Old G

Playful

Old G is far from playful these days.  He is, in fact, downright grumpy. 

Just today, I walked into the office and was greeted with a bah-humbug-its-Monday type of hello. It’s nothing new or surprising.  This endearing mix of a grunt and a one handed wave of recognition is what welcomes me into work most lately.  It is also what triggered an increase in my time dedicated to casually observing/spying on my co-worker.

spy

 

My study of the indigenous male, known as Old G, revealed the following:

He starts the day by staring at his email on the computer screen for a few hours.  This gets him through to lunch. The screen rarely changes.  A spam email occasionally pops up.  When this happens, Old G slowly raises his head from his chest and brings his hand to the mouse to open the important message with savings from Kohl’s or a change in the member benefits from a gym to which he does not belong. He clicks on the delete button and returns to his previous position. 

Sometimes I send him a test email to see if he is awake.  When he doesn’t look up, I question whether the test is still effective.  Then I call him on the phone from a blocked number. *67 or is it *69?  I get the numbers mixed up which skews the test results. 

Old G sees its me calling and asks, “Puney, what do you want?”

I have to play it cool and say, “My bad,” and wait until he falls back into his relaxed state so I can resume the study.

He gets other calls through the day from his wife, cousin, mother, mother-in-law, ect.  The list is quite extensive of these personal callers to whom he always speaks in the same secretive and hushed tones, perhaps afraid of someone eavesdropping on his boring conversations.  He forgets that I have excellent hearing, especially when it comes to listening to his personal phone calls.  If I had more time, I would inventory these callers and the nature of the calls but I have the work of two people to keep up with while he naps and whispers the day away.

Fortunately, I have broad shoulders on which to bear this burden.  All I want out of the deal in which I do all of the work and Old G chills out at his desk is a little smile and friendly wave.  My study concludes with the certain knowledge that Old G is capable of at least this much.

Taking Flight

taking flight

“Do you have time?”

My supervisor always starts the same way. This is her lead-in to asking me for a quick chat which inevitably is neither quick nor a chat. It is more of a one-way conversation that usually builds to something disciplinary or a request for work on a new project.

Let’s cut the small talk and get to business, I mentally plead with her. I watch the long black hands of the clock over her shoulder. They continue to move forward while I am motionless other than the nodding of my head.

“Yes, I’m listening. Please continue.”

She has spotted my eyes dropping, just ever so briefly, more like an extended blink than anything. She does not appear happy by this observation. She has been talking for seven minutes now. I am still waiting for the main course of this meal to be delivered.

The main course never arrives which cannot be good. I am Gretel in the witch’s trap, she has just reached through the bars and squeezed my arm. Not fat enough yet. She will wait another few days, continue to feed me sweets and check again.

She has the time to wait. She does not know, however, that we do not share this in common. I am at the edge of wrinkle in time, straddling two worlds, and picking sides.

My hourglass is running out of sand and ready to be flipped, so let’s get moving.

Before I leave, I stop at the door with my bags over my shoulder, filled with anxiety so uncontrolled it forms it forms a feathered shape and prepares to take flight.

“Wasn’t there something you needed to discuss?”

“Oh right,” she says, “It can wait.”

Perhaps it can, but can I?

 

image: krugerparkgamereserves.com

Hirsute Roommates

mad cat

Most days I work from home.

Sure, I miss going to the office to see other people and a different set of walls that those of my home. However, I don’t miss getting up early, scraping ice from my car every morning, fighting traffic, or micromanagement. I get up a little later, power up my computer and am suddenly “at work”. I take breaks for laundry or to grab a coffee with a friend and leave as needed for meetings and home visits with clients.

It’s a mostly perfect arrangement, aside from three problems, the roommates.

They never leave. This is naturally very exhausting so they spend most of their time sleeping. When they are awake, they are fully energized for at least a half an hour of chaos and disruption. Even worse, they use discretion in choosing their times of mayhem, which is generally limited to when I’m on the phone with my supervisor, a client in crisis, or a conference call.

Just yesterday, I was on the phone with someone who was about to lose her home. She was crying and explaining how it all happened when the gang came barreling down the hallway. The two sisters were chasing Big White like cheetahs racing across the savanna after a doomed antelope. Big White ran for her life and leapt onto the table for my protection.

