Friday, April 22, 2016
Sometimes I scream
Scream in my sleep
Look at the clock and then I start to weep
One thing’s fo’ sho’
Don’t want to go
I hate go-in’ to work
The day began like any other, which is to say to the sounds of someone yelling at me over the phone as I lay in bed with one ear in to the receiver and the other in a pool of Cheetos-tinted drool. Who was yelling at me this time? None other than my sister. What was the triggering event for this latest tirade? Did Florida State lose yet another football game? Did someone take the last piece of bread? Did someone not keep her name “out dey mouf”? While all of those things are quite possible, none of them had sparked this particular rant; a rant that had begun some 18 hours prior via text. I had made the [regrettable] decision to inform my siblings that I had recently hung out with a woman who had broken my heart two years prior. My brother didn’t approve, but took it in stride, whereas my sister…went full sister.
Sister: “…and the nerve of that %#$%#@!”
Me: “You’re still yelling??? That explains the dream I had about being attacked by a large gopher [Editor’s Note: True story.] Doesn’t, however, explain why I was being pushed around in a stroller. [Ed’s Note: Also true.]”
Me: “You’d think I’d just get out of the stroller…”
Sis: “Are you done?”
Me: “She asks the same question.”
Sis: “Muthaf%#$, did you just compare her to me?”
Me: “How are you still yelling? Have you taken a breath, yet?”
Sister: “I breathe through my eyes!”
Me: “That explains some things.”
Sister: “You think you’re funny? I oughta punch you in your nut sack, but she ground those into a fresh powder, which she probably drizzles over her pancakes every morning!”
Me: “Actually, she’s on a low-carb di—“
Sis: “Well, in that case, perhaps she’s mixing them into her daily smoothie! Muthaf%###, I will stab you!”
Me: “Guess I shouldn’t invite her to –“
Sis: “Don’t you muthf%#$#^ dare finish that muthaf%#@^# sentence, Muthaf%#$!!! I will punch you in the nutsack! You’re lucky I gotta go to work!” My sister has a lot of anger. None of which is pent up. Fortunately, no matter how mad you get, you can’t slam a smartphone.
“Well, that went well,” I thought to myself. “Good thing I didn’t mention how long I’d been in touch with her.” [Ed’s Note: Sister can read.]
Despite the lack of enthusiasm hinted at by the prose at the beginning of this diary entry, I was actually optimistic about the prospects of the workday. What led to this optimistic outlook? The ability to find a silver lining in even the darkest of clouds? No. My naturally “sunny” disposition? Have you met me? Then what pray tell? What??? None other than the belief that no good deed goes unrewarded coupled with the Law of Averages.
For you see, the previous night, after leaving that den of culinary delight known as Hooters of Fredericksburg, I had stopped for gas at the local fill ‘er up and overheard a distressed damsel frantically relaying to her boyfriend that she was extremely low on gas and had left her debit and credit cards at home. To make matters worse, it was after midnight, and the gas station owner had locked the doors to balance the receipts. (For the time being, let’s gloss over the fact that, at no point during the conversation, did the “gentleman” on the other end of the phone offer to provide her with gas, money, or a ride. That’ll be covered in my next webinar entitled, “Seriously, Nigga: The Death of Chivalry in the Age of Emojis”.) Having many friends of the female persuasion, and a sister, I carefully approached the young lady. Why carefully? After midnight + large, black man + tiny, attractive, white woman + concealed carry state = nothing good.
Me: “Excuse me. I couldn’t help but overhear. [Ed’s Note: It’s a lot easier to overhear when you’re staring intently at someone’s mouth] Do you need gas?”
Lady: “Yes, I have four dollars I can give you. If you can just give me four dollars’ worth of gas--”
Me: “—Don’t worry about it. I have a sister [who has children] your age. I’d hate for you to end up in the same position further down the road at this time of night,” I said as we walked over to the pump.
Lady: “Thank you. ‘This nice guy is helping me out’,” she told her boyfriend.
I got the pump started, told her she could fill up her car, and walked away…slowly (i.e. giving her ample opportunity to extend an “invitation” and / or provide a phone number). I even paused at the trash can to throw away some non-existent trash. Nothing.
“Could it be that-- as with nurses, female prisons, roommates, twins, female cops, female UPS drivers, pizza delivery women, flight attendants, the DMV, and college coeds selling glazed Krispy Kreme doughnuts in front of Target-- porn had, once again, let me down?” I thought to myself. It would seem so. “Et tu, Penthouse Forum???”
My Life had been filled with moments such as these; acts of chivalry leading to naught. I was due. Wasn’t I? Spoiler Alert: No.
Now that that’s over, I shall continue my tale of woe.
