I had friends who were painters in New York City and when they were really bored and wanted to yuck it up, they used to go take the civil service exams for being a graphic artist for the State of New York. It was free. They gave you a bunch of pencils, paint, pastels and you spent the day in a big room drawing pictures of fire hydrants and stuff and they used to have a blast doing this and had no intention whatsoever of getting a job, but they liked to do stuff like this. This is like a bunch of us bloggers taking the exam to become police officers -- it would be fun, wouldn't it
? You have to admit it would.
Very few people think taking tests which you don't need to take and don't care if you pass is a lark, but I do! Fewer still think going on job interviews is their idea of a party, but again, I do!
So ... this is a rather long story. It ends up that a particularly terrific blogger friend of mine is probably relocating to Boston and she needs to find work, so I thought it would be cool to go downtown and register with a temp agency and find out the routine, both for her, but also for me. Run reconnaissance for her. Also I have no pride or attitude about temp work. My ex started as a temp at Sony Pictures Entertainment in LA when we first moved there, and within a few months was in the Finance Dept doing very interesting and important work and then within a few years was Manager of International Finance, trading billions of dollars of Sony's foreign exchange monies and buying hedge fund contracts. No slouch. All because he knew how to use a computer.
So, afer they interviewed me, there were a bunch of tests I had to take.
I had to take a test for Microsoft Word.
I had to take a test for Microsoft Powerpoint.
I had to take a test for Microsoft Excel.
I had to take a test for Microsoft Access.
I had to take a typing test for speed and accuracy.
The funny thing was with all the Microsoft apps tests, you had to do the functions (cut, paste, move, copy, SUM, etc.) with the pull-down menus. No shortcuts. You flunked if you did them with shortcuts or the right-mouse button. They were pretty cool tests. They were computer-based tests with questions like, "Open the excel spreadsheet called SALE.xls. Copy the formula from cell A3 into cells A4, A5, A6" and then if you did it correctly they asked "REPEAT QUESTION of CONTINUE TO NEXT QUESTION" so you got a chance to try it again if you totally blew it the first time.
They had me doing Powerpoint slides with 5 second transitions, fly out from the left, embedded with bar charts, you name it.
I was creating records in M/S Access database software and defining required fields and all this crazy shit. Crazy because I really had never even used Access more than about 5 minutes. Still, it was straight-forward and reasonable in the assumptions it made about databases and I have used Foxpro and dbase.
I was thinking of you Scoble
and you Porcaro,
and you Beth
, and laughing quietly to myself. It was like I was visiting the inside of a Microsoft developer's mind. Since I was using some apps I'd never used and other features of apps I knew well (but never used w/pull-down menus), it gave me a whole new insight into how you design something and try to make it simple and obvious. Of course, there were lots of simple, useful design aspects I felt kind of happy and thankful for. But then there were some insanely complicated ways of doing things -- especially because I've learned the bad habits of a zillion shortcutting friends who've taught me how to do everything ad hoc and nothing by the book.
I was thinking about people in the cubicles next to me, sweating the tests, really really needing the work and the money. I was thinking about how learning Microsoft software could make a living for a person, put bread on their table, shoes on their kids' feet. Say what you will, Microsoft is deeply embedded in this society, for good or ill, depending on how you see it. But yesterday, I saw it as good.
I actually aced the tests and got great scores -- which cracked me up. I undoubtedly did well because I didn't feel there was a lot riding on it. Since I happened to have both my license and my passport on me, the temp lady was able to W-2 me and INS me, to prove I wasn't an illegal alien, and then signed me up and wants to send me out next week! I do clean up good, I must say. I had my black suit on, pumps, black stockings. Dippy Angie Dickensen 60's blond hairdo.
The ironic part of the whole thing was how much fun it was. And now I have all the inside dirt to share with my friend when she gets here.