How to Survive Team Building Workshops

It’s that time of year again… time for semi-annual office TEAM BUILDING.

@pictou suggested I fake a seizure to get out of the team building, but that is how I got out of the last one and they aren’t going to go for it every time. I’m going to have to start spacing these things out.

This year, team building was hosted by a guy in an orange jumpsuit which solicited several reactions from Twitter. @jbrown3079 asked if I was working in an oil change place, while @Aerten thought he looked like a convicted felon. @debihen confirmed that where she lives, the orange jumpsuit is standard prison wear.

Sorry this picture is blurry. I had to take it fast so the guy wouldn’t see me. I have no idea what crimes this person has committed so it is not a good idea to get on his bad side.

Later, the orange jumpsuit guy started up a bizarre conversation with me about how far a molecule has to travel to get from the center to the surface of the sun. That is how felons talk, I guess.

Each team gets assigned a cell phone. We also had a camera, which I couldn’t figure out how to operate properly because I always take pictures with my cell phone. I don’t know why they couldn’t let us take pictures with the phone. What is the point of technology if you end up carrying around a camera?

The first stop on our long team building journey is to talk to a guy with a briefcase. He had all of these strange patterns displayed out on this table in the middle of Panera Bread. At first, I thought he was going to tell me my fortune. He ended up making us play Boggle.

According to @jbrown3079, I was lucky this guy didn’t sell me a gym membership. @DragonTC seemed concerned I was going to somehow end up handcuffed to the briefcase.

Next, we had to go into Starbucks. Normally, I rather enjoy going into Starbucks. However, on this specific Starbucks occasion, our team was supposed to hold hands in a circle and hum until the person assigned to this bizarre game appeared to give us a clue.

I looked longingly at the people with their coffee typing at their laptops. However, having a nice cup of coffee and wireless access was not in the cards for me. We stood outside humming, as if we couldn’t decide between starting cult or a séance, until this person finally approached us. She then told us a story about a fish.

This woman probably thought our humming was terrible, because it seemed to take her forever to get out there. Maybe she was enjoying her coffee.

I can’t tell you how the story of the fish was relevant to our team building because I was busy taking pictures for Twitter.

This is a picture of hummus. There was beet hummus, and carrot hummus, and also the kind with the chickpeas. I didn’t get to try any of the hummus; however, because we were only in this place to look at the pictures on the walls. Honestly, I don’t know how we didn’t get thrown out. No one wants you in a place where you are looking at the walls and taking pictures of hummus and not even buying anything.

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This is the place where @DragonTC said she would meet me with one of those tiny umbrellas that you put in drinks. I don’t know what they cook up in a cocktail kitchen, but I never did find out because this was not one of the places we had to go into to hum or talk to people with briefcases.

At one point in all of this, another team approaches us. Some of the members on this team are VERY enthusiastic about doing an “Inter-Team Challenge” because it would provide the optimum number of points.

Apparently, we would all need to participate in something called a “Dance-Off.” My only response to all this was that I don’t give a damn how many points are on the line, I am NOT doing a dance off. Luckily, our phone wouldn’t let us participate because we were right in the middle of the fish-lady task. However, all of this got me thinking the type of person I should be, or maybe could be, in contrast to the type of person I actually am.

My current attitude towards team building

My current attitude towards team building

Is there something wrong with me because I don’t care how many points our team will get if we participate in a Dance-Off? If I change the way I look at the world around me, would I be happier?

My potential attitude towards team building

My potential attitude towards team building

Maybe instead of taking random pictures of places I would rather be, I could actually participate in the task at hand. I could enjoy the moment. I could bask in the humorous camaraderie of looking ridiculous outside a Starbucks. Can you change who you are by changing the way you look at things? That is exact moment when…… I saw they were handing out DRINK TICKETS.

drinktickets

Oh, wait…. drink tickets!!!

This is me living happily ever after with my glass of wine.

Once you have a large glass of wine, you no longer have to worry about being an entirely different person for the sake of team building. You can pretty much just relax and drink your wine.

Okay, so forget all that other stuff from before about looking at the world in a different perspective. The moral of this story is that if you are ever stuck in a team building, or end up in prison, you can depend on your Twitter friends to help you out.