After getting dressed, preparing my morning smoothie, and putting not one, but two Samsung phones in my pants pockets (That’s right ladies; I fear not Death.), I hopped in my car and headed for work (a.k.a. uuuggghhhh….)
One thing I’ve learned in my many years of traveling to and fro the office, is that rush hour traffic is, by and large, a myth. How do I know this? How many times have you been sitting in excruciatingly slow-moving traffic only to find that you could park an aircraft carrier in the space between the vehicle in front of you, the one that has been going 15 mph under the speed limit for the past three miles, and the one in front of it? Why would people do this? Simple, because no one actually wants to get to work on time, but everyone wants to get credit for trying. What’s more, since the concept of punching a clock has, for all intents and purposes, gone by the wayside, people no longer start counting hours worked when they arrive at their desk, but rather when they get into their cars and head to work. (Why does there seem to be so much traffic on the way home, because, once they’ve escaped, no one’s in a hurry to face what awaits them at home (i.e. a whole different set of responsibilities…and family).
After parking in my usual spot --one less thing to remember – I headed across campus to my assigned seat. I rarely sat in that seat, but I liked people to know I was still alive every now and again. Once there, I fired up the laptop and awaited instructions for the day: what did I need to do, where did I need to be, with whom did I need to meet, and who did I need to hide from, track down, or yell at?
When you work in Corporate America long enough, you learn the appetite for better, more pervasive technology can have unintended, negative side-effects. Let’s take videoconferencing, for example. One of the selling points of videoconferencing is that people in different locations can use facial cues to gauge reactions to / understanding of their ideas better than you could over email or even conference call. What the proponents of this technology fail to understand, however, is that people’s inability to accurately gauge my reactions to their ideas, has played a large part in keeping me employed; gainfully or otherwise. If I wanted you to see my face, I wouldn’t have scheduled a conference call.
After getting what I needed to do for the day firmly ingrained, the next step was to determine how to make my “To Do List” smaller at the end of the day than it was at the beginning without having done any actual work. To put it in casino terms, you don’t want the House to win, but you want the House to believe it did. It’s a “soft skill”. As hard as it is to master this skill under normal conditions, it’s even harder to do so when you have no direct reports who could use a “growth opportunity” or need “increased visibility with senior management”. At that point, it’s more genius than skill. While thinking of a master plan, I noticed a co-worker at the edge of my periphery. I assumed that this “drive-by” was related to the IM that he had sent two minutes ago, which was in reference to the email he had sent one minute before that. Seriously, what is the point of setting your Status to “Busy” if people just blatantly ignore it?
IM Statuses are supposed to translate to the following:
- · Available = I don’t want to talk to you, but we have a Performance Management Framework that takes into account helping others, and I needs my bonus
- · Busy = I really can’t talk right now, because I’m doing some really important shit (i.e. playing a timed version of Solitaire.)
- · Do Not Disturb = I don’t trust you to not understand what “Busy” means.
- · Appear Away = My desire to not speak to you outweighs my fear that you will think I have fallen into the toilet, set myself on fire in one of the designated smoking areas, or been kidnapped.
- · Appear Offline = Seriously, I will cut you…and, if you sit near me, don’t look up
It’s obvious that the makers of Instant Messaging software for businesses were well aware that, by and large, people viewed the Statuses as they did speed limit (i.e. as mere suggestions to be ignored). How else do you explain the need for both a “Do Not Disturb” status and an “Appear Offline” status? People are impatient a*holes, that’s how. Granted, there are a handful of people who you want to ignore the status, but those people often are the only people considerate enough to be extra mindful of the status.
As I mentioned before, there are benefits to technology. The piece of technology that has gone the farthest in protecting personal space is the headset / headphone with built-in microphone. When an undesirable stops by unannounced, all you have to do is cover the mic with one hand, raise your eyebrows inquisitively, and wince. This relays the following message: “I acknowledge you; I’m interested in what you have to say; I’d love to help you; but I’m on an important call that may or may not appear on my calendar.” They don’t need to know you’re just listening to Stone Temple Pilots or Johnny Mathis, or whomever it is the kids are listening to these days. (The kids are still listening to Stone Temple Pilots, right? STP? Sure, they are. Those guys were dope. Word, Yo!) Crisis averted.
Soon after the unwelcome “drive-by”, I was approached by another gentleman caller…in my groin…it was Mother Nature. (Who, I guess, is technically not a ‘gentleman’ caller. But who knows these days? It’s a different time. A different, very confusing time.) On my way to the bathroom, I was stopped by another coworker.
CW (that’s short for “coworker”…though, not anymore): “Hey, you got a second?”
Me (a name I call myself): [sigh] “What’s up?” I said thinking this would be a quick response without me really having to break stride on my way to the facilities.
