Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Gaudy Greedy and Gigantic

I was at one of the major financial institution’s head offices today. It is located in what used to be one of the original banks in the city.

It is a historical landmark – and it is well preserved.

The entrances look like doors leading to prison cells, they have big thick brass railed bar gates surrounding them. The ceilings are exceptionally high and held up with pillars which are thick, and made of solid marble. The attention to detail on the ceiling, the floors, the pillars, the doors – hell everything is amazing.

There are faces at the top of each pillar – presumably of the original bank’s executives. Carved lines, circles, squares and other shapes follow the lines of the pillars, doors, ceilings and everything else.

The floors are solid marble, with extensively detailed thick, plush runners in the center. There are accents of brass, metal and glass everywhere.

When I first walked in, I thought that it looked familiar. Remember the scene inside the bank in Mary Poppin’s? The bank I was in today resembled very closely the bank in that scene in Mary Poppin’s – the one where the magical nanny takes the kids to see their father at work and he scorns them for playing instead of investing their money.

Banks are historically and presently – greedy. They charge us to put our money into their institutions. They again charge us to take it out of their institutions – even though without our investment, they wouldn’t exist. Then, they charge us all those wonderful service charges for just about anything that you and I don’t get paid to do normally at work – like breathing.

The gaudy nature of this gigantic structure shows just how greedy the banks were back then. Sitting in the reception area, I actually felt somewhat uncomfortable, and I couldn’t figure out why. At first – then it hit me – the whole design of this place is supposed to make you feel small, weak, and uncomfortable.

Those with money rule the roost. But those with enough money and greed to go with it, often use that money to make you feel powerless in their wake.

The high ceilings, the sculptures of the executives, the extensive use of expensive materials, the railings – which looked like bars on a jail cell – all of these things are designed to intimidate and make those not connected with the bank feel awkward, poor, small and uncomfortable.

Funny thing these days – the banks still make those of us that don’t consider a couple of grand “pocket change” feel uncomfortable.

The big banks bully us into paying service charges, waiting for ever on the phone or at the teller to actually talk to someone, and they charge astronomical interest rates on anything which pays them – and extremely low interest rates on anything that pays you and me back for investing in them in the first place.

To bad there isn’t much choice when it comes to picking a bank that won’t bully you. I’m pretty satisfied overall with my bank, but it is still one which makes you feel small, and insignificant.

Oh well, maybe I’ll just paper my walls with my money to keep it out of the big bad bank’s wallets. Why should some banker drive around in a BMW with interest earned on my money?

Naw, that wouldn’t work. Then the property management would easily claim my money-papered walls were now part of their building and in turn, part of their wallets.

Just can’t win.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Nice Clean Shave

I try not to shave on the weekends. Partly because I’m lazy on weekends and just trying to relax, partly to give my skin a rest.

Shaving is hard on skin. It dries it out, stretches it out, and who knows what else.

I went to the gym today and decided I’d better shave, as I’m having dinner with the parents. So I shaved at the gym. I brought my own razor, but used the shaving gel the gym provides in the men’s locker room.

I usually use the foam shaving cream, but at the gym they had only the clear shaving gel. So, I put it on and began my shave.

It was really smooth!

I was really impressed with the way the razor glided down my face smoother than with the foam I usually use.

After shaving, I checked my mug in the mirror – hey! It even looks closer than with the cream I use!

I think from now on I’ll use gel. Or at least, once I use up my current supply of cream I will try out some of the other shaving products.

It must be a woman thing to try new personal hygiene products. Us men, pick a product off the shelf randomly, and use that product forever and ever, unless it either gives us a rash, or through some other act of randomness, we’re forced to use something else.

I’ve been using the same foam shaving cream, same brand of deodorant, even the same brand of hand soap for years. Rarely do I try anything new – even though I see the ads on television, and often I see the specials at the store.

I always hear woman at the office talk about this new cleanser, or that new whatever it is. Us men don’t talk about our personal care products. We don’t generally shop around for them. We just stick with whatever was the first product we ever tried – which is usually the one which was the cheapest at the time.

I guess that’s why they put hot babes in shaving cream ads, to get our attention. Why would a woman be in a shaving cream ad for a man’s shaving product otherwise?

I think I’ll dare to be different. NO – I won’t become gay or “metro sexual” whatever the hell that means. But I will take the time to try new personal care products. I had a great experience at the gym trying something totally different – might be worth the while to try new things on a more regular basis.

I may even find something which does something better than my current something!

So, the lesson for us men out there is simple – just do it.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Automatic Shower Cleaner Update

A while back, I wrote about finally getting the Magic Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner. This automatically cleans your shower after every use, so that you don’t have too.

More importantly, I got it so that I wouldn’t break my neck slipping and falling while scrubbing the shower.

SO, has this thing worked? Is my shower spotless?

