Sunday, December 20, 2015

Staff Meetings: A Primer for the New Employee

We all have to attend periodically scheduled staff meetings all the while fighting off sleep, boredom and dreams of overthrowing the current regime. When you are a new employee, you do not have the luxury of "mailing it in" or adopting a sarcastic or ridiculously regal tone during meetings. Instead, you are still in the embarrassing phase of trying to impress the boss and meetings are your prime opportunity to demonstrate your love and affection for management in a public fashion.

Here is my primer on how to thoroughly enjoy staff meetings while also placing yourself smack on top of management's good books without drawing too much ire from your fellow employees.

1) Show up early! Nothing says "I love my job, and therefore, you" to your boss than being one of the first people at the meeting. Being late on the other hand only works if you are (a) the boss's son and/or daughter, (b) the boss's husband/wife/concubine, (c) the cool one who seemingly gets away with anything as they are that cool (you aren't).

2) Don't show up too early, though. You shouldn't camp out over night like you are waiting for concert tickets to your favourite boy band. It doesn't pay off in the long run to appear overly eager as your currently friendly colleagues may want to "rip your head off" or "slash your tires" or "send you enticing emails with pornography that is full of hidden viruses that will cripple your hard drive".

(3) Management usually offers light breakfast items and hot beverages. Now is not the time to prove to your new colleagues that you can in fact stuff five doughnuts in your mouth at one time. Make sure you blow carefully on your steaming beverage of choice before taking a sip unless you enjoy the special feeling in your mouth that only scalding can bring. Rule of thumb - eat before arriving and then refuse all offers so as not to look like a pig. If necessary claim to be on a cleanse or fasting for religious purposes.

4) When the meeting begins, your boss will invariably open with a joke. It will fall somewhere between tear-your-hair-out unfunny and excruciatingly horrible. See this as a test. A test that if you fail, you'll be unceremoniously fired, and if you pass, you will both literally and figuratively live to see another week. Resist the urge to one-up your boss with your own comedic stylings because no matter how funny and witty your jokes seem, now is just not the time.

5) The meeting will invariably have its slow moments and your mind will naturally drift and yet it is supremely important that you appear attentive and focussed at all times. Come prepared with some mental logic problems, a pencil so you can draw series of funny pictures of your colleagues as farm animals on the agenda and silly string, just in case it is that sort of staff meeting.

6) When the management asks for a volunteer to strike a committee or take on extra responsibilities or act as a human Guinea pig you must avoid coming across as annoyingly super-enthusiastic as that will only draw the ire of your peers who will either super glue your stapler to your desk or just bypass the stapler and go directly to you.

7) By all means raise your hand and contribute to the discussions, but try not to speak too much or too often or with grammar that is too perfect, as this meeting isn't about you and your brilliant ideas and lovely voice and impeccable English skills. That meeting is next week (it isn't).

8) When it is time for different departments to give updates to the staff on current projects and developments do not call out things such as "you da man!", "damn straight!", "you go girl!" and "those ideas are well and good and quite cute and rudimentary, but in my spare time I did a little research and I think you will all agree that my ideas far surpass yours in every way."

9) After the meeting is over, shake as many hands, slap as many backs and run as many shoulders as you can without injuring yourself or others. Whatever you do, don't shake, slap or rub too vigorously or people will be prone to get the wrong idea.

10) With another meeting come and gone, return to your office, cubicle, broom closet and await the next meeting. Well done!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Four of Us

A photograph.
A single, slightly-brown photograph.
A memory of a day, an era, a period of time in my life that my mind always goes back to when I daydream of the past.
There we were.
The four of us.
Best of friends. Smiling and laughing in our youth. Together. As close and connected as four separate people could be. So happy and full of life, we were.
That summer of ’92 was amazing.
Dinners and beaches and parties and late night movies with popcorn and homemade brownies that filled the air with a distinct sweetness that only homemade brownies could.
Afternoons would turn to evenings which would turn to late-night, early-morning why-go-to-bed-it’s-only-4am experiences.
Looking at the photo in the album that gathers dust in my closet feels like going back to a simpler time, as clich├ęd as that sounds.
We were young, so young.
Sure we had part time jobs, always-on-the-verge-of-empty bank accounts and a slowly increasing amount of responsibilities as we bravely crossed the threshold into adulthood, but, at heart, we were young.
The soundtrack of that summer still plays in my head today; while I shower or run in the woods or close my eyes and take a much-needed break from the grind.
That summer felt like it would never end. Our time together seemed infinite. We’d forever be as close as we are now, we thought, taking time and closeness and youth for granted, as young people always do.
Sheer pleasure in the a-little-too-glossy shot that is found in many of the photos from the 90s. The four of us as one.
None of us could have predicted or guessed that it would all end so quickly. How could it? We were so tight.
But, as summer turned to fall, one travelled, another fell in love and promptly disappeared, and a third got accepted to some program studying something halfway across the country.
Only I remained.
We’d get together, connect again, recapture this special thing we all shared and soon, we all told each other.
It sounded so good at the time.
We believed it when we said it.
But everything changed, as it invariably does.
All I have from this incredible time in our lives is this photograph. The photograph speaks thousands of words about back in the day when the four of us were together.
This old photograph never fails to bring both a wistful smile as well as taking me close to the edge of tears, but not quite.
I miss that time.
I miss those days.
I miss them.
The four of us.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

