Friday, December 14, 2012

The Anatomy of Someone Else's Problem

I am close and intimate friends with one of the world's greatest unsung heroes.

Very close and intimate friends.

In fact, I just so happen to be married to him.  You probably wouldn't recognize his real name, but most people know him as Someone Else.

You know, the one you're talking about when you leave your greasy wadded-up napkins and ketchup-smeared tray on the table in a fast-food joint and blithely assume that "someone else" will take care of it? Or when you notice a minor mistake in that big project that's due on Monday, but it would be too much effort to fix it right now, so you just leave it that way and assume that "someone else" in your team or office or the mysterious nether realm of fix-it fairies will suss out the error and take care of it for you while you go out clubbing all weekend? Yeah, that Someone Else.

As I write this, Technomancer is in his fifth straight day of looking over his company's accounting reports.  Both of them.  In their entirety.

Technomancer is not an accountant, nor does he play one on TV.  The problem here is levels of literacy.  You see, Technomancer is the guy who knows all about computers and programming.  The company's accountants know enough about computers to get by--they do work for a tech company, after all--but the bulk of their knowledge is in keeping track of money, not in programming.

Unfortunately for them, the system for keeping track of money is all computerized.  Which means that every time someone tries to do something unusual that the system does not have dedicated procedures for, like giving a client a new or one-time discount or refunding money back to a credit card, it knocks the whole system askew.  The accounting department does not have the programming savvy to build such procedures into the system, so they go the whole do it anyway, make the reports all wonky and then have Technomancer fix them route instead.

And Technomancer does it, every time.  Every. Time. Because he is the only one who has both the mathematical abilities and the programming skills to patch up the system and then make sure the numbers add up correctly afterwards.

That is the curse of the Someone Elses of this world.  They have the competence to clean up the messes other people leave for them, and an unshakable sense of dedication and responsibility drives them to do so again and again, even when they (frequently) get no recognition or thanks for doing so.  Without their constant and tireless vigilance, society would have collapsed into a smoldering ruin of massive untouched trash mounds and glassy-eyed zombies long ago; yet the same people who constantly push their responsibilities off on the nearest hapless Someone Else are too often the ones who get credit for holding it all together.  Fully forgetting that the Someone Elses are brilliant and driven enough to rise up and imprison their chronically buck-passing overlords.

Mind you, I say this as a frequent buck-passer myself.  I've left dishes in the sink until Technomancer caves and puts them in the dishwasher himself.  I "forget" to offer to drive us places when I don't feel like driving.

But after I do something like that, I always thank him profusely.  And possibly buy him chocolate or a video game.  It's very important to make the Someone Else in your life feel appreciated and rewarded.

Otherwise you might wake up one day shackled to the wall of a gigantic dungeon full of corporate executives and politicians, while Someone Else smirks through the bars at you and pointedly says, "I wonder how we're going to feed all these lazy, incompetent, workload-increasing prisoners.  Hmm, I guess that's someone else's problem now..."  

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