Monday, July 27, 2009

The Great Chocolate Heist OR Hostile work environment

I started a new job a few weeks ago and to start they put me through eight weeks of training. The crowning event of training is a little class called, “Respect In the Workplace.”

“Respect In the Workplace” can be roughly translated to “Sexual Harassment for Dummies.” To start out, our trainers told us tons of horror stories about people whose lives and careers were destroyed by sexual harassment.

“You can’t be too careful,” they said. “Don’t say anything that can be misconstrued. Basically don’t look at anyone or talk to anyone and you’ll be fine.”

So we were all paranoid and fearful for our jobs. The trainers divided us into groups and gave each group a stack of index cards that had “scenarios” on them. We had to decide whether a given scenario fell into the “appropriate” or “inappropriate” category.

Some were pretty obvious, like, “A supervisor says an employee can’t get a promotion unless she agrees to go out on a date with him.”

“Inappropriate.” Not hard. Are there people that really don’t get this? I guess there must be since we devoted a whole day to talking about it.

Some scenarios were more ambiguous, and don’t forget we were paranoid. A scenario came up that said, “Co-workers talk about their vacation plans.”

I said it was appropriate, but some of my classmates thought it was inappropriate.

“What if it’s a sexual vacation?” they said. “You can’t talk about that!”

“A ‘sexual’ vacation? What are you talking about?” I said.

“Well,” they started to explain. “You could…”

“Nevermind, nevermind! You’re right,” I conceded hastily.

Next was a card that said only “Chocolate emergency!” Huh? I was still all paranoid so I voted “inappropriate.” When my classmates asked why I said, “What if it’s, like, aphrodisiac chocolate or something? Or maybe they’re stealing chocolate! Are they planning some kind of chocolate heist?”

As silly as this training was, I’ve had sillier. I was a server for about two days last summer and when I got hired they sat me down and made me watch a video about being sensitive to culture in the workplace. In this video a stereotypically ignorant white cowboy looking dude from Texas (he kept saying he was from Texas, and I think his name was “Tex”) walked all over his conveniently diverse restaurant and innocently insulted everyone by saying unwittingly racist things to them.

In one scene Tex asked a guy who looked like he might be from the Middle East to hurry up with something and the guy got angry. “Settle down there, Habib,” Tex said soothingly, with genuine “aw, shucks” Texan affability. “Don’t get all upset and go blowing up something, you crazy terrorist you, heh heh.”

At this point the scene froze and the narrator said, “What Tex did here was inappropriate.”

Really?! Good thing I saw this video or I might have made the same mistake. What a close call!

Fortunately, the video had an “alternate universe” part and in this universe Tex wasn’t racist anymore (or maybe he had since watched a “Cultural Sensitivity In the Workplace” video) and he went around saying nothing but culturally sensitive things. It was a happy ending. I cried a little.

I just think it’s a sad day when employers have to teach oversimplified presentations on how to not be racist or sexist to their employees. It seems like people should already know this stuff.

Anyway, I’ve got to go. I’m having a chocolate emergency.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Where have all the pirates gone? OR I heart swashbuckling (whatever that means)

Have you ever been in a really boring situation and started to think about pirates? You thought, “I’m so bored! You know what would liven things up around here? A pirate.” I know I have.

How do pirates invigorate boring situations? Here are the four basic reasons:

1. They’re good with swords.

2. At minimum they will have a cool hat.

3. If you’re lucky they will rock a sweet eye patch.

4. They talk so cool. (Saying “Yarrrrr,” makes me really happy.)

Another reason that pirates are awesome is that pirates are go-getters, man. If they want some gold doubloons, they get some gold doubloons.

Everyone wants a pirate for a friend. Imagine if you showed up at a frat party with your new pal Captain Blood. He could drink everyone under the table.

I was reading about pirates at a very reliable source (Wikipedia) and it turns out than in addition to the stereotypical male pirates like Bluebeard and Blackbeard and Speckledbeard, there were also some really fierce pirate women. Take Jacquotte Delahaye: she was a red-haired Caribbean pirate who pirated around for awhile. Eventually she was being pursued so she faked her own death and dressed as a man to avoid capture for years. When she came out of hiding and made her triumphant return to piratehood she was known as “Back from the Dead Red.”

Now that is hot. I do believe I would like to take her out to a movie.

This brings up a really good question. Would a girl pirate with an eye patch or a peg leg still be hot? I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure she still would be. I just dig that pirate attitude.

Anyway, I was looking at the back of a CD case and I noticed the very authoritative looking FBI “Anti-Piracy Warning” logo. And then I started wondering about the state of piracy as we know it. I thought it’s a pretty sad day when a pirate is reduced to stealing music. Where have all the pirates gone? I suspect most of them have gone to work for insurance companies or as corporate lawyers.

It turns out there are a few modern pirates left, but they mostly just attack ships and steal stuff. For whatever reason it just lacks the romantic flair that old school piracy had, even though in essence that is the same. I think the difference is there are no swordfights, no eye patches and no beards.

Some modern pirates even disguise their boats as fishing vessels or cargo vessels so they can slip past inspectors, which is lame if you ask me. What happened to the good old days of flying a black flag with a skull and crossbones on it? You “pirates” ought to be ashamed of yourselves! I can’t stomach a poser pirate.

