Umm…did you just pretend to stab me with an imaginary dagger?

Recently I started on a new client which requires me to regularly travel every Monday through Thursday. What this means is that I wake up at about the same time as hard-candy-loving senior citizens every Monday morning and leave town, only to return at about the same time as every booze and freedom-loving 20 something who’s hitting the town Thursday night. Being gone all week only leaves me with Friday to address all the day to day tasks of the week, like expense reports, time entry, ahem…writing in this blog (muffled voice), etc. This one day I have in the office consists of me being on the edge of my seat, locked in the zone, running through a to do list longer than Gene Simmons’ tongue. Usually the sight of a guy with headphones on, who looks like he’s about to dive into his computer screen is enough to deter people from stopping by for the usual banter session. That is unless you’re…

 ANDREW SINGLETON

(Disclaimer: I have no idea who the man in this photo is, he just reminds me of Andrew)

What do you mean bowl cuts went out of style during Michael Jordan’s heyday?

This man is not a real person. All I really know about him is his desperate need to A. Get a new haircut (which he has yet to realize) and B. Inflict imaginary violence on unassuming workers and then walk off as if nothing happened. For example, I’m sitting at my desk, like I said, engulfed in my computer screen, working on an expense report, just….about….to hit…subm-“WAKOW!” I hear it just in time to look up and see none other than Andrew Singleton thrusting his fist into my chest. You see….apparently it’s wielding an imaginary dagger and now it’s my job to pretend that I’ve been stabbed and am in pain..It’s strange because even though it’s disrupting, and I hate it, and I think Andrew’s a freak…. for some reason I always find myself obliging by practically reenacting a scene from Gladiator in my dress clothes.

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?

What’s weirder than all of this though is that, AFTER I’ve accepted Andrew disrupting me, AFTER I’ve been stabbed, AFTER I’ve pretended to be on the battlefield with him, I give in and decide to be nice and ask how he’s doing. I mean this is just his way of starting off a conversation right? Wrong. This is the precise moment where he walks off without answering, I shrug to myself, put my headphones on and get back to work. I review my expense report, and move the mouse towards the subm-

SHAPOW! GOTYA!

….I smile to myself, another unassuming worker has been slain at the hands of Andrew Singleton.

Yep, just another Friday.

Blunderous birthdays with a side of Bieber

There are a lot of people who work in this office, so it’s pretty easy for a coworker’s birthday to go unnoticed. To be truthful, if the company put together a birthday celebration for everyone who works here, we’d probably be standing around and eating cake every single day [side note: I consider this to be a 100% acceptable alternative to my day-to-day work obligations]. While most people normally expect a co-worker’s birthday to resemble that scene in Office Space where they do a deplorable rendition of “Happy Birthday” and then cheat the weird guy out of a slice of cake, my office does things a little differently…

umm....exsthcusthme?

It was a Friday morning. Just a few days prior, Brad, one of our senior code-monkeys, was engaged in a casual game of tennis with Amir, a junior programmer, and had mentioned he was heading out on the town to celebrate his birthday that Friday night with a bunch of his college buddies. At that time, we were working on a team of about 10 and we all got along pretty well, so if we knew a birthday was coming around we’d sometimes take that person out for drinks after work. No big deal.

Around 10AM that morning, Amir gets up from his desk:

Amir: Hey Guys! I wanted to take a quick second and announce that our very own Brad is turning 28 today! Let’s hear it for Brad!

[Everybody turns around and sees Brad, two out of 15 people do a half-assed clap, his  face is bright red and donning an uncomfortable smile]

Brad: Hey, uh, thanks Amir, thanks guys.

We’re about to all go back to work when Amir pulls out a gift bag and hands it to Brad, saying it was a token of his appreciation for Brad being such a good mentor over the past eight months. Brad opens the gift bag and pulls out a bottle of Macallan 25 Scotch. For those unfamiliar, please find the listing from the VA ABC below:

Macallan 25

Found in the "U Break It, U Buy It" section

Brad: (knowing this is a ~$900 bottle of Scotch) Ummm Amir?! I can’t take this!! I wouldn’t even buy this for my dad… I wouldn’t buy this for MYSELF! This is way too expensive!