In her big clumsy hurry, she knocked my coffee mug over. The cheetah sisters followed Big White’s trajectory onto the table and over it after her as she continued to flee, now drenched in coffee. I muted the call and fortunately, the woman had a quite a story to share and was none the wiser. It was about this time that the sisters overtook Big White and a terrific fight ensued.

They were all put into the backroom from which they promptly escaped by the collective power of meowing and pounding on the door. Once they broke free, silence returned. I breathed a sigh of relief wrongly thinking I could return to work for a few hours until they were recharged again.

A few peaceful minutes passed before they had regrouped and returned with a new mission to obtain food.

First, they jumped on my keyboard to make sure I was paying attention. Then, they started to meow together like they had practiced this performance and Big White was the maestro. Lastly, the littlest one hopped onto a potted houseplant (not toxic to cats) and started to bite off the leaves and looked at me, as though to say, “We will find our own food if you don’t feed us immediately.”

What did I do?

I caved, of course.

I can’t refuse those little hairy roommates anything.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hirsutism

Breaking up is hard to do

Mental Anguish Digital Art

Bad news has never been an easy thing for me to deliver.  Just thinking about it makes my palms sweat and heart beat irregularly.  The stress from facing conflict and/or disappointment crushes me and instantly releases something toxic into my bloodstream.  It leaves me with a swollen tongue and deaf in my left ear filled with only the sound of fluttering wings.

The bad news doesn’t even have to be particularly bad; it can be merely unpleasant or unfortunate.  For example, I might be tasked with telling someone that their home delivered meals will be delayed just a few hours and suddenly I’m feeling a little nauseous.  Someone once told me that it was just anxiety and meds might help.  I laughed, just anxiety?  This is a full blown condition that is bigger than meds or seeing someone to get a diagnosis.  I call it exaggerated living.

Fortunately, no one reacts in the crazy and over-the-top way that I expect which helps me to emotionally recover to a normal level pretty quickly.  Let me clarify, people usually don’t react in the way that justifies my fears.  Today, my reluctance at being the bearer of bad tidings was validated a hundred times over when someone reacted exactly how I expected to eventually happen, with the full wave of emotions.  Her day was darkened and her course was invariable changed.  I couldn’t help but to feel her pain in an untouchable way as she cried and I watched, like a bystander to a terrible accident.

I realized that my problem with bad news wasn’t about me- it was about the recipient of the news and how they would feel.  I avoid stepping on cracks when walking on the sidewalk to avoid smashing an ant with my clumsy feet, I swerve for squirrels, and can’t pull a band-aide off the arm of a friend because I don’t want to cause pain.  When my brother and I used to get spanked for using curse words or carving our names into wooden furniture, my dad always said with a grimace, “Trust me, this hurts me than it hurts you.”

I get it.  It has to be done, but it’s going to hurt.

cover image: Mental Anguish from fineartamerica.com

Choices


We are faced with millions of decisions in a lifetime. Some of the decisions are easy to make, like brushing your teeth or wearing a seatbelt. They are automatic and routine with the risks of doing or not doing clear and clean cut. For me, the thought of a toothless mouth or flying through a windshield takes away the hesitancy and second-guessing associated with decisions with risks and outcomes that are less known.

By nature, I am a cautious person. I over-think every decision and when I finally do make a choice, then I ruminate on if it was the right one. It’s a very tough way to live, being scared of the future and questioning the past. What about the present?

Sometimes I question myself, police interrogation style, demanding answers. There is no good cop/bad cop scenario in my head, only bad cop who is unreasonably upset with my ability to make a snap judgment.

This decision making problem is something that I have accepted as a sort-of handicap, like a lazy eye or an inwardly turned foot. I know how to work with it, but it can be overly taxing for my husband, especially when in situations where there are many choices to make, like grocery shopping. How can a person possibly just pick a can of soup or a head of lettuce without considering all options? There is the price and quality of a product, likelihood of use, and then trying to remember any bad experiences with this or that product in the past to take into account before anything goes into the cart. Whereas, when he goes by himself, he is back within an hour with several meals options that are ready to go. It’s just another one of his gifts.

In my present life, I am in the middle of a transition from a decision that I labored for several weeks before committing to it. I am looking back at what I’m leaving and forward into a sea of uncertainty. As the time to start the next phase in my life approaches, the waves are rising and getting choppier. They are breaking hard onto the shore of my sense of stability. Yet, I’m still making all the preparations to load up into my little boat and set out for the unknown, decision making impairment, be damned.

