I Kid You Not

Kids fascinate me. Their cuteness; their grossness; their individuality. I love watching nature—not nurture—in all its glory.

Recently, I imagined what it would be like if little ones never outgrew their weirdo ways—namely in the work place.

Scene 1: Reese, our man-child, getting his boss’s attention.

“Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren! … Lauren!”

“LAUREN!”

Lauren rushes to wrap up her conversation with Chad and says, “Yes, Reese?”

Reese then balances on one leg and pretends to blow a horn using his thumb.

Lauren stares at him, unamused, and walks away.

Scene 2: A human playground.

Reece runs full speed towards an unsuspecting Tina and jumps on her back—sending them both face-first onto the floor.

Scene 3: Morning needs.

Reece barges into work and declares, “I’m hungry! Lauren, I’m thirsty! Lauren! Hungry! Juice! LAURENNNNN!”

Scene 4: Who’s the boss.

Reese gallops into a meeting on a broomstick—uninvited—and unplugs the projector, disconnects the conference call, and gallops out.

suckas

Scene 5: Clothes are for punks.

Lauren calls Reese in for a meeting.

Lauren: Reese, you have to wear pants. You also have to wear underwear. You have to wear both. This is not up for discussion.
Reece: But whyyy?
Lauren: Because you have to. You can’t run around the office naked from the waist down. Do you see anyone else doing that? We’re not debating this. Clear?

Reece’s chin hits his chest and he crosses his arms as hard as he can while pushing his lips out.

Later, during an afternoon meeting, Reece seems to have complied with Lauren’s orders, though not without over-dramatized pouting. But when the meeting wraps and everyone pushes away from the conference table, Reece emerges with no pants or underwear—and a creepy grin as he runs away from Lauren.

Scene 6: Color commentating.

Reece walks around the office, seemingly normal, then assumes a snow ski stance, lets one fly and yells, “Silent but violent!”

Scene 7: Such a melodious sound.

Reece, as a means to expel energy—and generally annoy everyone—unhinges his jaw and unleashes a long, ear-splitting scream.

Lauren tells him, “NO. NO SIR.” Reece complies for just under two minutes, then does it again. Lauren tells him, in no uncertain terms, that screaming is neither appropriate nor acceptable. Reece manages to keep the next blood-curdling scream in for about 10 minutes.

britbigeyes

Scene 8: Sudden, unexplained shyness.

Reese is talking, making noises and doing anything he can to get attention, so Lauren says, “Reese? Did you want to elaborate on the new process?” Reese then dips his chin and pretends to talk, but all you see is his shifty eyes and moving lips—but absolutely no sound coming out.

Scene 9: What’s yours is mine.

While sitting at the lunch table, Reece grabs the glasses off of Alice’s face and shoves them onto Nathan’s—poking him in the eye.

Scene 10: An answer for everything.

Lauren: Reece, were you able to run that report?
Reece: Blaaaaaaaah, poop!
Lauren: What? Reece, come on. Yes or no? We need it for the 2:00 meeting. Will you please get it done so we can inform the team?
Reece: Poop! Booger poop! You eat poop boogers!

Scene 11: Reece the boomerang.

Lauren and Reece wrap up their weekly meeting and Reece leaves. He comes back into Lauren’s office 15 minutes later.

Lauren: What’s up?
Reece: I’m thirsty.
Lauren: Okay, go get a drink—but then I need you back at your desk.

Ten minutes later, Reece slinks back into Lauren’s office, with an insecure, semi-creepy walk.

Lauren: Reece. What is it?
Reece: I can’t work.
Lauren: WHY NOT.
Reece: I’m scared.
Lauren: Scared? Scared of what?
Reece: I’m scared Sara is hiding under my desk.
Lauren: Sara? Sara Lawrence? Why would she be under your desk? Why don’t you just look under and see that she’s not there?
Reece: No, you.

Lauren gets up, exasperated, and leads Reece back to his desk. She makes a big production out of looking under the desk and proclaiming, “Nope. No Sara.”

Fifteen minutes later, Reece is back in Lauren’s office. Lauren just stares, defeated.

Reece: My chair is uncomfortable. It feels funny.

not_amused

Scene 12: Working lunch.

Lauren: Thanks everyone for tolerating another lunch meeting. Hopefully these sandwiches make up for having to stay in. Let’s go ahead and get started. As you all know, we …

Cut to Reece purposefully dropping his sandwich on the floor, staring right at Lauren and saying, “Uh-oh.”

