Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sometimes, I'm not a people person.

I really debated writing this blog today OR just sitting on my hands in an effort to behave. 

Clearly only one of those options panned out.

I'm having that "People Annoy Me" frustration spike that comes when one or more of your coworkers grind you down into a state in which going postal seems quite possible  (no need to call the authorities....we all know I'm lazy and would rather save my energy for planning other things.  Like my birthday party.  Which will be two months from yesterday).

I've worked in some crazy places in my life. My pal, Kathy, and I spend a year or so at IBM overseeing contract administrators. These were the creme de la creme of bad employees.

You know it's going to be a bad day when you get a call first thing from a manager reporting that her admin has a baby under her desk.

Me, "A baby?"
Them, "Yes, a baby. In a car seat. Under her desk"
(Turns out her sitter was sick and she didn't want to leave the baby at home alone.  Good intentions.  Poor solution skills).

Then there were the daily phone calls from another contractor explaining why she wasn't coming to work - which never failed to include very specific descriptions about what was coming out one or more of her body cavities.  An immediate rule was established to never listen to voicemail while eating breakfast.

Yet, these folks were always positively stunned when we had to let them go.  There was simply no way to walk them through the logic of "You've missed 14 days of work this month...therefore we have to fire you." or "You have a baby.  Under your desk.  You can't stay.  Because of the baby.  Under your desk."

I suppose I should count myself lucky that I wasn't born with an ingrained sense of entitlement.  I suppose I should be proud that I don't try to cheat the system or do an average job when I could do a great one.  The problem is, when you work with someone who does possess those qualities (?), it's enough to drive you straight over the edge.

I had a mood shift this morning just as soon as I walked into our empty office and through a giant pooh colored carpet stain.  Yesterday someone dropped an entire cup of coffee on the carpet just outside the kitchen door.  The kitchen - where there are rolls and rolls of paper towels.  That could be used for cleaning up spills - such as, for example, coffee on the carpet.

When I'd arrived at work yesterday, the coffee was still pooling into the carpet.  No one cared to admit being the guilty party - I guess I can't blame them as it would also mean admitting to be too lazy to clean up after themselves.

So clearly this was going to dry into a giant, attractive stain. I suggested to our office manager that she ping the building's customer service to have the cleaning person stop in.  There is a cleaning person in the building all day, so no big deal.  I got a look that would indicate I was sporting at least two heads, if not four.

All day I listened to people dodging the mess, wondering who did it, etc.. And then finally at about 4.45pm...this appeared:
Now, you can see how wet it still is by the sopping into the paper towels.  Today, we have an attractive dried out brown stain thus solidifying our place in the 'we have a nasty office' race:

Which will be how it remains from now until eternity.  Although I did hear the office manager hint that she would probably have to get the carpets cleaned now.  Yes, because yesterday when it could have been addressed it wasn't.  And now it's sunk in there.  I'd actually thought about bringing my own carpet cleaner in today and hitting it.  But, quite frankly, I have my own actual work to do.

Just for fun - this is our cardboard box collection (well, what I could fit in the frame):

This lives behind my desk.  We do have a storage closet to keep them in - but this looks way better.

Back to this morning. 
And what about sent me over the edge. 

I'm sitting at my desk attempting to book airline tickets for one of my managers - on the actual phone with American Express.  When I hear my name taken in vain from the kitchen. 

Minutes later, one of the guys comes out of the kitchen (yes, the phone is still attached to my head) and says, "I just had to empty the K-Cup collector! (for those of you not in the know - the K-Cup coffee maker is the newest way to fill landfills with plastic that won't disintegrate)"  As the phone was still attached to my head, I gave him the Two Thumbs Up! signal.  To which he responded, "Can't you get on that?"

After he removed my foot from his ass....(oh wait, that part didn't actually happen).  What did happen was a fiery response from myself focused on the person who should 'get on that' but can't seem to make the effort.  Fortunately said person had not made her late-to-work appearance yet and I was given a high-five for pointing out the obvious.  Yay me.

