Not Exactly Fair Warning

One of my clients sends me files of objective STEM questions to review for grammar and punctuation. I don’t have to check any of the subject matter, thankfully, although I will occasionally find the ridiculous goof up. Although those are really the sort of things that anyone would catch.

For example, one of the questions was written out in a true or false format, although worded differently. And the answer options were ridiculously extrapolated to fit the 4-option format. So the 4 choices were: 1) Yes. 2) No. 3) Both yes and no. 4) Neither yes or no.

I mean, come on.

Another example. Today, I was editing maths papers, and the question read something like: which of the points, A, B, C, or D, are closest to this certain point on the number line? And there was an accompanying diagram. The answer choices were: A) A. B) D. C) C. D) B.

Wonderful. Unnecessarily confusing. Or some idiot teacher thinking that they would catch out a hapless student for not paying complete attention? I don’t know. But it was stupid.

However, the character that makes all this quite interesting is the chap who coordinates the work on the client’s side. He sends me files regularly, and then calls me up to tell me about the work. I presume this is in case I haven’t seen the email. I have his number saved, oh for the last year at least.

So I find it amusing that I will answer his call with: “Hi Tushar.” and his response will invariably be: “Hi ma’am, Tushar here.” Someone’s clearly on autopilot.

Tushar, I have since learned, is not great with catching on to nuance. He is a very literal person, so when he sent me a bunch of files last week, saying: “Ma’am, please find the files for review. Please try to share a few files every day.” I panicked.

I thought there were a huge number of files, each with lots of questions. I opened the folder and heaved one sigh of relief, because there were 10 files. Quite a few, but manageable overall. Then I opened a file, and saw 1 question.

Huh?

Next file: 3 questions. Next: 5 questions. Next: 2 questions. There were a total of 47 questions, and it took me approximately half an hour to wade through them.

And then yesterday he sends me another folder, with no such message. I thought that the workload was normal to light. Nope. 7 files, each with about 36 questions. It took me the whole day to wade through that lot.

Thanks for the warning, Tushar. Handy.

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Eggjackly

There were many occasions in ParserPile, where I found myself desperately biting my tongue to stop from laughing. This is one of them.

One fine day, I was working with one of the growth hackers. I didn’t think much of her intelligence or ability to do anything, but the founder thought she could sprout rainbows because she was formerly an engineer at Apple. And he was a worshipper of the deity, Steve Jobs, and Apple Inc. was essentially his idea of hallowed temple precincts. [I know enough about software and hardware engineering, and marketing, to realise that Apple is quite a lot of hype. They weren’t even the ones who first made smartphones; just the ones who first made smartphones sexy.]

Anyway, one evening, we had a meeting with the founder. Somehow, the two of them started talking about exercise and healthy eating. She was into fitness and ran marathons and did krav maga, but still was an idiot. He was a former fat person. I came into this meeting a little later, and had to immediately pull on the most wooden expression I could muster because:

She: “Eggs are a great source of protein, but <her husband> thinks they are non-vegetarian, so he doesn’t like me to eat them.”
He: “He *thinks* they are non-veg? They are, aren’t they?”
She: “Karishma told me they aren’t.”

Oh brother. Here we go.

Both swivel to look at me.

He: “Karishma! Aren’t eggs non-veg?”
Me: “Not all. It depends on their source. Typically, poultry farm eggs are unfertilised, so those are veg. Free range ones could potentially be non-veg, if a rooster is around.”

Laughter all around. Disbelieving laughter, I might add.

He: “That sounds crazy!”
She: “I know, right?!”
Me *sighs*: “A hen will lay an egg, regardless of whether a rooster has been around. That’s the way their reproductive system works.”

Minds blown. Jeez.

He: “Ok, so is that why brown eggs are healthier? Because they are fertilised?”
She: “Oh no, those are healthier because they are organic.”
Me *groans*: “Um no. Brown eggs are laid by brown-coloured hens, while white eggs are laid by white-coloured hens. They are nutritionally more or less the same. The difference in colour is due to the fact that they are laid by difference species of chickens.”