Amir: It’s impolite to give it back. I want you to have it. You mentioned you liked Scotch the other day, and well, here’s some of the best that money can buy.

And now things are VERY uncomfortable, both for Brad and for everybody else. It’s like some kind of awkward and horrible circus act gone awry. NOBODY knows what to say…I look around and realize that we have all just become a frozen audience paralyzed by varying expressions of incredulity:

oh and I should probably include what I looked like at this moment….

Happy Birthday Brad! Time for everyone to instant message one another with WTFs for the rest of the day.

Haha…I actually hate you.

I had a moment yesterday where I was eating lunch with about 8 people; they were all laughing about something and I, although disengaged, was smiling along.

Then, a thought randomly popped into my head (as I was still smiling and looking around at their repulsively cheesy facial expressions)… “I hate these people.”

You're right! Why call it butter-cream frosting if it doesn't taste like butter?! HA! I actually hate you though!

Whistle While You Lurk

I’ve had an increasing number of encounters with the “lurkers” in my office lately. What’s a lurker you ask? A lurker is someone who knowingly bypasses electronic methods of communication for topics which shouldn’t happen aloud around our clients, and pays you a visit with some unnecessary face-to-face interaction. While these conversations are almost always casual and work-appropriate, they never really seem to end. And it’s rarely because of me, it’s more so them and their inability to grasp the non verbal cues (long periods of silence, death stares) which signify disinterest and/or the end of a conversation. Exhibit A: Gerald Fenster; an excessively smiley man who stopped by my desk last Monday morning as I was sipping on my coffee and booting up my PC.

Gerald: Hey Beatwood, Happy Monday! (I cringe a little) How was your weekend?

Me: Oh hey Gerald, I actually had a fantastic weekend. I went up to New York City to reunite with a bunch of old college buddies, and we had a lot of fun. As I’m sure you can tell, I’m really excited to be back here sitting at my desk, heh heh (blending my chuckle with my words for effect). How about you? (don’t really care)

Gerald: Oh that sounds awesome! My wife and I took the kids over to the County Fair, it was a pretty good time – rode the tilt-a-whirl, won ’em some stuffed animals… it was great, yeah (note the unnecessary ‘yeah’) .

Me: Oh that’s cool……(the dots are the non verbal cue known as ‘long period of silence’)

Gerald: (side elbow, head tilt) Yeah, you know, Mondays are usually pretty packed with stuff that piled up over the weekend…

Me: Definitely. Well I’d best get started, we’ve got user tests coming up and I should make sure everything is ready. Talk to you later… (divert my eyes to the computer screen)

I start clicking around and working on some stuff, but something doesn’t feel right… something is…. well… I can hear…. breathing!  I turn back around, only to find Gerald is still there leaning against my cube wall!

Gerald, leaning up against my cube wall

Note Ramesh sitting there quietly in the background across the hall, chuckling at a scene he is all too familiar with. Payback for when I covered his entire desk in Justin Bieber wrapping paper the other day.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I definitely understand the heart of the visit. it can be pretty soul-crushing as a keyboard-warrior to have only a cubicle wall and a computer screen to stare at all day, and I definitely get up from time-to-time to stretch my legs, walk around, and say hi to my fellow cube-dwellers. It’s nice to talk to a real person once in a while. But I also recognize those real people sometimes have real work to do, and let’s be honest – they don’t really care what you did over the weekend.

Gerald: So what did you guys do up there in New York?

ARE YOU POOPING ME GERALD?! Now, things are awkward. Firstly, I no longer want Gerald to leave, I need him to leave. I’ve got work to do. But secondly, and most importantly, my and my friends’ debauchery in New York is not appropriate office conversation, and I don’t need Gerald trying to live vicariously through my experiences. So I pulled out one of the most bush league moves in the book…

Me: We uh….(looks at Ramesh who is doing the ‘suck it’ gesture from middle school) we.. OH man… I’ve actually got to run to the restroom, I’ll be right back.

