July 31, 2019

Is closeout always this terrible? Asking for a friend

Is closeout always this terrible? Asking for a friend

Tom Winters stood as far away as he could across the room from the two computer monitors, his twin nemeses. He wiped his stinging eyes, the imprint of an Excel spreadsheet still burned into his eyelids. The clock on the wall read 4:13pm. Behind him, the harsh afternoon sun pouring in from the double windows made him reconsider wearing a flannel. At least the dark green made his back-sweat less visible, he thought. Tom held his floral-patterned coffee mug at his sternum but the black coffee it carried had long lost its heat.

“Better make another pot,” he said aloud to himself. For the moment, any task—closeout-related or not—was progress.

As Tom dumped the old coffee grounds from his Mr. Coffee machine into the wastebasket, a “ding” from his workspace jolted his posture like a dog sensing his owner’s return. In three long strides, he made it to the two monitors and peered at his gmail inbox on the left monitor. “Michael Edwards” was the sender.

“Oh, thank god,” said Tom.

Tom clicked on the email, the subject reading “Re: 2nd Floor Air Conditioning System O&M.” He quickly scanned through Michael’s several-sentence explanation for taking so long—a tad too apologetic considering how Michael would likely have to send another such email quite soon—a promise for “more O&M’s as soon as those guys get back to me,” and a final note regarding last night’s NBA playoff game. Surely this basketball addendum was Michael’s way of diffusing any possible tension between he and Tom.

How did I ever doubt Kawhi, thought Tom. Michael’s diffusion plan was indeed successful.

Tom clicked on the 7.9MB attachment, titled “2FloorAircondtihng.pdf” [sic] He scrolled through the 14 pages of the document, most of them legible. This will have to do. He downloaded the attachment to his computer in a folder on his desktop called “O&M.” He ran his finger down his specbook, tapping what he was looking for in victory. Shifting to the monitor on his right, Tom scrolled down his fully enlarged Excel spreadsheet, all categories meticulously copied and pasted from Procore, and checked the box labeled “O&M - 2nd Fl AC.” There were still many unchecked boxes to go, more than Tom cared to count.

As the dread began to creep in again, another “ding” heightened Tom’s pulse. Could he really be this lucky? Two checked boxes in one minute? At this rate, Tom could finish closeout by the end of the month. He pivoted back to the gmail inbox on the left monitor. “Credit Karma” was the sender and the subject read “12 Reasons You Might Want to Consider Refinancing Your Auto Loan.” Tom’s right hand balled into a fist; he could’ve sworn he had unsubscribed from these emails.

After finally completing the new pot of coffee, some pacing, and a quick article about Kawhi Leonard’s offseason work ethic on his phone, Tom decided it was time to get back to work. He sat in his squeaky four-wheeled computer chair and scooted closer to his two monitors. He opened his gmail sent box and scrolled down, clicking on an email he’d sent to Russ Abernathy 6 days prior.

“Hey Russ,” typed Tom, “sorry to nag but just wanted to check in on those as-builts. Any update? Let me know. You catch the game last night? Can anyone stop Kawhi?”

Tom sent the email, then stared at his Excel spreadsheet for almost a minute. He scrolled to “Progress Photos - 5th Floor.” The fact that this box was unchecked was cause for alarm for Tom. He searched “5th Floor” in his inbox, and reopened an already-read email from Bob Gonzales 15 days prior with the subject “Re: 5th Floor 360 Progress.”

“Oh, thank god,” said Tom, again.

Tom must have gotten sidetracked and forgotten to download the file, upload the file to the server, and update his Excel spreadsheet. He began downloading the attachment, a 2.7GB file named “5Floor360.zip.” The file would take 13 minutes to download, so he stood and stretched. The download bar suddenly sped up to 7 minutes, which again prompted Tom to fantasize about an end-of-month closeout completion.

The download time for the 360 degree progress photographs of the 5th floor (out of 16 floors in all), ended up splitting the difference between 7 and 13–finishing after 10 minutes—landing into a folder on Tom’s desktop labeled “Progress Photos.” He then uploaded the same file to a shared server, which took 17 minutes this time. Smiling, he checked the corresponding box on his Excel spreadsheet. A small part of him wondered if his 15-days-ago-self had purposely sabotaged this process to give his current self a minor victory on this particular day. He pondered for a minute or two longer than he needed to before texting a few of his subs reminders for some as-builts and attic stock. Tom felt like the bad guy, knowing most of them were already onto new projects. He looked at the clock behind him, which startlingly read 7:51pm.

As he turned off his left monitor, another “ding” rang out from the speakers. Instead of turning it back on and checking his gmail inbox, Tom knew that his tomorrow-morning-self would be happy to start the day on a productive note.

4 months and 16 days later, Tom Winters proudly wheeled a cart filled with 13 separate 1000+ page closeout binders in front of the owner of the project. The two shook hands. The binders had a one-way ticket to a closet down the hall, most likely never to be seen by human eyes again, but Tom didn’t mind. His work was done.

3 weeks and 1 day later, the owner called Tom.

“Where are the HVAC warranties?!”