Monday, October 30, 2006

Respectively yours

We had Respect in Workplace training last week and I can already see a change in how people are interacting.

Of course there are the obvious comments where people make fun of the policy, but for the most part, people see the value in it.

The one concept some people, including myself, have trouble with is "ignoring others".

Now I don't mean ignorance - the company apparently has no qualms with that. What they don't want are associates to intentionally ignore people.

The issue I have with this is that I live to ignore people. I have to ignore people.

You'll recall that we have a problem with wanderers at my work. The people who spend the bulk of their day wandering around talking to others. I do my utmost to ignore these people - sometimes subtlely (like pretending I didn't hear them talking to me) to blatantly (not turn away form my screen and stop typing while they stand in my doorway).

Technically speaking - I can't do this anymore. Or at least these people could complain about me doing these things - should they notice that I'm not paying them any attention - which I'm sure most of them wouldn't (notice that is).

Today was a true test of this as more than a few co-workers decided to see how long I could hold out before I either walked away or started to work while they talked to me.

I'm proud to report that I made it through, but it's a really good thing that no one here can read minds.

I'm all for creating a safe work environment where no one feels threatened, harrassed, or isolated, but not at the expense of my sanity.

Ask me to tone down the swearing - done.
Tell me to stop telling raunchy jokes - done.
Force me to stop pinching my co-worker's ass - done.
But, for the love of god, don't take away my freedom to ignore people.

Like oxygen and chocolate, the ability to tune others out is vital to my ability to get through the day.

I saw a saying for a T-shirt yesterday that would be perfect for work - should I want to choose the quickest route to getting fired - it said, "I see dumb people". Ha!

The other one I liked, which would likely have the same consequence: "My parents said I could be anything I wanted - so I became an asshole". Double Ha!

So - in addition to showing up every day, doing my work, and developing my skills - I must now add another item on my To Do list:

Sing it with me..."R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me...."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

may I recommend

So I've just finished another book.

I mentioned to A. that this is one of the best books that I've read. His response - "this week, this month, or ever?".

Okay - maybe I've been reading a lot lately. That's not a bad thing, is it?

So, highly recommended on my list is "We Have to Talk About Kevin", by Lionel Shriver. I actually had a really, really hard time getting into this one, but it was worth the persistence. I won't try and critique it - I won't do it justice, but it's bound to be one of those love it or hate it choices.

It's an interesting persepective about a topic that's becoming disturbingly mainstream and blasé - school shootings.

The whole process of reading it was like Life of Pi (another highly recommended). I couldn't get into it either, but it was a great book. However, people either liked it or they didn't - there was no wishy-washy about it.

So, my short-list of recommended books (and I'm leaving out a lot of classics since it may appear that I'm throwing them in for posterity):

(and the list is in no particular order)

We Have to talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Wicked - Gregory McGuire
Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
The Stand - Stephen King
The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
different Seasons (short stories) - Stephen King
the curious incident of the dog in the night-time - Mark Haddon
The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales - J. Scieska & L. Smith

I like a crap load more than this, but these are the ones that I would select as representative of my favorites from a number of authors. Some I like that I'm pretty sure others would find "whatever". My interest in Josephine B is likely more than most people.

So, take it for what it is - a snapshot of what I like now. The list will likely morph over the next litte while (possibly next week, according to A!).

So, go for the old standard if you like - or take a chance and go for the chef's recommendation du jour.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Survival of the Idiots

Today’s comments are regarding three things that happened yesterday. Only one involved me directly, but they riled me up enough that I have to blog about them

First, I did co-op interviews yesterday. I had five interviews scheduled, but my fourth was a no-show…or so I thought. The interview was scheduled for 25 minutes and after the student hadn’t shown up after the first 10 minutes I wrote him off.

I decided to review my notes while I waited for the last interview candidate. Suddenly there was knock on the door and there stood a lanky guy wearing clothes that he probably slept in. He apologized for being late and justified it by saying he just found out about the interview 10 minutes ago. Riiiight!!

