Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Delegation

I am a woman of a certain age. It’s a certain age the folks in my family, home and high school class all know. I like calling it “a certain age.” I don’t mind the number. Our western society tells us I should despair in my deterioration. It’s true that I am no longer any good at all at gymnastics and my ability to sprint is greatly impaired by an old injury or two and at least one too many delicious meals.

My friend Erica recently pointed out that I also think everyone is tall. That happened somewhere around my freshman year in high school when I started getting this mysterious pain in my neck. I’d always been one of the stronger kids in school, not necessarily the biggest. I have always had to buy my clothes in the petites department even though I have graduated to women’s petites. It has a nice ring to it, petite. It sounds tiny but in clothing it just means short. Women’s petite means short and fat. There’s no getting around it really, no pun intended. But, in spite of my current clothing department’s limited style and color lines, it is possible to dress a little better than a flour sack. (There’s something about making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear running around in my head, but it hasn’t solidified.)

The game knee slows me down, that’s for sure. My friends often walk too fast for me, even leaving me behind. It happened this weekend. They all made it to the elevators in no time flat. I made it there in no time flat and half. I took another elevator car. It was late in the day. It helped solidified my need to retire to my hotel room after a long day.

I went to a conference as a vendor liaison staff person to help a friend. It’s a little more complicated than being a greeter for a major discount store I refuse to name. It was an honor to be asked. I had a great time. I like new experiences, meeting new people, getting to know new things.

Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
Those new experiences inspire me. Just this weekend I had two new and interesting ideas, one collaborative effort with a smart friend at the conference and one I haven’t talked about to anyone yet. Sometimes I think the kind of creativity I have is the kind people view with scorn. My creativity is actually synthetic or syncretic. I like to rearrange pre-existing pieces into to new forms rather than starting with a blank canvas. Those new combinations help me understand the nature of the parts better and also the nature of the new thing better. So basically, I feel more comfortable as a collage artist than a portrait painter, more comfortable as a photographer than an abstract artist and even more comfortable enhancing existing software rather than creating all new software. Give me a junk pile and I’ve got art! I’ve got art and a lot of leftover junk. This explains my house actually.

I realized I liked working within existing boundaries to make something different a long time ago. Geometry proofs fascinated me. You know what the start is and you know what the end is and, using a set of rules and lots of possibilities, there are a lot of right answers. Geometry was a real eye-opener for me and my favorite class that year. What if, just what if there were a lot of ways to get the right answer? Wouldn’t that be the BEST?? That’s how I thought of it, a way to be different AND right too without everyone else being wrong. It was perfect in my eyes. That probably set the stage for a lot of the rest of my life.

When I was a computer programmer, I was immersed in the hairy-chested culture of male-dominated geekdom. I don’t mind the hairy-chested ones. I just didn’t want to be one. And that was different but thankfully not unique. In my department of about 100 people when I first started out as a programmer, then a database administrator, there were still about two men to every woman in numbers of technical folks. Some of the older guys weren’t too keen on females in technology.

I remember a guy from another department came to ask us about our databases. He, my manager and I all sat in a little conference room. The visitor asked my boss a question, looking only at him. My boss shrugged and looked at me. I answered. The visitor asked my boss a question and it went on this way for at least 30 minutes with the visitor never once looking at me or talking to me. It was one of the strangest times in my professional life. I had all the answers he wanted but he could not stand that a female was answering. I felt sorry for him. What a handicap he had. He just could not adjust to the change, the “invasion” of women into what had been male territory.

Another part of being a programmer then was the perceived status that a “development” programmer had over a “maintenance” programmer. Development programmers are like those artists who take a blank canvas and from that create what is for the moment a masterpiece. Unlike art, computer programs do not hang on walls to be admired for generations of museum hounds. They have to serve their business purpose. So in spite of their glorious beauty and perfection at their moment of birth, they have to change. Think of it like a baby, since a lot of programmers treat their “offspring” like their own progeny. To get along in the world the baby must become more versatile. Does this mean it is not perfect? (Try not to insult the fawning parents now.) Adding an extra arm and hand would mean that all of baby’s shirts would not fit, resulting in unforeseen wardrobe costs and probably some other trouble. So there is art, too, in maintenance programming. OK, wake up. I’m done with the programming stuff, but you get the idea.

People paid to adapt an existing set of components to new circumstances have to exercise creativity too. They just don’t get the same applause. It’s OK. There’s a lot more adaptation of current things to new circumstances needed than brand new things anyway, seriously.

So, as my new friend Eddie said, there I was (not an exact quote), there I was at the conference on the last day. I had actually left my hotel room well before check-out time, uncharacteristically organized behavior for a fun weekend, and dragging my rollerbag suitcase beside or behind me, I attempted to haul it, my tote, my purse and my bum knee up a few steps. It wasn’t working.

“Do you need some help?”

I turned to see a tall handsome young man with a look of amusement and sympathy on his face.

I flashed to my Dad for a moment. He was so bent on maintaining his independence that he would not accept help even when he needed it. He would not delegate. I want to learn from that. I thought about my satisfaction at being a maintenance programmer, an amateur photographer and Photoshopper, making something interesting out of what I’ve been given already. This was that moment.

I’m a certain age, like I said. It’s not an old age, no matter what you young'uns think. But if I’m successful, that’s where I’m headed. And when I’m old, a long, long time from now, I don’t want to be like my Dad, unable to accept help because it somehow means there is less of me. Nope, I can be smart. I can delegate. I can start practicing that now before I get caught by surprise.

“Yes!” I smiled at my cute knight in shining earrings and t-shirt and conference pass. “You know,” I winked at him as he took my suitcase and I made it up the stairs, pleased at my latest adaptation, “I used to be a young person.”

We both laughed. I thanked him for his gallant and timely save. It was his save but my transition. I went to the conference to pursue growth and new experiences, like the Knight of Wands. I got what I was looking for.

Best wishes.


  1. I really enjoyed reading this, Marcia! Your mention of "womens petite fashions" made me smile. I actually see more clothing I like in the "womens" sections of stores than the "regular" sections. I am borderline petite in height and wear about a size 14 -- so the womens sizes are too big, but I can't wear the lovely clothing styles that flatter thin people, either! Too bad, so sad - LOL. (P.S. I never could do gymnastics -- but I could bend over backwards and stand up again. Ah, those were the days!)

  2. I just flashed back to geometry class. I had a different experience because I went to a small parochial school. The "One True and Correct Answer" was written in a book for the uncredentialed teacher to correct my tests. I tried explaining that the class was supposed to teach logic. I tried explaining that there was MORE than one right way... I was told to memorize or flunk. I think you may have just inspired my next blog, Marcia! Oh... and I have to have petites taken up because they're NOT SHORT ENOUGH, so I feel you, sistah... ;)

  3. Jet, I love your "religious geometry" story, can't wait to hear more. Even the GPS understands that you can take the freeway OR the side roads. There's this free will thingee. IMHO ;)