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.

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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.

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?

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

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

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?

Do you like Popsicles?

There is a man in this office who looks and sounds EXACTLY LIKE Herbert the Pervert, from Family Guy:

Photo credit: fanpop.com