Lauren gathers her patience, hands Reece another triangle of sandwich and returns to her intro. Reece holds his hand high outside his body and drops his can of Coke, “Uh-oh.”

Scene 13: The highest form of flattery.

Lauren: Hey Reece, stop by when you get a sec.
Reece: Hey Reece, stop by when you get a sec.
Lauren: What? Really, I need another set of eyes on the graph I’m showing Will next week.
Reece: What? Really, I need another set of eyes on the graph I’m showing Will next week.

grrr

Scene 14: The heart wants what it wants.

Sara: Hi-ya, Reece. Here’s your copy of the report for the meeting.
Reece: But I wanted my copy on blue paper.
Sara: Um, blue paper? We don’t make copies on blue paper.
Reece: But I wanted it on blue!
Sara: Look, it has the information you need—that’s what’s important.
Reece: BLUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Scene 15: Adventurous palate.

Lauren: I’m so happy we could all get away from the office and celebrate an amazing quarter. Here’s to eating, drinking and being merry!
Waiter: What could I get you, Ma’am?
Sara: Hi. I’ll have the filet, medium rare, asparagus and the Dijon mashed potatoes.
Waiter: And you, Ma’am?
Lauren: I’ll have the Portobello gnocchi, and a salad with the house dressing.
Waiter: Nice. Sir, what’ll you have?
Nathan: Let me get the pork shank, risotto and the bacon jam Brussels sprouts, please.
Waiter: Great choice. And you, Sir?
Reece: Chicken strips and a large chocolate milk.

Scene 16: Say Cheese!

In every picture taken, Reece’s fake smile looks like someone told him to show all 32 teeth and look as surprised as he would if an 18-wheeler was heading directly at him.

Sweet Sam. This phase will last a full year.

Scene 17: Let’s GO.

Nathan: Say, Reece, you ready to go down to the presentation?
Reece: Yeah. I mean no. I’m a helicopter.
Nathan (5 minutes later): Reece, come on man, we need to head down or we’re gonna be late.
Reece: Yeah, ‘k. (continues being a helicopter)
Nathan: (2 minutes later): We have to go. Now. I’m leaving, so come on if you’re coming. And get your notebook.
Reece: (stands there, slumped over, with his arms hanging all the way to his feet) I’m cominggggg, ugh! (continues to stand)
Nathan: That’s it, I’m leaving. Do what you want. (walks off)
Reece: WAAAIIITTT!! NATHAN WAIT! NATHAAAAAAAAAAAAN! (runs for Nathan and lunges, throwing his arms around Nathan’s mid-stride leg)

Scene 18: Storytelling.

Lauren: Hey gang, good meeting. Before we head back to our desks, I wondered if Reece and Claire wanted to tell us about their experience at the conference this week. Guys?

Reece: Yeah, so, so, so, so when, when, when we, we like – like it was yesterday and we, we had, we went, when we went to …
Claire: Yeah, we headed into Stratton Hall and …
Reece: ME! I’m telling it! I’m telling the story!
Claire: Fine, tell it.
Reece: So like we, we, we went and when we went, we … Stop Nathan! Nathan’s making faces at me! Stop it! Stop making faces!”

Scene 19: Name calling.

Lauren: Thanks for coming in guys. I understand the two of you are having some difficulties relating to one another and I thought we’d see if we can come to an agreement today. Nathan, why don’t you tell me a little about the circumstances that led to yesterday’s confrontation.
Nathan: Sure. I approached Reece about the email he sent to …
Reece: You’re stupid. You’re a dumb stupid-head.
Nathan (hands in the air): See? This is what I’m dealing with—and he’s done this in front of clients.
Reece: Because you’re an idiot dumb-dumb poopy diaper face.

Yeah, so the next time you want to throttle a co-worker for making your work life twice as hard as it should be, just be thankful they wear pants and don’t ask you to nurse them during a meeting.

Let’s link up on Facebook and Twitter!

 

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When I Grow Up

I have a good job at a place I rarely, if ever, dread going. Every weekday morning, before 7am, I make my trek in from our building’s covered parking—happy, upbeat and feeling blessed. I work with some wonderful people, perform my job on a beloved iMac and feel fortunate to have health benefits, a pension and relative stability. We’re allowed to wear jeans any day we like, and our ice machines have pellet ice. I repeat … our ice machines have awesome, Sonic-like, pellet ice. I’ve got it pretty good.

So why, for the love of all that is Holy, can’t I shake the fact that I’d like to be a short-order cook?

