“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?

DeMama’s Guide to Managing Office Fatigue

Whether it’s because we’re in the heat of battle with a food coma or we spent too much time the night before on Facebook looking at pictures of that one girl from high school’s newborn child…we all get sleepy throughout the work day. Below is a 4-Step guide I developed a few years ago for dealing with a sluggish day at the office:

#1 GET OUT AND GET SOME DRUGS

The second you begin to think that you MIGHT fall asleep, bolt out of your chair like a 5 year old who just saw Freddy Kreuger and find some kind of drug to stimulate your oxygen deprived brain. I don’t care if it’s one of those new Energy Sheets or the free coffee from the break room which tastes like liquified skunk; bottom line is that you don’t want to gain slug momentum and become paralyzed by your own exhaustion.

I JUST TOOK A SHEET IN THE BREAK ROOOOOM!

#2 SELF-INFLICTED PAIN

So that didn’t work. It’s time to emulate that creepy dude from The Da Vinci Code and start inflicting some pain on yourself. Try any of the following:

Tug your cheeks ! Smash your head into the keyboard! Bite your tongue! Bite your arm! Bite your knuckle! Bite your knuckle so hard that you feel like you want to bite your arm just to distract you from the pain of biting your knuckle!  (Repeat)

Man, that escape key really did a number on my eye...

# 3 EXERCISE

Still having issues? Step 3 is one of my favorites as it has a personal success rate of 9/10. Go do something athletic that you would never do while wearing work clothes. I’ll never forget one frigid February morning about two years ago, where, after trying steps 1 and 2, I left a training session on government accounting in order to go to the parking garage and run sprints and do pushups in-between cars in a full suit. Sure I may have smelled afterward but at least I was awake right?

Beautiful day for a run, right Bob?

#4 ACCEPT YOUR FATE

By now, you’ve taken several (energy) sheets, you have bite marks on your knuckles, and you smell bad. For me, this is the point where I realize that my fatigue is so great that the only recourse left for managing it, is embracing it. So I head to the bathroom, grab a stall, and have a seat regardless of whether or not I have to go. I then close my eyes, lean my head up against the wall, and hope to God I wake up before they lock the building and turn the lights out.

Optional: Sandals, wearing your pants. Recommended: Eye-wear

We love new ideas! Not really though!

Every three weeks, someone on my team is summoned to give a brief presentation via conference call, and about a month ago I realized that my turn was swiftly approaching. During the planning phase, I took a moment to think about the lessons I’ve learned from presenters in weeks past (cue cartoon cloud popping up over my head)…

Presentations are supposed to be saved for the last ten minutes of the call, but calls always run long because there’s usually that guy who throws a wrench into things, so the lowly presenter is forced to squeeze it into 8 minutes. Given the fact that everyone knows it’s getting near the end of the call, he/she ends up careening through the presentation, nervously uttering ‘next slide’ at the alarming rate of 2 words per second. Even with all the odds stacked against the presenter, he/she usually makes it to the last slide just as time is expiring. No sooner does he or she read the ‘Than-.’ off the slide that you hear a series of beeps from people hanging up. To quote many of America’s young women in their early to mid 20’s, “uhh…rude.”

With all this in mind I came up with a new idea for my presentation to make it a little more discussion based, and henceforth, interesting. I emailed Big Boss about the idea, and two days later, he gets back to me with:

Let’s speak more entertaining idea I think if we were to do something like this we should give a heads up?

Wait-WHAT? Way to prove our theory about Big Bosses everywhere. You don’t like punctuation, dont make sense, don’t have time, and don’t really care about what either of us are saying to one-another (…it’s almost impressive). How much time do we really need to give people a heads-up that the presentation will be a bit more discussion-oriented? I wanted to email Big Boss back and say “HEY you know what, Big Boss?! Bobby-Sue from orientation said you guys would love innovative employees with new ideas, so maybe you should think about  THAT, you hypocrites!”

Instead I said “OK, I’ll be sure to plan ahead next time.”

Dammit.