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.

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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!

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!”

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.

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!