Tag Archives: work

A [stark] truth

Me: “Hi! Heard you put together a few videos. Whatcha think of featuring them in the news this week?”

Coworker: “I love this idea more than the first Iron Man.  Let’s do it!”

Me: “I just watched the new(ish) Superman on Saturday. Better or worse than Iron Man?”

Coworker: “Worse, worse, worse. The first Iron Man is probably my favorite superhero movie.”

Me: “… Hulk sad.”

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Self-destructing in five, four, three, two, one…

Note from the author: I have approved the following message. Unless you don’t agree with it, in which case I will delete this post immediately.

We have a strict approval process in the corporate communications department where I work. When I write a story, it must first be sent to several subject matter experts (SMEs). After they have inexorably mutilated a particular story beyond comprehension, I rework it according to their most arbitrary wants and desires:

Ah, nuts! I mean, knots.

SME #1: “Put a line in about how I ate 40 hot dogs on Thursday and became the 2012 state fair hot dog eating champion!”
Me: “I’m going to veto that idea as it in no way relates to this story on bird diverters.”
SME #1: “But it took place on company time…”

SME #2:
“This story is way too colorful and fun. Dull it down immediately.”
Me: “I’ve dulled her down once and I’ll not do it again! The story – she can’t be dulled down any further, man! It’s madness; sheer madness, I tell you!”
SME #2 (tsking, yet somhow frowning at the same time): “All these adjectives are unnecessary. We don’t need to know that it was the STATE fair. But, that sure was a lot of hot dogs, wasn’t it?” Chuckles, impressed.
Me:
I feel like Tony Danza from Who’s the Boss?'”

SME #2: “What did you say?”
Me: “I said, ‘sure thing, hoss.’”

SME #3: “Use more filler words, like ‘in order to,’ ‘henceforth’ and ‘thereunto.’ You know, make me sound good.”
Me (under breath): “Putting ‘Knew Mother Theresa’ on your resume couldn’t make you sound good.”

About four years ago when I didn’t know better, I would then send the story back to them with changes made, a subject line of “Final, approved article.”

We are so naïve sometimes, aren’t we?

SME. Unfortunately, not to be confused with Smee, from Hook.

From there, it’s typically a steady spiral downward. Back and forth we go for at least three more edit sessions before the story is finally stamped with approval. Without fail, I’ll receive an email from an SME a day or two before it’s published telling me they forgot to include someone in on the approval process, and ’round we go again.

I begin envisioning a time long ago when I didn’t need dark chocolate or fanciful daydreams about certain people falling down flights of stairs to get me through the afternoon. (Get it? The chocolate matches my view on working in a corporate environment!)

Then, at long last, everything is approved. Sighs of relief are blown out prematurely as the newcomer tentatively mentions it would be in “our” best interest to send the story to his supervisor as a heads up.

Little does he know it would actually be in his best interest to stay away from any stairwells.

Who’s to say this DOESN’T go with a pencil skirt, silk blouse and fitted blazer?

I send the courtesy email as instructed. Once a writer, I am now a mere messenger girl. A very nicely dressed messenger girl, I should mention, one approval away from changing into comfortable, sensible walking shoes and outrageously white socks on my trips to and fro the parking lot. Oh, how the mighty have fallen into the corporate abyss.

Before the horror of it all can sink in, I promptly get a reply back that inspires hope within me – optimism that mankind is truly attentive and courteous of time and effort spent. I open the email eagerly to discover it is an automated “out of office” message and this person will not be returning until next Thursday.

It is Tuesday.

I wait out the week patiently, expelling my pent-up exasperation during dart league. (What can’t shiny, pointy objects and a good imagination fix?) And, although the story is no longer timely or relevant, I will publish it solely because I WILL PUBLISH IT.

Approximately five minutes before deadline, I receive word from the supervisor that they need to rethink the angle of the story since the project is nearing its final stages. Yes, indeedy — the huge, multi-million-dollar project is moving faster toward completion than my 50-word article. I am asked to pull the story until the project’s progress is more definite.

Chances are he’s on his fifth hole, excuse me, track at the conference.

Follow-up emails going without reply, my paranoia grows as I physically walk to the supervisor’s office seeking approval, only to see him nervously dart behind a maze of cubicles. Upon asking the admin if he will be returning anytime soon, she looks at me inquisitively before replying like a pro: “He’s not even in today; he’s at a conference. In Florida.”

