Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Farming it out

Some days, I just have to accept that nothing I could produce (pun intended) would be funnier than vegetable-based humor.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

It's Haikuesday!

Titles are always tough. Am I being sarcastic, or just lame? It's hard to tell sometimes.

Yes, haiku! Like most folks in my neck of the country, I spend entirely too much time commuting--about three hours a day, on average, locked in my Detroit-made rolling coffin with an assortment of podcasts and a supply of daggers (suitable for glaring).

I like to make up poetry in my head to pass the time. Since there are only so many rhymes for "dumbass", I've branched out into non-rhyming forms. I like haiku, because they don't make me sound like a Jewel wannabe, and because I can usually remember seventeen syllables at a time.

For today:

Your hand gives payment
As you merge in front of me;
Keep the change, and thanks.

I can't even begin to count how many vehicles I'm sharing the road with on an average day. Enough to have figured out that, barring an unluckily short yellow light or two, letting a few cars in front of me isn't going to impact the amount of time it takes me to get home at all. And it's usually easier than riding the butt of the car in front of me to keep someone from cutting between us--particularly since, if I do that, that someone will simply zip ahead in front of *that* car and get in front of both of us. (I miss that about Boston. I'm continually fascinated by the regional driving rules that locals establish for themselves, and how different they can be from one place to the next. More on that another time.)

Anyway, while we've established that I can't generally keep you from getting in front of me one way or another, I still expect a "thank you" wave for the courtesy of letting someone in, for the same reason that I say "Bless you" when you sneeze. And not a half-butted flick of the fingers while you're turning the steering wheel, but an honest-to-goodness, visible-through-the-back-window, "Thank you for acknowledging my existence" flash of all five fingers. A woman in a green Honda gave two waves this morning; one when I motioned her out of the parking lot, and another after she'd merged into traffic. Last I saw her, she was still breathing without difficulty--I don't think the gestures took too much out of her.

I refer you again to Red Foreman's quote. And if you can't be bothered, then I should be entitled to fling my own crap at you. (Hey, 90 minutes is a long time to go with a full mug of coffee and no rest stop.)

Friday, March 24, 2006


It's not just what you are before you're uptight.

"Do you like to dream beyond limitations, swim against the current and risk for the sake of greatness?"

Would you use that sentence to open a job ad for anything other than American Inventor Contestant or Comic Book Hero?

How about Senior Claims Specialist with Progressive?

What sort of greatness do you aspire to, exactly? And what are you risking? Life in a vinyl-covered middle management chair?

Winning Acquaintances And All That

An awkward situation arose at the office this week, when our newest employee had the gall to celebrate his birthday on just his third day of employment. Now, we try to be accommodating of employees' different birthdates. Heck, we are small enough that we usually celebrate with a cake and a mildly humorous-but-inoffensive card. But this was really putting us to the test; two days is simply not enough time for us to each come up with our own inane but unique message to scrawl on the birthday card.

And if that wasn't inconsiderate enough, he brought his own cake! His own cake!! The nerve! How are we supposed to make him feel welcomed and appreciated if we can't give him cake? Next thing you know he'll be bringing in pictures of his kids or his wedding or some other aspect of his personal life that we'll have to feign interest in, which should not be expected of us for at least two to three months. There are RULES, here, people! As Red Foreman once said, without rules, we may as well be sitting around in trees, flinging our own crap at each other.

To prevent such savagery, I thought I would clearly establish the proper timeline of behavior for New Guys everywhere, in order to ease their transition toward acceptance. These rules may also apply to New Females, but as future bloggings will no doubt prove, I haven't the faintest idea about the members of that kingdom, so I'm writing what I know.

Week 1: At this point, everyone still believes that you might be cool. The surest way to screw that up is by interacting socially with any of them. You're starting with a clean slate; try not to run your fingernails down it right away. You should spend most of your time at your desk, reading whatever paperwork they've given you and trying to determine the best monitor angle to hide your web surfing from the casual observer. Once that is accomplished, see if you can figure out exactly what it is you were hired to do.

Week 2: Took too long to adjust your monitor, eh? That's OK, you've still got some time. If you don't remember what you were hired for, try instead to figure out what industry you're in, based on what you see around you:

Large machines = Manufacturing (supplies, or possibly textiles)
Sick people = Health care
Very short people = Education or the Circus
Repo men = Dot-com

Week 3: You can begin to venture out of your office for such necessities as coffee and the bathroom. If you encounter a co-worker in your travels, you should greet them with a nod and a casual "Mornin'" (or, if you're feeling daring, "Afternoon"). Should you encounter the same co-worker again, you've left your office once too often. Play with fire and you'll get burned, my friend. Your only hope of escaping with dignity is to fake an asthma attack and rush back to your office for your inhaler. If the person follows you out of "concern," remove your sock and breathe deeply through it. This person is not actually concerned for your welfare; they are just looking for cracks in your facade of coolness. Don't give them anything this early.

Think of these as Special Forces Recon missions: get in, get your man, and get out. See if you can overhear a few important details about your company, such as "Gee, I sure am glad we're manufacturing so many textiles right now!" Be prepared to pull your feet up onto the toilet seat to avoid detection. You're not ready to encounter a co-worker in a room with only one exit.

Week 4: OK, this is the moment you've been preparing for all month: it's time to engage in conversation with your fellow employees. For the first week, we'll stick to the two safe topics: sports and the weather. But don't get too excited and make the classic rookie mistake of using both in one sentence, as in, "It's too bad the local Major League Baseball team was rained out last night, huh?" You've just exhausted all of your conversation options in one shot. Now you'll have to hide out in your office again until football season.

Weeks 5-8: As your conversations progress, you can gradually mix in a little color and small details about yourself, as in the following example:

"I really enjoyed last night's local Major League Baseball game! That starting pitcher can really bring the heat! Speaking of heat, what do you think of this weather we're having? I do not enjoy it!"

Here, by expressing your opinion on the subject, you encourage your dialogue partner to share his own. Most of your co-workers will pick up on this. The truly reluctant or conversationally inept, such as the members of your IT department, may require further drawing out. An excellent technique to employ here is the use of direct questions. To wit:

"I really enjoyed last night's local Major League Baseball game, you know? That starting pitcher can really bring the heat, huh? Speaking of heat, what do you think of this weather we're having, eh? I do not enjoy it, do I?"

This should be sufficient to prompt even the most reluctant conversationalist to act.

Week 9 on: You have progressed as far as you can socially with this group. It's time to seek a transfer, or if necessary, a new job. Good thing you adjusted your monitor back in Week 1, isn't it?

One final note: you may skip ahead one week in your development for each "New Guy" who joins after you, because now you are "the Seasoned Veteran." Other personality types to aspire to are "the Grizzled Veteran," "the Sarcastic Veteran," and "the Grizzled, Sarcastic Veteran." Such a lofty title often takes years of hard work, weather, and baseball games to attain, but as with any job, you must establish your goals early!

First post

So this is what happens when procrastination meets opportunity. Well, eventually.

More to come.