After a very trying five weeks full of dust, construction and contractor butt cracks, I am back in my office (sort of) and y’all….it is gorgeous. Poe Communications aka Poe Industries Building/Construction/Contracting Services and Project Management Inc. got a major upgrade (thanks to all the damage done to my office when we had to get completely new framing done on our house, but I digress).
I say “back in my office (sort of)” because just like “Brokeback Renovation,” our contractor just can’t seem to quit us. He’s got a few little details to attend to (some wall patching near a couple of outlet plugs, some sink scratches in the adjoining bathroom caused by haphazard painters and their trowels), but he keeps putting off the final bits and blobs. So I haven’t hung my artwork back up yet, and my desk is floating in the middle of the room so the workers can eventually do the patches they need to do.
But, here are a few pictures of my new office from the other morning. The lighting is crap because it was a lovely sunny morning, but I was too excited to wait for good lighting.
Obviously, when considering what I wanted my worldwide headquarters for my multi-media infotainment empire to look like, I did what every self-respecting work-from-home writer does: I stalked Pinterest. (*I also relied very heavily on the advice of my own personal interior design guru, XFE).
From Pinterest, I immediately gleaned that my previous desk was far too modest for such an impressive endeavor as content creation and promotion. So, I immediately upgraded that bad boy to a giant frosted glass and chrome slab of sleekness (from Ikea. Sorry, Pinterest. I know everyone else had Jonathan Adler desks, but I didn’t win any lotteries this week. And I really, really like my Ikea table/desk!).
I also saw a lot of blogger offices with those twee little bar carts with cute little mint julep cups holding cute little striped straws. Yeah, that’s not me. I see you’re stupid bar cart and raise you a wine fridge. Also, note the lack of glassware. At Poe Communications, happy hour starts whenever I say and we drink from the bottle.
I also saw a lot of blogger offices that used a gold Moroccan poof as an additional seating option, but I knew that was not going to fly here. After considering a bean bag alternative, I finally settled on a nice, roomy velvety throne like chair for Petunia, the president of HR here at Poe Industries to sit on.
Apparently, she prefers the sunny spot on the floor.
But I did cave to conventional blogger dictates when it came to the lighting. I would have to get a chandelier. And, it’s probably my favorite thing in the room (besides the wine fridge. And the striped wall, which was XFE’s idea).
Isn’t it glorious? And my second favorite thing (or is it my fourth?): XFE moved my rarely-used-but-when-needed-it-is-essential printer onto a shelf in the linen closet. H
Poe Communications sure has come a long way from it’s early days at the dining room table. From this first office incarnation:
I have tried several times now to sit down and write about our March trip to Cambodia, but I struggle with it each time.
Basically, Cambodia broke my heart.
It’s not just the fact that its people are desperately poor. I’ve been to plenty of economically disadvantaged places. My personal-travel-arranger-for-life XFE pointed out that many parts of Peru were very, very poor, and yet, I had hardly mentioned it when we visited in 2013. In hindsight, I suppose I was distracted by the intestinal parasites that were slam dancing through my bowels like it was an Anthrax concert to notice or comment on anything that was going on around me.
(I swear, we’re not thanatourists. It’s just that every country seems to have some seriously messed up period in their history.)
Anyway, Cambodia’s recent history and continuing struggle to overcome its past moved me deeply and just made me very, very sad.
So, let’s switch gears abruptly and talk about the happiest place on Earth, shall we?
I’ve been working on a freelance project involving the travel industry for the last five months. Thanks to that work, I was able to attend a major industry conference in Orlando recently. It was amazing. Seriously impressive. And one of the most impressive events was a private evening for conference attendees at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Now, I had never been to any Disney properties. Not for any political reasons or anything. It’s just that when you grow up in a trailer park, trips to magical pixie theme parks in far off California or Florida aren’t really a part of your childhood reality. Sure, we visited the Alamo once and the beach in Galveston, but definitely not anywhere out of state. My experiences with amusement parks involved a couple of trips to Six Flags and El Paso’s now defunct Magic Landing, which was a lot less magical than the name might suggest (lots of maimings and accidents during its four-year run).
