I had taken over for Eddie printing the barcode sheets. The staple people would give me the first and last account numbers in the series of files they were working on, and I would print the barcode sheets for them in (at most) about 20 minutes (as opposed to the hours and sometimes days Eddie required).
Once I had printed barcode sheets for everyone who needed them, I would skip ahead in the spreadsheet and pick up where I’d left off the previous day, printing barcode sheets for files none of the staple people were working on yet. I kept these printed-ahead barcode sheets in a stack next to me.
As the printed-ahead stack of barcode sheets grew, the staple people began to take notice. I was asked repeatedly what they were for. I explained that my goal was to get ahead of them so that when they caught up to where I had started pre-printing, they could pick up the barcode sheets first. Then they could go get the corresponding files, eliminating the step of requesting and waiting for barcode sheets. They exchanged glances and said, “oh.”
I don’t think any of the staple people really got what I was up to. I’m guessing more than a few of them thought I was printing my own personal stash of barcode sheets for myself, or planned to dole them out in exchange for deference as Eddie had. One day, when the printed-ahead stack had reached an attention-getting height of about three inches, Erin flipped out.
Erin was in her late forties. She was one of the original crew of staple people, the oldest, and in many ways the unofficial leader. She had a husband and two young sons at home and drove a truck so big you could probably park a Civic on the hood. She dyed streaks of wild colors into her very-long hair that went well with her in-your-face personality. She was wildly sensitive to perceived injustices. She was tough to win over, but if you did manage to earn her confidence, she would defend you like a rabid pit-bull if anyone else tried to give you a hard time (whether you were in the right or not).
She came over to my station and angrily demanded to know what the printed-ahead stack was for. I told her the same thing I had told everyone else who had asked.
“But WHO are they for?” she demanded loudly. “Anyone who wants them,” I answered, completely confused. I hadn’t considered how disturbing a stack of unclaimed barcode sheets might be to people who had spent the better part of a year scrounging for them. Erin looked around the room to make sure she had an audience. Everyone had stopped working to watch. “So, I can just take these?” she asked sarcastically.
I thought about it briefly. I had envisioned stacks and stacks of barcode sheets in reserve before the new system went into effect, but there was no reason it couldn’t start immediately. The staple people hadn’t yet caught up to the account numbers on my printed-ahead sheets, but there was absolutely no reason someone couldn’t skip ahead with the pre-printed sheets because it didn’t matter what order things were scanned in.
“Absolutely, yes. Please take them. That’s what they’re for,” I said. Erin looked at me incredulously. “How many can I take?” she asked, still convinced I had an angle. “As many as you want,” I answered.
Erin picked up the entire stack of sheets, looked at me like I was batshit crazy, and then strolled back to her desk like she’d just been awarded a very nice plant. The rest of the staple people went back to work still confused about what was going on with the barcodes, but slightly less suspicious.