How to EXCEL 7/18/10

Date:                           July 18, 2010


Location:                    Plattekill, NY




            It seems to be human nature to attempt to draw parallels between inhuman events and existence and our own simple human life.  When faced with a large task we relate to tiny ants and their ability to move a rubber tree plant.  If we are proud of an achievement and of moment in our lives we compare ourselves to the strutting peacock.  We always want to explain our human condition by finding a way to relate it to something or some effort that is neither human nor is it related to human endeavors.  I have even expounded on the human condition by comparing it to the addictive internet game called Farmville.  I do not fault this comparison; I just find it very interesting.  With this philosophy in mind I must tell you about a computer program adventure that I have undertaken at the Newburgh KOA.  I will leave it up to you to decide if there is a human social relevance and if the adventure into Excel land has any parallel in our normal social interaction and personal relationships.


            When Connie and I arrived here we were asked to take on the mantle of evening supervisor.  This basically meant that we close the door, turn off the lights and prepare the end of day reports.  It is the preparation of these reports that offered me an adventure in Excel data manipulation.  The requirement was to fill one Excel sheet with the daily income flow by each employee and to print a summary report of that information.  This is a practice that they have been doing for years and quite simple.  Simple, that is, until I ventured on the scene.


            The Excel program used to track all income was quite basic and simple.  Each employee has a section and the amount of cash, credit cards, and checks is entered, summarized and tabulated.  The summary report that is then generated takes all of this individual information combines it and neatly gives the campground manager a quick snapshot of each days financial activity.  This sounds quite simple, and, I am sure, was quite routine for the many people that preceded me.  I had a better idea, or so I thought.


            I took the summary form and made a complicated Excel program that allowed a person to quickly enter the separate transaction data for each employee and then the computer would magically generate a completed and, hopefully, accurate form to print out and leave for the manager.  This accomplished at least two goals; first the form would be readable, a plus to anyone that has ever seen my hand writing; and second it allowed the computer to do all of the calculations, thus aiding the tired and feeble brain of a geriatric at the bewitching hour of closing.  It work very well and was extremely well received by the management staff at the campground.


            This process worked very well except for 1 small problem.  I still needed to fill out the original Excel program.  It seemed that information was needed for other reports.  Simply put, I had to do duplicate work and the lazy oaf in me rebelled.  Why could not the two programs talk to each other and my work be cut in half?  A simple question but with a complicated answer.  Mostly complicated because I do not know enough about Excel to have an answer immediately come to my mind, but an answer there must be.


            I will not totally bore you with my efforts.  I will let you know that I can now enter the data one time and magically two programs are activated.  One program generates the summary form and the other produces the Excel sheets needed for the campground reports for the corporation.  That is a simple explanation for a rather complex operation.  A little effort, a lot of trial and many errors and a full day or two of effort and the task was accomplished.  I needed to get each program to speak the same language, the exact same language; and I needed to get each program to relate to the other program on a respectful a consistent level.  One little slip in programming language on one program would totally destroy the relationship I was attempting to build between them.  If I placed a “C23” in one spot but thought it was “C24”in a different spot the calculations would be totally wrong.  At times, in each program, the many pages of data were identical, except for the minor special differences that made them individual.  And yet, when I was finished the two programs with 20 or so different pages of data flow together effortlessly, almost as if by magic.


            I am sure that some philosophical mind will find a way to draw human parallels to my sojourn into Excel land.  Something about working together, but needing to find common ground; or that cooperation may produce a free easy flowing result, but often requires a lot of hard work to produce the smooth results.  Someone, I am sure can expound on this for pages, but not I and not today.  I must get ready to go to work and try out my new program.  It is really cool.