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2004-01-27 - 10:55 p.m.

A Really Bad Hair Day OR: I’m ready to NOT be Customer No. 800 anymore.

I woke up this morning and did not wash my hair. I should have, for a couple of reasons. Well, first of all, it was morning, and that’s when I usually wash my hair. Secondly, I made the dreadful mistake of coloring my hair this weekend – a dreadful shade called “Auburn Dream” which disastrously turned into “Auburn Nightmare” on my head. The color apparently lasts for 28 washings. Tempted though I was to wash my hair 28 times on Sunday evening, I decided to let the color fade in the most natural way possible. But by not scrubbing my head this morning, I delayed its natural departure by an additional 24 hours. The final reason I *should* have washed my head is that I have had a legitimately BAD HAIR day – the suspicious person in me suspects that perhaps it would have been more successful if I didn’t look like one of the redheaded Fraus from Jena, Germany, and certainly if I had had clean hair.

I went to to and from work today (at which times I do not know, because my watch battery also stopped today), using the bus. In this case, it was a series of watching-the-bus-go-30-seconds-ahead-of-me incidents, which resulted in my standing in the subzero wind for 15-20 minute intervals. Got to work to discover that neither of my network connections had been fixed – in the case of one, all it required was that it be switched “on.” The other was a more complicated situation of “gee we’ve never seen *this* before” – that is, the computer hardware seemed to recognize the network, but all software refused to. We determined that, indeed, my office line was the problem. And in fact, it appears that my office is in the only Wireless-LAN dead spot in the ENTIRE building. I called to ask the status on this work and gave the computer department a small earful – it really shouldn’t take a week to go from “off” to “on,” in my humble opinion, and I remain unable to print a single document.

I moved promptly on to problem number 2: obtaining my college identification card. I had tried to do this last week, but was informed by the security office that the identification machine was broken and would be fixed Tuesday. Today, I called the security office a total of three times before I was able to obtain the full instructions – one of the callers chastised me for interrupting him because he was working on “a very complicated Adobe Illustrator document” - a phrase that he uttered as if he had just learned what “Adobe Illustrator” meant two hours before, and it was an entity that demanded great respect – he clearly couldn’t be bothered with such banal activities as answering the phone. It was only an hour later, naturally, that I came up with the perfect response to his stunning rudeness. At the time I simply said, “Sir, I am new here, I am simply asking for your help, please. Could you please speak more clearly.”

Eventually I found the unlabeled room in the library where IDs were being processed. (the sign on the wall pointed down the stairs; ID distribution was upstairs, I have a fundamental problem with this logic). I presented my letters and forms of identification, only to be told that my letter of permission from the department was unacceptable because it only authorized keys and not a college ID. Uh huh. I had two official letters, one stating that I was a college professor at QC, the second authorizing the security department to issue me keys. Not good enough. Need a letter specifically authorizing that an ID is issued. And you need to be “in the computer.” Rules are Rules.

I wasn’t “in the computer.” And how could they possibly authorize giving me an ID with a letter only authorizing keys (from the same security office) if my name wasn’t "in the computer?" I asked how one gets “into the computer.” Usually you are entered into the computer when you get your ID…….uh huh….

They sent me back to my department to get another specific letter from the secretary so that I could go BACK A THIRD TIME to the security office to meet with a nameless guy (they wouldn’t give me his name. They just said go talk with “the guy”). Anyway, “the guy” would put me “INTO” the computer. I went back to my department to discover that our secretary was not in today. (She is undoubtedly “in the computer,” just not “in the office.”) I wailed to the people in the hallway that I have decided to live without an College ID. I mean, how important could it be?

I work with a crew of resourceful technicians, who immediately forged a letter replete with the phrase “issue her an ID,” and signed all kinds of official initials on official stationary. I then returned to the library armed with my new set of appropriate paperwork. I conveniently skipped the trip to the security office (it’s a rather long way away, and it’s really really cold today, you know). A new lady was just now coming on duty – and after sufficient bantering back and forth, she did something rather clever: she *called* the security office and verified that I am, indeed, a faculty member! Hurray!!! I was IN!! I waited fifteen minutes for the process of getting “into the computer” to take place (it must involve a screwdriver), and then I returned to have my ID made.

My hair looks GREAT in the picture.

But my name is spelled wrong.

I went and asked her if she could change this. Uh, no. You need another letter to verify the correct spelling, take it to the security office, get them to correct the mistake, wait for it to get “into the computer” (this is a big phrase with them), and then I can stand in line to get myself a new ID.

Uh huh.

I’m thinking that officially changing the spelling of my name with the US Government. It might involve less hassle. In any case, I AIN’T giving up my new ID (how often do you get an ID picture with great hair?).

But this misspelling and this whole “out of the computer” thing led me to have a dreadful, sinking feeling. I got the telephone number for the payroll office from our wonderful technicians (I don’t have a telephone book in my office. I guess the phonebook only comes once you are “in the computer.”). Indeed. I am not on the payroll. Indeed, payroll has lost all of my paperwork that was filed last November. This means, I will not receive my first paycheck.

Another afternoon spent spinning my wheels in circles around the Queens College campus has left me philosophically pondering the inherent differences between an East European bureaucracy and a New York State university administration. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything insightful.

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