If my boat sinks, I’ve got a life jacket and I’ll shoot off flares for help. Hopefully, I’ll run ashore of unchartered lands that are rich with resources. Just in case anyone is wondering, I fully plan to claim these lands for my own and declare it all, Puneybonia. In either case, I’m making a choice and standing behind it for better or worse.

Sensitive Subjects

Sensitive Subjects

Band-aid-left.gif

I’m pretty sure everyone has an emotional tender spot.  It’s the one area that never quite healed up or formed correctly and the slightest nudge is enough to send shooting pains into the heart and wrap a web of shame around one’s brain.  Some people have more tender spots than others, and some tender spots are tenderer than others.

For me, it’s the mention of my employment history.  The mere suggestion at past jobs and reasons for leaving makes me shudder and the feeling of nausea rises from my stomach and into my throat.  I have to swallow back bile at the thought of explaining the whole mess and hang my head low so not to meet anyone’s eyes that might carry disappointment in them.

The past is the past and this is the present.  No need to dwell.  We are here now in this moment and in this day and that’s all that should matter.  Don’t worry about if I am going to leave but rather focus on the time that I stayed.  Sort of Buddhist-like and forward thinking of me, right?  As it turns out, most employers do not share this way of thinking with me.

This has come as quite a revelation to me.

It has also made me acutely aware that I may not be cut out for the working world.  Yet, somehow bills keep appearing in the mailbox making it clear that I either need to start playing the lotto with the hopes of a big win or that I need to shape up and stick with a job long enough to let the tender spot toughen up.

The Demoralization of a Work Force

It starts with asking the employees to sacrifice a little for the good of the company, first to share cubicles. According to the man in the bad suit, “There just isn’t enough space for everyone and not enough money in the budget for a bigger office.” The man in the bad suit does not have a cubicle. He has a very large corner office that he frequents every few days. “Guys, this is a temporary situation that’s going to take team work to overcome. We are looking at two maybe three months tops,” he explained about six months ago.

Next, the sacrifices increase with the pressure of guilt- just a bit off the top of each paycheck to prevent random lay-offs. The man in a poorly fitting suit and bad hair asks, “Reach into your hearts (correction: he meant to say “pockets”) and decide if you are able to come together to save the jobs of those around you. The solution is very simple. It would only take a 10% decrease from each of your salaries.”

It’s too bad the man doesn’t know the names of the employees to whom he continues to gesture with his hairy, pale fingers. It’s also too bad that his salary is not on the line and no one is asking him to look into his heart (correction: I meant pockets). His skinny neck and oversized shoulder pads make him look like a chicken, flapping his way back and forth in front of his employees. “Understand,” he asks, “that your case loads may go up and you may have more work, but hang in there. Think of the clients who will be helped by your sacrifices. Always remember, without you, each and every one of you, none of this would be possible.”

He is right; it does take each and every one of the employees to keep the ship afloat and sailing forward. Dare to speak up and prepare to walk the plank. The lucky dissenters have a life boat (savings, second job, wealthy spouse) patiently bobbing back and forth in the waters below; while the rest are forced to hold their tongues. The ones who are left behind meet in the shadows to whisper rumors and plans of escape or silently accept their fate of sacrifice.

The final blow is in the refusal to celebrate social work month – so as not to offend anyone who is not a social worker. A decision made by a faceless board to prevent hurt feelings or to prevent the unification of the work force in pride of the profession, and to mar the bond over the joys and sorrows of the field. What can be said of this decision? Nothing, silence is golden when sacrifice involves everything.

Guide to mastering a job that any monkey could do

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  1. Don’t think about it too much
  2. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil
  3. Keep plenty of bananas on hand
    1. The fruit of the banana is a quick pick-me-up when you’re feeling low about doing the job of a monkey
    2. The peel of the banana is good for comedic relief.  Try throwing the skin down in the break room next time your boss comes through and isn’t paying attention, just to see what happens (hint: you might not have to come to work tomorrow)
  4. Keep a careful watch out for energetic young workers who get hired to do the same job and begin to secretly train them on rules 1-3
  5. Remember, if no one tries too hard, then everyone looks good

*Note: List compiled by a disgruntled human doing the work of a monkey that no monkey would agree to do