We stare at each other for a solid minute without speaking. She holds steady eye contact, not blinking once and never backing down. Two minutes into the battle and blinking furiously, I blame my parents’ genetics for the poor eyesight which has resulted in my wearing of contacts, thus putting me into a no-win situation. The admin begins to shuffle papers neatly into piles on her desk, humming cheerfully. I smirk and grab two handfuls of M&Ms from her candy dish before retreating.

At close of business, I see the supervisor walking to his car in the parking lot and yell his name. He freezes, then continues toward his car after a moment, never looking back. I forgo the temptation to run him over. Too many witnesses.

Forced to eventually scrap the entire story, I am asked about its whereabouts months later by my own manager. I send her a copy of the email trail, and she emails the supervisor about the article. The supervisor responds immediately, saying, “Yes. Ok, let’s publish.”

After the red spots I’m seeing diminish, I muster the ability to email back, “Publish as is, or would you like to give an update to the project?” The supervisor waits at least half a day to respond, choosing at that time to respond with five ambiguous words: “Let me think about it.”

A week passes. I send another follow-up email asking about the story. A day later, I promptly get back two words: “Run it.”

All signs point to sarcasm!

Now, I normally include at least one exclamation point with each thanks to express my gratitude for their direction, but eliminating the exclamation point has become my (non) pointed way of sticking it to the man.

At that time, I am officially dead inside. But, I publish the story anyway.

It comes down to this. Most people have the ability to walk away from work at 5 p.m., or to leave it behind on the weekend. I thought I was one of those people until I realized this approval process has somehow soaked into the inner fibers of my wellbeing.

I now seek approval from everyone before I do or say anything, unsure of my every action and how it might affect those around me, and beaten down from having my own personal thoughts, opinions or agendas. Here are a few dialogue-based examples of ways I have sought consent from others over the last few months:

Me: “I’m going to get the pie. Should I get the pie?” Sits, lost in thought for 10 minutes debating the right choice. “I won’t get the pie.”
Friend: “No, get the pie!”
Me: “Ok.” Holds both hands out in a “STOP” stance. “If you’re sure.”

Me (standing up to declare loudly in the movie theater): “I’m going to the bathroom. Unless this isn’t a good time for you guys. Is everyone ok with me leaving?”
Audience: Various yelling to shut up.
Me: “Anyone need anything? Soda, popcorn?”
Audience: Dead silence.
Me (leaving, then ducking back into theater): “Thought I heard someone. Still no one? Ok, I’ll just bring back one of everything, just in case.”

My talent is definitely finding applicable pie charts for any situation.

Me: “I put $10 in the basket at church. Do you think I should have put in more to compensate for daydreaming about pushing people down stairwells?”
Clayton: “The church accepts any contribution.”
Me (signing check with flourish): “$20 it is!”

Me (Getting dressed for work, glancing down): “This shirt isn’t the same blue as the blue on our corporate logo.” Frowns uncertainly.” I better change.”

Me: “Let’s go get some groceries at Wal-Mart.”
Friend: “You shop at Wal-Mart?”
Me: “I meant Trader Joe’s.”
Friend: “That’s right you meant Trader Joe’s.”
Me: “It was a joke.”
Friend: “No, it wasn’t.”
Me: “No. It wasn’t.”

When life gives you lemons, ask for a gift receipt without even feeling bad. That’ll show it.

I am all alone in this world. Insert the pity party you guys are about to throw me _________.

The whole crew's gonna be there - complaining, negativity, even melancholy! Don't let melancholy near the margaritas, though. (Photo from redvinesandredwine.blogspot.com)

Less piñatas, gosh! This is a pity party, for heaven’s sake. And hands off the guacamole and chips while you’re at it. (Why is my pity party Mexican-themed?) If you want to eat, feed on my incessant whining and sorrow.

All alone was probably an irrational thing to say. I’ve got friends, ya know. Can’t forget the cat (like she’d let me). Probably shouldn’t leave my wonderful family out, either. And I suppose I AM surrounded by coworkers eight hours of the day, not to mention I have all of you.

To sum up, the more tiny violins you could play for me, the better, because I see the margaritas are running out, too. Sheesh, who organized this fiesta – it’s like you just started to hastily put it together a minute ago.

In hindsight, I’m not so entirely alone as much as I’m simply without Clayton for a few  more days. Nine to be exact. NINE. That’s more than a week! I counted. He’s in Israel, working, writing me postcards and floating in the Dead Sea while simultaneously taking photos of himself in said sea, thumbs up and all smiles. At least, those are the instructions I gave him before he left. Hope his phone’s salt-proof. Hope he thinks to bring tequila and limes!