The cool thing about modern piracy is that I can be a pirate anytime I want. When I get my friend to burn me a copy of T-Pain’s seminal auto-tune-fest Thr33 Ringz because I like it, but not enough to pay money for it, I’m technically a pirate. Which is awesome.


PS - Don't forget that International Talk Like A Pirate Day is coming up on Spetember 19. Mark your calendar!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ready, Set, Dough OR Bringing up baby

Just when I think I have been in enough awkward situations for one lifetime, life goes and puts me into a totally new, totally awkward situation.

It wasn’t even the most awkward thing that has ever happened to me. It probably wasn’t any more awkward than, say, meeting your girlfriend’s parents or sharing a seat on the city bus with someone wearing a tin foil hat who talks to you about his attempts to contact “The Mothership.” It was just totally new genre of awkwardness. Awkwardness has genres, you know, like movies.

I’m in training for my job as a social worker, and many social workers are touchy feely people who like to talk about feelings. They also love anything new age or organic. Anyway, at the beginning of class our instructor gave my classmates and I little containers of Play Doh and asked us each to make a “baby.” Then we had to name it. Then we had to mingle with each other and tell each other about our “babies.”

If someone had walked by and asked, “What are you guys doing in there?” we would’ve had to reply, “Making babies.”

I can’t even remember the point of the activity. All I remember was that some people will overacheive at everything they do. These people were super proud of their Play Doh babies and had obviously put a lot of work into them. Some were talking about their babies like they were real. One woman actually said to me, “Look at my clay baby! His name is Rupert. Isn’t he cute?” What do you say to that? “Yeah, he looks like you”? It was so surreal.

Having to look at someone’s Play Doh baby and fake compliment it was a lot like looking at someone’s real baby and have to fake compliment it. Awkward.

The fact of the matter is that I’ve seen some weird looking babies in my day. But don’t worry, if you have a weird looking baby, you won’t know it because you have parent eyes. Everyone thinks their baby is the cutest. Evolution made it happen that way so that people are motivated to protect their young. If parents were capable of realizing their baby was ugly, they may be less apt to protect them from predators.

Even animals that are ugly in their adult form can be cute when they are babies. A person’s best chance at being “cute” is when they are a baby, so an ugly baby is kind of out of luck.

I’ve seen weird looking kids with OK looking parents and I’m not sure how it happens. I guess the baby got all of the weirdest parts from each parent.

But don’t worry. If you want to show me your baby I won’t lie to you. If it’s a cute baby I will say, “What a cute baby!” If it’s an ugly baby I will say, “What a… baby.”

Or maybe I won’t say anything.

PS - Speaking of babies, my sister is having her baby boy next month and she and her husband aren't coming up with any good names. Please feel free to leave a name suggestion in a comment.

Monday, July 6, 2009

You'll never take me alive! OR Do not go gentle into that good night

I’ve talked about growing up one million times before, but my youth is not going quietly. This means I am getting older, but not without a fight. They’re not taking Young Me alive!

Who are “they”? I’ll tell you.

This past Wednesday I sat in my “grown-up” office and worked while all of my siblings and friends went to Warped Tour, which, for the uninitiated, is a giant all-day outdoor summer music festival that features, like, 100 bands. At least! And you can generally meet your favorite bands, get them to sign your shirt and give them high fives.

It’s not that important what Warped Tour is, really. The important thing is I missed it! All because I have stupid adult responsibilities like work. Booooooooooo!

So I tried to get some sympathy from my friends. “Isn’t it a tragedy?” I complained. “Isn’t it frightfully unjust?” I cried. “Why me?” I wailed.

Anyone younger than me was very sympathetic. “I’m so sorry!” they would say.

But anyone older than me had no sympathy for me. Zero. “You just need to grow up,” they said. “You’re being immature,” they sneered. “Aren’t you too old for that?” they asked reproachfully.

Basically what they were saying was “Just be old like us. Stop having fun, because that is NOT what being old is about. ‘No Fun Whatsoever’ is what being old is about.”

Old people are a lot like zombies because zombies are infected and want to infect everyone else. As soon as a zombie bites you, you die and then come back as a zombie. That is common knowledge.

Real life zombies have a real life virus. They just wander around, not thinking much. Their two main goals are:

1. bite people
2. eat brains

They do other zombie deeds, but usually whatever they do can be classified into one of these two categories.

Old people zombies don’t have a virus or anything, but they do have spouses, jobs, kids, bills and wrinkles, and for whatever reason that makes them also wander around, not thinking very much. They also have two main goals, which are as follows:

1. tell younger people to “grow up”
2. be cranky

I’m not entirely sure why this is, but I think it all boils down to “misery loves company.” But they aren’t going to pass their broken dreams on to me.

In college we had a copy of The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks in our bathroom for educational bathroom reading, so I know a thing or two about surviving a zombie attack. You’re supposed to get to the second story of a building and destroy the stairs so the zombies can’t reach you. And then you take a rifle and shoot them all in the head. Piece of cake.

That’s all pretty straightforward, but I’m not sure how it applies in the aforementioned metaphorical sense of warding off fun-sucking old people zombies. I need to figure it out quick because – as recent events have shown – they’re coming for me!

This is not to say that every person who is older than me automatically qualifies as a “zombie.” I know a few adults who still seem to be having fun and are not ridiculously jaded or hostile. The question then is, “How do they do it?”

I don’t know, but when I find out I will be sure to tell you.