tales from Leckie-la-la-land

When Mood Music
2005-08-12 21:07:00 drained Mr Hankey the christmas poo-Cowboy Timmy-Mr Hankey’s Christmas Classics

Today was possibly the most emotionally draining day yet at the fun-palace we know as Leckie Towers. There’s probably no point in reading this because the only thing more tedious than reading it would have been living through it!

Our production director had set a target of my team getting files for 40 books (of 70 in this project) finished by our repro-house and into our printer’s hands by the end of today. (That was silly enough since the raw manuscripts for some books only arrived on my desk this week.) As of close of play last night, we had signed off on 33 and the final changes to another 7 had been posted by Special Delivery to arrive at the repro-house this morning.

First hassle: the production director emails to say that only 25 sets of files had arrived at the printer so far: what’s happened to the other 8? Then my immediate boss (who is a very decent bloke) phoned to ask if I knew what was going on and which 8 were missing. I was a bit baffled by his request: how can I tell what X has posted to Y unless I am X! As far as I could tell, only 4 could still be en route from repro-house to printer: the other 29 should have been posted the day before yesterday or earlier and so should already be at the printer.

So I made a quick check through my records for proof that we had indeed signed off 33, and then contacted the repro-house. It turned out that 8 sets of files (4 for books that had been signed off yesterday and 4 of the 10 that had been signed off the day before) were en route by Special Delivery to the printer, so they would arrive by lunchtime today.

Nevertheless (and as instructed by the director and my boss), I told the repro-house to FTP the files to the printer so we could be sure they would arrive today. The repro-house argued against FTPing, which wasted more time. It’s not as if they don’t regularly FTP files to printers. I insisted and my immediate boss diplomatically explained that we were their clients and that we had deadlines to make, so it wasn’t out of order to ask them to use an easily-available faster delivery system.

In the middle of this, the client for whom we publish these books phoned with final changes for a few more. I added these changes to those already noted by our proofreader, photocopied the pages that needed changes so we would have a means of checking that the repro-house implemented them correctly and packaged the changing pages to be posted to the repro-house.

So by noon I was sure that the 33 signed-off titles were at the printer to be able to go out for lunch, all the while hoping that the repro-house would now get on with the final changes to the other 7 books they would have received. A lunch-time appointment with my bank was interspersed by my cellphone voicemail trying to give me yesterday’s news. I would have turned the cellphone off but I had told the repro-house and my colleagues to call me if any further hassles occurred. At my bank, I learned that business deposit accounts pay hardly any more interest than the the cheque account in which the Community Council’s £27,000 currently resides. Considering the major hassle I’ve had setting up an account for the local Fairtrade campaign and changing the signatories on the CC’s two current accounts, I’m not going to bother moving the cash anywhere. I also learnt a lot about mini-cash ISAs and maxi-ISAs.

Back to Leckie Towers: just when I got back, I remembered that today is one of my team’s 28th birthday. He went off for lunch and then I got the other member of my team (that’s right: 3 of us produce 70 books in 3 or 4 months!) to nip out and purchase the a suitable choccy cake and card. Around now, proofs of the final changes for two more books spewed out of the printer that is networked to our repro-house (who are in Suffolk). One one set of proofs, all the final changes had been done correctly but the repro-house had missed some changes on another. By the time I’d checked this, my other colleague had returned bearing bearing birthday supplies, so I got her to phone the repro-house and diplomatically explain where they had erred and that they were to ensure fresh, correct proofs had to arrive this afternoon.

Then I photocopied the repro-house proofs so we would have something to check the printer’s proofs against, emailed the repro-house to say they should FTP this book’s files to the printer and packaged the signed-off proofs to post to the printer. Also, a proofreader had delivered more proofs she had checked so I booked them in, ready to add in any other changes the client might want and the client phoned with yet more changes to another two books.

Next thing, the printer that’s networked to our repro-house started spewing out what they thought were the finished versions of final changes to another 5 titles. Part of the joy of working this way is that pages arrive in random order. If the repro-house sends several titles sequentially through their software and thence to the networked printer, then all the books get mixed up too. So my colleagues and I separated the pages into the different titles, sorted them into order and checked whether the final changes had all been done. On 2 they had: some pages for another hadn’t come through and some changes on the other two had been missed.

So another round of phoning the repro-house to tell them what they’d missed and that they were to put it right this afternoon. My immediate boss then phoned to say that that the repro-house had complained to the production director that we were sending them new changes. Not true (except for 2 tiny changes): the vast majority were where they had missed clearly marked-up changes the first time round. I suspect my immediate boss then phoned both the production director and the repro-house to calm them.

A wee pause ensued. My colleagues who haven’t been involved in this project had emptied their offices so that they could move to new offices in Edinburgh. Our finance manager, administrator/receptionist and two dispatch/customer-service colleagues are hanging on here with my team until the bitter end but the publishing team are away. I tidied up the cables and other bits they’d left left behind and tried not to be affected by the near-empty Leckie Towers. After all, I’ve worked here full-time for only 11 years, preceded by 3 years of part-timing during the latter stages of my PhD. I’m so looking forward to commuting to Edinburgh for the next few months!

Around 4pm, new versions of the pages our repro-house hadn’t previously got right started coming through: back to checking, signing off, photocopying, posting and recording progress in a spreadsheet and a word document. Around 4:20 all but 2 books had been signed off and it was time for choccy cake. More fun and games getting “birthday-boy” out of the way while other colleagues gathered and candles were lit. Then I called my colleague down to our meeting room by saying that more proofs were emerging. As he came downstairs, true enough, more proofs arrived. We ignored them for 20 minutes of calm and calories, then my team and I went back to checking, etc, while all but one of the rest of our colleagues finished for the day. My dispatch/customer-service colleague took the signed-off proofs to the post office and then he too finished for the week.

Around 5pm, the lead worker on this project at the repro-house phoned to ask whether the titles we’d signed off had been actually been signed off. I’d erred and emailed the sign-offs to her boss, not directly to her. I confirmed that all but one title had been signed off. This took much longer than should have necessary because our email system can take up to 3 minutes to open an email – or any other file – on our local server. (It’s in the room next to my office and is reputedly connected by 100baseT ethernet, although it often feels like it’s serving files by semaphore through a white-out. Step forward any Windows 2K or Microsoft Exchange experts who can offer a solution, please before I put my boot through the Dell box that claims to be a decent server!)

Around 5:30 the final corrected page arrived. Birthday-colleague had left for the evening – he has a 90-minute drive to his home. I phoned my immediate boss to let him know we’d made the target and emailed the repro-house to confirm they had done all that was needed today and that they could FTP this final book’s files to the printer and up while my remaining colleague photocopied the proofs and packaged them for me to post tomorrow. She then departed and I updated my records, then emailed a sitrep to my team, my immediate boss and the production director and emailed the repro-house’s ‘to-do’ list for the weekend.

I took a final look around Leckie Towers and came home, almost in tears. The difference between yesterday and today was that these were tears of relief, not tears of mourning for my laptop or from stress.

I’m going to work tomorrow morning to check any more ‘final’ versions that our repro house might get done tomorrow and to post out any first proofs to proofreaders and our client, then I’m going to get hammered!

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