CW: “Can I talk to you in private for a second?”
Me: [larger sigh] “Sure,” I said knowing that this was not what I, nor my bladder, had signed up for.
CW: “I just wanted to make sure you’re not mad at me.”
Me: “[Oh, for the Love of Christ!] No.”
CW: “It’s just that you seemed upset about that email that I sent. I was just asking out of curiosity…I didn’t mean to….I just really hope it didn’t upset you.”
Me: “[I really oughta pee right on your shoes] No, not upset. I’m curious about things. Just want you to stay focused on what I asked you to provide [80,000 muthaf’n times], because it’s a critical component to the project.”
CW: “So, we’re good?”
Me: “[I swear to God and everything Holy!] Yep.”
CW: “Thank you.”
Me: “No problem.” If I didn’t already have to go to the bathroom to “make water”, after that conversation, I would have to go to the bathroom to throw up.
[Fast-forward to two weeks later.]
Me: “What’s the ETA on that information I requested?” I asked a week after the due date.
CW: “Here’s some information. I still need my manager to approve.”
Me: “So, this is your recommendation? You know that ___ and ___, right?”
CW: “But to get what you’re asking for, I’d have to meet with the other people on my team.”
Me: “Yeah…That’s why I gave you ‘til November 4th to get it done…We started this effort in July.”
CW: “My team has a lot of work to do right now.”
Me: “That’s crazy, because I’ve just been sitting here jerking off for the past four months…Remember when you asked before if I was mad at you?”
Me: “Would you like to answer that question again?”
Me: “Go away.”
[Back to present day]
The bathroom, both at home and in the workplace, is supposed to be a place to get away. Take a break. Relieve yourself of the worries that had built up to that point in the day and flush them. Some people, however, do not respect the sanctity of the bathroom. They bring in additional stresses. I’m not referring to the people who want to have a conversation with you while you’re trying to “hold your own”, which is bad enough. I’m talking about the people who have conversation on their cellphones. These people do not want people to know they’re in the bathroom. So, they try to be as quiet as possible, and they fully expect you to participate in the lie. Which puts pressure on an activity that is designed to relieve pressure. It’s an affront to Nature; to the natural order of things. Well, I had had just about enough. I would NOT be complicit in the lie. I would NOT allow this person to take my fleeting moment of peace. NO MORE! This is my body! It is filled with fluids and gasses, and sometimes it makes noises, especially when it is expelling some of those fluids or gasses…or both! [Ed’s Note: Also, whenever he stands up or makes sudden movements.] I’m not trying to control the chaos. That’s how you pull a muscle or herniate a disk.
“You will NOT steal my joy!” I screamed as a stream of clear fluid [drink your water] crashed into the water below with whoosh reminiscent of the last Space Shuttle launch. I then walked by each of the self-flushing urinals to make sure the person(s) on the other end of the phone had no doubt where from where the call was originating. Enjoy the mental image ya poor sons (and daughters?) a’ bitches!
After washing my hands, which, sadly, is still not a given in this day and age (We can build a self-driving car, but we still can’t get people to wash their freaking hands after “handling with care”.) I headed back into the fray. Next up? A meeting. A face-to-face meeting…with someone whom I had never met…At least it was with a woman…and we were discussing contracts. I happen to like women…and contracts. So, perhaps, this would be one of those meetings you hear about in Corporate Mythology where you neither wanted to kill yourself or anyone in the room and actually get something done. Those are called “productive meetings”. They don’t happen often, but just enough to perpetuate the cycle. I arrived early to the meeting room, it was occupied. The woman I was supposed to meet with arrived shortly, thereafter. Right on time. We introduced ourselves. The previous meeting was still going on with no signs of wrapping up.
The problem with meetings running over is not that it’s a waste of your time. You get credit for being in a meeting (i.e. working collaboratively) whether you actually get anything done or no, and it beats sitting at your desk doing actual work. (Calendars don’t lie.) It’s also not the small talk you’re expected to make with the other participants. If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve learned to feign in your fellow man. It’s not even that one or more people from the previous meeting may be heavily perfumed, and the room doesn’t have a chance to “air out” before you must seal it up again. You go “nose blind” eventually. The “veterans” learn to invoke it at will. No, the problem with meetings running over can be summed up in two words: “residual heat”. Not the type of heat generated via electric coils or tubes filled with heated water. This heat was generated by another human. Sitting in a chair still warm from the heat generated by another’s posterior is…unsettling. It’s like pressing your butt against the butt of another. Unintentionally…and without a safe word.