The idea makes me swoon—the big, industrial-sized cooktop and griddle that’s become perfectly seasoned through the years; the even heat and its eagerness to cook things at my pace; its willingness to accommodate slower-cooking things off to the side, without being demanding.

Combining this type of cooking with the sheer joy of preparing amazing food for appreciative people is a one-two punch I can get down with.

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I imagine myself at a place similar to this small, greasy spoon we used to frequent up in the Pacific Northwest, where the only seating was around the half-moon bar. The cook was right out in the open, sort of like a bartender, but with his back to us. It was fascinating to watch him cook and coordinate the meals of a couple dozen people.

My establishment would be similar, and I’d have lots of regulars. They’d be flattered at how quickly I’d remember their preferences, and their undying loyalty would soon follow. Henry likes his potatoes well-done. Jane doesn’t like her food touching. Paul prefers me to break his over-easy eggs. And Kenny? Well, Kenny’s a writer and likes his 3-egg omelet folded like an envelope. He’s a little finicky, but he means well and tips well, so—no harm, no foul.

At Westside (the name of my diner), we’d be known for our breakfasts, but people would also come in weekly for burgers and my famous fries and homemade dipping sauces.

I’m an early bird, so I’d open for breakfast at 6am and stay open through lunch—that’s it. Westside would be such a popular place that I’d always have inquisitive, well-intentioned people wondering why on Earth I wasn’t open for dinner … didn’t I know how much more money I could make? But I’d prefer it exactly how it was—busy, people eagerly waiting for an open spot, everyone happy, regulars coming back again and again. And I’d still have a life outside of the diner.

But I think I can do better than this dream, because I have another secret desire.

Farming.

No, not just living on a farm, but actually farming. It appeals to me in nearly every way (I say this while acknowledging I know very little about farming life, but of course, I used to say the same thing about thug life and we all know how that turned out). Here are the few things I know—besides just loving farms and farm houses—that lead me to harbor this now not-so-secret desire. (Oh, and please note, while the diner would be called Westside, the farm would be called Westward. Sshh, just let me dream.)

Drool.  photo credit: shutterstock

Drool.
photo credit: shutterstock

In every sense of the word, I’m a morning person. I’m happy to wake up to a new day; I’m at my best in the morning; I thoroughly relish using early morning hours to accomplish things and I simply find mornings beautiful, while noticing and feeling blessings twice as much in these early hours, before the day gets busy.

I also love the idea of being on a tractor all day. When I’m driving and I see a tractor out in the fields, I get all dreamy and wishy and jealous. I thoroughly enjoy activities and chores where I can just think or pray or make myself laugh with a hilarious stand-up routine in my head (you wouldn’t believe how entertaining I think I am.) I also love listening to music and audiobooks—two things I could do all day while tilling the fields. I was made to drive a tractor—it’s now so clear to me.

Side Note: I really hope “tilling the fields” is legit farm talk, but I have this nagging feeling it’s not.

Let it be me

Let it be me

Also, my favorite chores are the ones where you can see actual progress and change—mowing, edging, dusting, trimming trees. My entire being gets genuine pleasure from cleaning and clearing away. Sometimes when we walk in the early evening, we’ll pass trees that have branches in need of a trim and I can barely keep myself from scheming ways to come back and do a little snip-snip after dark. I know in my heart it would make everyone happier, but I’ve been told that it’s called trespassing.

As I’ve touched on before, I’m not a tried and true dog person (just in that my love for them isn’t so unconditional that I’ll ever want to snuggle after they’ve lapped up toilet water and I’ll never feel as if my life isn’t complete without a dog), BUT, I am an animal person, so tending to chickens and cows (and maybe a donkey and some goats) appeals to me.

Actually, as I sit here and think about it, I bet living on a farm would bring my dog side out; because, while a domesticated, shedding, house dog—who likes licking himself—doesn’t move me, a work dog does. If he’s my work buddy—sign me up and I’ll name him Barley or maybe Dutch. I love the idea of throwing open the truck gate and whistling for him to jump in. He’s not my kitchen buddy, but he’s my field buddy and I love him already.

And I know I usually say my favorite kind of cat is the kind that’s actually an owl, but I think on the farm, I could probably enjoy a couple of outdoor cats. I sure don’t want one slinking around under my bed or sitting in the window judging me, but I wouldn’t mind one that nabs mice and snakes for us.

Some people watch an executive give a presentation—and dream of being her … dream of the corner office, the attention and pressure being on them, the accolades, being the keynote speaker; but, I see a farmer on a tractor and dream of getting up at dawn, wearing flannel, naming my animals, driving a John Deere and eating three squares a day.