That’s right, I faked a bathroom emergency to get away from Gerald. I didnt really have to go though, so I looked up NBA scores on my phone in the stall for exactly 15 minutes, and then washed the guilt off my hands. Came back out and Gerald was gone, I avoided him for the rest of the day.

Lesson of this story: Don’t be annoying, and if you’re being annoyed, fake diarrhea.

Office Banter: The things you can get away with

You ever feel like the mere semblance of making small talk at the office is a green light to say whatever you want and not be penalized for it?  Let’s be honest, the point of such discourse isn’t so much to have a thoughtful conversation but rather, it’s to show that you are acknowledging this person’s existence. Here’s an example…

About a month ago I was sitting by myself in a massive board room, you know, huge oval-shaped table, leather swivel chairs, projector screen, and of course, the proverbial framed photo of 47, middle aged, male, WASPs (ok, so maybe they aren’t all Protestant) who recently got to meet the CEO for their induction into the “Gazillion dollar club.” ANYWAY, this woman walked in and made her way towards the door at the other side of the room. Now instead of just walking to the door and turning back to throw me one of those awkward, curled-lip, raised-eyebrow, type things, she instead stops and engages me in the following conversation:

Lady: Oh! (excessive laughter) I’m so sorry, I really just…(more excessive laughter) didn’t see you in here!

Me: (Fake chuckle, extra cheesy tone, which sounds oddly sincere) It’s not a problem. I’m just sitting here by myself anyway!

Lady: Just trying to cut over to the other side of the hall you know?!

Me: Yes of course, the old shortcut maneuver, I know all about it!

Lady: (Heavy belly laughter) that’s the one! (walks out the other door)

“THE OLD SHORTCUT MANEUVER?!” WHY did I say that? And why did she think it was so funny? Ohhh yeah, I remember now, it’s because we were just acknowledging each others’ existence and it didn’t really matter what I said. Let’s take a moment to think about some of the other absurdities I could have gotten away with…

– Crossing the ole Bering Strait into the Americas huh? You little Native American, you!

– Bridge that gap girl! Or should I say, MIND it right? Hey are you British? No? See ya!

– Might as well be a leap of faith! Good luck!

– Tough move, especially in this economy!

I think that next time I’m going to shrug while shaking my head and smiling, and then say a bunch of gibberish. Bet you I get a response like “yeah, I know.” Trust me, this is no offense to the other person. When people say this stuff to me I almost always just smile back, validating their own senseless banter.

I mean c'mon...schmockala-frockalaMcSnizzle, right?

“Stop mixing me up with the Pakistani guy!”

Do you ever find yourself masking your inner rage and/or desire to throw a swivel chair at a coworker’s head, with a fake, stenciled, smile?

I find myself doing this very frequently, and often times it’s for the same reason: my name.

I have a foreign name. It hails from the land of beautiful rugs, vibrant culture, and some of the best damned falafel you will ever have (be sure to take Pepto Bismol shortly after having some). That’s right, I’m talking about the Middle East. Like many other Middle Eastern names, my name is loaded with letters which don’t exist in the English language. So people mess it up…a lot. I don’t mind if people mess up my name. I know it’s uncommon and difficult to say/remember. What I do mind though, is being lumped in, and ultimately confused with someone else who also has a ‘weird’ name and hails from a neighboring region. Take South Asia for example, it’s nothing personal towards the area, it’s just that I don’t  want to be called something I’m not…

In spite of his unorthodox footwear, Imran comes up with the big save!

My team only has 5 people on it: Bob, Sue, Jim, Frank, Prakash, and myself. As you may have guessed, both Prakash and I are dark skinned, but we are different in the fact that we are not the same person. For example, although Indian, Prakash spends a great deal of his free time slipping his sandals on and playing cricket with his Pakistani, South Asian brethren, Imran (disclaimer: no judgment, that’s TOTALLY fine).