How I Deal With Boredom

Do you ever get bored?

Do you ever come close to clawing your eyeballs out due to extreme boredom only wishing you could do something, anything to feel less bored?

Do you ever wonder if this only happens to you?

Do you wish you had some tools in your toolbelt to escape this feeling?

Well, I too have momentarily felt bored and over time I have developed a handy list of ways to handle situations or experiences that are less that exciting.

You are welcome!

1) Pretend you are being followed or stalked. Not fun, but definitely not boring.

2) Make up a game with an intricate set of detailed and confusing rules. Hours of fun playing and arguing with yourself all afternoon that you are cheating.

3) Every crack you hear from above your head is one less crack before your roof collapses. Think about that for a while. Not boring!

4) Consume a ton of honey and then reorganize the furniture in your place and see how "bee-like" the end product is.

5) As your friends are busy, take out a handful of chocolate chip cookies and name each one with the name of one of your friends and then proceed to aggressively eat each of them. Confusing and a field day for your therapist, but a great way to pass the time.

6) Invent a dance that is heavy on eyebrow movement.

7) You're a spy! Now you're a princess! And then you become a cowboy! Followed by a hyena! Your only limit is your imagination and the selection of clothes your wife/husband/roommate/grandmother/cellmate has.

8) Log on to social media and refresh each minute for an hour to see if anyone has liked any of your many late-night posts from the previous evening, and therefore, you. Ultimately potentially depressing, but the sheer amount of rapid eye movement will make that hour seem like 48 minutes.

9) Write a play about a lonely person who was tremendously bored, was friendless, never accomplished or amounted to anything and then died alone. Now turn on some upbeat Broadway show tunes and notice how quickly your story comes alive.

10) Re-read emails from work associates and your boss with as much paranoid speculation as you can. Step back and allow your neuroses to do their job. Start plotting your revenge. Ultimately this will cause you hours of stress and may potentially cause you to look for employment elsewhere, but the afternoon will go flying by.

11) Remove your clothes and literally coat yourself with a thick layer of peanut butter, allow it to dry and then enjoy spending the rest of the afternoon in the bath trying to scrub yourself clean.

12) Imagine your existence as a variety of inanimate objects in the room: a window sill, a raincoat, a plastic straw, a filing cabinet. Now stand up and walk around the room resisting the urge to taunt. Enjoy the flexibility and freedom that is easy to take for granted. If still bored, chose four new objects and repeat. 

13) Play a rousing game of Hide the Wallet While Blindfolded in the Dark After Spinning Around Till Dizzy. It's a crowd pleaser!

14) Read the headlines from the newspaper out loud using delivery styles that alternate between cute old lady and savage animal. Be careful to avoid the temptation to maul yourself.

15) Pretend you are trapped inside a box with limited access to oxygen and all you have at your disposal is some dental floss, a toothpick and some unchewed bubble gum. A great way to use your problem solving skills and creativity! Bonus marks for actually trapping yourself inside a box. 

16) Call your most boring friend and spend the next thirty minutes listening to him or her drone on about the plights of their existence and instantly you'll feel a whole more exciting relative to that loser.

17) Start writing your tell-all autobiography full of every sordid detail, shady backroom deal, explicit affair and any actual events that may have occurred that are truly interesting. Note: this activity may yield tears and a feeling that some/most/all of your life has been a waste. Consider this - when crying, you definitely aren't bored and this list isn't about how to feel better or raise your self-esteem. That's a whole other list for another day.

18) Wrap yourself up in all of that asbestos-free insulation you were saving for a moment like this. Take pictures using your Polaroid camera in a variety of hilarious poses and ridiculous facial expressions. Put photos away for the next time you feel bored.

19) Sit by the window and smile, wave and jump up and down enthusiastically at each passerby with as much energy and fanfare as you can summon. Barking, yelping and slobbering are optional.

20) Don't fight the boredom. Embrace it. Accept yourself for who you are and where you are at. Love yourself in all your glory. If that doesn't work consider entirely removing all hair from your body.