To be truthful, I had built up a hardened adult shell towards all things Disney. I figured it was just a big scam to fill children’s brains with fantasy and drive them so mad with consumerist desire that they make their parents crazy until they fling their hard-earned money at every colorfully-clad mermaid or cricket or talking candlestick that approached them holding a t-shirt or snow cone.
I’m still not completely convinced that that’s not the primary objective, but I gotta say, Walt Disney Resort was pretty freaking magical. A group of about 6,000 of us arrived at dusk and were greeted by rows and rows of very friendly workers who were waving and smiling. This immediately aroused my suspicions. Working late for a private party? And you’re all happy with this? I figured they must be getting paid some serious overtime.
Next up, hitting some rides. I was totally unfamiliar with the different lands that were open to us (Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom, Boardwalk, Downtown), or their offerings. But, I had two experienced travel writers with me and they were Disney experts. They knew what rides were new and where they were, and they prioritized appropriately.
The rides were fun, nothing too scary or jarring. I was awestruck by the incredible attention to detail. When you flew over London in the Peter Pan or glided past Ursula in the Under the Sea ride, you really felt like you were there, inside the movie. But best of all, because it was a private event, there were no lines. No lines on anything, which is, I believe, unheard of.
Since it was a party, there were free drinks (not even a tip jar, y’all) and some seriously great food that just kept being replenished without anyone seemingly bringing it out. I mean, I know they did and must have, but it seemed like there was just a ton of staff keeping an eye on things and making sure everything went smoothly. Again, they were all incredibly nice and patient, which then caused me to ask a few of them if Disney maybe gave them some special “happy vitamins” before their shift every day. I also urged one employee to blink three times if he was being held against his will. He just nicely asked me if I’d like some more lobster mac and cheese. (To which I obviously said, “hell yeah.”)
There were plenty of trash cans everywhere, but they were all painted to blend in with their surroundings and none of them were full or overflowing with discarded LeFeu Brews (a delicious nonalcoholic frozen drink that was being handed out at Gaston’s Pub.)
It was fantastic. I used to think that these kinds of things (or, “experiences” to use travel industry parlance) were a rip off, but at Disney, you totally see where the money goes. And I’ve got to think a big part of the budget (besides the special “happy vitamins,” but I’m sure they get a discount) has got to be the fireworks. Those fireworks were amazing. I worried that it was all some trick and they were now going to burn the entire place down. They even run sprinklers on the roofs of the nearby buildings so that a random spark won’t catch on fire.
Then, when we were leaving, another parade of characters no doubt sweating in their elaborate costumes and heavy makeup. Including some of the characters from “Frozen,” who might have had it the worst of all, swathed in furs that were not at all weather appropriate for Florida.
I went in to Disney’s Magic Kingdom a skeptical adult and came out three hours later as a grinning……well, still an adult, but I did get into the spirit of things. I even put on a pair of free mouse ears to take pictures before passing off said free mouse ears to someone else who had children.
(Oh, one creepy side note about those “free” mouse ears….they lit up. And not only did they light up, they were synchronized with the rest of the 6,000 attendees free mouse ears. Which means we all lit up at the same time, in the same color and same pattern. So, yeah. Cult-like brainwashing isn’t totally off the table.)
I’m bumping along Naples chaotic, narrow, cobblestoned streets in the back of a cab. My cab driver is holding his phone up to his left ear, swerving in and out of the bumper-to-dented-bumper traffic. I think he’s fighting with the person on the other line. He’s yelling and using his hands to enunciate his point, which is a bit of a problem while holding the phone and driving. There’s definitely no 10 nor 2 at this point of the driving game.
He really needs another set of hands.
I feel much like my Neapolitan cab driver. I don’t have enough hands or arms to get them around all the feelings I’ve had over the past two months.
