I am deep, deep into my second day of some major Excel spreadsheet bullshit at work. It’s probably the worst part of my job, right next to talking to sales reps on the phone and talking to sales reps in the office. And talking to sales reps over email. Cutting and pasting, sorting and numbering, freezing and unfreezing all day long.
Sometimes I feel like my job responsibilities are made up of only tasks that humans haven’t quite figured out how to make computers and machines do for them. Sure, we’ve achieved the creation of this program that can do a lot of things with data, but not quite everything that we want it to do with the data. Sure, we’ve created a machine to copy, collate, and staple documents, but we haven’t quite figured out how to make inanimate objects place these documents in binders and mail them.
And sometimes I just get so mad at Excel that I could cry. I get mad at that very specific type of computer stupidity-due-to-logic that you run into in these programs – the toddler kind of stupidity-due-to-logic like when you say, “Billy, stop hitting your brother!” so Billy starts hitting his sister instead. Yes, I know I should have commanded Billy to stop hitting everyone, but I also expect Billy to smart enough and human enough understand that that had been implied in my original command. Excel doesn’t bother to understand what you actually meant or what you obviously need, it only understands your exact words. “Excel, stop sorting by only column D!” I’ll shout, and Excel listens, but not in exactly the right way. Almost as if to teach me a lesson about saying what I mean.
More generally, after a solid six hours of data entry and organization, I start to hate the name itself: Excel. What an insult to me and every other cube-dweller on the planet! Microsoft Word is called Word because it is a program for writing words. Adobe PhotoShop is a program in which to edit pictures. Quicktime Player plays music and videos. Minesweeper allows you to sweep mines. And then there’s Excel, a word that means to surpass, outstrip, eclipse, transcend, exceed, top, beat. Really, Excel? Are you just going to take the fact that you’re better than me and rub it in my face all day – every time I open you and every time I name a file? It isn’t enough that my bosses and my freakin’ sales reps do that all day too? No, Excel, that’s fine. I understand that the name “Microsoft Spreadsheet” would be a dull, boring name. Maybe even duller than “Marketing Assistant.” Which is slightly less dull than “Do-er of Things Computers Can’t Quite Do Yet.”