The last few days have been crazy. From drama on the Forest Floor to preparation for our first all volunteer meeting, to processing-in a new couple as volunteers and terminating the agreement on another to … HOORAY … some real movement on my Forest Service Identity.
The Magic Email arrived today. Credentials and instructions for that initial confusing logon told me how to set up the hurdles I needed to surmount. And being told to wait 24 hours before doing so. Even when you get what you’re looking for you can’t get what you’re looking for. 🙂
Of course the 24 hour delay isn’t unusual; it’s all about propagation. It takes time for systems to propagate your identity, your email address, etc. In the mean time I can make sure I have copies of everything I need to transfer. It’s a good feeling to get closer to an intermediate goal.
During the last 2 months we have made a lot of progress toward establishing a usable physical filing system. Now I can finish up the entire first stage of reorganization by installing a digital filing system that should be easier for people to use and to make files that others need to use accessible to them. I can’t understand why our boss should have to log in on someone else’s profile to find information they need. This job isn’t just about us, it’s about other people being able to interact with the volunteers and volunteer department efficiently.
Thus far I’ve been working on files within the old layout. Now it’s worth the effort to move files around to fit within the outline that I’ve had in my mind for about the last 6 weeks. Now that I have a place to put those files it will be nice to finally like I’m ‘at home’ in my own work space.
People talk about hating computers, or liking them. And I don’t know how you feel about being comfortable on the computer you are using. For me, it’s about more than whether I know how to operate the software. It’s about being able to FIND what I’m looking for. Even on my own computer.
I bet you’ve had something like this happen to you. It’s tax time and you can’t find where the files are from last year’s taxes… Or you can’t remember the password for that file you decided should be password protected — and you need the information RIGHT NOW! Over the years I’ve played all sorts of games trying to find a filing system that works. Or even to just find a naming convention that makes sense.
Bear in mind I started computing in the early 80’s under an old operating system called CP/M. The file naming conventions required that both files and directories have file names no longer than 8 characters. Nowadays you can actually name a file after what it is. That’s a lot better than DB14MTXT.DB or some such thing that means nothing to me and 4 days after I create it I can’t remember what I was thinking when I chose that name. I never dreamt in 1984 that computing would ever be as easy as it is now.
And yet people continue to used arcane file names, and directories upon directories that don’t seem to take you where you want to go. I hope I do better. I looks better to me — the big test is if the boss can find what they need when the time comes.
Soon this will be all over. Nothing more than a memory. We can go on to the actual JOB we want to do. Right now we’re getting rained on and I can’t go out to take campground photos. I am 20 pages in on the revised Operating Procedures Manuals. We’re making progress in providing some management tools so that the staff will recognize our volunteers when they seem them outside their own campground — or even when management get out into the field and see them in their own campground (but don’t know their names). We all like to be recognized; to be known, to be understood. And everything we can do to make volunteers feel more part of the forest the better it is for everyone concerned: volunteers stay longer, they do a better job, and they’re easier to work with.
I feel like I’m chafing at the bit; waiting to get to ‘the good stuff.’ Enough of this ditzing around. Enough of waiting on other people — just let me get on with the job…
We’ve been talking a lot about our little group of volunteers here — at the office. When you get down to basics, we’re kind of like our own little tribe. Our boss is native american — belonging to a tribe, and proud of that tribe. There are people in the tribe who are easy to get along with, and other who are a pain in the butt — it’s not much different than an extended family. And we’ve been coming to terms with the fact that our volunteers are rather like OUR tribe. They aren’t really family. They aren’t like in-laws whom we knew we’d be ‘inheriting’ when we married into their family. They just are. So too with our volunteers. Once ‘hired’ we live with them day by day. Some we see every day, others we hear from occasionally, still others seem to burrow down and they rarely come up for air or show their head.
It would be nice if we never had to ask a volunteer to leave: that they did their jobs well, that they were easy to work with, that their equipment was suitable and in repair. Too bad that’s not the case. Too bad we sometimes let ourselves get too far into their lives and sometimes find our goal of customer service moderated by the needs or weaknesses of our volunteer staff to a point where we might allow them to stay on the job beyond that point where they do their job well. You want to be liked, you want to do your job, and sometimes it’s hard to do both.
I’m thankful that Peg and I are never asked to deliver bad news. We play Good Cop, Bad Cop with the boss. We kick the ideas around together and once we are agreed we move forward, I deliver the good news, boss delivers the bad news. Sometimes I think it would be easier — personally — for me to be the bad cop. I can be a bit too abrupt at times. That’s not a fun place to be, but I’m better at it. I’ve never been all that sociable. I make extremely close friends, but not a lot of them. Real friends take a lot of time and I don’t try to have so many that I can’t be a real friend when necessary. Many of the people in my life are more like acquaintances than friends so I don’t invest the same kind of emotional attachment to all.
I can see some light at the end of our ‘hunker-down-and-get-the-job-done’ period. Each day things get a little easier. People know you better. I can hear the rapport building between most of our volunteers. I get a lot of time to build relationships with staff. I’m in and out of the offices a lot every day. I make special efforts to check with them on situations that are predictably sensitive; areas of responsibility, areas of personal pride, conflicting jurisdictions, etc..
So far I haven’t been able to get out of the office as much as I want. I would like to be able to spend more time finding out what we can do to make their lives easier — but so far all these other things have gotten in the way. To me, that’s the most important part of the job. Not the filing, not the updating of documents but helping the people here on the Forest. To me that’s what volunteering is all about — about people not things. That’s what I want to get to.
Ok — enough talking for today. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll talk with you tomorrow. Maybe by then I’ll be XXXXXX@fs.fed.us