The claim on the package and in all the ads for it on television say that after one full bottle of cleaner has been used, your shower will be noticeably cleaner.

I think the jury is still out on this one. I think my shower is clean, but it was clean before I began using the automatic shower cleaner. I keep my place spick and span clean. I do minor clean-ups every day, and a major clean-up every weekend.

I have noticed a nice, pleasant scent after using the automatic shower cleaner. But is my shower actually cleaner since using this thing?

I don’t think so. I think this shower cleaner does a great job of making it smell nice, but does it make it cleaner?

I have also noticed that the taps are slippery with left over residue from the cleaner. This is easy to rinse off, but it certainly isn’t clean – let alone cleaner. In fact, after I clean my shower myself, there is no residue left behind – I make sure of that.

Still, using this cleaner every day probably reduces the chances of mold, mildew and other nasties from sticking to my shower.

Would I go out and buy this thing again for another shower? Probably not – it is a nice gimmick, but I’m starting to think that is all it is.

I have another couple of bottles of cleaner – maybe after they have been used I’ll see a difference.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Nesting Problems

I have two mammoth window mount air conditioners in my windows. One is in my bedroom, the other in my living room. Both are 10,200 BTUs – that’s a lot of power for the non-technically inclined.

With the summer weather here, I’ve been using them non-stop. Had an interesting experience the other day – birds nesting in one.

I was in my bedroom and heard birds on the windowsill. Not an unusual thing happens all the time as I am high up. But these birds were sitting on my window mount air conditioner.

There was a whole bunch of them out there, just sitting on the air conditioner. The air conditioner was on and running, but surprisingly, the vibrations and the noise didn’t scare them off.

Maybe they liked the vibrations? Maybe that’s how birds and bees engage in the uh er you know. . .

But I was thinking, what if they were nesting in there?

That would be bad, as then I could end up with fowl smells – pardon the pun, though its well intentioned.

So, I banged on the air conditioner and they flew away. So far they have gone and not returned, but we’ll see. I may have to get my rifle and . . .

SHOOT ‘EM and cook ‘em up for dinner.

Just kidding.


I’ll never tell.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Nakeed Noooo!

I love to workout at the gym. I get a pure and natural high from pumping some iron, running on the treadmill, or even doing those painstaking crunches.

The other day at the gym, I did my usual two-hour workout – one hour of resistance training (weights) the other of cardio (I hit an eclipse machine). After a good workout, I take full advantage of the spa-like qualities the gym has to offer. I enjoy a good soak in the steam room and like to loosen tight muscles in the hot tub.

I always get out of my stinky gym gear and into a nice, fresh and clean bathing suite prior to going into the spa-like amenities.

There were these stinky, fat, balding fifty-something men that wandered into the steam room as I was there. They had no bathing suites, actually they were completely naked. Not even sandals to protect their feet.

Now the steam room and hot tub are in the change room, so there is no concern about offending the opposite sex. But I was offended and shocked.

You learn when you are very young, usually from a bad experience, that you always wear sandals at the beach. All it takes is one piece of broken glass and . . . well, we’ve all been there or know someone who has.

The same is true at the gym. Athletes Foot is a common disease at gyms – hence it’s name. It is a fungus which spreads from moist, warm surfaces. Just like those moist, warm surfaces found in a steam room, a shower stall, even the lip of the hot tub.

As if these bozos – I seem to use that word a lot in my blogs. Bozos – must be a sad statement on our lack of bozoness in today’s world – but I digress. These BOZOS dared to offend me more, by sprawling out on the benches in the steam room sans clothes.

One actually lied on his back, with his petty pecker sticking up in the wind.

Just the thing I want to see after a long hard day at the office!

I come to the gym to unwind, relax, and be fit. Not to see some other guy steaming his balls.

These same bozos then went into the hot tub. I skipped my hot tub and hit the showers.

I was disgusted and offended. There are signs everywhere saying to wear either a towel or a bathing suite, and proper footwear AT ALL TIMES in the shower, sauna, steam room and locker areas.

I guess bozos can’t read, because they didn’t pay any attention to the signs. I just hope they do a better job obeying traffic signs – wrong way missed once, is fatal.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Simple Things Simply Put

When the sun sets here, somewhere else it is rising. As someone dies, somewhere someone is born. And as you are reading this blog, someone else is probably reading a good book.

It is funny how the more advanced we get, the less we think about the simple, every day things which make up our lives.

I got thinking this as I was sitting on my balcony watching the sun set here – and probably rise somewhere else.

They say every drop of water has already circulated throughout every living thing on the planet. So you probably consumed the same water which Einstein, JFK, and maybe aghast – even Britney Spears has had.

The trees we see here and now probably have been around longer than us for the most part. That blonde joke that you heard at the office, someone else is probably telling this very minute.

Makes you think – is there anything really new and original in this world anymore?

