the past three days have been intense; i'm supposed to be healing, and i spent them suffering sleep deprivation (partially due to the absurdly uncomfortable weather we've been having) and a pile-up of responsibilities that pushed me to a new level. i'm really proud of how i managed to keep it all together!
i got up stupidly early for an appointment i've waited over a month for - which was set for tuesday. how did i screw up the calendar entry?!?! this was a really good start to the day. there wasn't enough time to get some sleep before work, so i got in to the office an hour and a half earlier than i usually do.
everything was quiet and peaceful until cheshire cat lady rocked up. i don't particularly like her at the best of times, and to have her suddenly popping into existence behind me while i was trying to focus on bigger issues didn't push my sympathy buttons. i dismissed her, telling her to let me know when imperieux became available.
instead, she brought imperieux over to my cubicle which was not what i asked her to do, once again disturbing me and giving me a sense of having my personal space invaded. fine. i locked my computer and walked them over to her space.
i have a job to do, and that job is to solve problems. the first part of solving any problem is determining what, precisely, that problem is. so i began the interview. cheshire cat lady is not one for precision, in fact she's one of the least technical / rational people i've come across. i have no idea how she ended up in the field of technical writing and i'm pretty sure she's the worst possible candidate for the job.
her first claim: "the interface is terrible and it doesn't do what i need it to do." the sad part is that she participated in the design and its iterations. as i drilled down in an attempt to uncover the underlying causes of her distress, i began to pick up on specifics and offered her solutions to those so that we could focus on finding the rest of the problems. it was terribly frustrating to have her repeatedly return to the resolved issues, and just as frustrating having her instruct us on technical aspects of a solution that wouldn't actual help anybody.
my job is to solve problems. my job is to determine underlying causes and then to figure out how to resolve the issues in a manner coherent with the big picture. the user is always right, but that extends on so far as to say that the user knows when something is wrong with the experience. it doesn't mean that the user knows what needs to happen behind the scenes and it certainly doesn't mean that one user's needs can override any of the others'.
so i pressed on in my quest to put all the pieces together, and she pressed on with complaining about everything being wrong (there were three issues in the end, the rest of this rather complex piece of machinery was designed perfectly adequately). not only was she repeating herself and constantly returning to the already-resolved issues, which was frustrating, but the more she repeated herself the more frustrated she became and the louder her voice got. very soon this escalated into her screaming at us, so loudly that the entire building could hear full well what she was thinking and this upset a lot of people.
now, i'm no angel. i kept my voice down, but as much as i didn't want her to shout i cannot say that my dislike for her and her idiocy didn't extend to my holding back on making her feel cared for and appreciated. it's hard to refrain from gently pushing someone over the edge when they're highly unlikable and talking utter rubbish. i was on a path to being entirely dispassionate, and while i knew that this was upsetting her i wasn't about to begin pandering to a fool. i don't play nice when i'm being shouted down by incompetence.
i say i was on a path to being entirely dispassionate, but the shouting soon devolved into personal attack. i went from cold to super-heated anger in a flash, at the same time keeping an iron fist clenched around remaining professional.
"i'm trying to help you, " i said behind gritted teeth, "and you're antagonizing me. it's very hard to think straight when you're doing that."
just then, megaman stepped up to the cubicle. he stood for a moment, while cheshire cat lady screamed on, and then made a quieting motion with his hand. what happened next made me do something totally unprofessional; i simply couldn't resist such an appropriate response to her (perhaps unwitting) moment of clarity. she continued her rant in her loud voice, this time directed to megaman and with me behind her back.
"... and i'm sure everyone thinks i'm mad..."
and in full view of imperieux and megaman, i opened my eyes comically wide and nodded my head furiously in agreement.
megaman invited us to join him behind closed doors, and with all of her perpetual noise it took the better part of fifteen minutes before he understood what we had already homed in on a while before. i explained my plan of action and told him how and when we'd execute it, and once he had ever-so-sweetly managed to get our message across to the idiot, imperieux and i made our escape.
i needed a few moments to explain to everyone else what the drama was about in the most politically correct "we just had a miscommunication" way possible without sharing my true thoughts on the matter. when it was time to get to work on the fixes, i took imperieux for a game of pool first to put us in a better mood (he won) and i sat with him the entire time to make absolutely sure that there was no way for any more miscommunications to interfere.
it took an hour or so, but by the time he was done i knew that this was everything cheshire cat lady needed. i called her over for an acceptance test, sighed deeply when she approved and then went back to my otherwise pretty busy day.
a few hours later she approached me again, with that extra-special super-sincere cheshire smile of hers.
"everything's great, thank you. now, is it possible to have all the items in the menu listed in alphabetical order?"
"i don't know, but it's really not a priority right now. i'll discuss it with <imperieux>."
boy, was i ever pissed when she approached imperieux directly and he made the changes on the fly!