Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

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Museum of Idiots

Hummus and tzatziki for supper tonight because I've been craving them. Well, that and I ate something large and greasy from McDonald's for lunch, and my dietetic experience is telling me that I want to eat something that's at least marginally good for me. Actually, Mediterranean food is quite a bit better than marginally healthy.

It's not that I wanted to eat McDonald's today, or even that I've tailored my dinner to make up for it. Tzatziki and hummus were on the menu this morning. They were on the menu this morning when I decided to use my lunchbreak to make a quick run to the grocery store to buy the ingredients for them. They were on the menu when my plans to drop them off at home, zip over to someplace where I could pick up a sandwich, and then zip back to work were thwarted by a stalled car taking up two lanes of East Washington Avenue and an idiot cashier who didn't think that the sandwich I'd just asked to buy came from that particular store.
Cashier: This isn't ours.
Me: What?
Cashier: I don't know where you got this but we don't sell it.
Me: ...I got it out of the cooler.
Cashier: We don't have orange price stickers.
Me: I got it over there. There are others like it.
Cashier: Um, duh, I'm not going over there. I can't leave my register.
Me: This is not worth my time.
And I left. This is something I only usually do at drive-thru windows but, well, the guy pissed me off (and probably wasn't going to sell me the sandwich anyway). I got back into my car and as I drove to work, I was struck by the sudden epiphany that Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell is a work of genius. I think. Either it's a friggin' masterpiece or I was just too blinded by my general pissed-offedness to notice, but I was listening to it on the way home too, and the praise still stands.

The stalled car and the sandwich (and the lateness they caused) were not the only things threatening my serenity (a word I use very lightly here) this afternoon. I was also reeling from this morning's onslaught of e-mails from people who apparently can't read. See, the United Way Committee decided that we should have a silent auction. This in itself was not a bad idea. Neither was making an electronic bidding system accessible through the network.

Building the entire auction from a Word document was.

I had concerns. I think other people did too. General consensus on the committee was that people already deal with enough signups and whatnot in Word format over the network that the system could work and that it wouldn't be difficult to use. I didn't argue. How could so many people be wrong? Indeed, how could so many people with only a basic level of computer literacy be wrong about something they're so comfortable using?

When I was in high school, I made pocket money by advertising general tech support in the local newspaper. I did very well for myself. Other ads of that type dropped out of the paper entirely, and I discovered that most people who call the tech support advertised in newspapers would be better off placing a dead monkey in front of their computers and telling it what to do than actually trying to do it themselves.

The e-mail -- which I sent out but did not write -- went out around 8:45 this morning. This was my mistake. I should have let the person who drafted the e-mail and created the auction document handle the whole thing, because then she could have dealt with the stupid questions. The main one was "why can't I enter my bid and save the document?" The answer is 'hidden deep within a cryptic error message which few would be able to decipher: "This document is locked for editing because another user has it open." Translating this error into layman's terms was not a big deal. I didn't mind doing that. What I did mind was having to reply to the subsequent e-mails: "Are you sure?" "Are you positive?" "Are you sure that you're positive?" "Are you positively sure that you're sure?"

It was like having an e-mail argument with Pee-Wee Herman.

Eventually I sent out a message asking that people close out of the Silent Auction document when they're done using it, and the first actual bids came through around noon. My suspicion is that somebody opened the document, forgot to close it, and didn't check their e-mail until after lunch at which point they realized that they were holding up the bidding process.

So there are a few bids. Not many, but a few. Now security is an issue. Since everybody was against web-based interface for the auction, my next best idea was to set up an e-mail account and have people submit their bids to it. I thought that this was a splendid idea, because though it would be quite time-consuming to work with, everything would be dated and nobody could cheat. Security on the Word document is nonexistent. Anybody can simply open the document and change or delete bids. Nobody else seems to be too worried about this, but just in case I'm handling this by making frequent copies of the document and doing a lot of swearing (which, though not necessary to security, is necessary to my sanity).

Remember the Good Old Days when silent auctions were carried out with little slips of paper and a shoebox with a slit cut in the top of it, and if somebody was unable to place a bid, it was because either their pen ran out of ink?

I miss those days.
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