That song in your head which you can’t quite remember is probably also stuck in someone else’s head somewhere. The jingle you thought of as a great advertisement for Microsoft, probably has been used somewhere else. And your fashion sense is probably copied a zillion times over by people who aren’t even at all like you.

Be original. Or at least – try.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Geek Within

Alright, I admit it – I’m a computer nerd. Yeppers, I’m a geek.

Back in high school, while everyone else my own age was experimenting with sex, drugs and rock and roll, I was BBSing.


Back in the 80s, long before the Internet existed, the only way to connect one computer to another over great distances was by telephone, dial-up, modem connected BBSes.

BBS (Bulletin Board System) were common among us computer nerds in the 1980s. Back then, we’d sit in front of our computers, dialing BBS after BBS desperately trying to connect.

In those days, they didn’t have many lines connecting these home-based computer hangouts, so busy signals were common.

It was an addictive hobby. I remember rushing home to be first on the computer so that I could log into various BBSes, read and respond to messages on the message boards, and upload and download the latest “warez.”

Email didn’t exist back then, you actually had to sit in front of your computer for hours on end, reading and responding to messages as you went. They did come up with cool software which allowed you to download the messages and upload your responses. But you still had to go through each and everyone of them. There were no instant emails back then.

And yes, I even uploaded and downloaded the latest software back then. You’d get “DL Points” or “DownLoad Points” for each byte of software you uploaded. You could in turn use these points to download software, which you’d most likely try to be the first to upload to another BBS, to get more points, so you can download something else and continue the cycle.

As I write this, I’m downloading a training video off of BitTorent. BitTorent is a form of computer network sharing, which allows people all over the world to share files over the Internet. I didn’t need to upload anything to get points, and I can do many things at the same time on my computer (like hammer out this blog).

Back in the early days of home computing, when you were uploading or downloading files, the process would tie up your computer so you couldn’t do much – if anything else.

Technology certainly has improved over the years. I can upload and download lots of files in the blink of an eye, all while checking emails, surfing the net, writing blogs, going through a spreadsheet, or doing countless other things.

Still, there was a certain romance for the old era of file sharing back then. The process was so personalized because you couldn’t do anything else while it was going on, often I’d sit in front of my computer for the whole file transfer. Yeah, I didn’t have a life back then. I sometimes wonder if I have much of one these days. . .

Back in those days, it really was a race to get the latest games, applications, utilities and other software, because the sooner you got it, the “newer” it was and the more easily you could upload it elsewhere to get points to get even more new cool stuff.

These days, there is no race to get anything as there are no points systems. I actually try to spend as little time in front of my computer at home, as I spend my entire working day on one. Too much pixel-lit glow isn’t good for the eyes.

I miss those old days. It was fun, exciting, and challenging to connect and transfer files. These days, you just do a search and poof, whatever you want is out there. I was looking for a shareware application so I can view my webcam over the Internet when I’m at the office. I did a search, and sure enough, I found what I wanted.

Connecting to the online world doesn’t even have the same “feel” as it did back in the 80s. Back in the 80s, everything was so tactile. You could see the modem lights flicker as you dialed, connected and transferred data to and from the BBS. You heard the sound of the modem as it connected or disconnected from the BBS.

These days, I see the lights flicker on my cable modem at home, but they always flash the same patterns, as I’m always connected to my high-speed network. There are no sounds, there are no busy signals, and there isn’t that sense of urgency to connect to some BBS to share the latest joke or upload the latest files.

We’ve become permanently wired to the world. Nothing emotionally connects us to each other through the physicality of the Internet. We can use webcams, microphones and speakers, but as we’re all accustom to always being online, it isn’t exciting, rare, fresh or new anymore.

These days, checking email is about as common as blowing your nose.

Time to go blow my nose – I mean check the email. See ya in cyberspace.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Cleanliness is Godliness

While I was doing my laundry this afternoon, I saw an unusual sight. A woman took a big bottle of bleach, some rags, and began washing down the washing machine she was going to use, before putting her clothes inside.

We all have habits which are uniquely our own. And granted, these washers take quite the beating as they are used by everyone in my building. But cleaning out a washer prior to use seems a little over the top.

I always look inside the washer and dryer before tossing anything inside. You never know what you may find. I’ve found change, shoelaces and occasionally clothes.

But one assumes these machines are used to wash clothes, so they must be clean. Right?

This got me thinking. I know, thinking and me are bad combinations. But as I was thinking, I thought – there are babies in this building. Babies that use diapers. Diapers that become soiled with – well, you know – and then tossed into these machines to be washed.

Washing my clothes with someone else’s poo isn’t an appealing idea. But it could happen. I guess that might be one reason this lady was washing out the washing machine before tossing her clothes inside.

Then I got thinking again. What about all those sickos that don’t wear deodorant? We’ve all had the misfortune of standing behind them in long lines on hot, summer days. Even if you aren’t standing behind them, you can still smell their stink – word on the street is they can be smelled a good four or five city blocks away. These bozos have to wash their clothes somewhere too, right?

