Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Why I've been at work even though the university is closed this week

A few of my colleagues and I have gone into work every day this week, and will probably keep doing so all the way through the end of the weekend, even though the university is closed this week and we are on vacation. A number of my friends and other colleagues keep asking why, but the answer is a little difficult to explain.

It's not that I'm inarticulate or anything. I don't speak in grunts or tongues. The problem is that I love my job, and I enjoy doing it, but when I try to explain it to most people their eyes start glazing over and it seems kind of like I'm reading Babbitt out loud to them. All they hear is numbers and reports and spreadsheets and computer and charges and balances and credits and codes and blah blah blah and they've totally lost interest even though they're the one that asked what I was doing at work this week in the first place.

So people keep asking, and I keep trying to think of a way to explain, and running into a wall. I was trying to think up a short, entertaining explanation today beyond "Working on billing" when inspiration struck me: I saw a lady wearing a "WWJD?" sweatshirt at the store, and I thought, "What would Jesus do? Jesus would illustrate this with a parable. It would be about sheep and shepherds or something, and seem really simple, but really the sheep are the people and the shepherd is the Pope. Or the shepherd is Jesus. And the sheep are the Catholics. Something like that. But anyway, people would hear the story and understand!" I don't know anything about sheep, so I can't really form a good parable about them, but I do know superheroes, and I'm going to roll with that.

So, with that in mind, here's the story of why I'm at work this week, which I call "The Sun Eater is Made of Student Account Statements".

Anyway, once upon a time, there was a terrible menace called a Sun Eater, which ate suns:

the sun eater

For the purposes of our story, the Sun Eater represents improper student billing statements. It is a violent solar powered cloud of incorrect charges, double credits, and mangled financial aid caused by computer and human errors. When student accounts are correct, they are happy little stars, twinkling brightly in the university sky. When they are incorrect, the Sun Eater swallows them up, and disaster occurs.

Now, with the menace of the Sun Eater looming on the horizon, there are two computer systems on campus working to stop improper student billing statements. For the purposes of our story, we'll call them the Legion of Superheroes and the Fatal Five:

find the fatal five!

I'm not going to say which office is the Legion and which is the Fatal Five, because I don't want to imply that either our office or the Bursar's Office is evil. Instead, we'll just say that they're two completely different computer operating systems forced to work together to fight the Sun Eater, and the computer systems are getting along about as well as you'd expect:

fatal five and the legion


And while the systems are busy not communicating well, the Sun Eater is amassing more and more errors, becoming a larger and larger problem. Different people from different offices keep trying to tackle the problem individually, but it's just too big, and they get smacked around like the Sun Eater smacking around Superboy with red sun rays:

red sun rays

Everyone has to work together, and a drastic solution is called for. In this case, Tharok, the cyborg leader of the Fatal Five, invents an absorbatron bomb which will detonate in the Sun Eater's core and destroy it forever. Our absorbatron bomb is that every student account with an active contract needs to be hand checked and hand corrected, and it needs to be done now. That means somebody has to make a sacrifice, and take one for the team, or the universe will die in a flood of angry phone calls from the Sun Eater's parents.

Enter Ferro Lad:

ferro lad and superboy

Ferro Lad knows that he has the best chance of success even if he has to sacrifice himself and his week off between semesters, so he swoops in and carries that absorbatron bomb into the heart of the Sun Eater:

ferro lad and the sun eater

And Ferro Lad saves the world through the power of sacrifice, dying according to the prophecy:

death foretold

foretold by the Hag:

evillo and the hag

who turned out to be the White Witch:

the white witch of naltor

who was the sister of Dream Girl:

the menace of dream girl

and who was under a curse that could only be cured by having Dream Girl dress up as a robot:

miss terious

so that she could trick an amnesiac Supergirl:

amnesia supergirl

into tricking the Legion of Superpets into attacking the Legion of Substitute Heroes:

super pets and the subs

even though Supergirl only had temporary amnesia because Brainiac 5 made Shrinking Violet fly into her nostril:

through the nostril

and plant kryptonite in her brain:

in the brain

because he loved her.

But that's a story for another day. The moral of our story is that sometimes, for the good of the universe (or just the university), someone (or several someones in multiple offices) has to make a sacrifice and carry that absorbatron bomb (or give up their week off) to defeat the Sun Eater (or correct student accounts) so that the Sun Eater's parents don't call the president's office, and it all works out for the best for everyone.

Except Ferro Lad, who died:

memorial for ferro lad

but Ferro Lad will just take a long weekend in January or February to make up for it.


Skald said...

Well, I think that works out just fine. I understand your reasons for going into work. I just don't understand the why the "Sun Eater and Ferro Lad" storyline and conclusion seem very similar to the "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" Galactus' concept (giant planet eating cloud thing) and Silver Surfer's sacrifice to explode Galactus from within. Seems a writer for the Fantastic Four movie might have been peeking at your Encyclopedia.

Joel said...

The original Galactus story, on which that horrible movie was based, premiered in "The Fantastic Four" in March through May of 1966. The Legion's battle with the Fatal Five against the Sun Eater began in January 1967 in "Adventure Comics". While it's possible that the Legion was actually a copy of the Fantastic Four story, Jim Shooter, the writer (who was a teenager at the time), has cited his inspiration for the story as the 1967 film "The Dirty Dozen", in which characters must be recruited from prison to help with a special mission in WWII.

Rod said...

In a later issue, Ferro Lad will be resurrected. These things just take time.

Liz said...

I own a copy of that issue of "Fantastic Four" that featured the first ever appearance of Galactus. Oddly enough, it's not worth a thing.

Also I still don't understand your job but you are a hero at it!