#Information Overload

 

“I worked for her before, you know. In the District office,” I said.

“No. They didn’t tell me that part.  You worked for her and you came back? You must be a glutton for punishment.”

“I respect her,” I said.

She remembered something else.

“Slide over a minute.  Let me get to that stack of papers in the corner. I can’t afford to leave this behind,” she said pulling a red folder from the bottom of the stack.

The bleep of incoming e-mail caught my attention.

“What’s all this?” I asked.

“Google and Yahoo alerts so anytime Madame Senator’s name or issues are in the news you’ll know.”

We heard a thump at the front door.

“They’re late with the papers this morning,” Octavia said. “They’re usually here when we get in.  You’ll read them and circle anything she needs to be aware of.  She’s pretty good at staying on top of things. Watches CNN non-stop, so you definitely have to be up to speed.”

She turned to the cabinets against the wall and retrieved two large black binders.  One contained clips, printed articles about or quoting Madame Senator, the other filled with daily press releases in chronological order. The floor to ceiling shelves were full of these black binders.

We heard keys in the door, then the voice of a cheerful young woman.

“Good moooooorning!” she yelled.

“Hey!” Octavia hollered back.

“Helloooooo!” I yelled.

“Who’s that?”

“R.C. Paige.  New girl,” I said.

She turned on the overhead TV in the office lobby, then come back to our area and turned on another overhead TV.  News blasted from the lobby TV and muzak played from the TV on our side, which showed a list of the day’s hearings scheduled.

“You can always tune that out and pull up a TV on your screen,” Octavia said.  “In fact, you’ll need to keep that window open to MSNBC so you don’t miss anything.”

“I’m a news junkie anyway,” I assured her.

“Take that up a notch and you’ll be fine,” she said.  “Anytime you can get a jump on her, do.  She’ll respect you for it.”

“What you mean?” I asked.

“Be proactive.  That’s what she wants.  I’ll give her credit, they’re never gonna catch her sleeping…”

  • In this era of information-overload (a 24-hour news cycle, social media bleeping every other minute, your turn on any number of online games) how do you disconnect to de-compress?
  • Why do you think it’s necessary to de-compress? (Or why not)
  • Ow do you feel after a day/week/month of refraining from news, social media and/or online games?

#WorstJobs

 

Octavia was about 5’4”, light brown with long, wavy black hair, and chiseled facial features. Her demeanor was polished and professional in slacks and a pullover top.

“Glad you could start right away.  They told me a lot about you.  Madame Senator’s real excited you’re coming on board.”

“So, where are you going? On to bigger and better things?” I asked, stuffing my purse into one of the two empty overhead shelves she pointed out at the desk. “Didn’t you just start this job a couple months ago?”

I knew the answer.  She had been there three months.  I also knew that before Octavia took the job, another woman had worked it just one day and quit.

“I came, I saw, I went,” she said.

She exhaled deeply. Then, as if suddenly remembering something, she opened one of the lower desk drawers and retrieved another folder she stuffed into her tote bag.

“You came, you saw, you went,” I repeated. “Got the tee-shirt?”

“Got the lumps,” she said. She thumbed through drawers pulling papers from folders and personal items. “I’ll show you where to go for your I.D. and parking pass. You will be driving, I hope?”

“Nope. I’ll be on the train,” I said.

“You’ll need a back-up plan.  Some nights you’ll be working long after the train stops. And you know cabs don’t pick up Black folks,” she said.

She pulled her chair under the desk and I pulled up a chair next to her.  “I’ll show you where the cafeterias are and the vending machines. Also, there’s a gym and a dry cleaners, and a shoe repair shop. You’ll love the amenities,” she said.  “You can rent movies from the Blockbuster machines, and, if there’s any book you need, any book ever printed, you can call down to the Library of Congress and they’ll have it brought to you.”

“Cafeteri-AS?” I asked.  “The last couple of places I worked in barely had a vending machine in the building.”

“There’s one full-scale, sit-down cafeteria with breakfast and lunch served. Then there’s a carryout that only serves sandwiches and salads down the hall from the cafeteria.  In the Longworth, which you can get to through the tunnels when the weather’s bad or you’re in a rush, there’s another cafeteria, a Starbucks, and a general store.”

She pulled up her e-mail account and deleted blocks and forwarded some, as she explained the campus amenities.