A few weeks ago, some people from my team got pulled into a meeting. There were Big Bosses EVERYWHERE. One of them, who I had heard a lot about, walks into the room, heads straight towards me, and sticks her hand out. I’m thinking “Wow, she wants to talk to me, this is great!” That is until she said “Hey Prakash! How’s it going?”

That’s when the tell-tale signs of rage showed up.

We’re talking veins popping out everywhere, teeth clenching, face turning crimson, and blood temperature rising to the boiling point of 212 degrees.  I paused for a moment. My eyes affixed on her, the fake smile, the outstretched hand waiting to be grabbed, the polo with the company logo on it (it was casual Friday). For one fleeting moment, I purely loathed this woman. And then, half a second later, I cracked a smile wider than the Nile river, with my teeth still clenched I brought my hand to hers, firmly grasped it, and very calmly stated “Oh, that’s not me, but it’s a pleasure to meet you, (head tilt)…..Melanie.”

AKA: “HEY! I know your name don’t I? Stop mixing me up with the ‘other’ dark guy!”

If you die in an elevator, make sure it’s going up.

I don’t know about you, but lately every time I get into an elevator at work and someone else is in there with me, I tend to get a bit nervous. Not because the middle one is known to randomly drop a few floors from time to time without notice like the Tower of Terror ride in Disney-MGM Studios, but because with the exception of your day-to-day teammates, there are generally only three types of people you can ride with in a corporate elevator:

 

 

Situation 1: High-Power Executive

Generally this is someone on the same level as Big Boss, he’s a big time something or other who just might care about exchanging pleasantries with you. It’s time to show this dude how cool you are! Make him like you!  Get ready to give him that awesome elevator speech which will wow him so much that he feels like he’s at Sea World (excuse our theme park references today). Get pumped…that is until he actually turns to you and asks you who you are /where you work and you get the immediate instinct to secrete all of your bodily fluids via sweat and urine at the same time. Even if you’re able to muster up the stones to overcome these horrifying urges, you still sound like Woody the Woodpecker as you stammer out “I-I’m Beatwood Mac, and I work for in Fixing-uh, I mean Fixed Asses….ah! ASSETS! “Welp, good meeting you, Beatwood. Sea World huh? That wasn’t any more entertaining than the street performer who painted himself as the Statue of Liberty. I’m going to call Fixed Assets about getting ‘the nervous guy’ a box of diapers  for Christmas.”

*19 seconds

 

Situation 2: Unknown Colleague

Nine times out of ten, you end up in the elevator with a colleague you don’t know; he or she is another one of the “worker bees”, and probably just as stressed/tired/hungover etc. as you are, so in this situation, you don’t need words. If it’s two men, occasionally you’ll give each other the Fisherman’s Nod, look down, and keep quiet. Ladies, you might quickly compliment each other on something to give a little positive reinforcement “Oh my Goood, I love your dress! – Oh thanks! H&M!”. and in mixed company, give a quick half-smile, look up/down/all around until your stop, and then politely exit. The silence can either be awkward or pleasant, depending on the company.

Why avert your eyes when you could just as easily turn around and stand in the corner?

Situation 3: Cute Guy/Girl from 3B

The office is never a place to kindle romance, in my opinion, but you can’t help but notice when somebody attractive gets on the elevator with you. You want to say something, maybe introduce yourself, but you know that in about thirty seconds he or she will be gone and you won’t see each other other again until next week. The other day, I was the third party in a situation where a young man, bless his heart, went for it. It’s me, him, and said chick who was attractive beyond belief, we get on on the first floor and she hit’s ‘2’ so i’m like “ok…not even going to bother.” I guess he didnt notice but the next thing you know he’s saying “uhm, two more days until the we-!” as the door opens and she walks out. Sad.

Ohhh, this is your floor? Sorry I couldn't tell. So...what's your name?