Being in one of the renovated buildings, the occupants could see that we were waiting. I politely poked my head in the door in case they thought we were just hanging outside the room by happenstance. Nothing. I’m less feared than I used to be. (Thanks, Obama.) While we were waiting outside, we engaged in small talk, because I genuinely care about the lives of my fellow man…especially when that man’s a woman…and cute. One of the corporate caterers rolled by with a cart full of food for a lunch meeting in a nearby room. When she moved to avoid the cart, she inadvertently backed into me.
CW (short for “cute-worker”): “Oh…”
Me: “Sorry, that’s my Nutsrageous.”
CW: “Excuse me?”
Me: “I have two Nutrageous bars in my pocket.”
CW: “I gathered that. I was referring to your pluralization.”
Me: “Nutsrageous? Did you think it was ‘Nutrageouses’? Nutragi? Nutrageum? Nutrage?”
CW: “Could you please stop saying ‘nut rage’?”
Me: “Just didn’t want you to think I was happy to see you. Not that I’m not happy to see you. I just met you. I’m sure after a few more meetings –“
CW: “Please stop talking.”
Thankfully, the conference room door opened, and the occupants exited. I held the door open (gentleman) and gave her first dibs on seating. All the while hoping against hope that the seats would cool. I took the seat across from hers. Uggghhhh. Warm. So much for Hope. (Thanks, Obama.) We preceded to talk about the contracts that needed to be renewed, the changes we wanted to make, and concerns regarding pricing.
Me: “What if we [confidential, but I assure you it was genius]?”
CW: “That’s a bit off the beaten path, don’t you think?”
Me: “Sometimes, the path needs to be beaten off…I heard how that sounded in my head—“
CW: “—and yet you still said it?”
Me: “Thought it would sound better.”
CW: “And now?”
Me: “Not so much. There’s no chance you’d have dinner with me is there?”
CW: “Not unless it was court-ordered.”
Me: “Actual court or Court of Public Opinion? Because I think I can get someone to make a ruling in mah favor.”
CW: “You’re stupid.”
Me: “Made you smile.”
CW: “It’s gas.”
Me: “I’ll take it.”
After the meeting was over, my assessment was that it had been successful…on both a personal and professional level. Professionally, because we made good progress on the contracts; personally, because I spent 30 minutes alone with a woman I didn’t know and was neither tazed nor maced. [Ed’s Note: He has a low bar for successful interactions with women.] Icing on the cake? It was lunchtime.
In order to keep my food down, and avoid the Compost Police (Hey, lady, I just figured out recycling; and throwing liquids in the garbage, that’s just weird.) I made it a point to always have lunch off-campus. I decided to try a new place. Perhaps, one with cloth napkins. [Ed’s Note: Damion McCloud was entering high society.] …and crayons [Baby steps.] I walked over to a friend’s desk for suggestions.
“Do you have any suggestions for a new place to grab some lunch?”
“Jesus,” she said, “I didn’t hear you walk up. You’re so freaking quiet!”
“I’m like a ninja…or a cheetah…or a ninjah, which sounds like ‘ninja’, but is spelled differently. Any ideas?”
“There’s a new place up on Parham. They only use humanely kept, hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken and beef.”
“But they still kill and serve them to be eaten for profit, correct?”
“I assume so.”
“Seems rude…like you’re lying to them. Telling them everything’s going to be alright. Then…BLAM! Chicken Caprese!”
“Is that a thing?”
“I’m not sure. Sounds like a thing. How much is a typical meal at this place?”
“Around this much.”
“Really??? Perhaps, I should open a humane restaurant, but in mine, not only would the animals be treated with kid gloves (Literally, if I could get past the child labor laws.) but each entrée would come with a note absolving the patron of any guilt that may arise from eating it. The note would be signed by, get this, the very animal being consumed.”
“Wow! That is the dumbest idea you’ve ever had.”
“Dumber than dressing up for Halloween like a mammography machine in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month?”
“Do you just run screaming towards Hell?”
“More like luge…but it would seem so.”
I ended up going to Chick-fil-A. I like my self-righteousness reasonably priced…and deliciously seasoned…with a side of waffle fries…or a fruit cup.
Lunch was followed by three more meetings, 30 new email chains, and several annoying IMs. (QQ? Really? Don’t say it’s a quick question when you know darn well it’s not a quick question. That’s just common courtesy.)
Once the workday was over, I headed home. While driving through my neighborhood, I noticed five deer in a neighbor’s yard. Four were standing, while one was sitting in the middle. It looked like The Nativity Scene (The Deer-tivity?) I thought they were fake; until I saw them move. As I passed, their heads followed me as though to say, “Keep it moving”. They then walked off in different directions…except for the “Baby Jesus”. Not wanting to break the truce I had reached with the deer community, I heeded their advice while staying alert.
New cute-worker, Chick-fil-A, and a non-encounter with deer. Today was a good day.