I’ve been bouncing on the emotional trampoline. I’ve run the gamut – white-hot raging anger, debilitating fear and sense of rejection, plain-old-run-of-the-mill sadness, tears optional, although frequent, as it turns out in my case. The raw twin realizations of the number of people who I had misplaced my trust in, and the surprisingly small list of supporters who would reach out to me when I was no longer around. *
On a good day, a certain scabbed-over numbness would set in. Then I would wallow in a bit of a pity-party, who-cares, what’s-it-all-for mentality. All of which goes against my feisty, fighting nature.
Turns out, Naples, Italy is the perfect city to go to if you are hollowed out and disappointed by life and humanity and especially former co-workers who you thought were you’re friends.
First of all, it’s an incredibly human city, where you can watch the soap opera of life play out millions of times a day on its quaint little streets. Families fighting with each other, enjoying each other. Couples making out and pushing each other away. Strangers eyeing each other with suspicion or disinterest. It’s reassuring to see that emotions can run a gamut, not just on the negative end of the spectrum.
Also, Naples is dirty and has its scars. It was the most bombed Italian city during World War II, getting bombarded over 200 times by both Allied (good job there, Mussolini) and German forces after Italy switched sides. Today, plaster is falling off its buildings or they’re covered in graffiti. Trash piles up frequently due to garbage strikes and very small rubbish bins. Every car on the road bears scrapes, dents, dings. In many ways, it looks like they stopped building after the bombings.
But Naples messiness is also achingly beautiful — that whole shrugging off unpleasantness and just getting on with life is admirable.
And it is a very, very proud city. Especially of its place in pizza history. Don’t even try to suggest the pizza was not invented in Naples.
It’s a city that has never given up, rolling with the fates, but never forgetting who it is at its fundamental core. Remember those Germans who bombed them? Yeah, eventually they also occupied Naples. But the people of Naples, they don’t put up with that kind of crap. In September 1943, the townspeople rose up and threw out their German occupiers right before the Allied forces rolled in on October 1 to “liberate” them. It’s known as the Four Days of Naples and it is pretty badass.
I’ve been through some dirty stuff recently, and my psyche and ego are certainly a bit scarred. But I’ve also got an inordinate – perhaps even Neapolitan-sized — amount of pride. So, I’m glad I trampolined my way over to Naples for a quick visit and history lesson. Naples and its lessons on resilience have helped propel me to a new, more familiar emotional state – defiance.
(*I should also unequivocally state that there have been a handful of former ex-colleagues who have reached out and been incredibly helpful to me in so, so many ways, even if it’s just a cup of coffee and a vent session. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge them. And, of course, always XFE, who goes through it all and who took me to Naples anyway.)
I have a few more posts on Peru, but let’s take a little break to discuss something even more exciting and earth shaking than pisco sours and ancient ruins.
Last Friday was Jeans Day at work.
This is a very big deal. Honestly, HR could have told me they had installed a kitten playpen next to an all-you-can-eat, make-your-own sundae bar and I would have been kinda blasé about it. But Jeans Day? I was dancing around like Honey Boo Boo with a bag of Cheetos and a Red Bull.
You see, while many of you work in relative sartorial freedom, I work at a very conservative place where even a hint of chambray is considered quite risqué.
We usually only get one shot at Jeans Day around these parts. That would be to support the Lee National Denim Day. Cough up $5 and you get to wear jeans on one Friday in October. But somehow, someone on some work committee over here realized how lucrative this proposition could be, and now we’ve done it two other times in the last six months to raise money for animals and food banks. Or maybe we were raising funds for bank animals (like piggy banks, I think). Or veterans who hire animals to work at food banks? Or something. Doesn’t matter.