@debihen will visit you in the big house to check up on your prison tats.

@DragonTC will send you cigarettes to use as currency and a cake that may or may not have a file in it.

@recordpaul will be of no use whatsoever. He will only ask, “Why are you in jail?” Sometimes, you don’t know WHY you are in jail, Paul. You just end up there. The least you can do is quit asking questions and send me cigarettes and some designs for my prison tats.

@edrafalko will point out how many ‘i’s are in random words like ‘wine’ and ‘antisocial.’ This makes a lot more sense within the context that I am not going to provide.

@jbrown3079 will wisely suggest that a vodka bar would be a more practical way of getting people to participate in any type of dance demonstration.

Most importantly of all, remember this: No matter who you are, or what people in real life may put you through, in the words of @DragonTC, “You are (twitter) loved.”

How to Survive Team-building

I was never sure what the point of team-building was until the other day, when one of my co-workers explained logically and succinctly: “The point of team-building is make you feel as ridiculous as possible in order to form a common bond.” Sort of like hostage situations, or torture. Or, perhaps, exactly like torture. At any rate, I will now go over five simple steps to help you survive any team-building situations you may be likely to encounter. I’m like Mother Theresa over here. Somebody get me some good karma. Now.

STEP ONE: Take Pictures for Facebook

If there is one thing I know, it is that people LOVE to see pictures on Facebook. I have included some examples of pictures I posted so you can get a feel for what people would like to see.

Usually on Facebook, people enjoy seeing scenery from your environment. These environmental images usually include vacation photos of exotic places, or a picture of some fish you caught. However, when you are at work doing work stuff, that isn’t very practical. In my situation, I was taking a chartered bus to a team-building, so naturally I took at picture of the bus-seat upholstery.

Okay, I know that doesn’t seem astounding in and of itself, and I have to admit that it wasn’t until later that I realized they upholstered the CEILING with the very same fabric. Now THAT is impressive.

My next photo in the series of bus-upholstery photography.

Then I realized that photo really didn’t do justice to the whole scope of the bus upholstery ceiling, so I took another one.

This was a much better shot.

If there is anything the people of Facebook adore more than pictures from your environment, it is information regarding what you are currently eating or drinking. As fate would have it, we were served lunch almost immediately upon arrival to the teambuilding exercise. Therefore, this was my next brilliant Facebook post.

My Lunch

These people LOVE me.

STEP TWO: Find a Sarcasm Buddy

To find a sarcasm buddy, look for people rolling their eyes or looking generally miserable. Do NOT look for people who dance over enthusiastically when it is suggested that people go around the room and dance. Those people will NEVER be sarcastic with you. Also, please stay as far away from the dancing people as possible for your own safety. Trust me on this one.

Once you find your sarcasm buddy, you can never separate. Even if the ‘coaches’ (feel free to substitute the term sadist) at the team-building say that you can’t partner up with the same person, you have to totally ignore this. You never know when they are going to divide you into teams. For example, at one point, the ‘coaches’ yelled out for everyone to divide into groups of seven people by putting their fingers on the back of someone’s knee.*

It was incredibly awkward…mostly because I am extremely monogamous about letting people put their fingers on the back of my knee.

You never think you will need a shirt like this one until it is too late.

THEN… THAT, the scene with all the knee-touching, THAT was our team. If I hadn’t stood resolutely by my sarcasm buddy throughout this whole thing, I would be stuck on a team with this guy who was way too over-eager to put his damn finger on my knee. No one needs that.

But, don’t take my word on the importance of hyper-vigilance regarding team divisions. pictou ‏@pictou totally agrees with me, advising, “Watch out when they sort you into teams–it’s the divide and conquer theory.”

And believe me… you do NOT want to be conquered. Unless it means you can go home. But, alas, it doesn’t. Nothing can get you home short of purposefully wetting your pants. My sarcasm buddy and I actually spent some time discussing the merits of pants wetting, but unfortunately, I took the damn bus and therefore still needed a ride back. No one wants to sit next to the pants wetter. Probably not even if you explain it was on purpose.

STEP THREE: Make Twitter Comments

General comments fare a little better than overly specific ones. My statement of “I’m in hell” got several nice reactions.