Ten minutes later, he’s walking out the door after a very brief, very bland and uninformative waste of my time. He was totally unprepared and uninterested in the job. When I left my ranking at the main desk, the woman asked me about him and I told her that I would have had a better opinion of him if he hadn’t showed up.

He’s not going to go far with that attitude.

Second thing, a neighbour of ours – who happens to be the father of Dash’s friend – pulled a doozy. His son is whiny, manipulative and bordering on social misfit status. He manages to get himself into many predicaments, but it’s NEVER his fault.

We’ve received a few phone calls suggesting that Dash is the source – of course your son couldn’t possibly be responsible for cutting up his shirt with scissors, Dash made him do it. Of course your son couldn’t possible have taken other kids toys – they were all given to him. Now that they are in different classes, they’ve probably had to find a new kid to blame.

So when the tables were turned and one of their precious son’s Yu-gi-oh cards was “stolen”, Daddy comes to the rescue. Daddy-o decides to stop off at the culprit’s bus stop yesterday morning to confront him.

Now the kid who took the card is a Class A shit disturber – no arguments from me there, but he is nine years old and doesn’t need some other kid’s dad showing up at his babysitter’s (when his parents aren’t around) to ask for the suddenly vital trading card back..

I don’t agree with this tactic since it’s very intimidating and this should go through the parents – or at least have them aware that he plans to talk to their son.

The kicker is that Daddy-o is a police officer and he chose to show up for the interrogation in uniform. I think this is horrible and a misuse of his authority status. Shit or no shit – this kid doesn’t need to be intimidated, in front of other kids, by a parent – never mind a police officer.

And the parent of the year award goes to….Constable Holier Than Thou.

The third thing is the issue surrounding the ad that Michael J Fox did to support a US candidate who backs stem-cell research.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that MJF has Parkinson’s disease. He was diagnosed with it in 1991, which means that he’s had it for 15 years. I’m not a doctor, but I think that the disease and its symptoms get worse over time – not better.

So when some dumb-ass US radio personality decides to attack the ads, saying that MJF was “overacting” or had intentionally under-medicated himself during the ads to exaggerate the shaking, I get really pissed off.

First off, no one and I mean no one insults Michael J Fox.

He and I have a long-standing, uncomplicated relationship. I have adored him from afar for many, many years and he does not know I exist. It works beautifully.

Secondly – why would he fake it? He HAS the disease.

I doubt that it was a ploy to show his range of acting abilities. Last time I checked, shaky-Parkinson-men are not high demand roles.

I bet Rush also thought Christopher Reeves was a lazy sympathy seeker too. (“What’s with the breathing tube? Gimme a break…as if falling off a horse would be that bad. Stop with the gasping and broken speech thing and just say what you want.”)

At the end of the day, I was furious with that state of mind that some people are aloud to have. What a waste.

The ironic thing was that yesterday morning I went through Respect in the Workplace Training (Sensitivity/Harassment).

And it’s a good thing that within this bubble environment I can rely on my co-workers to be model citizens (or at least pretend to), because things seem to go to hell out there in the real world.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

My knight in a shining ski jacket

I had a flashback to grade eight when my class went on a ski trip to a local hill. This was night skiing which meant that a busload of 12 and 13 year olds were doing what they do best – walking the fence between being a kid and a teenager.

On the way to the hill, a guy (let’s call him Steve) sitting in front of me, turned around and starting talking to me and my friend. Steve was joking around, but I remember he said and/or did something relatively harmless by today’s standards, but it freaked me out.

I don’t even remember what it was; however, I do remember that it was suggestive and to my prudish grade eight ways (again, compared to today’s standards) I was offended.

A lot of my friends at the time were boys and while we were at the hill I told one of them what had transpired. He (let’s call him Jake) insisted that he would sit with me on the way back and although I said it was necessary, I was relieved. On the ride home Chris quietly told me, “No offence to you, but I almost wish Steve would try something again so that I can punch him out”.

