Casual Requests for the Seemingly Impossible

Sometimes I have conversations with my manager where I feel like he says “Hey Basco! How’s it goin? When you get a chance, could you slay this lion with your bare hands for me? Would be great if you could do it by 8pm! Otherwise just have it done by the morning. Yes…I know its 7 pm right now, but we just need to make this happen or else the company will go out of business tomorrow at noon. Thanks! Bye!”

No problem Bill! I'll let you know if I have questions!

I’ve Been to the Danger Zone

Today I’d like to take the opportunity to share with you one of the most awkward and embarrassing (and true) cubicle experiences I’ve ever been a part of in my short career.

Our story unfolds on Time and Expense Reporting Day. Now, I personally believe that my company developed a tool for us all to use that makes time and expense reporting one of the hardest things in the world. There are about 10 steps you need to follow in order to get a single expense submitted, and since I usually work locally and incur no expenses, I never paid any attention to the training sessions we were all supposed to go to in order to learn this stuff. Unfortunately a week came where I was sent to a different city and I did incur expenses, so I needed to get smart on it pretty quickly.

Fortunately for me, one of the prettiest girls in my office (and also one of my very good friends) happens to be a traveler who incurs expenses all the time, so I decided to send her an instant message, or “ping” as they call it here in Cubicle Nation, and ask if she could give me a crash course in expense reporting. Naturally, she’s excited for any excuse to leave what she’s doing for a few minutes and come over to help.

PAUSE. Now it’s time for some background – it’s about 2:30PM. I had just gotten back from a lunch of Indian food about an hour ago and, while delicious, Indian food devastates my body.
UNPAUSE.

She’s on her way over, about 5 or 6 cube rows down, in my direct line of sight, smiling. And then the unthinkable happens. A silent, but EXTREMELY potent flatulence escaped from me before I even had a chance to think about stopping it. I tried to come up with a reason to escape, to RUN – maybe I had a cell phone call or a client just sent an email about an urgent meeting… but I was helpless. She walked right over, entered the Danger Zone, and kindly proceeded to school me in the ways of expense reporting. All without saying a word. I am 100% positive she smelled it; I even noticed when she took a quick sniff, crinkled her nose a little, and then kept right on going.

I was mortified. I couldn’t look her in the eye for about a week after that happened. And to this day she’s never said anything to me about it.

Image

The Whole World is Watching…

Recently, I was on a routine call where we invited about 15 people from our global practice to join us. At the beginning of the call, there’s some casual conversation going on and even though I’m a bit preoccupied with my usual call routine, I manage to gather something about a man named Michael Ferguson (note: not his real name). Apparently this man is a rogue manager from some other company who people are trying to collaborate with on a few projects. The group jests about how he always seems to appear at the most random times only to disappear with odd medical ailments for months at a time. Our director says he’s supposed to be talking to Michael later that day and has a feeling he will actually show up in a healthy condition.

Eventually our global pals join up, we’ve got everyone around the horn, and we’re really hitting stride. Now don’t get it twisted, what I mean by ‘hitting stride’ is that the most exciting part of the call (introductions) has ended and we are in the thick of the agenda. This means that one person is speaking, in one pitch, at one speed, with zero personal interest in what they’re saying. Naturally, the slightest interference would be very noticeable.

And that’s when I heard it…BEEP. Someone had just beeped in. Not only do people rarely call in halfway through a call, but we had already done a full role call during the (sadly) exciting introductions period and confirmed that everyone was in attendance. Everyone immediately stops speaking and pauses. The silence. is. DEAFENING. We wait for our director to make a move and when he finally does, this is what transpires:

Director: Hello?

Caller: Well hey hey there Donald, it’s Michael Ferguson! How the heck are ya?!

I have to tell you all, I’m not sure I’ve heard heard anything like this man’s voice, the best description that comes to mind is Gomer Pyle from the Andy Griffith Show, now our older viewers will picture this immediately with a smile, but for our younger viewers, please, indulge:

Director: Oh um…uh…hey Michael, you know we’re not talking until 1 pm today right?

Michael Ferguson: What? I thought it was now! I’m so sorry!

Director: No, no, no! (really fast) it’s quite alright, we’re just in the middle of our weekly call with the global team, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us how you’ve been? We’ve been having a tough time getting in touch with you!

Michael Ferguson: Oh yeah! I’m sorry, I uh…I’ve actually been having some blood flow issues. Was just in the hospital yesterday, artery blockage and such, but I  had these three attractive nurses pushing down on my groin during a procedure and I feel like that was enough to clear things up!

Silence, for a long time.

Director: Oh…well I, um…I’m sorry to hear that.

Michael Ferguson: It’s okay…really I’ll be fine…anyway I’ll talk to you at 1!

Beep

More silence

Everyone on the call erupts into laughter, for nearly 5 minutes (go to 48 seconds, watch the whole thing from there):

Finally, I got to laugh for the right reason.

Awkward Apologies and Unanswered Questions

It’s Friday. For the next 48 hours you don’t have to think about swivel chairs or no one caring or any of that other stuff that holds you down during the work week. Instead, I invite all of you to start your weekends off with this brief, yet hilarious tale from a place in the office which has taken us way too long to talk about, it’s where many of the most comical, awkward, and sometimes disgusting events take place. That’s right, I’m talking about the bathroom. This is an actual text message I received from a fellow cube-dweller a few days ago:

“Bro, weirdest thing ever just happened. So I’m sitting in the stall at my office doing my business (his business being number two) and some guy comes in chatting on his cell phone and as he’s walking by the stall on the way out and he shouts “WHY?!” Pretty loud, then stops and whispers through the crack in the stall ‘I’m sorry.'”