The annoying thing is that I promised myself that this year, for 2011, I was not going to let myself get worked up about this stuff.  Fail.  The other annoying thing's my own fault.  Every time I have to play the stand-in office manager, I do a stellar job.  Therefore, unwillingly becoming the go-to girl.

It's the worst kind of Catch 22. 

Clearly I am going to shift my resolution right back to our IBM-days motto.

Nod and Smile.
Nod and Smile.

And keep telling myself that as long as there are no babies under the desks, things are not that bad...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Use it or Lose it.

I think we all have friends that say things like, "Oh, I had five weeks of vacation last year, but never used half of them." or "I'll have to take the whole month of December off to burn through my vacation." or "I always end up with days left over, I can never seem to use them all."

You've just read three sentences that will never cross these lips.

Partly because I don't get five weeks of vacation a week (but pipedreams are real) and partly because I am a firm believer in taking a break.  I mean, I often take breaks DURING the actual workday just to make sure I never round the corner to hair pulling stress levels.  This doesn't always work.

I do think it is confusing sometimes - trying to find that line that separates your work life from your home life.  Although, as I continue towards my mid-life crisis, I'm finding it much easier to keep the two away from each other.

And I do understand that some people like to be defined by what they do for a living.  That's not me - I like to be defined by what I do WHEN I'm living.

Now, I'm no Dr. Phil.  But I'm guessing that time off is important to your brain.  Whether it is to get re-motivated, re-energized, re-focused or, most importantly, re-laxed.  I mean, we all know how they roll across the Atlantic....what with their six week vacation plans and mid-day siestas.

People laugh when I tell them I still take Spring Break.  I'd love to say I've taken one every year since college - but I haven't.  For a decade or so I worked just like most adults - came off the Christmas Holidays, counted down the days until President's Day and then aimed my sights on summer vacation.

But then I switched jobs one March and ended up with a week of nothing-to-do between leaving the old one and starting the new one. 

Here's a sign that you might need to take some more frequent time off - when the idea of time off is daunting because you have no idea HOW you will spend it or WHAT will fill up all the hours of nothingness.  So, that March, I had my first Spring Break in years - and it was fan-relaxing-tastic.

Now, I haven't been able to celebrate Spring Break every year (okay, full disclosure, there have been a few very excellent years where I went on mega-vacations for which I had to hoard my days off...worth it).  But when I have an open year (as in...not much planned...) I go for it.

This year, I'm heading out to Burbank to visit a friend of a friend who I have now forced to be my friend.  Tickets are booked.  And my anal side has started setting aside outfits in my head.  No spreadsheets just yet - should be up and running by mid-March, though.

I've also become a firm believer in stay-cations.  While I'll always be biased towards actually going somewhere - there is something very nice about waking up and realizing the biggest thing on your schedule is the move down to the couch.

Actually, I try to do this once a week.  Unsuccessfully.  But I always go into Sunday reminding myself that it's supposed to be a day of rest.  A for Effort.  F for Fail.

For fun I did a search in Google under "Why Vacations are Good for You."  Turns out there are about a gazillion articles supporting the idea.  And if it's on the net, well, you know it has to be true.

Some of the reasons I dug up:
Vacations Promote Creativity (True.  Especially if you go with others - it's always tricky to ensure everyone's happiness)
Vacations Stave Off Burnout (Definitely.  Except when you get back and have 900 emails from people who failed to read your 'out of office')
Vacations Can Keep Us Healthy (Well...if that's the case, you might not be doing it right...)
Vacations Promote Overall Wellbeing (Yes. There's nothing more confidence-building than coming back loaded with crazy trip stories)
Vacations Can Strengthen Bonds (Clearly this person has never traveled with a gaggle of girls.  Equals cat fights)
Vacations Can Help With Your Job Performance (I like to think it doesn't help my job performance to have me out of the office.  I like to think when I'm out, the place is crumbling to the ground)
Vacations Relieve Stress in Lasting Ways (Again, right after you get through the 900 emails, things seem less stressful)

