A few months after I started in DISMS, my boss Allan Rosen left to set up another office, and what I thought had been my dream job turned into something considerably less. As I was to learn, there were no dream jobs at DPSC.
I was given a series of temporary supervisors for some reason that I no longer recall, as they weren’t filling Allan’s job right away. Budget cuts, perhaps? In any case I was no longer just the PC person, but I became more involved with the tangled web that was DISMS. I started forming an exit strategy. But more of that later.
Although DISMS had its own group of dedicated developers, they still needed to rely on the center’s regular IT department (OTIS, as it was now called, for Office of Telecommunications and Information Systems) as well. Anyway some project came up, I no longer recall exactly what it was, but it would involve getting help from a particular analyst in OTIS whom I’m going to call Angelique.
Angelique was a middle-aged woman who seemed to make it her mission in life to say no to everything. In particular, she was in charge of approving requests for personal computers (this was 1986 and PCs were then still relatively new), and she imposed Herculean requirements for justifying PCs, requirements that she claimed had come from DLA, although she was never able to cite any authority. Now to be fair (and I try to be nothing but fair), at this time DLA did not have any standard contract for procuring PCs, so all PC procurements had to be done at the local level with the funds coming right out of the local budget, and funds were tight.
Still, Angelique did seem to enjoy rejecting nearly every request that came her way. When I was still in C&T, I had written up several justifications for PCs that she rejected. But not only that. At the monthly users’ meeting that Bill Bevan used to host in those days, she seemed to take special delight in highlighting for everyone else why what I had written was inadequate. She didn’t mention my name, of course, she just looked slyly in my direction as she said it.
I was not in charge of the particular DISMS project that required Angelique’s help. That honor belonged to a young woman I’m going to call Daisy.
Daisy was a no nonsense, shoot from the hip, take no prisoners, dedicated DISMS analyst. What I mean is, you just didn’t want to say no to her. If you think of Kathy Bates in the film Misery, you might get an idea of what Daisy was like.
Since I had had extensive experience in dealing with Angelique, I was chosen to accompany Daisy to her meeting with Angelique, to introduce the two of them, and perhaps to try to smooth over any rough spots during the negotiations. Right.
Bruce (and I’m sorry to say that I don’t recall his last name, so you see my memory really isn’t all that great) was my temporary supervisor during this period, and when he caught wind of what was going on, he invited himself to the party. He had absolutely no role to play; he just wanted a front row seat for the fireworks.
I warned Daisy that Angelique could be difficult to work with, just so that she’d be prepared.
So down we went, Daisy, Bruce, and me, to the ground floor where the OTIS offices were and found Angelique at her desk. I introduced the women, and Daisy began to explain why we were there.
And Angelique listened and nodded.
And nodded some more.
“Yes, we can do that, no problem,” she said.
Bruce and I exchanged glances, dumbfounded.
And so the meeting went. By the end, Angelique had agreed to give Daisy everything she asked for.
But the kicker came as we got up to leave. I can still see Angelique, standing at her desk with that unctuous smile on her face, hands folded in front of her, saying, “We’re here to serve!”
And as we were walking up the stairs, neither Bruce nor I still quite believing what we had just seen, Daisy said, “You have to know how to deal with these people.”