Utter silence. All this information is visibly swirling in their brains.

She *to him*: “Karishma reads a LOT.”
He *laughs*: “I’m going to call her the chicken expert from now on.”

Ye Gods.

Boyfriend Roulette

Many years ago, after I had broken up with a boyfriend, one of my college classmates had asked me: “How many boyfriends are you going to keep changing?” The guy promptly got downgraded from a “friend” to “someone I used to know in college”. But that is beside the point. I’m not even going to dignify that remark with a response, because really it reeks of sour grapes more than anything else.

I have historically made terrible romantic decisions, and yet it has rarely deterred me from plunging back into the deep end each time. Of course, each time has been different, with unique life lessons emerging from each encounter. There has been much pain and many tears, but there has also been transcendent love and gales of laughter. Ultimately, I regret only hanging on well after the expiry date of each relationship.

After I broke up with my most recent ex, that was in February 2016, I swore off relationships entirely. The thought of investing myself again into another mess with the wrong person was utterly terrifying. I could handle being single just fine, and in fact started to enjoy the freedom it gave me. [Being in a long distance relationship anyway got me used to this status quo, so it wasn’t a big leap.]

Then April 2016 came around, and I lost my father. All bets were off. Life took on a fragile aspect, where anything could go at any point of time. My life up to that point hadn’t be bedrock anyway, so the changeability of circumstances was anyway a part of my psyche. But losing my father cemented the unpredictability of everything. Who knows how much time we have with our loved ones? Who knows how many opportunities we may or may not have to tell someone we love them? No one.

I took some time to get my ex out of my system. It took almost 2 years. But it happened. I did develop burgeoning feelings for someone, and keeping in my mind the unpredictability of life, I told him. It wasn’t reciprocated, which was difficult to hear, but hey at least I tried. Oh well. I will not feel regret many years down the line, wondering if I missed the opportunity of great love and immense happiness. I didn’t miss it; I gave it a shot. And that’s enough.

I came across a line in an article about soulmates which resonated so deeply with me: it’s better to have a few “oh wells” rather than lead a life full of “what ifs”.

To borrow an oft-repeated phrase from a client: onwards and upwards!

Doorbell Woes

Yesterday’s post about the delivery guy reminded me of the legions of stories I have on the subject. I order quite a bit of stuff online, and so couriers make a regular appearance on my doorstep.

Now, this is an old building, born in 1951 to be exact. It didn’t have a doorbell when it was built. My grandparents had one installed much later, and it conked out one fine day. Then, my aunt had a second one installed, and had the chiming thingie box put in the bedroom, which is the centre of the house. The reason was simple: it can be heard from the kitchen, living room, and the bedroom because of that central location. [Can’t be heard in the bathroom, but then again door cannot be answered by someone in the bathroom either. So moot.] Because of its placement though, it cannot be heard from outside the door, unless there is very little ambient sound.

You can see where this is going, right?

So a few weeks ago, I was waiting on a grocery delivery, when our doorbell rang. I started to get up, when it rang again. And again. And again. And again. And again. 6 bursts of doorbell ringing in rapid succession. All before I had managed to stand.

I finally got to the door, and yanked in open in a, I think, forgivable state of utter annoyance. And:

Me: “Tumhara dimaag kharab hai kya? 6 baar bell kyun bajaya?” *Are you mad? Why did you ring the doorbell 6 times?”
Delivery guy: “Sorry madam! Sunaie nahi diya, to bajate rahe.” *Sorry madam. Couldn’t hear it, so kept ringing it.”
Me: “Bhaiyya. Bell andar ke log ke liye hota hai, bahar ke nahi.” *Dude. The doorbell is meant for the people inside, not the people outside.”

True story.

Hyper Customer

I have a list of ridiculous stories of interactions with delivery agents, which I formerly used to post on Facebook. Must remember to post those here too.