I also dream of canning.

photo credit: wikipedia

photo credit: wikipedia

Side Note: My affinity for farm clothes is two-fold. The obvious appeal is that they’re practical and comfortable. But there is also something quite thrilling about hearing, “Well you sure clean up nice!” when I change to go out.

Ideally, life on the farm would include a huge vegetable and herb garden … and living off the land as much as possible. Being able to combine growing our own veggies with comprehensive, monthly Costco trips is the best of both worlds. Sure, we’d never get to pop in Costco for a block of Gouda—because we don’t get into town that often—but when we did go, we could use the flatbed cart to haul our bounty of bulk.

So this brings me to why I can do better than being a short-order cook at Westside … and why it’s a beautiful thing when dreams collide.

In our amazing farm house (it might even be magazine worthy), I’d have a huge, restaurant-quality, gas cooktop and griddle. I’d get to cook for us and for any workers or visitors we had. Cooking AND farming. So. Much. Yes.

If my days could play out something like this:
-Wake up early to start the coffee and feed Nelly, Delilah, Bishop and the gang
-Wield spatulas as I make a big breakfast on the griddle—eggs, potatoes, pancakes, bacon
-Do chores, tend to the garden, fix things
-Make a good lunch
-Do more farm things
-Make an awesome dinner
-Enjoy a beer on the beautiful, expansive porch while visiting and watching the sunset
-Write another chapter of my manuscript
-Go to bed at a decent hour

… then I can’t imagine not getting a “Life Is Good” tattoo on my back, or an “Oh Happy Day” one on the inside of my wrist—or both.

I know, I know—stop wishing and go for it, right? Not now. For the time being, I’ll keep being happy with my pellet ice and steady paycheck. Also, I now have an outdoor Blackstone Griddle I can get my cooking fix on—and we have a new, huge garden bed we’ll get into in the spring.

Look at this crazy goodness. My heart is all aflutter!

Look at this crazy goodness. My heart is all aflutter!

Baby steps. Besides, wielding those spatulas takes a lot of practice. I was making chicken fajitas on the Blackstone this summer and I went to scoop up and turn over a big pile of sliced Serrano peppers and accidentally tossed the whole pile right over my shoulder. Every one of them landed on the patio in one smooth, synchronized move. I think we all know that the diner and the farm deserve better than that.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook and Twitter … it’s good for your health.

The Disappearance of Discretion

I value discretion.

But it seems as if this era of over-sharing and perpetual TMI has caused those around me to lose their privacy compass. I’m not paid to be the Decorum Police—just happily volunteering my time as a public service.

It all started several years ago when I worked in an “open cube” environment, which meant our work cubicles were no more than a low border around our desk and work area. You could see the entire floor while seated in your chair. This afforded us no privacy whatsoever.

cubes

Because of the floor plan, the cutting edge thinkers of the department designated an open desk at the end of our row as a place where we could “make personal phone calls.” Since it was an exact replica of our occupied desks, it offered precisely the same lack of privacy. I never said, “I need to call and dispute this ‘shake weight’ charge on my debit card, but it’s a private matter, so I better go use the phone 6 steps away.”

Most of us didn’t use it—as we understood that its intended purpose was illogical. However, one co-worker (we’ll call her Jules) took it all at face value and proceeded to call her veterinarian about one of her cats.

I missed the first part of the conversation but gained full consciousness when I heard, “Yes, I believe it’s an abscessed anal sac.”

We were all looking quickly back and forth at one another with shocked, frightened eyes. Unfortunately, the person on the other end of the phone didn’t hear her, because she let it fly again, “Yes Sir, an abscessed anal sac.”

And now a beautiful third time, as she decided to go for broke, “ABSCESSED! ANAL! SAC!”

At this point we were all doubled over, silent heave-laughing ourselves into a solid ab workout. We were losing it. As soon as Jules hung up, we all corrected our posture and feigned concentration on our work. She was a crazy coo-coo bird, but very sweet and none of us wanted to hurt her feelings—so we covered ourselves pretty well.

And that is part of the problem. With all the other moments and experiences with Jules, this is really all that stands out in my mind when I hear her name. No, not the memory of her yelling it, but the actual visual of a cat’s abscessed anal sac. And guess what? I don’t know what that looks like, so this horrific visual, right or wrong, haunts me to this day. I probably have the sac part all wrong—but either way, it is not a sight to behold.

