Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Elephant in the Room

I don't usually write about work here, mostly because it would be insanely boring for everyone involved. Yesterday, though, something happened that might be a little more interesting than normal, and I would very much like to tell the whole Internet all about it. I also would very much like to not get Dooced. I introduce you, therefore, to the Hyperextended Metaphor. Enjoy.

Let's say, for the sake of the metaphor, that I work for a circus. When I started at the circus 6 years ago, I had no experience in the circus industry. I was given a training-type position -- one where I could learn the business and still serve a useful purpose by performing tasks the more experienced circus members didn't have time/didn't want to do. Let's say that one of these jobs was to clean up after the elephants.

Now, I'm sure it's pretty obvious why the more experienced circus performances didn't want to have to clean up after the elephants. The job is monotonous and repetitive, and there's a really good chance that you'll end up covered in elephant crap. There is an element of risk to Elephant Crap Management, however, because if it's not done well, the animals will get sick and the circus will lose customers.

When I first started in Elephant Crap Management, this element of risk was heightened because the equipment -- hoses and such -- that we were using was outdated and in disrepair. Nevertheless, I eventually became pretty good at ECM. I also learned a lot of other cool tricks, and I was gradually promoted to throwing cream pies at clowns and even tightrope walking. Even after being promoted, though, I was still in charge of ECM -- the bosses could just never find anyone else to take it over. (Read: I am spineless, and never insisted that they make the new kid do it.)

Then, a little over a year ago, I got a job in the circus' administrative wing. My first project, fittingly, was to develop a better Elephant Crap Management System. I should note that I was only SLIGHTLY bitter that I had spent 5 years up to my ankles in elephant crap, only to be given the task of making the job easier for the person who followed in my footsteps. Still, I didn't have to spend every day reeking of elephant crap, so it was an improvement.

The ECMS project team worked for about six months developing better ECM equipment, and we came up with a much better system, if I do say it myself. Which I do.

This year, with more project experience under my belt, I saw some things we could've done better. So I told my boss that with funding, I could fix some bugs in the ECMS to make things easier still. The head circus people conferred and gave me the money -- they even gave me extra so we could develop some new ECMS features. (Um, like a disinfectant sprayer thingy? This is where the metaphor gets more and more difficult to maintain.) And ECMS Phase II was born, and that's what I spend a great deal of time on these days.

Which brings us to the current day. (Thank God, sigh the readers who haven't given up yet.) Yesterday, the circus brass found out that the Federal Board of Circus Freaks (FBCF) has revised the Elephant Crap Management section of the Circus Act of 1954 (circus act! ha!) -- section 15(g)(ii). It's not clear yet, but it appears the revised language indicates that ECM is now the responsibility of the elephants themselves, and not the circus. Or something. If that's true, ECMS Phase II will be canceled, and the entire ECMS will probably be retired.

The thing is, I think I've developed some kind of weird Stockholm Syndrome with the elephant crap. I've spent 6 years of my professional life trying to clean up the crap, and now all of a sudden it just might be totally gone. And then what will I do?


K. said...

You will put it on your resume and forget about it. ;) Loved your metaphor.

Kim said...

That was hilarious! And there is an added bonus to your funny post - now I can spend the rest of my boring work day trying to figure out what ECMS is for real... =)

Kim said...

PS- I'm sorry that your project might be cancelled. That is always hard.

Julie said...

Thanks, both of you.

The good news is, in the circus there's always something else to do! :)

Jane said...

Wow - sounds like your job is almost as fun as mine. I guess this makes me like a clown-trainer?