While Jeans Day is all very, very exciting, it also caused me a bit of paralysis. What jeans would I wear? I feel like boyfriend jeans are definitely out. Too casual. Could I wear skinny jeans or are those too going-to-da-club? Should I wear my black skinny jeans, or is that just wasting a jean opportunity since that’s kind of similar to skinny black pants, which are allowed at work? What about my coated jeans? Or do those look too much like leather? Wait, we don’t have any rules per se about leather, right? It’s just kinda frowned upon.
Then there’s the whole issue of what to wear with the jeans. I wear jeans on the weekend, usually with t-shirts, flannel shirts and boots. Not really work appropriate, I think. Unless one is going to work at the truck stop down the road.
I also briefly flirted with the idea of going just denim crazy and wearing a denim shirt dress I have.
In the end, the crappy, still-cold weather dictated that I wear a sweater, blazer and scarf. And since my blazer was navy and my skinny jeans were a dark wash, it sorta looked like I had a suit on anyway.
Oh well. There’s always next Jeans Day. Maybe it’ll be in the summer and I can wear a denim bathing suit.
As a writer, I work in the communications division of my organization. We’re very spread out, mostly along the second floor of our building. Although, our poor copy editor is on the fifth floor, which makes for very interesting walkabouts during the editing process.
Anyway, by some weird twist of assigned seating fate, I sit near the Finance Department. Let me tell you, every pre-conceived stereotype of what a Finance Department employee is like (well, not EVERY stereotype) but most of them have been shattered by my observations of this species of particular worker.
For one thing, they are really, really loud. I was shocked at how boisterous they are in greeting each other. They act like it’s been months instead of mere hours since they last rested their wondrous gaze upon one another.
I had always assumed people who dealt in accounting were by nature very serious, but oh no, they are quite, quite jolly. Their peals of laughter reverberate off the cubicle walls.
True story: I told two of my communications coworkers the other day that it’s like a Finance Department Rave every morning. My coworkers, in turn, suggested that I put on some techno music and join in the early morning festivities. Fast forward to this morning — I heard someone playing techno music out of their phone as they were walking towards my office. Thinking it was one of my coworkers, I said (outloud) “Aaaaaawwwww yeah! Let’s do this” and started dancing at my desk with pens held aloft like glow sticks. A few seconds later, a Finance person walks past my door with his music blaring and sees my own little personal rave. I. DIE.
Other observations: They do not discuss the latest accounting scandals or software, but rather, they love to talk about their various health ailments, of which there are quite a few, including, of course, the expected carpal tunnel syndrome. No doubt acquired while raving hard — Finance style.
But it doesn’t stop at just work-related injuries. There are apparently buttloads of weekend shenanigans that put our delicate little Finance crew directly in harm’s way. It’s not at all unusual to see a group of them congregating around one of their own who has come in with a fresh new cane or arm brace. They gather in the kitchen (they love themselves some free Flavia flavored-coffees. The syrupy and sweeter, the better) and cluck over this latest injury, hanging on for all the details while the company’s bills wait patiently.
They also love to talk about food. They are quite the foodie bunch and often weigh the merits of different cheeses in different recipes. I heard quite the discussion yesterday about white cheddar and gouda. It was a regular Top Chef over here.
What they do not like to do, however, is clean out the kitchen refrigerator. Or, my personal pet peeve, place smaller items (like sodas, or containers of cottage cheese – no, I don’t know their thoughts on that particular cheese, but I’m sure I’ll learn about it soon enough) on shorter shelves, thereby leaving the taller shelves for someone with a tall item, say, a lunch bag (ahem, me).
Also, I would have expected the Finance Department, which deals with the very delicate issue of money and bills, to display a bit of circumspection and respect for privacy. But no. I have heard about the most egregious abuses of company-issued cell phones, in part, because the Finance person in charge of resolving phone bill disputes often gets into very loud and heated phone conversations about it. It’s been, to say the least, illuminating.
So, to sum up, if you live for danger, like to party, walk on the wild side, enjoy fine food and Flavia coffee, you might want to consider a future in accounting. They are a really, really fun bunch.