So here is the lesson. Medical issues typically do not have favorable names. If you feel yourself about to say something involving the words abscessed, fissure, polyp, boil or puss—and your audience is not someone with which you share an address or a mother—you back that truck up.

jbateman

Additionally, if you need to make a phone call at work (yes, even to your doctor) and any of the aforementioned words might see the light of day, put those two legs to use and walk away from earshot of any and all co-workers. This is non-negotiable. I don’t care if you share a wall with someone who seems to love discussing digestive regularity with you, go make the phone call in private. I can assure you that someone who is seemingly okay with excrement talk would draw the line at rectal fissures.

While we’re talking about what is and isn’t permissible at the office (and in public), let me tell y’all what—in my ideal world—a work restroom would be for. Ridding yourself of LIQUID, washing your hands and giving yourself a quick once-over in the mirror. The flossing, brushing, plucking and various other stuff would ideally be addressed in your home bathroom.

It might sound critical, but I just cringe when I walk in the work restroom and see someone leaning over the sink, brushing her teeth. To do something hygienic in such an unhygienic public restroom seems counterproductive. Dentists themselves recommend brushing twice daily, and I can think of two awesome times and places for that—in the morning AT YOUR HOUSE and at night AT YOUR HOUSE.

Worthy side note: My friend had an employee who used nail clippers in his cube … wait for it … on his toenails. That is a technical foul of the highest order. (notice I said “had” an employee)

This may shock some of you chronic over-sharers, but sometimes even talking about your cold or sinuses treads into TMI territory. A good rule of thumb: telling someone you have a cold or sinus pressure is typically enough to paint us a proper picture. I’ll have a good grasp of your snot situation without you actually quantifying it for me in measurable amounts.

The truth is, we’re already shoved together at work with people we’d probably not spend time with, if given a choice. We’re exposed to each others’ habits, sneezes and snacking. We hear about relationship issues, family feuds and financial woes. Do we really have to also hear about Carol’s bowel movements?

“You guys! Did you hear?! The African Roobio tea worked! Carol moved her bowels!”

You’re never going to hear me lamenting not being in-the-know on that nugget of information. “What?! Carol moved her bowels? When? Where? Why didn’t she tell me? Why’d I have to find out with the rest of the department? Carol SUCKS!”

Ah, the second-hand deliverer of TMI.

“Do you guys have any idea what Delores has been through with potty-training her new puppy? He has literally gone #1 and #2 in every room of the house. She’s at her wits end, you guys. They may have to rip out all their carpet. And this is on top of the issues she’s always had with Whiskers having accidents in the kitchen.”

Me: “Wait. You mean the Delores who who brings all the dishes to our potlucks?”

The second-hand deliverer of TMI—who also wants to be a hero:

“You guys, start sending good vibes now—Danny is giving a semen sample as we speak. He and Lauren think their infertility issues might be his low sperm count.”

Me: “I’m sorry, what? Are you sure Danny really wants us thinking of him at this moment and do you really believe he wants information about his swimmers making its way across our department?”

Look, all I’m asking for is a little discretion. We’re all human beings with issues and things that must be dealt with and tended to. Without a doubt, some things are unavoidable—no two ways about it. My problem with the disappearance of discretion is that 90% of the time it’s just laziness. Scoring a productive nose-blow at your table in a restaurant is lazy. Yelling at your ex over the phone at work is lazy.

Yes, please use Instagram and Facebook to share your life with us, but please don’t feel like you have to share your credit score, your post-colonoscopy side effects or anything involving anal sacs—abscessed or not.

Please join me on Facebook and Twitter!

Sweet Nothings

I was just trucking along, enjoying a nice day at work when it happened. A few co-workers passed me in the hall and excitedly announced there was dessert in the conference room, as they opened up their circle to usher me in.

“Oh, thanks so much—but I’m good.”
“What? Oh come on! A little sugar rush won’t kill you!”
“No, it won’t—I agree—I just don’t have a sweet tooth.”

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You’d have thought I just announced plans to vandalize a nursing home or light myself on fire and run through the building yelling “Pain is weakness leaving the body!”

They continued the interrogation.

“But you work out! I’m sure one piece of cake won’t hurt you that much!”
“Oh, it’s not a fitness thing—I genuinely don’t like sweets.”

Then they exchanged accusatory, almost condescending looks.

I continued, unsure of why I even had to justify anything, “I’m serious! Trust me, if I liked them, I’d be sunk. I have very little self control when it comes to spicy or salty foods. Just ask every waiter at every Mexican restaurant we frequent—they’ve learned to just leave the pitcher of salsa at the table.”

