Forgive Me for I have Sinned

16Jul10

This is the first post of a series I am calling Confessions of a Technical Writer, or, if you prefer, The Down and Dirty of Technical Writing. In my limited experience as an official technical writer (titles are just semantics, right?), I have encountered people, company policies, and situations that are too strange — and sometimes too funny — to make up.

I apologize in advance if this series becomes a journal-like stream of consciousness where my meticulousness is evidently lapsing. Also, and I hate to do this, but names and places are changed to protect the guilty. Networking sites just ruin all the fun.

That said, I present:

The Highway

I wouldn’t have believed that some people really meant it when they say, “It’s my way or the highway.” I was preparing to present at a writers’ meeting, and a glorified secretary (no title that was recognizably important) “organized” it. Imagine me saying that with air quotes. I was at Slow Software Company (SSC) for three months (felt like years to me), and we only had one meeting, mostly because people at SSC couldn’t be bothered enough to care.  About anything.

Glorified Secretary of the Minutia asked me to send her my materials so she could make sure I didn’t conflict against our style guide (which I had never seen at this point). I thought this was a reasonable request, but I made the mistake of thinking she could edit a PDF and be clammy-happy. Well, there’s my confession: I didn’t know that there were more controlling people than me.

After I spent meticulous hours editing the darn thing (and yes, reading the newly-acquired style guide), I thought the presentation had good advice without being controversial. After a prompt rejection of my PDF, I sent her the original file, which I received back from her (the day before the meeting I might add) completely blue lined. Apparently, she was traumatized by her red-pen-wielding evil English teachers. Blue everywhere.

So, avoiding confrontation (like I do), I send her a respectful email saying thanks for your opinion but I couldn’t care less. After a few rounds of arguing semantics and details, she finally proclaimed that if I didn’t make her edits — all of them — exactly as she had written them, then I wasn’t allowed to present at the meeting. Wasn’t allowed to present!

Well, obviously you know what happened then. I agreed that I wouldn’t present, Glorified Secretary of the Minutia, thank you very much. But, that would be wishful thinking. I presented anyway, and at the meeting she announced she and I had had “an interesting discussion” about the presentation, but I did a “good job.”

Did I learn something from my sin? Yes: take the Highway when it’s worth it.

I no longer work for the Slow Software Company as I am now with Highway Robbery, Inc. Check back soon for more Confessions!

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2 Responses to “Forgive Me for I have Sinned”

  1. 1 Mark Barnhart

    LMAO!!!!!! ROFL!!!!!!! Oh, Christina, I can’t quit smiling about what you wrote… I know who you’re writing about! LOL Oh my goodness, if you knew how many similar conversations have taken place around here about this same individual, your mouth would hang open… But then again, maybe you wouldn’t be a bit surprised. Yes, there are folks like that out there. At least she’s not personally inimical. I’ve worked in that kind of environment, and while what you wrote about here succinctly illustrates a kind of dysfunction, the personal inimicality piece can be absolutely toxic, and thank goodness that doesn’t seem, at least, to be on offer vis-a-vis this person.

    Blessings!

    Mark B.

  2. LOL @ Mark! Thanks for the great comment. And I had to look up “inimical” by the way. Do you read the dictionary for fun or what?


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