Maybe that’s why this strange lady was washing out a washing machine?

Then I got to the thinking thing again. What about all those people that just don’t shower daily? Most of us – thankfully – do. Some don’t and you can smell these people even further than those without deodorant. These guys wash their clothes too, just not so often. So when they do get around to washing their clothes, they are really, really, REALLY icky. They may use these machines too, right?

Maybe that’s the reason why the lady was bleaching out the machines?

Then I got thinking again. There are some people that are obsessive compulsive in their behavior. Obsessive Compulsive behavior is a psychological condition, which affects millions of nut balls across the country and around the globe.

Obsessive compulsive types have to do the same sequence of events over and over again, just to get one task done. Maybe this lady was a nut with an obsessive compulsive streak, and her washing out the machine was her ritual of doing laundry?

Then I gave up thinking and just tossed my clothes in the washer. People are strange – and you don’t need to think about it to know it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

When You Fail to Plan You Fail – Period

Way back when I was a journalist, a common phrase we heard in the newsroom was “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”

The client I’m working for has been around since the 1960’s – almost 50-years. They were voted one of the top 20 best small and medium sized companies to work for this year. And they have an amazing work environment to be in – everyone is so happy and fun to work with.

Surprisingly they never plan anything ever.

I’ve been working this gig now for over three-months and I have yet to see anyone plan anything. I have never seen any team or project meetings, never seen any project plans, and product development lifecycles – they don’t follow any developmental cycle life or death at all.

I’m a planner. I have always believed strongly in the power of setting aside some time to create a blueprint with manageable realistic and achievable goals. As there are no plans here, everything is done on the fly, last minute rush here, there. . .

Take today for example. I was planning – PLANNING – to go to the gym after work. I even lugged my gym bag to the office so that I could escape to the eclipse machine all that quicker. But at 4:35pm, my manager comes over to me and tells me the changes we received on some documents have to be done by noon tomorrow for a meeting that was just called.

She said, don’t worry if you can’t get it done, it was last minute and all.

Everything I’ve ever done at this company is last minute – because they don’t plan.

And I’ve been at this company long enough to know if I didn’t stay late and finish this last minute project, I’d be rushing around in a panic trying to get it done even more last minute tomorrow. They have told me not to rush things before, only to come back later and tell me they need it now.

So, I stayed until 6pm AGAIN to get something done at the last minute. No eclipse machine today, I was too beat. I just headed home, wondering how the hell this place has been able to survive for almost 50-years without ever planning anything.

Everything comes from the top down. So this lack of planning comes from the executives and managers failing to plan. And when the higher-ups don’t plan, everyone else is caught in their last minute rushes to get their unrealistic, unachievable, inhumane deadlines met.

At lunch we were talking about contract and staff work – I’m a contractor. We got talking about negotiations and how employees can’t negotiate too much when it comes down to pay raises and year-end bonuses.

But I can – I’m not an employee I boasted. I’m a contractor. If they offer me something which I don’t like, I simply walk. I mentioned how they’d have to offer me something pretty impressive to keep me aboard on contract or on staff.

Truth is nothing is that impressive. They could offer me a mansion with a Porsche in the driveway and a few million dollars up front – I’d still turn them down.

This lack of planning really goes against my work ethics. I don’t fit into their workplace – and fit is the most important element in the office.

I am always rushing projects through and feeling guilty about all the mistakes which they say we’ll fix in the next round. They never fix anything in the next round. Everything is rushed, so once a project is completed, they are rushing to do the next project. There just isn’t time to fix up and clean up the mess from the previous rush.

And even if there was time to clean up the rushed project, that too goes against my work ethic. I believe in doing the best job possible the first time through, so that you don’t have to go back and clean up your mess. Do it right the first time, or don’t do it at all.

So, my new plan is looking for my next gig – one where having a plan and sticking to it is part of their standard way of doing business. Because that is my way of doing business.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Why I Want a Baby Stroller

It is considered good manners to give up your seat on the bus for a disabled person, a pregnant woman, or even a woman with a baby in a stroller.

They even have these funky new buses with wheelchair ramps that open and close, to allow those in wheelchairs to get on and off the bus.

It takes forever for these ramps to unfurl and just as long for the person to wheel themselves aboard. But hey, if you can inconvenience 50 people so that one person can get on, I guess that makes logical sense in some twisted parallel universe somewhere.

What really gets my goat are people that think because they have a baby in a stroller, a wheelchair, a cane, or even a seeing eye dog, that they are more special than everyone else.

I don’t mind offering my chair to someone less fortunate than I. And for the most part, those I offer my seat to are more than thankful and polite.

But that one percent or less that come at you with an attitude of superiority and demand you vacate your spot or risk being sat upon should be shot at point blank range to end everyone’s misery.