Then the group leader—we’ll call her CathyCarrotCake—took this information as a personal affront and resorted to the move I’ve seen a dozen times. She copped the, “Hey Everyone, I’ve got a HUGE announcement” stance and paired it with an endearing snarky tone.

“Oh, OK! OK! Hey Everyone! Annnnnna doesn’t like sweeeeeets! (She put “doesn’t like” in air quotes to indicate fraudulence.) Isn’t she just the bees freakin’ knees?!!!”

What? Why?! I’ve never understood why my not liking sweets elicits such ire in certain people. They might as well clink their glass for a toast and announce, “Hey Everyone! Listen up! Annnnna hates the Constitution and animal shelters!”

I don’t get it. I’m not keeping anyone from their Krispy Kreme donuts. I simply don’t like desserts—or regular food that’s sweet (I’m looking at you, sweet and sour meatballs). I don’t even like sweet-smelling candles. When I walk in a room that smells like wax-created caramel creme brulee, I become disoriented and start flinging myself in circles, shaking my head no-no-no as I feel around for the nearest exit. I can’t help it—my body simply rejects sweets.

On an unforeseen rare occasion, a cookie or cupcake (without icing) will look relatively appetizing. I’ll think, “Hmm. Well this is unexpected, but I really think I can do this.” It’ll even taste pretty decent at first, but 2-3 bites in and I’m pushing it away—rejecting its very existence.

Reluctant full disclosure of the week: I have found, for reasons that elude me, that I can put away some bread pudding—go figure.

It’s just that by and large, I never crave sweets and I’d never pick a danish over a salt bagel, a brownie over buffalo wings or cake over chips and salsa.

noms

I could understand people’s irritation if I claimed oxygen was overrated, but to get bent out of shape because I don’t want a snickerdoodle? I’m at a loss.

Tell you what—omit the sugar and replace it with wasabi and I’m on-it-like-a-bonnet. Bake a cake with Sriracha and I’ll polish it off without breathing or looking up. But hide your children because it won’t be pretty.

“Hey, wanna run to Sonic and get a milkshake?”
“Do they have pickle shakes?”
“Gross, no.”
“Olive shakes?”
“No—gag.”
“Then probably not, no.”
“They have chocolate and vanilla, stuff like that.”
“Can they replace the vanilla with Tabasco?”
“Get away from me.”

This reminds me of the time Jocelyn walked in the kitchen and I had my head back, slamming the last bit of pickle juice from a jar of baby dills.

“You know that’s disgusting, right?”
“Yes. If by disgusting you mean Liquid Heaven.”

All I ask is for some common courtesy or basic manners. I don’t go around saying, “What did you just say? WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY? You don’t like habaneros or anything above 8,000 on the Scoville heat scale? Why don’t you just stick an ice pick in my ear canal because I don’t want to hear this crap!”

Like, just be normal. We don’t have to like the same stuff. I won’t relegate you to an outer circle forever simply because, unlike me, you have met an olive you don’t like. If the most heat you can handle is ketchup—no problem—more heat for me. I’m not gonna pin you down and make you explain yourself to the group.

That would be awesome though. Imagine me physically pinning you down—yelling, “Say it! Tell everyone why sodium and cayenne aren’t in your diet, CathyCarrotCake!!! Tell them what you said about Frank’s Hot Sauce! Explain to this lovely group why you don’t like your bloody marys spicy!”

You laugh, but that’s sort of what it feels like when someone gets all haughty about sweets and dessert. For some reason, they assume I’m being prim and proper. But really, I’m pretty sure eating fresh serrano peppers is more badassy than eating macaroons. So who’s really the goody-two-shoes here?

And on that note, it’s time for our monthly birthday celebration at work, where I’ll go pretend to eat a brownie, while actually just chewing on cinnamon gum.

I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.

I’ve Got Issues

I need to get some stuff off my chest.

This may all seem a bit random, but upon closer inspection, I think you’ll agree that it
speaks to the bigger picture of us creating a world we actually want to live in. Not just
live in—but frolic in.

Successfully traversing our days is tricky enough without humans making it more
difficult—by using phrases like “FYI.” At a quick glance, there is nothing harmful about
this acronym; however, if your favorite kind of reading is “reading into everything,” these
three letters pose a problem.