Some people even take vacation a step further and go on their own.  No one to report to, no schedule to keep.  That's actually a little extreme for me. 
I have no problem making friends with strangers, but still - I think it's way better to have someone to share the stories with.  Or at least help vote on which stories will be made public.
My parents have actually taken their vacation level up several notches with a motorhome.  They are on the road so much that their regular/vacation days have actually flip-flopped.  Vacations are now spent at their own house doing laundry, tracking down the cat and re-stocking the RV.  It seems to work - they haven't aged a bit in years. 
I guess the bad news for those non-vacationing weirdos is that at the end of the year, they are going to realize that there are no awards for perfect attendance. The good news is, I'll have plenty of memories to share with them while they lick their "I work too much" wounds.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh, Old Man Winter...stop trying to charm the pants of this girl!

Is it a sign of aging if I have to zip back through a year's work of blogs to see if I've written one like this yet?  Or is it more of a sign of trust that you wouldn't tell me if I had.  Or maybe it's that I'm never sure if anyone is really reading this - and in that case, I can talk to myself about whatever I want no matter how many times I want.

Winter.  Will you never end?

It's not that I don't believe in saving the environment, Mr.'s just that that whole Global Warming thing seems to be taking some time off.

Not even one month into the official winter season and we are just wrapping up storm numero seis  (that would be six for those of you less close to our Spanish speaking neighbors).

Many of you reading this reside in the northern part of the country and are wondering what the heck I'm talking about.  Many of you have had snow on your ground since late August. 

That's not how we roll here. 

So, yes, it does get right under my cold-weather-cracked-skin when I speak to the Nanooks, trying to express my tale of snow lock down woes and hear responses such as:

"Wait.  You're home because there's a dusting?" or
"How many days off?  For two inches?!" or
"You share a shovel with five of your neighbors?"

Or, one of my favorites - when trying to explain to my Boston colleagues why I would be late for training due to the airport being shut down...
"Four inches?  or Forty Inches?"
"Four inches"
"I don't understand.  How is your airport closed for four inches?"

Let me give you some examples of why we tend to hunker down in inclement weather.  Or weather.  We really don't call it inclement.  We say, "Looks like some weather's coming." 

Sorry, no deliveries on eggs, milk or bread today....

Rain, sleet, snow or shine...except for the sleet.  Or snow...

New request ~ please limit emergencies to dry days over 40 degrees...

This is what covered EVERY thing on Tuesday morning.  Now, I'll give you the 'driving in the snow isn't that hard' argument (even though I hate it and around here, it's not a great idea).  But, driving on this?  I'd rather put Zip Locs on my feet and try to navigate a field of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.  Spread.

And here's our ammunition.  Watch out primary roads...we're coming to get you.  Secondary Roads?  Stand down - eventually the sun will come back out and have it's way with you...

I really have nothing to say about this one.  It's just a picture from the local news site.  That might prove that thing about rednecks living here.

So yeah - I hear you.  Where you live, you see a snow storm as nothing more than a reason to preheat your car before heading out.  I get it - you live in the land of blizzards and blusters.  Good on you.  You and your Eskimo driving skills rock my world. 

But there's no reason to make me feel badly for living in a state where snow plows are at a minimum (ps - we don't 'plow' our streets here - we scrape them.  Just like we cut off lights.  We cut off our lights and we scrape our roads.  Not only do we not drive in the winter, we have our own secret language).

And you know what else? 

At the end of February, I'll be worrying about how I look in shorts. I win.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Is Cheerleading a Sport? Discuss.

I know, I know - first blog of the year...should be something super inspirational mapping out the next twelve months of Gandhi-like activities.  OR, we could have a debate. 

Okay - just to appease anyone already feeling shafted.  The next twelve months will be much the same as the last twelve months, with a few exceptions.

* I will turn 40 in March.  I'm already planning my own surprise party.  Details to follow.
* I'm going to go to Burbank in April.  California.  Because when Denise invited me, she probably never thought I'd say yes.  Sucker.
* No trip to the Baltics this year - the folks are going to Alsaka (spelled wrong in honor of my pal, Jerri) and I will be on on guest pet duty.  Or doody.

