Being a novel, all characters, events, dialogue and representations are fictional ... and in no way are meant to represent any real or living persons or events... except the few annual events that are used to move me through time. The opinions expressed are my own, and not necessarily those of my author. And the story is copyrighted, by my author of course. Oh, and from time to time I may include some real time events to keep the blog more authentic. Comments and suggestions will be appreciated and seriously considered as the story moves along.

If you are just joining us, start with the Prologue and Chapter One on March 1, 2011, in the Archives.

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 27, 2011 Chapter 26

Record high temperatures all this week in Lubbock. The poor cotton farmers. Gives new meaning to ‘dry farming’! Pray for rain throughout Texas. I hear down in Central Texas they are beginning to ration water. 
   Yesterday morning, after going to early Mass and seeing Father Murphy, but not Professor Murphy, I drove Sharon and Doug to the airport for their annual pilgrimage to all things Italian, assuring Doug I would take good care of their house for the next four weeks, and assuring Sharon I would call her if anything developed with “the non-priest,” as Phelps keeps calling Colin the professor. 
   On the drive home, I was struck by the fact that I was truly alone for the first time since coming to Lubbock. Sharon and Doug had been a lifeline, so to speak, and had been there for me when loneliness or sadness had shown the slightest signs of emerging, just as Ben and his family had been in Dallas the previous year. I will just have to keep busy, that’s all. Luckily, the house renovation details should take up most of my off-work time. And then there’s always the office — oh, boy, the office.
Chapter 26
   Communications staffers partner with Information Technology for the care and feeding of the university’s voracious website, a huge beast of information with more than a million pages linked. Yes, more than a million. Many pages and sites are controlled by different departments, but it’s a daunting task to keep the information updated and correct. The main Tech website is frequented more than 700,000 times a month — current and prospective students, their parents, community members interested in any of the thousands of campus activities, by staff, faculty, other colleges looking at the competition, and those looking for news of Texas Tech, especially loyal alumni. 
   Steven and Susan do the majority of the writing. When a department has changes for their pages, a request form is available online. Because everything is under strict graphic guidelines along with writing and design standards, Ricky and Tech’s IT department are tasked to make those changes after approval by the Communications office. Several older students are hired each year to assist with keeping the website current, and Steven, Susan and Ricky do a great job of supervising them.
   It keeps them all hopping, as faculty comes and goes, and organizations change leaders. Working with the website is a constant endeavor — an especially trying one on the day last week I questioned my new way to work with my micromanaging boss.
  “I want the front page changed,” Boyle told me when I reported to him as requested early on Tuesday. “The president’s office needs more exposure and I want the page to reflect the responsibilities of this office. Here’s a list of what I want. Make the changes.” 
   I looked incredulously at the list of his demands, including a photo of himself as the interim president and his personal message of welcome—poorly written—along with design changes. These were major changes to the content, format and design. 
“The front page? You mean the home page?”
“Yes. Whatever it’s called. The first page people see.”

“The home page. It’s not really that simple, Mr. Boyle. We have a committee of students, staff and faculty, along with IT personnel that meets once a month to discuss and approve major changes, so I’d have to take your request before them.”
   “No. Just do it,” Boyle said flatly.
  “I’m afraid I can’t just do it, Mr. Boyle. A change of this magnitude, the home page that’s linked to everything ... it just can’t be changed on a whim ...”

He looked up sharply, “A whim?” he said sternly. “I assure you, I do not make decisions on a whim.”

I immediately thought of his former secretary, Allison, but kept my mouth shut. Think, Maggie, I said to myself, what’s an effective way to deal with him this time that won’t get you fired?

I straightened up and said, “Normally, once the committee makes recommendations for major changes, sir, the Board is informed. Would you like me to let the Board know of your request for changes?”
  “No. Just do it. I tire of reminding you that I am your direct supervisor and you must do as I say. Dismissed.”
   Back upstairs, I called Ricky in to help me think this through. Would my tried and true analytical approach help solve this problem?
  “He wants to do what?” Ricky said. “He can’t. We have guidelines in place ... and who wants to know about the president, let alone the interim president, on the home page anyway? We can’t.”
   “I know we can’t, but we’ve been directed to, so let’s look at it logically. Fact one ...”

“Fact one,” Ricky interrupted, “is that Boyle has an ego the size of Texas and he just wants the publicity a photo on the home page would give him, hoping it will influence the Board of Regents to give him the job permanently.”

