Encounters with a Man That Could Have Been Herb Tarlek

manThoughts.gifAn old story, just because I feel like it, and because I feel like writing about work but know I can’t (because everyone at my work knows about this site). So this will hopefully be a good proxy:

This is the story of the Scary Project Manager Man.

I was consulting on a large, regional portal site, doing some design work and information architecture. The project manager for the job was one of those annoying yobs that threw around industry catchphrases and turned nouns into verbs (“Incentivate!” [sound of retching]) with the intention of covering up the fact that he didn’t understand a single thing that was actually happening.

Little did I know how prescient this behavior would actually be…

The site was for a company that dealt specifically with the Web - almost all of their products were either Web-related or network-based, so everyone on staff was kind of expected to know their stuff.

A few weeks in, a bunch of wireframe and content sorting documents needed his sign off (dear lord, he had sign off). For some reason, the documents hadn’t been signed off and were holding the rest of the project up.

This incident occured a few days after sending him the documents. I had spent a lot of time dumbing down the information to as non-technical a level as possible. This was because I had been warned by the in-house designer that The Scary Project Manager Man was “a bit slow with anything technical”. When pressed on the issue, she just said, “You’ll see.”

Whenever she talked about The Scary Project Manager Man. the in-house designer got this look of abject revulsion on her face, like she perpetually smelled sulfurous gases every time the thought of him crossed her mind.

Suitably forewarned, and because this guy had sign off, I had spent a lot of time making sure that the documents he had power over were as straight-forward and in plain English as I could, so that he would “get it” as quickly as possible, and I could be done with the project and move onto something else.

I walked by his cube and asked him if there was anything that wasn’t clear in the documents I had sent him.

“I don’t think I’ve seen them,” he said, “when did you leave them for me?”

I told me I sent them in an email.

“Emailed them, huh? Look at you, Mr. Internet!” he replied, making the really annoying fingers-shooting-pistols thing that cheeseball project managers like him would do when calling someone “Mister”-anything.

“I’ll check my email again, but I don’t remember seeing them.”

He then proceeded to launch Microsoft Word, and began peering intently at his computer screen.

Confused, I said, “Um, you’re in Word, you know.”

“Yeah, yeah,” he replied, “this is where I always get my email.”

“You always get your email… in Microsoft Word?”

“Yup! Hey, here’s comes one now!” he said, pointing to the little robot assistant thing. He was 100% serious.

I backed away from his cube slowly, as to not provoke him, and went back to my desk. A week later, I was transferred to a different department and I never saw the scary Project Manager man again. I did pass by the in-house designer once in a while, her face scrunched up in a rictus of what was no doubt overwhelming agony.

And the project? It was ten months late.

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