Thursday, August 6, 2009

Open sesame...or not

I’m a big goober.

Or at least, I feel like one. Let me start out by telling you about my first week at my new job. I started a job this week with a new department, and so far it is amazing. The people are nice, my manager is wonderful, the building is gorgeous, and my work is interesting. Don’t laugh, though, when I tell you my favorite part so far.

The break room.

Wait, now hear me out. I’ve been working as a government drone for 9 years now. For the first four years, I worked for one department, and their building was pretty nice. It was about ten years old when I started there, and each floor had two break rooms that were probably 12’ x 12’ rooms. They each had a refrigerator, sink, microwave, and some cabinets. Some of the break rooms had a table, but not all. That was it – basic, but nice to have around.

Each department that I moved to after that was in an older building that was built when they apparently thought people didn’t need break rooms. Maybe everyone bought their lunches back then at the cafeteria (although none of the buildings had one of those, either) like in one of my favorite movies, Nine to Five, and the employees didn’t need a sink in which to wash their Tupperware or their coffee mug. Anyway, I’ve spent the last five years washing my dishes in the bathroom, or often not washing my dishes because I was avoiding the bathroom (you know how I feel about public restrooms) and then throwing away perfectly good Tupperware because it was uber gross.

In this building, each floor has multiple break rooms. The one closest to me is better than anything I’ve ever seen. Not only is it big enough to have several (probably ten) tables, it also has a soda vending machine and a snack vending machine. There is also a sink, WITH a separate hot water spigot, as well as six, count ‘em, SIX microwaves. No more waiting in line to heat up my food!

But the best is yet to come. There is a machine that has two spouts – one delivers ice, in nicely shaped small round pieces, and the other delivers…FILTERED WATER! For free!! This may not sound too exciting to some of you, but let me explain how amazing free water is for us government folks. First, the water straight out of the tap downtown is often brown and tastes like metallic dirt (and I am very picky about the taste of water). Because of the awful downtown water, you cannot fill your water bottle at the drinking fountain, and God forbid the government provide anything to their employees (I buy my own post its for crying out loud). For these reasons, employees start “Water Clubs” and pay into a fund every month to have Alhambra or another bottled water dispenser delivered to the office. The price is sometimes set at $5 a month, but can vary depending on how many people are in the club, how much water they drink, and how many people sneak in and take a cup of water without paying (at one department I worked for, there was also a coffee club, and the coffee people would fill the pot with water from the Alhambra cooler, even though they weren’t water club members!); at one time I was paying almost $10 a month for water. And that was back when I didn’t drink more than a glass a day, if that.

So, you can see why free filtered water is the best thing about my new job so far. Plus, I’ve started making iced lattes at home, and now I can bring that in my thermos and then fill my cup up with ice for free, instead of paying $.25 for a cup of ice every day.

Now that I’ve told you the best thing about this place, let me describe to you the worst thing. Apparently, this is a very secure building, which is nice. So often I see departments paying security guards who don’t do anything when people walk in off the street without showing a badge, only to get upstairs and try to sell people stuff (really, I almost got a movie package deal once before my boss shooed the guy away). However, this building is almost too secure. Each day this week I’ve made some sort of faux pa in the morning, which leads me to think the security guys are watching me on camera and messing with me for entertainment purposes.

On Monday, my first day, I drove to work and paid to park in the garage downstairs. There is access into the building from the garage, but I didn’t know how to get in. I had to call my relative who works in the building and ask how the heck I was supposed to get inside (and let me tell you my work hours are 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., so my first day I was here at 6:30). Before 7:00 a.m., you need keycard access to enter the building. I found out I had to push an intercom button, let the guard know I was a new employee, and a guard would be down to escort me inside.

Apparently, the guard I reached was tired.

When she came on the intercom, I identified myself as a new employee, and was told I’d have to wait until 7:00 a.m. when the doors opened. That was it – no offer to let me in, nothing. Luckily, there were some workmen in the garage going in and out of the freight elevator, and they let me ride up with them. Success.

Day two. I rode the bus to work that day, so I attempted to enter the building though the front main entrance. Here there is a set of glass doors (sliding and one with a handle), then a vestibule area (affectionately called the “man trap”), another set of glass doors (sliding and with a handle), and then the main lobby with the elevators. I was here before 7:00 a.m. again, and when I walked up to the front door, a man was badging in the first set of doors, so I slipped in behind him (I know badging isn’t a word, but go with me). Mistake number one; apparently you are not allowed to follow someone in. In the man trap/vestibule area, we were stuck. I attempted to “badge in” at what I thought was another keycard pad; it wasn’t, it was just a black box on the wall for an intercom…not a keycard. Mistake number two. Finally, an alarm sounds, a green light comes on, and the second set of doors open; I again follow behind the gentleman. Mistake number three; again, I’m apparently not supposed to follow him in.

Wednesday, I again drive to work; I have lots of stuff that I’m bringing from home to set up my desk, and I figure instead of bringing one binder a day on the bus, I’ll load it all into my car and be done with it. I again park in the garage under the building, and this time, I’m all prepared to badge myself in; forget the lazy security lady. I walk up to the first door, badge myself in, and walk into the vestibule. I can see a man getting into the elevator through the second set of glass doors; he sees me and holds the elevator. I walk up to the second set of doors (in the garage there is only a sliding set of doors, no door with a handle), expect them to slide open in front of me, and…nothing.

The man gestures towards the wall, where I see a black box. I attempt to badge myself in with my keycard; again, this is a misleading intercom box, not a keypad, so I look like a goober in front of this guy. I’m standing there, in front of a set of glass doors that won’t open, just waiting. Finally, they open, and I make it into the elevator, just as the alarm sounds and the doors begin to close because they’ve been held open too long.

Today, I felt confident. I took the bus to work again, and I had my badge out, ready to go, as I walked towards the main front entrance. I badged my way in the first set of doors, and, because my parents raised me to be polite, I held the door open for a woman entering behind me. She said thanks but we were supposed to go one at a time, so, feeling a little foolish for trying to be nice, I walked in alone. (It was jus today that I found out we aren’t supposed to follow each other in.) I hear the alarm sound, so I walk forward and again, confidently, reach to open the door to enter the lobby, right as the alarm stops. Mistake number two today – apparently you have to rush forward and open the second door while the alarm is still going off. I stand there, waiting, thinking the woman behind me will go in the first door and then I can open the second door (and this time didn’t try to badge in at the non-existent keypad). I guess she takes the one person at a time rule seriously, because she doesn’t come in. Finally, I hear her on the intercom with the guards, letting them know I’m stuck in the man trap. The alarm sounds and I rush inside without thanking her, lest my humiliation and embarrassment at not being able to open a door show on my face (no mistake number three today, since I was the only person stuck in the vestibule and couldn’t follow anyone in if I tried; perhaps I’m actually improving).

As I walk in, I can see across the lobby to the set of entrance doors on the other side of the building. I can faintly hear the alarm going off over there, and see a woman entering through the second set of glass doors. Then I notice two men, lined up outside, patiently waiting for the woman to enter before each one tries to enter the first glass door.

Why has no one told me about these entrance protocols?!

I rush onto the elevator, and just know that the security folks are watching me, waiting to see what floor I get off on, so they can follow me around with their cameras and laugh.

Maybe week two will be my week to master entering the building. Although, I’ve already screwed it up so many times, I’m a little nervous to do it again!