When I offer someone my seat, I do it out of kindness. I don’t do it because I am forced to by some law. I paid my fare, I deserve a seat just as much as anyone else does.

So when I see some woman with a stroller use her child in said stroller to literally push people out of her way, and then demand a seat, I take great offence.

I’ve seen disabled people do the same kamikaze tactics on poor unsuspecting people too. Saw someone in a wheelchair almost mow some old guy down. And the old guy wasn’t exactly in the prime of his life either – but he was fair game for the lady in the wheelchair. Maybe if they both had wheelchairs it would have been more entertaining as they played bumper cars?

We all have to live with the cards we are dealt. Some get aces, most of us get crap all. But we still have to respect the values and personal spaces of each other.

Failing that, society will continue to crumble to one where no one wants to go anywhere, out of dismay, angst and fear of being run over by some sicko with a stroller.

Monday, May 14, 2007

How to Interior Design My Way

Over the weekend I bought a couple of new paintings, and a nice new area rug for my swanky apartment.

The paintings are oil-based paintings of wine bottles, which I put up in my dining room. The area rug is a nice, soft rug, which matches my couch and curtains in the living room.

Every time I go out and get stuff to add to the décor of my place, I feel better living in my place. It makes my place more of a home. More of “my home.”

It is funny, every time you watch one of those interior design type shows on television, the interior designer is either a straight woman or a gay guy. Makes us straight guys believe we are incapable of designing our own homes.

In fact, when my girlfriend called me a “male version of Martha Stewart” upon discovering my skills in matching my curtains to my furniture.

I don’t know if I like being compared to Martha Stewart, but at least she didn’t ask if I was gay. Not that there is anything wrong with being gay – but no means no.

Still, there is a pleasant self-satisfaction in putting together your own home style. All the decisions I have made in drapes, furnishings, lamps, art and floor coverings, all of this is my style.

I never even knew I had a style until I started bringing all these elements together. I just figured I needed a place to hang and watch television while drinking, burping and eating.

Once you start with a couple of items, you eventually get to the point where you are matching things to other things, which leads you to get other things to match to those things, and pretty soon you have a style all your own.

For years we’ve been telling people they have to go back pack across Europe, go get an education, or even run away and join the circus to find themselves. Turns out, all you really have to do to find out who you are is to be able to live with yourself.

Finding my home style not only tells me who I am, but also my lifestyle. I have one of those automatic shower cleaners and I plan to get one of those automatic robotic vacuum cleaners too. My air conditioners have remote controls and timers which I can pre-set to go on or off whenever I want.

Clearly, I like things to run smoothly, even when I’m not home.

I lean towards darker earthy tones in color schemes. My bedroom is black and grey, my living room is deep forest green, my bathroom is ocean blue and white.

Must go back to the days when I was an environmentalist and hugged trees.

Naw, I just like basic color schemes.

When I was looking at the area rugs at one of these South-East Asian rug stores that always seems to go out of business and then mysteriously re-appear after their going out of business sale – I took forever picking a rug. Why?

All the really nice rugs according to the sales people, were the ones with very busy and complicated patterns.

I thought the patterns were nice, but nothing caught my eye. Until I saw a less complicated rug, with nice borders and a fine center piece. Not complex funky patterns – just a basic rug with a nice color-tone.

That’s my style.

I like things simple, and basic in terms of color, pattern and tone. I like sharp contrasting lines with simple patterns that don’t distract from the overall look of the thing – whatever that thing may be.

My dishes are pretty simple too – no funky floral patterns, just plain lines or solid colors.

It is comforting coming home to my style – because that’s really what makes a home – well – home.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Alcoholic Cheerleader

Last week I was sent on an impromptu business trip. Well, it seems nothing is planned and is always done at the last minute at my current client site. So this shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Still, when you come in Monday morning and see an email telling you that you are expected on a business trip later that week – I’m just glad the trip wasn’t on the other side of the globe.

Luckily, my business trip was to a summit in the city’s west-end. Still, in order for me to be able to beat traffic, I had to sleep over at the hotel the summit was being held at the night before.

I don’t mind sleeping in hotels. Room service, the on-site gym and that overall feeling of being pampered are nice to haves. Sleeping in a strange room, under strange covers isn’t always easy.

You learn a lot about your colleagues on these business get-a-ways. Spending days and nights with the same group of people will bring out everyone’s more personal side.

On a business trip I’m always cautious not to go crazy. Always remember you are still on business, and those around you will be judging you for your professionalism at all times. It doesn’t matter if those people are beneath you or above you on the corporate ladder – always be professional.

That’s good advice, but it appears our drunken silly marketing manager and the director of marketing don’t believe in this advice.

