If you think we've got it bad ...

Just when I thought that my working life was ridiculously, stupidly, my-eyes-are-rolling-back-in-my-head-and-I'm-foaming-at-the-mouth busy, I heard a story last week that reassured me that, at the end of it all, things could get sillier.

Just when I thought that my working life was ridiculously, stupidly, my-eyes-are-rolling-back-in-my-head-and-I’m-foaming-at-the-mouth busy, I heard a story last week that reassured me that, at the end of it all, things could get sillier.

I cook for pleasure. It’s my release at the end of a big day. I get to hang in the kitchen, gargle a bevvy or three and chop and sauté things (hey, it’s better than chopping and sautéing people at work, right?). The fact that my family and I get to eat good food at the end of the process is an added bonus. I’ve occasionally thought that it might be nice to cook for a living. It’s what my brother does and my family seems to have a talent for it. It can’t possibly be as fraught and stressful as IT right? Hmmm …

An associate of my wife has a cake-making business. He and his wife make these great cakes that they sell to a bunch of eateries around Auckland. A couple of Saturdays ago, they were beavering away baking and decorating a really, really special (and expensive) cake for an anniversary party. They’d just finished making this cake when the phone rang. It was the restaurant that was the venue for the party. The host had had a car accident and the party was off. Bugger.

These things happen. Being an astute businessman and wanting to relieve his already stressed clients of a cake they could no longer use, he decided to ring around his contacts and try to sell the cake. After a few calls he got a hit. He found another restaurant that had a function on that night and could do with just such a cake. The only problem was that it had to have a Harley-Davidson motorcycle painted on it. Did I say problem? No problem! Out came the icing and the food colouring, the motorcycle got painted and our hero and heroine thought they were home free.

The phone rang again. It was the party restaurant (like, the original one). The host had decided that he wasn’t too bad and that – being his anniversary and all – the party should go ahead as planned. They’d be needing that cake after all. Aaaaaargh! Back to the drawing board (well, the kitchen anyway) for several more hours.

Nope, I think I’ll stick with IT. There are certain unshakeable certainties in my day. My email will be half spam. Half of my phone calls will be cold-callers or survey-takers. Ditto with my snail-mail except that that’ll contain a few bills as well (and maybe a magazine or two that I won’t have time to read). Users will be ignorant and often bloody-mindedly difficult. Senior management won’t believe a word I say but’ll swallow what a $200-dollar-an-hour consultant tells them (even if it’s the same thing that I’ve just said). Microsoft, Oracle, IBM and Compaq (er, HP), despite their deep flaws and ineptitudes, will continue to be dominant forces in the IT market if not always the stockmarket. Memory, processing power and network bandwidth will get cheaper at approximately – but not quite – the same rate as demand for them grows. Good staff will be hard to get (although I’ve been lucky there so far) and I’ll thank my lucky stars that I don’t bake cakes for a living.

On the other hand (shameless plug ahead), my wife’s mate Peter does. If you’re in Auckland and need a good cake for something special, email him on poppyandpeter@hotmail.com.

Swanson is IT manager at W Stevenson & Sons in South Auckland. Send letters for publication to Computerworld Letters.

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