Today, I’m waiting on a grocery delivery that is supposed to come between 8:00 and 10:30 pm. At of right now, 10:15 pm, there is no sign of my delivery. So I called the customer service number, just to confirm that it was indeed happening today.

Me: “Hi. I wanted to confirm that my delivery will happen tonight.”
CS: “Please hold the line, ma’am, as I check with the driver.”

*hold music for 2 minutes*

CS: “Ma’am, the delivery person is stuck in traffic nearby, but he says he will not make the delivery after 10:30 pm, since some customers get hyper and start shouting when he is late.”
Me: “Um. I would prefer to receive my order tonight, and you can assure him that I will not shout at him if he comes after 10:30 pm.”
CS: “Ok ma’am, I will inform the driver accordingly.”

Thankfully, I was able to wait to disconnect before laughing.

Hi. I’m Content.

I usually recount this story during interviews with people, to explain the different hats I wore during my tenure at ParserPile. Officially, my job title was technical content writer, but as time wore on I got sucked into various aspects of the company. By the time I left, anything communication-related was run by me at least once.

This was the time I was working with one of the product managers, whose perennial project was the pricing page. Arguably the most important page on the website, after 8 months, he was rapidly tiring of researching and implementing minor fixes to the page. There must have been a million different optimisations, and some of those fell within the domain of content. At those times, I got seconded to him, much to his relief.

ParserPile had been through one payment processor, and was currently on their second. There were no complaints with the second service provider, so changing to another wasn’t on the cards. So when a third company sent a sales rep [from their Singapore office] to make a cold call, the founder couldn’t be bothered to actually listen to his pitch.

So he sent in, in his stead, the product manager [because of the pricing page], a relatively new CFO [both the person and the position were new], and me. Ideally, someone from each of the sales, support, and frontend teams should also have been there, since this affected them all. But they weren’t, and I was, much to my complete confusion.

We entered the meeting room, and the product manager introduced himself. So did the CFO. Then the very polite young man from Singapore turned to me, and I said with the straightest face I could muster: “Hi. I’m Karishma, from Content.”

Credit to him, he didn’t react too much. He looked utterly flummoxed though, even though he didn’t say anything. So I laughed and said: “Yeah, I don’t know why I am here either.”

When I narrate this story, it invariably gets a chuckle. But I understood only later that, because I had worked with almost every team in the company, I had an almost 360 degree perspective that the others didn’t have. For instance, I knew we were moving from being a B2C company to a B2B one. I knew why our previous payments processor had to be dumped. I knew the ease of filing paperwork with the current one. I asked about how long integration into our frontend would take. I knew to ask how quickly disputes are handled. And so on.

On leaving the meeting, the CFO turned to me and asked me to sit with him for a while for a chat, so he could get a handle on the company. I was surprised, and laughed again. I suggested he sit with one of the engineers, because they knew the product from its bowels.

But I leave that part of the story out of the retelling.

Project: Shirt Resuscitation Part 5

[This title is getting super old. I should make a project index instead. Next project; lesson learnt.]

So I finished embroidering the tulips today! Wheeee! I’m stoked about making some actual, visible progress on this thing.

I also managed to fill in my project journal, so I can read about my progress later on. [I saw someone else do it, and while I am nowhere as good as they are at journalling, I think it’s a sweet idea.]

I took this picture this afternoon, as I started on the third tulip. My stitches aren’t the neatest, to be honest, but that’s the whole point of doing this on a throwaway tee. My mother is ready to rip my head off for expending so much effort on it though, because she thinks it is turning out beautifully. Moms be crazy, yo.

Anyway.

I drew out the flowers from photographs I saw on Google, and used thread tracing to transfer it onto the shirt. Then, coloured in my palette on paper, trying to replicate the shading. Failed abysmally, as you will soon see. But that’s the good thing about a personal project; you get to muck it up as you learn. So I’m not sweating it too much.

So there it is. I hope the next update won’t be quite so far away.