Pooka’s Crayon ‏@LargoHaikuNook discussed the financial merits of being in hell, stating, “Get autographs, if you can. They’ll go for a fortune on Ebay.”

Cara ‏@zippy219 was evidently in hell too on that day: ” I don’t see you! Are you sure you’re here? Wave or something so I can see you.”

Hell is a large and crowded place… probably because of all the damned.

Andreas Heinakroon@heinakroon, always the gentleman, offered his condolences, “I’m sorry to hear that. Say hi to Satan from me.”

Debbie ‏@debihen said, “My regards to Beelzebub and his minions.” She also advised me to run if they suddenly started handing out Kool-Aid.

Just be aware that if you make your comments too specific as to the actual activities at hand, it could be a little confusing.

For example, when my sarcasm buddy said, “I’m all for teamwork, but I’m not laying on the ground putting on a weird suit.” I had to Tweet that IMMEDIATELY. You never know if you are going to remember comments later, and this one was GOLD. Unfortunately, while I was right in the middle of typing my tweet, it was suddenly MY turn to drive the damn bike. This is where having a sarcasm buddy really comes in handy. My sarcasm buddy took me by the arm and guided me over to the bicycle/cult-suit-changing area WHILE I typed Twitter statements into my phone. Now THAT is teamwork!

Anyway, my point is that not many people got what I was talking about with the suit.

Gigi ‏@gigirambles inquired, “What the hell kind of team training are you at?!”

Rod Jordan ‏@AIRIGOAGAIN, who never lets the fact he has no idea what I am saying get in the way of offering sage advice, posted, “Just say “There’s no I in team, so I’M not laying on the the ground!”

Granted, I agree my statement was a little confusing. Allow me to explain myself in this next section. It won’t help alleviate any confusion, but at least I can say I tried.

STEP FOUR: Never wear the suit

As part of our team-building efforts, we had to race these bikes we put together, which was already a bad idea because our bike was trailing nuts and bolts and my sarcasm buddy and I were secretly hoping for the wheels and stuff to start flying off. But, the worst part is that the ‘coaches’ made you wear this ridiculous suit when you rode the bike.

Here is my sarcasm buddy holding up the suit.

Most of you probably already know what it is like to feel normal, but I spend most of my life glancing around at people thinking, ‘Are we really going to go for this?’ and then, sure enough, everyone is Zumba-ing the Macarena, or crossing minefields in blindfolds (see next section), or doing some dance where a guy keeps singing at you to go “to the right. To the right.”

When people brought up the idea we would all be changing in and out of this suit, my sarcasm buddy promptly stated, “I have OCD and I am NOT wearing that suit.” OCD is nice to have in a sarcasm buddy, because they are going to freak out at the stuff you are being asked to do way before you even think about objecting. In comparison, you get to seem like you are normal and willing to go along with crap. It is a nice feeling to have another person recognize the insanity well ahead of you.

STEP FIVE: Cheat

After the dancing and the knee touching, the ‘coaches’ made us wear blindfolds** and go through this ‘minefield’ of Frisbees and squeaky toys to get the bike parts. My sarcasm buddy and I decided that we would totally peek through the blindfold while yelling convincing directions like, “to the right. To the right”***, and “at an angle.”

Bear giving directions on how to cross the minefield.

Here is “Bear” (not entirely sure that is his given name) explaining that we are wearing the blindfolds because we are drunk (I can’t even begin to tell you how disappointed I was to be told we would be getting drunk and then being handed a blindfold) and that if you commit a crime when you are drunk it doesn’t count. Seriously, this is something they said. Apparently, being drunk makes you completely unaccountable for your actions. Don’t even get me started on the ramifications of applying this logic in real life.

Note that the minefield consists of Frisbees, mangled pool noodles, and squeaky toys. This is probably how we lost Vietnam.

This is the tire I brought back across the minefield while drunk on blindfolds.

At the end of this exercise, we still had the steering wheel and the brake left across the minefield. Our team was fairly confident we could carry on through the race without these two items, but then Bear just freaking GAVE them to us. Which both pissed me off  and leads us to the most important lesson of teambuilding: “Never let people make you cross minefields in a blindfold for car parts they are going to hand you anyway.”