“I know, Ricky, but let’s figure out a way to not comply with his directive and still keep our jobs, shall we?”
   He looked at me warily. “Sure, Boss, but how?”
“Fact one is that major changes must, by university guidelines, go to the committee for approval. Fact two: Boyle wants us to bypass the committee. Fact three: we like our jobs,” I said, a sardonic smile spreading across my face. “So, what are our options?”
   “Well, we could sabotage his computer so he can’t see we haven’t made his changes?” Ricky suggested brightly.
   “Punishable by firing squad, I’m sure.”

“Right. Let me think. He’s not computer savvy, is he.” It was a statement rather than a question. Everyone in the building knew Boyle didn’t use e-mail and barely understood the on/off switch, another reason to wonder how he even knew the home page was influential. “So, he probably doesn’t understand how long it would realistically take to make a change like this.”
   “You’re right. I think he expects the changes this week,” I said.

“We could stall him, couldn’t we?”
   “Yes, we could. Hmmm. How long would it take to make the changes, I mean IF we wanted to make them?” I asked.
   “I can’t do it all here. I’d need to work with IT, and they’ll be furious. It took us more than a year to get the current homepage layout approval and then design all the other pages following that template.  I’d say, without having to get any of the approvals, it would still take us several months. And that’s only if we do nothing else.”
  “That’s great. Let me talk with Pat in IT and let her know what we’re trying to do. See if she’ll go along with the stall tactic. Within a month, the Board should have named the new president, and odds are it won’t be Boyle — then problem solved.
   “In the meantime, Ricky, my graphic genius, work up three or four new design drafts for the homepage with what Boyle wants so we can show them to him ... but make each and every one so awful that he’ll keep sending us back to the drawing board. You could deliberately leave out one or two of his demands in each design ... but different ones each time. And use the worst picture you can find of Mr. Bennett Boyle. If we can stall him on the design long enough, we might not even have to get IT started on any changes. And remember, Ricky, what is said in this office stays in this office.”
   “Not a problem, Boss. I can have some ideas by  the end of the week ... and although I’m not used to doing ugly work,” he said with a gleam in his eye, “this might actually be fun!”
   On Thursday evening, I met with my new architect for the second time. I’d hired him shortly after I settled with the last one. This one assured me tearing out the ceilings and installing paneled, painted cross beams in both living and dining rooms would be doable and still be in keeping with the design integrity of the house. I’m happy to say the revised drawings should be ready later this week.

   On Friday afternoon, Elaine put through a call from “a Professor Murphy” and who seemed to take particular note of the expression of surprise and delight on my face.  I asked Elaine to close my office door. I had been so busy all week, the handsome professor had not really been on my mind. Well, at least not too much.

   “Didn’t know if you were headed to Dallas for the long weekend next week,” Colin said after we’d exchanged pleasantries.

   “No, no. I’m here ... The long weekend?” I asked, puzzled.
   “Monday week is the Fourth ... of July,” he added when I made no reply.
   “Oh, yes, of course! No, I mean yes, it is. But I’m here ... in the middle of constructing an addition to a house and sort of house-sitting for friends. So, no. I’m here. Just forgot it was a holiday, that’s all.”
   “A house addition, huh? That’s hard work. Yours?”
   “Of course it’s mine,” I said laughing, “and I love renovating houses, don’t you?”
   “Can’t say if I do or don’t since I’ve never done it, to tell the truth. Never needed to.”
    “I’ve done it before in Dallas. Jim and I ... ” I kicked myself for mentioning my late husband again — stupid, stupid—but continued on, “We added two extra rooms — for a larger den with a pool table for the boys and a study. The construction was a mess, but I enjoyed the process. It was fun.” Then I silently chided myself again for bringing Jim up while the silence on the other end lingered.

At last he said, “So, if you’re not too busy house-renovating and house-sitting, wonder if you’d care to join me at the street fair Monday afternoon?”

   “Street fair? Where?”
   “Where? You have been busy. In front of St. Elizabeth’s on Broadway. Lubbock does the Fourth up right with a huge Fourth On Broadway street fair and then fireworks at McKenzie Park. At least I think we’ll have fireworks.This drought may kill them. Anyway, Sean has asked me to help again at the church’s booths ... they set up games for the kids and sell tacos. I’m on duty until 2:30. I could come pick you up after that?”

“Oh, well, no, it’s close to the office, so I’ll just walk over to the church, I mean if that’s okay with you? Don’t know if I can stay through fireworks, though. I’m really behind on things with the addition, but I’ll come to the fair for a while. Will that work?”
    We agreed to meet at the church booth. 
Disappointed that she didn’t sound too enthusiastic, Colin decided he would take what he could get and see where it went.

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