I was secretly thrilled.

Here was a guy who was willing to fight for my "honor" and I didn’t even ask him to.

Now my protector never became more than that...although, I did have a small (secret) crush on him and physically he set my standards for future boyfriends (tall, thin, and blond).

Side note: that was a big mistake.

Since that memorable winter evening, I have had a few experiences when a guy has became my knight – not slaying dragons, but threatening annoying “admirers” to back-off or offering to beat the shit out of someone that has hurt me.

The best thing was that in all of these instances, it was self-motivated – not me pleading for them to save me.

Whether there’s a damsel in distress inside all of us females or if it’s just me – I can’t help but get a bit a of a thrill at the thought of someone willing to do battle for you…not because they like to be an asshole and beat people up, but because they want to help you.

Now some may say that these guys probably had an ulterior motive for wanting to help me out – to impress me or even get on my good side (wink, wink, nudge, nudge). For the most part, I disagree. Rarely were these my boyfriends, but more my friends, co-workers, and friends of friends – guys that were looking out for me.

While I would never wish for something to happen that would require one of my knights to come galloping in – it was reassuring to know that somewhere there was one of them out there – polishing his armour (hey, whatever turns your crank) and ready to help me out.

I consider myself an independent person who is capable of taking care of my self in most situations. I can speak up, stand up, and walk off in some crappy scenarios. Really though - who wants to slay all the dragons by themselves?

I can think of a handful of guys who I could count on (not expect) to defend me if I was in need. And I’m not talking about taking the fall for me if I screw up intentionally. I’m talking about when bad (or annoying) things happen to good people.

I do need to clarify something here. I'm not referring to the Prince Charmings of the world - the guys who feel it's their role in life to go out and save fair maidens - for a price, of course.

If there's only one thing to learn from all the fairy tales out there..."happily ever after" means you and Prince Charming are expected to hook up.
(Don't kiss the frogs!)

It's the Karate Kids, the Peter Parkers, and the Jamie Mackenzies that I'm talking about. The seemingly "guys-next-door" who step up when they are needed.

I know, I know...these are fictional characters, but there are real guys out there that fit the bill. The thing is, they wouldn't even want to be named - if I were bold enough to do so.

A lot may have changed since my grade 8 ski trip, but isn't it nice to know that although some feel chivalry may be dead (or dormant), there are still some knights out there.

Friday, October 06, 2006

I'm not anti-social...I'm an engineer

I don’t think there is anything that my kids could choose to do as a career that would disappoint me, except perhaps to become an engineer.

What is it with engineers? Why do they feel the need to remind everyone that they are one?

I work with a few and consider it a hazard. There’s the constant refrain of, “…that’s just how engineer think about things” or “…I’m an engineer, I like numbers and graphs.”
Big fuckin’ deal.

I’m a woman, but I don’t say that I prefer to receive my reports on perfume scented paper. Nor do I say, “I’m a psych major – I prefer all analyses to refer back to your childhood.”

The fact that you took engineering through university is highly admirable. The fact that you can’t move past the ring and diploma displayed prominently on your wall is not.

My theory is that there is some type of modified metal used in the rings that engineers so proudly wear. Very quickly after graduation, it releases something into their bloodstream that causes the following possible side effects:
- Obnoxious behaviour
- Condescension
- Intolerance of anything that may be “touchy-feely”
- Elitism
- Social awkwardness
- Cheapness
- Spontaneous bouts of smugness

My first real experience in the presence of an engineer, well okay engineer student, was during university when a previously nice guy (attending Queens) spat on the school jacket of another friend because he went to Western, in the engineering program.

Apparently saying, my school is better than yours wasn’t strong enough a message.

