Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What's the opposite of being "handy"?

You know those people that can see something broken and know how to fix it right away? Those who are not completely flummoxed by loose wires, whining water pipes, or wobbly chairs?

Yeah...I'm not one of them.

Not only am I not mechanically inclined, I actually have the tendency to break--nay, destroy--things normally unbreakable. If something in my bathroom stops working, like the toilet won't flush, or the shower door doesn't close right, I just use the other bathroom until The Dad and his infamous toolbelt come visit. I've actually had friends cringe when I pick up a tool. Sample conversation with a friend:
Friend: "Hand me a phillips head screwdriver."
Me: " that the one with the plus-shaped tip, or the minus-shaped tip?
Friend (sighing in frustration): "Just hand me that one."
Me: "Ooooh. It's shiny! Where's my lipgloss?"

Like I said, I'm not handy.

Knowing this, it may surprise you to know that I'm the Facilities Manager for my company. I know I was surprised when I found out, because I was hired as an HR Generalist, for which I have education, training, and natural communication skills. I knew the job wrapped in a few building things when I got hired, like being the general complaint department when something breaks, or finding someone a new chair. But when I took the job it didn't occur to me that: 1. The building is really old, 2. My company is a non-profit and can't afford a lot of building upgrades, 3. That there is no Facility Manager, that my title says "Generalist", and that sneaky line in my job description "other duties as assigned."

But plucky gal that I am, and wanting to impress my new employer, I made a good show of it. I learned how the fire alarm system could be turned off. I hired an electrician. I even occasionally went to the boiler room (only to inevitably return with bruises from tripping on my feet or bumping into a valve or something). I figured an air of enthusiasm and a good list of vendors would see me through. Until this week.

Our elevator went down and needed a new motor. Elevator guys replaced the motor, but the electric was shot. Called the electrical guys, who fixed the fuse thingie and told me that infrared testing found hotspots in the electrical wires and would need to be replaced. The windows started leaking from all the rain. The fire panel wouldn't connect to the power source and was sending false alarms (for which we get charged). The automatic toilet on the 2nd floor wouldn't flush. One of the desks on the 2nd floor was falling off the wall. There was a throwdown over who would get a whiteboard in their office. And through it all I would just shrug and call someone else, hoping they could figure it out for me.

Then, the gods smiled on me in pity and our CEO decided that IT should be responsible for the building systems instead of me.

Best. Day. Ever.

It is quite humbling for someone who graduated Summa Cum Laude for her BA, got her MA before turning 24, and followed up with her professional HR certificate to stand in front of an enormous piece of equipment that isn't working and know that there isn't a damn thing she can do by herself to get it running again. I know the definition for "sequicentennial," can wax poetic about communicative praxis, and kick butt at Trivial Pursuit, but I don't know what a phillips-head screwdriver is (is it )