The second post tonight is the packaging from a Lihit Lab Carrying Pouch B5. I first eyed these a few years ago in San Francisco’s Japantown, a sleek little bag that I could use to carry my Nexus 10 around. At the time I wasn’t working so I didn’t splurge (as an import, they were somewhat overpriced). Plus, I didn’t really need a bag for my tablet anyway, as I never carried it around, using it only in bed.
As I alluded to in the previous post, I haven’t been that happy lately. A lot of it has to do with my job, or maybe work itself. Some of it might be the continuation of my midlife crisis. Being so unhappy, my mind is always churning trying to figure out why, and how I can make myself feel better. Perhaps there are some fundamental values, beliefs, and/or thought processes that lead me to feel this way. How would I go about changing them?
Then there’s also my ailing memory. Most days I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast. I need to write that shit down, something I’d been doing nearly every day for the past 7 years. In February, I stopped. This is the longest I’ve gone without writing a journal since starting 7 years ago.
One thing I thought was that perhaps I take work too seriously. I don’t particularly like my job, or the company I work for. It’s just a means to pay the bills. And yet I still go full speed, back to my overachieving ways, tiring myself out at the end of the day. It’s not a goal of mine. I want to spend my time on things that are valuable to me, but I can’t do that if I’m exhausted.
So a shift in focus is required. Self-care is required. Self-talk is required. The best way to write down my thoughts is still with a keyboard. Maybe something I can carry around easily? Yes, definitely. I want to travel light.
Enter this little 11.3-inch laptop that I’m using now to type this on. It will actually fit on my lap when I’m on the bus. I can write out all my thoughts before and after work, telling myself that it’s ok to take my time, that I don’t need to impress anybody, that this is my life now. Existential crisis. Depression. Disillusionment. Aging. Anything bigger would be too uncomfortable. It only cost a couple of hundred US dollars, and fits perfectly in the bag.
After all these years, I finally got it. The packaging always appealed to me. I’d pick up the bag in Japantown, imagine myself going around with my tablet, writing down my thoughts, reading my PDFs. But that never happened. Now, I get another chance. This is something that makes me happy.
It’s kind of late now, maybe I’ll post a photo of the bag later. My original intention was just to save the labels, not dump a bunch of stuff from my head. See ya.
I saw a reflection of myself in the MTR door this morning and I thought damn, I sure look like my dad. Growing up, I never thought of my dad as particularly cool, wearing his button-down shirts with khakis, jeans, or slacks, and tennis shoes. I associate the tucked-in, button-down look with him, and now I’m sporting the same look for work.
My dad was not someone I tried to emulate. If anything, there were things he did that I told myself I would never do. The sad thing is, I’ve actually gone on to do pretty much everything I said I wouldn’t do.
The MTR takes me to an office less than a mile away from my birthplace. The hospital is no longer there. Actually, I don’t know what’s there now. Maybe one of these days I’ll stop by during lunch to have a look.
The first place I ever lived is even closer, only half a mile away. My aunt’s house is close as well, in the same neighborhood it’s been for the past 40 years. This is where I come from.
In my angst over rejoining the rat race, it hadn’t occurred to me that I’m now working so near the “home” in my original “hometown”. I wasn’t trying to do it, but it happened. I didn’t want to be like my dad, yet somehow I am. I try not to do the narcissistic things my mom does, but sometimes I do. No matter how hard I’ve tried to be my own person, I am still a product of my upbringing and socioeconomic background.
I’d like to think that I’m in control of my life but it’s kind of crazy how close I am to the beginning. Is it possible that all this happened subconsciously? Maybe I’m not much in control after all.
Wow, two months of no posts? I’m as disillusioned as ever, the only way I’ll post something here again is if I just do it, no waiting to be “ready”, whatever that means. So, here goes.
Walking around Central, I see people wearing professional attire, men with their button-down shirts, ties, and suits, women with their skirts, blouses, and pant-suits. I feel so out of place. In the morning, I take a look in the mirror as I dress myself, and I feel like a fraud. This isn’t me. But maybe that’s just what I tell myself, because it is.
Every workday I put on one of those button-downs, slacks, and black leather oxfords. I cram into the MTR along with other commuters. I walk on the crowded sidewalk in 100-degree humid heat. I’m the same as everyone else. But do they feel the same way I do? Do they feel like frauds too? Do they wonder why it’s so important to dress a certain way to work in certain environments?
