the entrance to my office. A security guard, who hailed from one of those states reduced to a single 4-sec tribal dance in the original Mile Sur, blew his whistle furiously, presumably wanting to indicate to us that we were breaking some rule. Only problem, he spoke no language I understood and I most certainly did not understand whistlespeak.

After some impromptu Dumb-C, I learned that the place where I was disembarking was earmarked, as per Rules, for folks disembarking from cars. I asked him if there were make/model restrictions as well. The sarcasm sailed over his head like a Sehwag swat over point.

He continued whistling more instructions, which I decoded as the precise lane that I must use to walk in to the premises.

Why, I mimed. Rules, he whistled.

But before I could step through, another guard waved a handheld scanner at my bag and from the frequency of the annoying beep it made, he deduced the contents of my bag. He asked me if I was carrying a camera. Photography inside premises is banned, he added.

I briefly thought about clarifying if the 5 megapixel photo and video capturing feature on my smartphone came under this category. But I decided not to. I wanted to get to my seat quickly and douse the flames of crisis by the cunning use of the Send-Email button. He waved me on.

I walked down the lane reserved for incoming employees from my company and barring a brief stop by yet another whistlespeaking guard for not having my ID card face up, I soon found myself at the imposing doorway that was mostly sealed except for the small metal detector that all of us had to pass through.
In my hurry, I breezed through only to find myself on the receiving end of a whistle symphony performed by several guards all of whom descended on me like a SWAT team, except without any purpose, speed or weapons.

I had forgotten to remove my bag and place it on the airport style scanner that was next to the doorframe. I tried pointing out that there was no security guard looking at the monitor, but to no avail.

Why, I asked? Rules, they said.

I obliged, collected my bag at the other end, and a senior looking guard asked me if I was carrying any CD ROMS, Floppy disks or iPods. I had a w4r3z DVD, a 500 GB external HDD and a Cowon S9, so I told him no. He waved me on, and I was about to head for the elevator when another guard ordered me to swipe my ID card on the attendance scanner.

I tried every possible direction, left to right, top to bottom, scratch-scratch, tap-tap, hit-hit, but the all important beep that the security guard was looking for just didn’t materialize. One of the slightly more enthusiastic chaps took matters into his own hand and used his own security personnel access card and signed me in. I pointed out that he had just signed himself out. That’s ok, he said, but everybody had to use the card reader before entering the elevator.

Why I asked? Rules, he said.

I was just about to join the crowd outside the elevator when the senior security chap pointed out that I hadn’t filled the register. I told him that I had just been swiped in electronically. He told me that I still had to make an entry in the registers. I asked him why the plural suddenly. He just remembered the personal items register, he responded. I asked him if it did not strike him as a little wasteful to make folks fill out register after register despite there being an electronic record of their entry. He said no, it did not strike him.

Why, I asked. Rules, he said

I then joined to the crowd waiting outside the elevator, almost all of them with headphones in their ears tuning out the oppressive silence of an IT company lobby. I carefully checked to see if any of them were using iPhones, because as per Rules, iPods were not allowed and Steve Jobs tells us that an iPhone is also an iPod. Thankfully no one. Most of this crowd was using Nokia N-series phones, and some of them were, in fact, waiting not just for the elevator but for the music app to load after they had clicked on it.

I waited, and when the elevator did arrive, it was packing about 5 more people than the weight limit allowed. Apparently, the folks from the 1st floor decided that they would rather take a down elevator and then go up instead of waiting for the better part of this century for an empty up-elevator to arrive. After about 15 minutes, I gave up and took the only form of exercise IT folks get – taking the stairs out of sheer frustration at waiting for elevators in these poorly designed SEZ buildings that always have about 4 elevators too less.

I huffed and puffed my way up to the 7th floor and was just about to swipe my ID card to enter the “specially secure” area my seat was in when the security guard for that floor stopped me. He told me that I was violating the dress code and that he had been instructed by HR to catch and bring all violators to their lair. I asked what section of the code I was flouting. I was wearing a formal, soul-deadeningly executive shirt and my roommate’s slightly damaged but impeccably formal Van Heusen trousers. He pointed at my collar and said that as per the new dress code, this kind of collar was not allowed. He added that my (roomie’s) pant also had one pocket too many and was of a cut that was against the Rules.

I pleaded with him to let this slide and let me get to my all too crucial email client, but he said no.

Why, I asked. Rules, he said.

He marched me to the HR bay, and after making me fill another register named “HR Entry Rejister”, shooed me in to an area filled entirely with well-dressed women, all of whom immediately seemed to know what my strategically slung bag was hiding. Some sniggered. I looked at my wrist, and finding no watch, fished my phone out of my pant’s front pocket. Some loose threads got stuck in the camera shutter mechanism on its way out and I heard the small snap of the shutter  breaking.

The time was 10 am, and my project’s crisis was now beyond salvage, so I shifted gears into full combat mode. I walked over to the most senior looking HR lady and asked her what the point of such a ridiculously detailed dress code was. Her response included several words my brain had learned to tune out, like “corporate”, “brand image” and “standards”. I was not going to give up so soon, now that I had the rest of the day to blame my woes on HR. I told her that I was perfectly complying with last week’s dress code and that these new collar/cut addenda were unknown to me. We sent you an email, she interjected. Oh, but I have an automatic filter that moves emails from HR to the trash folder, I blurted out.

At this point, the climate in the room became distinctly chilly in a way that only a room filled entirely with women and one unpopular man can become chilly. Clearly, they did not like the fact that I deleted their emails, all of which were usually 2 MB colourful announcements that used inspirational MS Office clipart and featured striking typography in Comic Sans and Monotype Corsiva, and tended to fill up my 10 MB corporate mailbox allotment pretty quickly. I said nothing more, and waited for the guillotine to fall. The senior HR lady pointed to a workstation whose label (printed in Monotype Corsiva CAPS) read “FOR DRESSCODE VIOLATORS” and ordered me to fill out an online form that logged my crime for posterity.

I walked back to the door and tried getting out. Not so soon, said the security guard on the other side. He pointed at the “HR Exit rejister”.

Why, I pleaded. Rules, he said

I trudged towards my work area and tried to swipe myself in. No beep. The guard asked me if I had signed myself into the building at the lobby. I said no, another guard signed me in. He briefly paused to consider the implications of what I had just said. Was this a code red emergency, he wondered. But thankfully, he just fished out another register named “No Access register” and made me fill it in before he let me in.

I carefully avoided eye contact with several colleagues who would have faced the wrath of “onsite” thanks to the morning’s crisis and were now looking at me accusingly. I slunk into my seat and hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete and after a few minutes, Windows Vista deigned to let me type in my login credentials. I hit enter, and twiddled my thumbs as I waited for 4 anti-virus software, 3 web-browsing filters and 2 other daemons designed to limit employee productivity to start up.

I was just about to open my email client when my manager walked over and asked me to join him for coffee.

We headed back towards the exit door, and after making entries in the “Secure area Exit register”, walked to the coffee area that had a sugar syrup self-service vending machine operated by a security guard.

To be continued…

Disclaimer: All details are mostly fictional and are not set in any real world office