Many people see “FYI” as the subject line of an email and immediately know it’s
a “heads up.” They positively assume it’s an email created to impart valuable
information that will assist with an assignment or situation. But, the avid reader-into-
everything will hear it in her head as “for your inforMATION” (complete with cocky
head swivel) and immediately spiral into self-doubt and loathing. She will morph into
alert guard dog mode, ready to pounce the offender. In her head she is saying, “For
MY information? For YOUR information, CHUMP.” (I don’t even know if we say chump
anymore.)

FYI: I miss Claire Huxtable.

FYI: I miss Claire Huxtable.

Instead of reading further and seeing, “FYI—everyone’s getting to dinner at 6:00—let’s
go earlier so you can tell me about your vacation!” … she’s already imagining the sender
bursting into flames.

Simply put, we should banish this acronym. It’s not holding its value. It’s not worth the
trouble and angst.

This brings me to an even bigger issue. Car horns. Why on Earth don’t we have three
horn options in every car? One kind could be what we have now—the horn that bellows
bone-jarring alarm to other drivers. This one would be strictly for safety issues.

Essentially, it would impart this information: “My brakes are broken!” or “Speeding teen
at 3:00!” or “Mattress in the intersection! Mattress in the intersection!” You get the idea.
And since we all know safety is no accident, this horn remains an indispensable part to
every car.

People will need to be trained on the different horns in order for us to retrain our
reactions. Since the current universal horn will become the “Look out for that log!” horn,
we’ll need a second that means, “Hey Jackhole, the left lane is for passing, not strolling
at 45 while texting your homies.” In time, it will probably be called the “bird horn,” since
it’s more or less the audible equivalent to flipping the bird to other drivers. Knowing this
from the outset, it should also sound like a bird. Maybe a crow or vulture—just thinking
out loud here. As a quick aside, this one will not be available to teenagers.

On the flip-side to all this anger and danger, I believe we need an additional horn—
one that indicates, “Hey Friend, your tail light’s out” or “Gas cap’s off, Neighbor” and
finally, “Your blinker’s been on for 8 miles, Sweet Cheeks.” This nicer horn would almost
be like you’re tipping your cowboy hat to them in a friendly cowboy way. The sound
would not be jarring or sound like a rabid dog barking at a precious bunny. It would be
more of a tweet or hoot. People would soon learn that getting the tweet-hoot should
never cause outrage. In time, we’d never be galled by this particular horn. In fact, uses
of it might make it into Liberty Mutual’s next commercial, where people are helping
people. I have chills already.

hattip

Speaking of cars, there seems to be two kinds of blinker users. One group believes it
gives them the thumbs-up to do absolutely anything they want, simply because they
indicated their intentions with their turn signal. The other faction uses it as a request,
continuing their straight path and never making a move until someone along the way
grants permission. I’d like to live in a society where blinker users fall somewhere in the
middle of these two maddening extremes.

lone cart

Lastly, I am appalled by people who don’t return their grocery carts. When I witness it in
action—whether it’s someone simply transferring groceries from the basket to their car
and leaving it there, or someone moving it just far enough away from their car to get by
it—I am more affronted than if they took an open hand to the side of my face. Seriously,
the little move where they pretend to be doing their part by popping the two front wheels
up on a curb makes me want to tear my robe. At a minimum, I want to slow-applaud
really high in the air as I walk towards them, marveling at the time and energy saved,
telling them how proud I am to have them as a fellow American—with sarcasm and
disgust dripping from my lips like venom.

By and large, my dirty looks don’t make a difference. I can wind my face up into levels
of dismay fit for looks-of-dismay competitions and get no where. I can shake my head
back and forth in complete revulsion to no avail. But finally, the other day, it worked.

This is where I found success: I left my mouth slightly agape and registered serious,
inquisitive eyes while looking from the lady, to the cart and back—three times total.
Maybe four. We had a moment and she sat her purse down in the driver’s seat and took
the cart to its proper station. Instead of making a solid moment awkward, I simply got
in my car, let my heart swell with good citizenship gladness, and waited until she was
back in hers. I made eye contact and tweet-hooted my polite horn, while tipping my hat
to her, as if to say, “Good day, kind lady, good day.”

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Fielding My Tribe

I love to sit in meetings and field a team. If it’s a smaller meeting with a mix of people I do and don’t know, I’ll just determine who I want for a flag football team. Easy enough. It’s not difficult for me to peg a great defensive tackle or crafty wide receiver. Not much more to picking this team than looking for athleticism, a little endurance, a good attitude and a willingness to have a good time.