“Oh, and a supplies store and a gift shop,” she remembered.  “Girl, these cats made sure they wouldn’t want for nothing. There’s a barbershop, a doctor’s office, and a nurse stations, too. Oh, remind me to pick up my clothes…”

Octavia had one small box and a large canvas bag stuffed with envelopes to take with her from the desk she was turning over to me. She had a checklist of things to do and things to tell me, and she went through the list almost mechanically, crossing off items as we went.

“Let’s see how much of this we can get through before shit starts popping,” she said, studying her list.  “Oh, and I might as well warn you, just because they got all this shit up here don’t mean you’ll get to take advantage of it.  The shit ain’t cheap for one, and you really won’t have time.”

“It’s still nice to know it’s available,” I said.  “My last job barely had toilet paper in the bathroom, and at one point the only water cooler we had was collecting dust because we couldn’t pay for refills. All this stuff at the ready? I done died and come to heaven.”

She said rather flatly, “You keep that attitude.”

  • Measure the growth. Compare your current job (even if you are unemployed and your job is applying for jobs) to the worst job you’ve ever had.
  • How did your worst job help prepare/position you for your current position?
  • Now that you understand that worst job was part of your growth process, what kind words can you say to that former boss/employer?

#WorkLifeBalance

 

Of course, I’m going to miss having an office to myself.  My desk here is one of six tiny cubicles. I got comfortable in the high-backed black, executive chair, as Octavia showed me what was what and what was where where on the computer.

“The first thing you’re going to do in the mornings is go to the Morning Whip’s schedule to see what’s on the floor.  Anytime Madame Senator has a bill in committee, even if it’s a subcommittee, she’ll want you to do a press release,” Octavia said.  “Even if they’re only marking up her bill, and even if it’s the same bill she’s been introducing, and re-introducing every year since she’s been here, she’ll want you to do a press release. ” The LD probably will tell you a day or two in advance, but sometimes things get so hectic, they might miss it, and you don’t want to be caught unaware.”

“L.D.?” I asked, as she stood over me, pointing at the computer screen, motioning me to scroll down to the “Daily Whip,” a schedule of the bills Senators will debate.

“Legislative Director,” she said. “Billy is the L.D. He’s here, but he went downstairs to get breakfast. Billy’s usually here by eight, but the office doesn’t open officially until nine. You’ll like Billy. You’ll like everybody here, pretty much,” she said. Without digressing, she continued showing me what else I needed to know.

“Once you see what’s on the Floor Agenda for the day, go to Madame Senator’s web site and see what she has already said about that issue and print those previous press releases out for her. Pull up her web site, so I can show you where the major pieces are because they don’t always come up in a keyword search,” she said.

I typed in the web site address as she continued to instruct, rapid-fire, jumping from the list she held to reminders that occurred to her as she spoke.

“I better write this stuff down,” I said, opening desk drawers in search of a notepad.

“Oh, while, we’re at it, let me show you where the supplies are.”

I got up and followed her to a tiny office space crammed with a desk, a printer, and shelves of disorganized old and new ink pens, folders, notepads, and boxes of paper clips.

I scribbled, “Check The Daily Whip,” on a note pad as we walked back to my desk. “The Daily Whip” is sent from the office of the “Whip,” the Congress member elected by his colleagues to “whip” folks into shape.

“A Black guy’s the Whip?” I said, proudly remembering much hoopla made about Congressman John Clyburn’s becoming the first Black Majority Whip. Octavia shook her head.

“That’s on the House side,” she said.  “Baby steps.  Two flies in the buttermilk are about all this side can handle. Now, the House side, that’s another story.  We finally got a little pull over there.”

I nodded, staring at the screen.  I told her I wrote an article about the CBC last year.  “Congressional Black Caucus members chairing four of the main committees,” I said. “About to have a Black president, too. I’m going to volunteer over at the DNC…”

She said I wouldn’t have time for that.

“This right here is not a job, it’s a way of life,” she said.

  • Describe a time (a year, or a period in your life) where you spent most of your time on your career. Did your relationships with family and friends suffer?
  • Were your professional accomplishments worth the sacrifices to your personal relationships? Explain your answer. (For instance, I lost my husband but I helped find a cure for cancer.)
  • Describe your work-life balance, or one you would be happy with. (For instance, your balance is grinding eight hours a day, five days a week, then spending evenings and weekends with your family; or it may be grinding round-the-clock nine months of the year, vacationing with your family for three month; or it may be an understanding you have that you will grind for 30 years in your career, then retire from full-time grinding and work projects at your leisure.)
  • What is your plan for a better work-life balance? (If you are happy with the balance you have, could you better communicate this to your family and friends who may need a better understanding?