Every chance those two “professionals” (and I use the term exceptionally loosely here) had to spend drinking, they did. They were hooting and hollering like drunken floozies at the corporate dinner we had. Yes it was an open bar. No, that doesn’t mean get the funnel and keep ‘em coming.

The marketing management was already at the bar at 9am the first day of the three-day summit. Leaving others to do their setting up and preparation. They did somehow manage to stumble back to the conference room to present their work, but they were late – as usual – and probably sloshed.

Then, at the company poker game, they brought their own booze. I had warned the marketing director not to do this earlier in the day. I told her, by supplying the alcohol we were taking on the legal responsibility of “host” and that means if anyone does anything stupid, we’d be legally responsible. So, if someone got plastered and destroyed their hotel room, or decided to walk naked down the street drinking their bottle of beer, we’d be the ones to pay the legal consequences.

The marketing director “poo pooed” my ideas, saying we’re all professionals and no one would get drunk.

Yeah, right, no one gets drunk. Funny, she was drunk the night before. She was having a great ‘ol time laughing loudly, talking loudly and slurring her words to the beat of her own booze induced drummer.

The training manager also supported my ideas, and said it probably isn’t a good idea. We even talked to the hotel and they managed to get us clearance to take drinks from the bar down the hall to the room where the poker was taking place. Problem solved, we would have booze, but the hotel was supplying it, so we weren’t legally liable.

That just wasn’t good enough for our alcoholic cheerleaders. The marketing director’s room was next to mine – not by my doing. I saw her in the hall as I was heading down to dinner. She tells me she got some alcohol for the poker tonight and would be bringing it to the room.

I gave her a look and said “fine.” It wasn’t fine, it was childish and unprofessional. I felt like a parent who had an unruly teenager that just wouldn’t listen. I went to dinner and focused on my food to take my mind off the marketing director’s ineptitude.

The poker game was a great team building activity. It really brought us closer together with some of our branch manages, and we all had a lot of fun.

Some had more fun than others.

The marketing director was slurping down rum, vodka and gin like it was water. When I just grabbed a bottle of water, she said “that’s all you’re having?”

I felt like a kid at his first party, and everyone was putting the peer pressure on for me to take a puff of the joint being passed around the room.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to inhale.”

Eventually, as the night wore on, I decided I’d have a small drink, just a little rum and some coke. The marketing director noticed quickly and said, “no you’re finally loosening up.”

Good thing I wasn’t as loose as her. By this time she was already cruising down drunken avenue. She was stumbling around bare feet, plunking down on chairs that somehow luckily didn’t collapse under her swift decent. I guess when she gets toasty, she looses the perception of height or some other spatial awareness, because she was falling into the chairs like a rock falling from the sky.

After the poker match, we all went to the bar to have some drinks. I still was careful and very corporate. I had one drink and nursed it until I left.

Yeah, I know, not as much fun as chugging and downing another, and another and another.

But, as a business person with other business persons, it is the right thing to do. Social functions at work are supposed to be fun. But come Monday morning, you still have to show up at work after any shenanigans you may have pulled in front of your co-workers.

Or worse, in front of others who you rely on for information and resources necessary to do your job. When these people see you misbehaving like a teenager going all out at a corporate function, they don’t forget.

I will never forget the image of the marketing manager slurring her poorly thought out sentences at the corporate dinner. And I will never forget the image of the marketing director, winding her way around the poker tables in her bare feet.

When they come to me and need something from me, I won’t forget how unprofessional they really are. And that’s the worst thing that can happen in a business setting. Because now you have people that don’t value each other’s contributions to the team and that just makes the whole team suffer.

Pass the bottle – I’m off duty.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Awkward Meeting of the Replacement

Being a contractor, I often replace people on maternity leave, holiday time and other personal pursuits. Today, the person I replaced on maternity leave showed up at the office, with her new baby in tow.

I always feel awkward in such circumstances. I know I needn’t be – they chose to leave and the company chose to replace them throughout their period of leave.

Still, it is always very uncomfortable when the person who’s desk you’re in shows up and sees you’ve taken up root.

We all have our own ways of working. I’m very organized, neat and tidy. I believe in filing things where I can find them, using Post IT Notes like water to remind me of things to do, and keeping my work area spiffy clean.

The person I replaced was not of the same work ethic. She was disorganized, left files and folders everywhere, and there was a layer of dust so thick once I removed it everyone asked me how I scored the new office furniture. It’s not a new desk – I’d tell them – I just dusted. They still don’t believe me – in fact I think operations is trying to track down the invoice for the “new” desk.

Meeting that person who you’re replacing is like meeting an old high school friend that you’ve lost touch with. There’s a sense of familiarity, but still, something seems amiss. Only difference in the situation of meeting the person you replace is – you’ve never met them before, so it is an even more uncomfortable situation.

There’s the usual welcome, and small talk. Then you watch them and they watch you, as you both look at their former cubicle and wonder what the other is thinking.