My mom was briefly married (shudder) to an engineer. Actually, he wasn’t a full-fledge engineer – he was a wanna-be. He wasn’t secure enough to admit that he had only a “college diploma” (gasp) and compensated by spouting bullshit every time he opened his mouth. He knew everything about everything that was mechanical, chemical, or otherwise engineering related. In short, he was an ass.

Now I’m sure there are exceptions out there.

No doubt, there are pockets of engineers that are socially aware. They realize that they are privileged to be so educated and to have the opportunity to have such good jobs. They are skilled at designing, drafting, creating reports, AND working with non-engineer people.
These exceptional engineers feel as comfortable talking to a person as they do a machine.

They are capable of picking out a coordinating outfit that does not include a shirt and tie.

In short, they are probably gay, which practically guarantees that you will never see them out of the closet.

A gay engineer?! Isn’t that like a conservative hippy.

I might appear that I’m engineer bashing, but I’m not. They certainly are useful and with a few tweeks and adjustments they could be a good lot of people.

So if in a few years one of my kids comes home and announces that they have decided to become an engineer. I will do what any loving parent would do – accept them for who they are and then wonder what the hell I did wrong.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Round one: let's call it a draw

Sometimes the best thing you can say is “I’m sorry”. Even if it’s not 100% true.

Last night on my way out of the office, a co-worker that I affectionately call Hatchet-Face, commented on an email I had sent out.

Background: I recently assumed responsibility for the ISO system in our department and just guess who the previous owner was? This person is slowly being phased out, which I would normally feel bad about, except that she should have retired about ten years ago.

She should be helping with the transition.
Should be.

It would seem that she is hell-bent on letting me make mistakes and not in a “fly from the nest baby bird” kind of way. She seems to take pleasure in letting me know what I should have done AFTER I’ve done it.

And that’s what happened last night.

As I got ready to leave the office, she made the helpful comment that I should have included additional information in an email I had sent out.

Why? Because it’s what we’ve always done.

I responded, in a more than slightly edgy way, that I haven’t always done this job and that I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants.

She got a bit nasty and mentioned that I’ve been using the system for x number of years and should be familiar with it.

Yeah I’ve used it, as a user not an administrator.

Big difference and she of “ultimate ISO omnipotent power” should be aware of this. She has lorded it over us for years about how big a responsibility and how much work it is to maintain this system.

Apparently, that only applies when it’s you.

So I drove home talking to myself. Well, actually, I was talking to her, but I don’t think she heard me. I was pissed off.

I hate ending a day on a bad note, knowing that I’m going to stew over it most of the evening. And I did.

I vented and formulated my argument. I edited it to remove words like “immature”, “hag”, and “pain in the ass”. I was fully prepared to come in and let her have it. Enough of this tip-toeing around her bullshit.

Then early in the morning I realized that I would still need her help and that it wouldn’t do much good to blow up at her. I wasn’t willing to overlook what happened, but realized that I shouldn’t resort to her tactics.

So first thing this morning I apologized for snapping at her. Note: I did not say I was sorry for WHAT I said, but rather HOW I said it. Huge difference.

She did admit that she was bothered by what I had said and mentioned that if she had my home number she would have called me. I cannot imagine what I would have said to her if she had called me last night - likely I would be apologizing for more than a snippy remark. I might be having a meeting with the department head and HR.

She did appreciate me coming to her this morning and “clearing the air”. She feels that she’s always been very helpful and that my comment and tone wasn’t warranted (?!).

Translation: apology accepted - you were wrong and I was right.

So now, I have to gear myself up to dealing with her again, but I suppose I have to put away the boxing gloves away and find some kid gloves to wear. These may be awkward at first, but at least I’ll keep my hands clean.

And hide any fingerprints I might leave.

(As for the Hatchet Face reference: that's what Stymie called his mean ole stepmom on The Little Rascals.

Totally amazing coincidence - I went looking for pictures and I put Hatchet Face into Google Images...the third or fourth image was of a women who had almost the identical name of the Hatchet Face I work with....really, really eerie!)