Other than that - I suspect life to remain pretty much status quo as I hit a lot of tennis balls, hang out with friends and pretend Prince Charming is waiting right around the corner. 

There - now let's get back to the important stuff.

Let's face it - over the last decade or so, there have been some changes in the world of athletics.  Extreme Sports are everywhere.  Kick Boxing is spiking in popularity.  And Cheerleading has gone from being a gaggle of spirit ball toting barbies to being a competitive-I-really-meant-to-be-a-gymnast-athon.

My question - raised again last week by a debate that crossed state lines - is...when is something really a sport and when is it just an activity for athletes?

I've always claimed the existence of what I call "Dumbed Down Sports."  Synchronized Swimming...Ice Dancing...Golf...Nascar...

Now, before you come back at me with darts of poison (did I mention Darts?), I'm now saying that the people who participate in these DDS's aren't athletic.  I have no doubt that a guy who spends the better part of the day driving in a circle at 150 plus miles per hour has to be in excellent shape.  Not so much for the driving in a circle part but for the part where he doesn't want to crash, pee or starve.

And I've stood on ice skates before - it's hard.  I get it.  I'm just saying that there a lot less sport in dancing together than there is in throwing your partner through the air, asking her to do a bunch of twirls and then land on her feet.

I think part of the problem is the Olympics. If you know me at all you know I have a severe case of OCD when it comes to the Olympics.  I plan my TV viewing months in advance - scoping out which channel is showing which event and when.  My DVR becomes a ballet of sorts ( that a sport?) as I schedule recordings to stop and start within milliseconds of each other. 

However, the IOC takes the liberty of dropping and adding sports willy nilly.  Without contacting me.  And some of there choices have left me a bit perplexed.  Most obviously, Curling.  Defined as "a sport in which players slide stones across a sheet of ice towards a target area."  Well, hell, you may as well throw in shuffleboard as well - venues could be the local pubs, thus saving money and providing built in concession stands.

As it turns out - the IOC picks participating sports not based on the athletics of it - but on whether or not it is currently popular and well-practiced across the world.  Well, thanks IOC, for confirming my belief that the existence of Dumbed Down Sports is real.  I mean, that pretty much says Olympic Events are based on popularity, not difficulty level.

Some of the list of sports recognized by the IOC, but not contested in the games?
Air sports (um, like what?  Parachute raises?  I don't think that would be a sport)

Bandy (Huh?)
Billiard sports (Again...shooting pool...DDS)
Bridge (Okay, really?)
Golf (will be part of the 2016 program)
Lifesaving (Important.  Though not a sport.  Though I would curious as to how the winner is determined.)
Pelota Vasca (I think I dated him)
Rugby (sevens will be part of the 2016 program)
Tug of war (Would LOVE to see this on TV)
Underwater sports (Again...would love to see how the winner is determined.  I'm assuming it's the one who doesn't drown)

Okay, let's go to the dictionary...Webster please:
Sport: An active diversion requiring physical exertion and competition.

I'm not going to lie.  When I read this my immediate thought was - wait, where's the part about a winner and a loser?  And jumps of triumph?  And tears of despair?   And broken records and new prodigies who will change the face of athletics?  What about rivalries and salary caps and play offs? Where do the training staffs, entourages and agents fit in? 

Because, when I read that definition - it really made 'sport' seem like a very basic thing.  It takes out all the hoopla and craziness and fanatical behavior.  Yes, competition is required - but there are certainly no guidelines on what makes it competitive - whether it's a judge, a timer, a finish line - all kosher.

It almost points out that maybe, I've over thunk sports. 
Of course, that's doubtful. 
I rarely over think anything. 
As proven by the previous 849 words.

But if sports are really defined as diversions (involving physical exertion and competition)...then maybe I'm the one that's wrong. 

And, maybe cheerleading is a sport, after all?  That hurts.

And this picture...that popped up when I typed "Sport" into Google Images...I see no spirit balls.