They ask how you find the job, the people and the projects you are working on. They always – always joke about how you find their former cubicle, desk, chair or other item which at one point was their office.

“Ah, I see you’ve managed to fix my squeaky chair.”

“WOW, I love what you’ve done with the place.”

“You’ve cleaned up good – do you do windows?”

That’s where things get weird. You joke back, but you know neither is joking. Both you and they depend on this “office” to earn income to keep a roof overhead, food in your gut, and clothes on your back.

This is where things get personal.

It’s mine – you think. Chances are they are thinking the exact same thing.

Being a contractor, I’m used to coming and going from one office to another. Leaving as the original person I replaced comes back, or in some circumstances, actually training and up-dating the person who I’ve replaced upon their return.

Until I get a gold plaque on a solid door, and an office with a skylight in it – I won’t consider any office “mine.”

Not so for the person I’ve replaced. They aren’t used to being replaced. Probably not the least bit comfortable with how I’ve rearranged their space to suit my working style, and they aren’t really joking when they bring it up. They are scared.

Jobs in this country are not easy to come by. We have far too many people for the far too few jobs worth working at. So when someone has become settled and comfortable in a decent job, they tend to want to stay there until death.

In comes the contractor – AKA moi – and I automatically re-gig their workspace to suit my temporary needs. It is common practice to work in one’s own space – even for us temporary contractor types.

But the common worker bee that’s been doing the same job forever, and plans to keep doing their same old gig forever doesn’t see it that way. They see it as a threat to their employment. They see me as a threat to their livelihood. They see someone who’s taken over and rearranged their office.

None of this is verbally communicated – it is all in the body language. But being a student of non-verbal body language, I pick up on it pretty quick.

Colleagues always do too. They must, they always comment after the person I replaced leaves about how nice it was to see them again, but chances are they won’t come back – so your gig is secure.

“Really?” I pretend to show interest in becoming a permanent fixture in my new found home.

“Yeah, you can tell when they come to visit with their new kid, that they want to give up work and become a full-time parent.”

Funny, I hear this sort of line of reasoning all the time, but I’ve yet to be offered a permanent gig. Usually the person I replaced comes back – they get tired of midnight feedings and constant diaper changes. Not too mention the lower income level really pushes them back into the workforce. Having a kid is an added expense, and if you have the opportunity to get more money – such as going back to work – you do.

Still, it’s always funny to hear people speak like that after the person I replaced comes in for a visit. Means they picked up on the awkward tension between their colleague and “the replacement” (me).

I guess you can’t stop someone from coming back into the office. It isn’t exactly Fort Knox. But still, the workplace is no place for uncomfortable awkward feelings. The more awkward and uncomfortable you make it, the less productive people are, and the less gets done.

All I know is – if and when I do somehow give up my freedom to become a slave to the labor camps of permanent employment – and if and when I take a break requiring a replacement take my place – I’ll never visit the office and make that poor contractor feel like a second-rate replacement. I won’t come back until my time is up and I have to return to the old grind.

I know better from being there than to make someone else go through an awkward moment. Now, if only there were a way to teach this lesson to others?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Loose Lenses

Anyone who wears eye glasses knows, with time the screws holding the things together come loose. If you don’t tighten them up, eventually the lenses will pop right out and blunk onto your desk – or worse, on the floor.

Usually I take my glasses to any eye glass store and they will tighten them up free of charge. They do this because they too know that eventually the screws come loose and if they didn’t tighten them the lenses would blunk onto something or other. It also makes good business sense for them, because if they treat you right, next time you need new glasses you may just remember them.

I don’t mind going into the eye glass store to get my glasses tightened every so often. Today when I went, I also bought some lens cleaning solution, to keep them spotless.

But I figured, wouldn’t it be nice if I could tighten them up myself. Now, anyone who’s read this blog knows I’m none-to-handy. It took me ages and ages to get my new curtains up.

But tightening up some glasses is really simple – it is just a matter of tightening up some screws. There aren’t any holes to drill, no plastic bits to stick in, no measuring, none of that hard stuff. Just screw it back in place and your done.

So I asked at the eye glass store where I got my glasses tightened if they have one of those eye glass repair kits. I’ve seen them before, they have a multitude of small screw drivers to fit a wide assortment of eye glasses.

The lady at the eye glass store showed me a key chain that had one screw bit on it. The bit didn’t look like it fit my glasses, and it didn’t have other bits for my other glasses. So, I asked her if they had any other such eye glass repair kits.

She didn’t have any others, so I got my cleaning solution, and my nicely re-tightened glasses, thanked her and went on my way.

But I wish they did have that handy kit. I had one before, I think I bought it at some grocery store downtown of all places. Since then, I have long since misplaced this kit and I haven’t seen any other kit anywhere else.

And at the hardware store, where they have a screw driver for just about every screw head imaginable, they don’t have ones small enough for eye glasses.