If, however, the meeting is bigger and I’m encircled with strangers, I prefer to up the ante and imagine I’m stranded on a deserted island with a group of people and we have a finite amount of time to escape if we want to survive.

Time to pick my tribe.

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This is no joke and must be treated as such. At this point, I will mentally check out of the meeting and embark on a mission to assess the strengths and weaknesses among the group. I will begin to decipher, to the best of my ability, who would surprise or disappoint me. I enter a world of scouting out skills, strengths, hidden talents, stamina, attitude and desire.

Only an amateur would think this could be done by looking at physiques, current position or hierarchy. No. Sometimes the lowest person on the career totem pole is actually the only one in the entire tribe who could squat for hours on end, rubbing sticks together for fire without having a total meltdown. I’ve even been in meetings where a senior admin or detail assistant was my number one pick, based on what I perceived to be an invaluable ability to set up camp efficiently and dole out rations, without fanfare or need for recognition.

Most often, the leader of the meeting or the one who has the floor is not anywhere in my line-up. Deep down I know that she has grown soft and lost the necessary skills to actually survive. She’s accustomed to merely sounding knowledgeable, rather than being a true expert. She’s become dependant on delegating; however, underneath it all, her house is a wreck, her children are terrors and her husband is getting loved on once every two months, begrudgingly. This is not a woman I want in my tribe.

We’ll have many needs as a stranded people. Basic survival skills are incredibly important, but so are brains, logic, attitude and determination. I never know what kind of challenges my tribe will face during our unknown time on the island, so I’ll need to assemble a cornucopia of talent that can handle any task.

I like to believe I have the ability to spot people’s hidden talents. I have thought more than once, “I bet that lady can spear a fish with acute accuracy.” It is not uncommon to imagine that a particular woman could survive on very little sleep while maintaining the focus of an elite quarterback in the 4th quarter, down by 14. I realize these are gifts that many others don’t posses and I’m thankful I can peg the babies of the group and the brats who wouldn’t step up when faced with adversity or even death.

Another thing to consider is body temperature. This one is tricky. Sure, the island is tropically comfortable by day, but it’s bitter cold at night. I’ll need a group that is well-balanced with cold-and hot-natured people. About the only way to assess this is by looking for people doing extreme things in a temperature-regulated conference room. The lady who is fanning herself with a notepad will be a problem during the heat of the day, but an asset at night, as people can warm themselves next to her. The woman who has on a cardigan but is still hugging herself and rocking rhythmically will be comfortable during the day and have an excess of energy to use towards being productive. She will be a go-getter and not off in the shade for hours trying to cool herself. The importance of balancing these types of people cannot be measured, yet a rookie might overlook it and end up with a vastly insufficient tribe.

Let’s discuss smarts. I’m extremely careful about the I.Q.’s I choose. Inevitably there will be people I lean towards because I know and enjoy them, but I make absolutely sure I’m using my head more than my heart. If I pick a dim light, she could very well end up covered in poison ivy, rendering her virtually useless for a few precious days. Imagine the travesty of her becoming overjoyed by the abundance of coconuts, realizing all too late that they’re a natural laxative. Nothing puts someone out of commission like foolishly tanking up on a diuretic. Therefore, in scanning the room for possible tribemates, I try to remember that the person I love to discuss American Idol with may also be the one who will drink salt water.

Here are a few random things I’m mindful of as I scan potentials. When I see a self-soother—someone massaging her own hands, knees or ears—I promptly place her in the yes column. She is self-sufficient and she is a survivor. Additionally, I always choose one or more of the rare guys attending the meeting. More than likely he’ll have a utility knife (and tweezers, bottle opener and wrench) as well as natural strength and an innate ability to hunt and keep watch for a good portion of the night. I never pass up a male tribemate—ever.

I’ve come to grips with the fact that some bug eating will take place. Marooned folks never know what fruit or berries the island will offer and bugs are a wonderful source of protein—something everyone will need in order to maintain the energy to escape. Because of this disgust-inducing fact, I make sure not to choose anyone too girlie or easily grossed out. No one wants to eat bugs, so the last thing I need is someone squealing “Eww! Eww!” and recoiling in horror as I reluctantly chomp on a beetle’s thorax.

I have been in meetings where I knew the group I assembled would make it out alive—whether from an exotic island in Fiji or snake island in Brazil. But I’ve also had to choose from inferior groups where I did the best I could with what I had and still knew in my heart of hearts we would perish. I do not leave those meetings with a good feeling—or with any idea what the meeting was about.

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