Maybe it’s because he whispered, but I picture the apology in such a nerdy, sad, and semi-pathetic voice…as if the guy is on the verge of tears or something. I wonder if he got his question answered. Then there’s my friend’s reaction…was he reading the paper? If so, did he look up? Make a face? Did he see the guy’s mouth through the crack in the stall (ew)? We may never know but I imagine he looked something like this…

uhhh...what?

Thanks for asking for help… Let me know if you guys need help.

About a week ago, I was in a meeting where my team addressed the fact that we often get left in the dark when it comes to general project information. For example, we could spend any given evening working until 4 am on a presentation due the next day, only to come into work at 7 and find out the deadline has been moved or even canceled for some ungodly reason.

Despite the fact that the one weird guy on the team with no life never really seemed to mind situations like the one described above, my team decided to take action. My team lead takes the time to sit down and craft a well-written email to our “Big Boss,” you know, the big guy/girl who runs the show, seems really friendly but asks you what your name is almost every time he sees you? Says things like “Well hey look who’s flying the company flag today!” when he sees you wearing anything with the company’s logo on it? Anyway..here’s what our specific and clear email said…

“Dear Big Boss,

Could you forward us a more detailed version of the presentation? We’re a bit out of the loop on general project info, so anything you can provide will give us a better sense for how to proceed with our work.”

Big Boss responds, about an hour later with the following (verbatim:)

All
You guys have to do is ask me, and we will get you whatever info you need

…sigh.  Dude, Big Boss, come on man (in NFL commentator Chris Carter’s voice*)!  Typically, I expect fragmented/hastily written emails like these to come from a phone. However, given that it had Big Boss’s signature on it at the bottom , I’m relatively certain he was sitting in front of his computer when he wrote this… from his keyboard. Getting past that… I thought “asking you” is what we just did? Now I’m sitting here scratching my head, trying to figure out how to re-ask without making it sound like… “My man… READ THE EMAIL”

I’m fully convinced that bosses rarely do anything more than scan emails that come in from their subordinates. On the rare occasion that they actually read them, they usually wait long enough to respond so that the subordinate figures out his or her own way to solve whatever problem they were emailing about. I bet if I were a partner, I might have responded with something a bit more complete/thought-out… and I definitely would have slid the word ‘All’ down a line so that it could join up with the rest of the sentence.

Boss Dog

* Go to 00:49

Hey…oh…um…hi…ah-you again? hey…bye!

This guy sits a few rows away from you, and by the powers of some awesome deity, you happen to jump on the elevator with him first thing in the morning, so you both smile and say hello. You get off the elevator and go your separate ways. After battling your way through the cliched ‘AM Office Banter’ (I’m tired/I enjoy coffee with nutmeg in it/I’m giving 5 hour energy a go/It’s cold outside), you start to walk by this guy EVERY TIME you leave your desk. And it’s not like you can avoid him either… it’s you, him, and one looong empty hallway. What are you gonna do? Look at your watch for 35 seconds? (That’s if you’re lucky enough to be wearing one… note: always wear one). The first time it happens, you say, fine, I’ll make eye contact and do the classic ‘Hey/chuckle.’ For those who dont know, a ‘hey/chuckle’ is a small laugh sloppily mushed together with a combination of the words hi/hello/hey/howdy (use that last one sparingly).

Then you see him AGAIN a mere 5 minutes later, most likely on your way back from the previous sighting. You retreat to the fisherman’s headnod and what I like to call “the no teeth/lips curled smile.” Which is when you simply curl your lips at both ends and shift your eyes to the point where you feel so awkward that you might as well be naked. If you’re me, it’s accompanied with a ‘wow-i’m-pretending-to-be-pleasantly-surprised-that-it’s-really-you-again’ eyebrow-raise and if you’re gutsy, you may throw something in like “Ha, same schedule today huh?” Chances are the guy (or girl) will love it.

Finally… it’s 3:30 pm… you’re an hour and a half away from leaving and you are in an all-out WAR with a full-on food coma. As you bumble around the office, simply trying to pump some blood into your veins… you see him. And if you’re me, you say… you know what, SCREW this, I’m going to just turn my head 90 degrees to the right for the entire time I’m in this guy’s field of vision.

The funny thing is…when you jump on the elevator again the next day…and he’s there… he’ll be waiting with a full smile. You’ll say good morning to one another, and it’s as if nothing ever happened. It’s like you both know everything you were doing and it just doesnt matter; who knows, maybe today he’ll be the one to look away from you.

 

Oh hey Barack, nice to walk by you for the THIRD time today...

Me Talk Pretty One Day

One of my biggest pet peeves* is poor spelling and grammar in a professional environment. The other day, I was sitting at my desk working on some spreadsheet or something when I overheard a bunch of people entering through the doorway on my floor. This is a fairly common occurrence, since there are a lot of conference rooms on this floor, so I wasn’t really shaken until I heard one of the managers cry out a confused,

“I thought we was meetin’ on this floor!”

…Was? I thought we was meeting on this floor? I was stunned. If this person spoke English as a second, third, or even fourth language, I wouldn’t even argue, for that person is a far better person than I for learning to speak multiple languages fluently. However, this person’s first and only language is English, which begged the question: how could a native English speaker who talks like this be hired with this company? Furthermore, how can this person be trusted to be client-facing, to be trusted to solve some of their most challenging business problems, when he/she cannot construct one of the least challenging sentences?

Stop! Grammar Time

*by the way, how did the phrase “pet peeve” come into existence?