Eye glasses are very common these days. Most people I know have a pair some don’t even need glasses, they just wear fancy designer frames for fashion.

So why is it so hard to keep your own glasses in top shape? Why can’t the manufacturers use common enough screw sizes to make it easy to get a screw driver to fit them?
Maybe they are hoping us naïve consumers will simply go out and buy a new pair when the screws come undone and the lens blunks down in front of us?

At hundreds of dollars a pop – FAT CHANCE!

Maybe they are trying to get us all to wear contact lenses?

I wore contacts for a few years while in high school. Back then, I guess I was vane enough to worry about such things. But all the solutions, the constant cleaning and the occasional times when you actually lose a contact lens all add up to making glasses the better choice.

So, we come back to the initial problem – where to find an eye glass repair kit?

Maybe I should some how build my own eye glass repair kit? I bet if I did, I could sell it and make a mini fortune.

Okay, so anyone know how to make a screw driver?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I Hear Birds and Bees and Trees

My apartment is literally right next to a major highway. I’m used to the sound of traffic – actually I find it soothing.

This weekend, the highway is closed for repairs – so all is quiet.

On my balcony, I listen but there is no noise.

Wait a sec . . .

What’s that odd sound?

I hear chirping, buzzing, and swooshing.

Birds, bees and trees – the sounds of nature! That’s what that odd noise is.

It is funny, I don’t hear these sounds too often from my balcony. Usually the sound of the highway below drowns out these sounds. It is nice to be able to sit on my sunny balcony, and hear nature.

Very quaint, peaceful and relaxing.

Funny thing is, I actually miss the sound of traffic somewhat. I guess I’m so used to it that something just seems off without it. It is like having a favorite pair of blue jeans. They may look really old, worn, even torn and ripped. But they fit like a glove and give you a certain sense of comfort knowing that no matter what happens in the world, at least you’ve got them.

I guess the sound of traffic, the sight of cars going back and fourth, even the occasional horn and siren – they are like that old pair of blue jeans.

Maybe I’ll go hang out over an overpass.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wat You Talkin Bout Sucka

In case you missed it in previous blogs, I’m a child of 80s. I grew up during big 80’s hair, parachute pants, break dancing, the moonwalk, and the cold war.

I miss that era – back in those days, people may have seemed out of place, but at least they were really themselves. These days, people who seem out of place often seem so because they are pretending to be someone who they are not.

I saw a guy walking down the street today, with a big Mohawk on his head. He seemed really out of place – not just because this style went out in the 1980’s, but also because he didn’t seem to be the kind of guy to sport such a fashion statement.

Mr. T is the prime example of someone who fits the Mohawk look – he probably began the style and made it popular on his hit television show “The A-Team.”

Mr. T looks like your typical tough guy – big, hulking, muscular, and mean. He even talks the slang of the street. He was a pro wrestler, a United States Marine, a body guard to the rich and famous – he’s had a resume which fits someone with a Mohawk.

This guy I saw today with the same hairstyle as Mr. T was in a suit and tie, running shoes, and knapsack. Hardly the tough guy look you’d expect from someone with such a wild hair style. All he needed was the pocket protector and one of those calculator watches and he’d be a definite nerd-wanna-be.

Though he was trying to act all tough – even walked with one of those tough-guy types of rhythm, but he didn’t have the gold teeth and the big fake gold jewelry so I wasn’t buying his act.

And what is up with that gold teeth thing? Whoever said it was cool to rip out your front teeth and replace them with brilliant light-bright-like neon gold ones?

Anytime I see someone with gold teeth, gold chains, pure white running shoes and pants several sizes too big that have to keep being pulled up, I automatically think – this guy is either a pimp, or a wanna-be-pimp.

Why anyone wants to be a pimp is beyond me. I don’t think there is much job security in the pimp industry, and the money can’t be all that good – they never can afford pants that fit.

Back in the 80’s, we didn’t have anyone with gold teeth. We had our fair share of wild looks, but nothing so backwards in styling.

Michael Jackson wore one white glove with jewels on it, but he was – and still is – an amazing music prodigy. Often the true artists are the really crazy ones, and that’s probably the case with him.
Boy George wore make-up, bright neon colored clothes, and had long hair. Well at least you know your gaydar is working if it goes off on him.

Madonna wore smutty outfits – well go figure, she was and possibly is still very sexually – shall we say “free?”

Wrestler Hulk Hogan wore tights, knee-high boots, and a tank top – but he was a wrestler. The style fit his image and persona.

The point is, back in the 80’s, there were wild and crazy looks, but they all matched those wearing them. These days, you have nothing but what we called in the 80’s as “posers.” Those are people pretending to be something they haven’t a clue how to be.

Sometimes when I see these characters on the street with the outfits that just don’t match, I think back to the 80’s and wish for a time long ago. A time when people were who they really were. No posers – just me.