Maybe some do, and they are like me, needing to dress like this in order to earn money to live. No matter how much I question or how much I feel like a fraud, I’m still doing it. I haven’t started a resistance movement where I go to work wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I feel shitty every day, and I keep doing the thing that makes me feel shitty every day. Because this is the world I live in.
It was my third week on the job, a Wednesday. Up until this point, I had spent a week in training and two doing simple tasks like swapping keyboards and mice, learning the culture, and meeting various people. But on this day, which also happened to be an anniversary with my wife, I got my first major test, a desk swap.
On the surface, a desk swap sounds simple: unplug a bunch of cables, move the hardware, and connect them again. But these workstations were neither simple nor single; each desk had two machines connected with KVM switches; one had four heavy and thick (for LCDs) 21-inch monitors, the other had six. All the monitors were attached with heavy metal arms to rails on the desk. The traders had his or her preferences for which machine displayed on which monitor. These were also SBFI trading desks, which means that the cables are built into the desk, and that if they’re not properly labeled, it’s a trial-and-error process to figure out which cable is which. At the time I didn’t even know what a trading desk was, and I tried to pull out individual cables, which complicated things.
I was given fifteen minutes to do the job, starting at 18:45, with my scheduled off time at 19:00. Of course, knowing what I know now, fifteen minutes is not a realistic time in which to get the job done. Even at my peak, after I had mastered this job after a year, it would have taken at least thirty minutes, barring any unforeseen issues. This was a test from my manager. How would I handle it?
Of course, my manager did not know that it was my anniversary, and that I was planning to have dinner with my wife. We weren’t supposed to do overtime without pre-approval, either. With these looming over my head, I had extra desire to finish quickly, but it was my first time doing this and I couldn’t rush it. And it was the only window in which to get this done: the voice guys had already come and swapped the dealer boards, so there was no going back.
In my innocence, I thought it would be easiest to physically swap all the monitors. Considering the users’ preferences and that even identical model monitors can have variations in color and viewing angles, it seemed like the right thing to do. After all, in the small office environment where I had last worked, I’d do stuff like this all the time. I quickly learned that things were different in this environment.
First, as mentioned before, these motherfuckers were heavy. The monitors were 21-inch professional-grade NEC LCDs, three inches thick. The metal arms, then, had to be just as heavy duty in order to hold up these monitors to the rails. Second, the rails are situated at the back of the desk, furthest away from you. You have to lean forward and extend your arms while holding something that weighs like a couple of bowling balls, and you have to precisely guide the metal arms into the rails, then hold up the weight while you lock them down. And sometimes the locking levers were stripped so you had to manually position them a certain way or the whole thing would come crashing down, or you’d fuck up your fingers getting them caught in the rail. Seriously, I don’t think it was even physically possible for some of my skinnier coworkers to do this.
Third, on some monitors, the cable screws would be frozen in the holes, and no amount of twisting or even using a screwdriver could unfreeze them. This was a blessing in disguise for me though because this is how I learned that moving all the monitors didn’t make sense. In the end, I just moved the two over to the other desk and arranged both to match their originals.
All this time, I’m sweating profusely in my wool slacks, cotton undershirt, and button-down dress shirt, the standard uniform for this company’s IT staff, regardless of the physical demands of the job. On the third day of this job, three weeks prior, my 15-year-old pair of dress shoes gave out right in the middle of training, and I had to run down to the mall to get a new pair. Unfortunately for me, this was a luxury mall, and even the cheapest pair of shoes ran several hundred US dollars. If I was going to spend hundreds of dollars on shoes, I figured I’d at least get a pair that I thought looked good. Somehow, in the end, the shoes I bought cost nine hundred dollars, and I walked out of the store in a daze.
So here I am in my nine-hundred-dollar shoes, crawling and squatting underneath desks, pulling out wheeled trays with sharp metal edges on which 50-pound metal computer towers sat. These shoes were meant for going to a wedding, or a ball, or perhaps wearing to work by those whom I was moving these workstations for, not for physical activity. But I needed to bend my feet to get under the desk, and the leather was hard. Well, I had to do it, and when I finally sold the shoes on eBay last year the crease was still there.
Now, it was 20:30, and with the workstations physically configured, it was time to test and make sure everything was where they were supposed to be. Fire up each workstation, confirm they are displaying on the correct monitors, confirm the KVM number matches, and confirm they can ping the Exchange server. Yes! Time to go, time to have a nice dinner with my wife, and time to worry about the true test tomorrow morning when the traders come in to work. Welcome to life in frontline IT support, investment-bank style.