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My computer needs an attitude adjustment

We have new time clocks here at the Great Bend Tribune.
They are on our computers. This means you can’t just walk in the door and punch a time card; now, you have to fire up the bipolar PC, wait for it to load any updates, go get a cup of coffee, then go to the timecard website, log on and “clock in.”
I’m going to give the online timecard manager a name, but I won’t print it here. You see, it has a personality and it has a bit of an attitude. It makes snide little comments on my work habits.
“Employee took a long lunch,” a note said Monday when I left early for a doctor’s appointment and didn’t return until 1:04 p.m.
“Did not take a lunch,” it said yesterday. Actually, I took two breaks during the 10.5 hours I was clocked in, and these have been duly noted and will be deleted from the total.
In the last pay period there were three days where my timecard had those little blue footnotes, “Employee took a long lunch.” “Employee lacks writing flair.”
Just kidding about that last one, but it comments on my lunch breaks — or lack of them — on a regular basis.
On Tuesday I clocked out at 12:32 and was back by 1:17. Why is that a long lunch?
OK, new name for the timecard manager. I’m going to call him “HAL.”
I imagine reaching for the power plug as HAL asks, “What are you doing, Susan?”

Last year those of us who use a Tribune vehicle had to take an online class in defensive driving. Oh, the joys of getting halfway through an online quiz and having the computer freeze up. Start again.
I know I’m not the only one who has to go online periodically for mandated training. At Barton Community College there is safety training, compliance training and who knows what else. At Great Bend USD 428, there is so much required training that the school district has joined the Public School Works Training System. It offers all kinds of required training online and keeps track of who had what course and when. Assistant Superintendent John Popp said Suicide Prevention is the next online class everyone in the district is required to take.
Here at the Tribune, we are all getting used to the new timecard system, which does have some advantages over the old way of doing things. We are adapting, and it’s a good thing, because the human resources director just sent everyone a memo with a link to our new wellness website. I need to create an account and start earning “wellness points” so my insurance premiums will be lower. (Or, from my perspective, so they will not be higher.)
This wellness site is going to become a regular companion, sitting on my desktop computer and nagging me throughout the year. “Have you signed the ‘non-smoking’ oath of allegiance?” “You should get a colonoscopy this year.” “Have you taken the diabetes quiz?”
In my mind, I hear a female voice asking these very personal questions, and maybe chiding, “You don’t need any of the goodies in the break room.”
Any suggestions on what I should name her?

A note to readers: I have been writing this column for more than a year now, but it used to appear only in the 530News, also published by the Tribune. I call it “Life on Ark,” because it is intended to be about life here on the Great Bend of the Arkansas River. And, as I wrote in my first column, “We all live together, sharing our journey on a metaphorical ark called planet Earth. It’s a wild ride ... some might say a real zoo.” But, in the words of the late Bill Hicks, “Enjoy the ride.”

Susan Thacker is news editor at the Great Bend Tribune. Contact her by email at or call 620-792-1211.