Why? Because I, too, like homemade snacks. However, my juevos are not large enough to make it a working requirement.
“Students in George Parrott’s psychology courses have an unusual requirement: they must bring homemade snacks each week to the laboratory section, and they need to work out a schedule such that groups of students make sure each session is covered, and that snacks aren’t repeated from week to week. If there are no snacks, Parrott walks out of his class at California State University at Sacramento, and the students lose that week’s instruction.”
Damn! The first question that pops into my mind is related to the criteria that they must be “homemade” snacks. That seems awfully judgmental. Are not Lil Debbie’s snacks also delicious? Must we discount the Keebler Elves entire genre?
“People typically bring muffins, cookies or coffee cake to morning sessions, Parrott said. One of his afternoon sections recently featured pizza.”
Surely that was not homemade pizza? Here Prof. Parrot explains the homemade requirement.
“As for the requirement that the snacks be homemade, he said that he wants the snacks to be healthy. “I’d like stuff without the total chemical treatment” that is found in packaged snacks, he said. He added that he rarely eats the snacks, but wants them there for everyone else.”
Shut your pie hole, you snack blasphemer! That chemical treatment is what makes Twinkies and all its little friends so wonderful. And, I wonder, is there any correlation between the quality of the snack and the student’s grade? I mean, do you get penalized for lack of quality snackage? That smells like a potential lawsuit, in my opinion.
But perhaps I’m missing a bigger point here: Let’s keep in mind here that it IS a psychology class, so Professor Parrot may just be messing with his young charges, no? Apparently not. Homey is not playin’.
“….on Thursday, when students in the morning section of Foundations of Behavioral Research didn’t bring muffins (or anything), he enforced his rule. He left class and took his teaching assistant to breakfast. One of the other sections missed its snack obligation one day last month, and he left that class, too. Ever since, the snack schedule has been followed by the students in that class.”
Well, that is one form of behavioral research. And, according to Parrot, he’s just teaching his students valuable life skills.
“Parrott said that considerable research shows that students learn more if they develop the skills to work in teams, to assume responsibility for projects, and get to know their fellow students. Team members need to count on one another, he said, and his students learned Thursday that if someone fails at a task for the team, there are consequences. “They need to learn to check on one another and clearly they didn’t get that done,” he said. “This was an important lesson.”
Yes, pestering your fellow students to bring snacks to class IS an important lesson.
You know, maybe I should employ this in my own life. I think my coworkers could learn some valuable lessons if they choose to not feed me. Here I’ve been plugging along, just working for a paycheck and benefits, and all this time, I could have been holding people hostage for brownies? Damn you missed opportunities!
But my favorite part about this whole story is how Professor Parrot is about to peace out anyway. He’s retiring after this semester and he’s a total honey badger about authority: he don’t give a hoot.
He plans to stick to his rule for his last semester. Given that he is on track to retire, he said that if told to stop enforcing the rule, “I’d probably ignore it.”
Someone at my workplace fancies themselves an Alaskan prospector because they like to go digging for golden nuggets. They like to explore the caves, as it were. They like to manually extract mucus from their nasal cavities, so to speak (well, not really “so to speak,” more like, “exactly to speak”).
And they like to show off their treasures by sticking them on the walls of the bathroom stall.
Bear in mind, this is (ostensibly) a WOMAN doing this, since I do (almost) exclusively use the ladies powder room (*Disclaimer: Unless I’m in a club and have had multiple beers and the girl’s line is just too damn long and no one really seems to be using the men’s room at all and I’ll only be a second, so it’s really not a big deal, right? Or, if I’m tubing. Then I pee with nature. Quite happily, I might add).
Anyway, back to the Madame Booger-Sharer. It has happened on multiple occasions, so we can’t blame it on a visiting guest. Other co-workers and I have talked about it on previous occasions, speculating on who this disgusting individual is, assuring each other it was no one in our immediate group.