Just call me Rico Suave. Now where did I put my visor? (Photo from iocanel.blogspot.com)

I envision the aforementioned postcards to have funny-looking camels in ridiculously tiny hats on the front. Postcards that say something witty, such as: “Like sands through an hourglass, so are the — OMG, camel in a fedora!” and will make me miss him even more because they remind me of how funny and adorable he is, and how much he gets my offbeat sense of humor. And the camels are smiling widely to reveal a set of bulky teeth, but in a really cheesy manner like they just slyly swindled another tourist out of more cash for a camel ride because Americans don’t know the kilometer to mile conversion. And they’re wearing sombreros.

I really can’t escape this theme.

On the upside of this whole situation, I get the bed to myself to sprawl out as far as my short legs will take me, which I suppose isn’t really a game changer after all. I can watch all the rom-coms I want, only having to defend myself from a disdainful-looking Chloe. As if that’s not difficult enough — those eyes are sharp enough to cut through any of Katherine Heigl’s drama.

And painting! I’ll do it!

Someone should really tell him that all that red makes him look unapproachable... (Photo from boomtron.com)

On the downside, I don’t have anyone to make fun of Finding Bigfoot with. (“This could be the episode where they find him!”) Or to snuggle against when I wake up in the middle of the night after bad dreams about X-Men’s Deadpool character. Shiver. That being said, I guess I also don’t have anyone to diligently remind me of the Deadpool nightmare the next evening just as I’m trying to fall asleep. Thanks for that, darling.

Lastly, who’s going to email me daily at work to liven up my workweek with funny pictures stories of past broomball tournament(s) haircuts and instructions on how to build a cat tank?

Anyone willing to email me daily until April 5 going once…

Anyone willing to email me daily until April 5 going twice…

Don’t be shy. ANY ONE will do.

Going thrice…

He…hello?




I am all alone in this world.

How Christmas almost had me committed

When I agreed to be a member of my company’s 2011 Christmas Party Planning Committee, it wasn’t because I was filled with Can’t-Sleep-Only-328-More-Days-Til-Christmas spirit, and it definitely wasn’t out of the altruistic kindness of my heart. I can’t even argue that it was to quietly prove my unwavering dedication for my job to colleagues. No, what I had in mind was far more devious. Self-serving, even. I know – tsk, tsk/shame on me/but it’s Jesus’ birthday!! All that. Let me start at the beginning.

She’s a lawyer, so to say she wasn’t aware of what she was doing is pointless. Like Wendy Peffercorn, she knew exactly what she was doing. I was a pawn in getting what she wanted, and at the time, my agreement in the matter was only maddeningly emboldened by my own personal motives.

She wanted out of the Christmas Party Planning Committee. I wanted nothing more than to avoid just saying Christmas Party Planning Committee. Yuck. What a mouthful of corporate pomposity that is for a supposedly fun group of holiday merriment makers (now THERE’S a real title). And to throw the words “party” and “committee” in one name? 

I should have known right then and there what I was getting into.

If our exchange was a wild hunt, guess which snow white animal I'd be. Thanks for nothing, Darwin.

She approached me in person one late Friday afternoon in February, knowing I’d be miles away from the office in the confines of my mind, a prisoner in this 10×10 cube by nothing more than physicality. Smart. She obviously had studied her prey carefully. Unfocused. Relatively new to the company. A girl. Girls adore organizing fun holiday shenanigans, right? Besides, those vats of coffee on her desk scream “I know partying!”

Which, ok. Right on.

I could have said no to an email. Would have indefinitely. But as she menacingly (maybe not menacingly) blocked off my only escape route from my work-sweet-workspace, she schmoozed her way into a yes, confusing me with cunning lawyer-speak:

“Wanna take my place on the 2011 Christmas Party Planning Committee?” she asked. Calculatingly. Craftily.

“Sure, whatever. I’ll do the thing,” I said waving at her in distracted agreement. It was February. It was FRIDAY!

She flashed what I’m sure was a grateful (evil?) smile and the tails of her cardigan upon quickly disappearing down the hallway before I could even look up as an afterthought to ask what my responsibilities would be. 

She blatantly knew she was doing me a disservice. I did, too, but was temporarily incapable of thinking past the season finale of the Bachelorette. (Team Ben!) And sure – my assuredness that I’d be long gone before having to commit any actual time to the committee may have motivated an overly-enthusiastic response. With plans to relocate in May, I had particular reasons for agreeing to be on the committee. Namely, as a resume builder. In my mind, the interview for my perfect position would inevitably go something like this:

Interviewer: “And do you partake in any after work groups or activities? As communicators within the Red Sox organization, we pride ourselves for being well-rounded, involved stewards of the Boston area community.”
Me: “Why, yes! I happen to be on…” (dramatic pause as I lean forward conspiratorially) “…a committee.”
Interviewer: “A committee! Well I never! One hand flutters to chest as she gasps in incredulity. “What type of committee, you sweet, selfless girl?”
Me: “One of the Christmas party planning variety, as luck would have it.”
Interviewer: “Committing your free time to organizing an event that surely forever resonates in and changes the lives of your colleagues? How wonderfully lovely.”
Me:. “I did, didn’t I?” Chuckles modestly. “I guess I did. But you know? That time of year, it’s really about putting the “Christ” in Christmas, you know?”
Interviewer: “We would all do better to think as nobly as you. I think the bear hug – are we well-acquainted enough for a bear hug? – I’m about to give you sums it up, but HIRED!”
Me: “Bring it in for a big one, lil bear!” 

Then we’d dance in circles hand in hand laughing and screaming in joy like little girls before grabbing a skinny peppermint mocha latte together and gossiping about Jed Lowrie’s beautiful beard.  

I bet he conditions.

While the move never came, the 2011 Christmas Party Planning Committee Meetings did with a vengeance alongside an unmistakable hint that I’d perhaps made a hasty decision: the committee’s co-chairs sent a meeting invite  labeled  “2k11 XMAS Site Approval Mtg.”

Oh, God, I thought in a full-on panic. Engineers!

There are going to be so many Excel spreadsheets.
 

Although the meetings were dispersed in a way that made commitment levels tolerable, there wasn’t a discussion about the party that went by that didn’t have me questioning my sanity while simultaneously silencing the voices in my head screaming “AHHHHHHHH!!!!”

Should we have roast beef or chicken? We could have roast beef AND chicken. No, everyone always has roast beef for Christmas. They do? Well, what about pork? Well, we can’t have TWO white meats – that would be ridiculous. We could have steak and pork. I don’t know, I had a cow and pig as pets as a kid. Daisy and Bacon Bits, we called them. I was very emotionally attached. Of course. Understandable…well, what about chicken fried chicken? What, so our guests think they aren’t good enough for chicken fried steak?! Look, Daisy was a member of our family whether you like it or not! How about we discuss side dishes for a while? As long as there are no bacon bits on the side salads.

As part of the communications and decorations committee (Clearly I don’t know how to say no, even when feeding myself to the wolves – “Well, maybe just a little nibble on my arm. Can’t have you starving, can we, cute little wolf…AHHHHH!!”),  I was mostly just looking forward to December’s light at the end of a dark tunnel of “We’re going to have to reword this; it’s not PC enough [for an informal Christmas party]” and

Gingerbread houses are the fruit cake of Christmas decorations.

“What if we got together one weekend and built gingerbread houses for décor?”

Until, finally the night of the party was upon us, bringing me to the only other reason I said yes to being on the committee –  for a well-deserved half day off to decorate.

Of course on that afternoon, I had a mountain of work to get through. The engineers strongly suggested it could wait, as most of our 2011 Christmas Party Planning Committee had decided their efforts were no longer required and said as much nonverbally by not showing up at our last meeting to volunteer to help out. Nice.

I bit my lip, but not hard enough to stop myself from telling them, “First rule of journalism: the news doesn’t wait for anyone.”

They blinked in apathy, not even remotely getting my subtle Fight Club reference. Engineers.

“Guys, seriously. It’s like the rapture.”

Not a peep. 

I took off work at noon.

Surprisingly enough for everyone on the committee, the party went off without a hitch, with everyone’s sanity still somehow in check. The following Monday, the lawyer came to congratulate me on a job well done.

“Now comes the hardest part of all,” she said with a slight smirk. I looked up inquisitively, the horror clearly etched on my face. It was a common theme now.

“Good luck trying to find a replacement on the committee,” she said, the laughter and wryness in her words almost palpable. As she turned and walked down the hallway, her last words and a string of relieved (evil?) cackles echoed in her midst. “Took me three years!”

I can still hear her laughter on the quietest of winter nights.