Still, a Booger Digger dwells amongst us. Probably wearing normal workday clothes, from Ann Taylor or something, and eating normal lunchtime foods like a Lean Cuisine heated in the microwave oven. I bet this person goes directly from putting her chicken alfredo in the microwave to walking down the hall to the bathroom. (shudder).
The last time I encountered the little crusties clinging to the grout (just last week,) I had my camera with me. You know, so I would have evidence for when I blogged about it. BEHOLD.
That’s right. I JUST DID THAT. (Number of times the automatic toilet flusher went off while I was documenting this latest transgression: 5.)
But while we are on the subject, there are a couple of other pet peeves I’d like to bring up (of course, because when do I ever stop at just one thing?).
Ladies who use toilet seat covers: You’re obviously a lady of discriminating taste, concerned about hygiene. You would never dream of allowing your thighs to touch a toilet seat that has been used by other thighs. So why, oh why, do you leave your used toilet seat covers clinging helplessly to the seat when you are done? There is it, gently lifting with every breeze, until some poor hapless pisser such as myself, is confronted and confounded by it. The last thing I want to do when going into the bathroom is to gingerly pick up your used toilet seat cover and toss it into the bowl. This leads to some awkward kick-the-paper game that’s difficult to accomplish and dangerous in a small toilet stall.
Also: Do you think that after grooming yourself, brushing your hair and cleaning the hair out of said brush, you could throw the accumulated hair away? I know it must give you much satisfaction to see it clump up at the bottom of toilet bowl, like a dark spider ready to startle the next hapless victim who comes in to tinkle. But it’s quite startling. And, really, disgusting.
Those seem to be the main transgressions. I want to assure you, Dear Reader, that I do work at a very nice place with lots of well-paid and seemingly normal people. Has anyone else encountered any of these situations?
I’m actually thinking about taking the pictures of the Bathroom Booger Collection and making a “Lost” poster to post throughout our floor at work. “Lost: golden nuggets. Last seen: women’s bathroom on September 2. Friendly, comes to name ‘goldie.’ Please return to owner for reward.”
When I first saw this headline, my immediate reaction was “yes, I truly believe in my tiny Grinch-sized heart that they are.”
I do believe my coworkers are killing me. Slowly, methodically, kinda like Chinese water torture.
But I believe all of humanity is trying to push me over the edge, so yeah, my coworkers are probably in on it too. Anyway, here’s the upshot of the article, which is based on the findings of some study at Tel Aviv University.
“The first thing the researchers discovered is that office conditions matter. A lot. In particular, the risk of death seemed to be correlated with the perceived niceness of co-workers, as less friendly colleagues were associated with a higher risk of dying.”
Now, my co-workers are nice, so that’s not what kills me. In fact, I’m probably the least nice employee in my cube farm. No, they kill me in other inane ways. And from talking with other friends and perusing this website here, I know that this is not totally an uncommon phenomenon. (And yes, I’m sure I have some super annoying work habits of my own, but someone will just have to start their own damn blog and write about those.)
So I’ve put together a little something I call Cubicle Bingo to start the week. Put a paperclip aside every time you hear or encounter one of the situations below (all of which, I have personally been privy to over the last five years. I’m not making up any of them). At the end of the day, gather up your paperclips and that’s how many drinks you should have at happy hour. Good luck!
Someone burps loudly.
Someone clips their nails over the trashcan.
Someone talks on the phone with their “mummy.”
Someone chastises and belittles their husband on the phone.
Someone crunches potato chips — loudly.
Someone clears their throat repeatedly.
Someone talks to themselves.
Someone works on their fantasy league — loudly.
Someone clicks their pen….repeatedly.
Someone eats something really smelly for lunch.
Someone’s cell phone ring tone goes off again and again and they are nowhere to be found.
Someone is curling her hair. At her desk.
Someone slurps coffee all morning long.
Someone complains loudly about how damn cold the office is (OK, you got me. That one is all me.)