I know you think you don’t need this shirt, but you do. You should buy three of them.

Remember that. It will serve you well.

Oh… I did forget one last picture.

This was my favorite part of the entire experience.

Side notes:

* You are probably thinking this is kinky shit I am making up, but I am DEAD serious when I tell you that this happened… in real life. I should make a documentary.

**again, I know you think is some kinky shit I am making up, but I cannot reiterate enough how all of this REALLY HAPPENED.

***see… NOW I know what that damn song was all about.

The Rick Perry Luncheon Part Three: The Luncheon

We arrive in Austin. I somehow manage to get my impossible shoes back on my feet and exit the van. I then cross the street in a timely enough manner so I am not hit by oncoming traffic. Major success. This is around the time we find out Rick Perry isn’t going to be at the Rick Perry luncheon. I know you are probably upset that you read this whole thing only to find out that Rick Perry never even makes an appearance, but at least you didn’t have to wear pinchy shoes. So, quit complaining.

In all honesty, Rick Perry was never even formally designated to show up at this luncheon. I merely assumed Rick Perry would be at the luncheon because he was at the luncheon last year. That is called prediction based on previous events. It is very scientifical.

Turns out, Rick Perry sent a perfectly suitable replacement. I should have known something was up when the guy took the stage and I saw he was wearing cowboy boots with his business suit. I didn’t even know you could do that. Then, he opens his mouth and starts trying to be funny. Except, his idea of being funny just pisses me off. He starts off talking about bumper stickers on trucks. I am naively sitting in my chair with shoes on because that is what people do, looking at him and pretending to be interested while wondering how long this is going to take when he blurts out, “Piss off a liberal. Get a job, work hard, and be happy.”

At first I am confused. Why would a person get on a stage and say that? That is a really dumb thing to say. Before Lucy’s Football blog, I would have had no idea how to react to this guy. But, Lucy’s Football blog has prepared me for this day. The guy is an ASS HAT. Capital ASS, capital HAT. Now when he starts telling us we need to close off the Texas borders to keep out everyone coming over from Mexico, I am fully expecting it. I am a bit surprised he leaves out the heat seeking laser missiles.

About two minutes into the ASS HAT speech, I suddenly realize that if I had wanted to listen to this sort of thing, I would have grabbed a bottle of vodka and turned on the Republican debates. Instead, I have no vodka and I am in impossible shoes. I am trapped.  Rick Perry’s evil twin finally ends his speech with a rant about small government and big business. There is a long invocation in which I bow my head respectfully for so long I need a chiropractor. Then, at long last, we get to eat our lunch.

All throughout lunch and the long speeches, I have had my shoes on. This is what people do. They sit at lunch with their shoes on, especially if their shoes require a major amount of effort to apply in the first place. The trouble with eating lunch and listening to a bunch of speeches with your shoes on is that your feet get sweaty. When your feet get sweaty in pinchy shoes with heels that slip a little, these shoes become shoes with heels that slip a lot. They are still very pinchy though. Go figure.

Now my walking requires double the concentration and a way of stepping in which I put my shoe on the ground heel first and never bend my foot. I am sure it is very graceful. It is also excruciatingly slow. Another problem is that the plan after lunch is to hurry and get to the picture taking area first, so we don’t have to stand in line. That’s right: I said, HURRY. I can’t hurry. I can barely make it across the street without getting hit by a car. This snail pace is my top speed. No, making that waving motion with your arm is NOT going to help me walk any faster. Damn, what would Holly Golightly do?

Turns out Holly Golightly would painfully walk around, take the damn picture, readjust the gel pads in the shoes in the bathroom, then somehow stumble back to the van and take off the shoes from hell. The only reason I even had to channel Holly Golightly in the first place because of those damn shoes. I wore my back up shoes for the rest of the trip. I did carry around one of the tall heels in case of zombie attack. You can never be too careful.

The main take away from all of this is: if you get invited to a Rick Perry luncheon, there are a few things you will need to take care of in advance. First, make sure Rick Perry will actually be at the luncheon. Second, make sure you have shoes that fit. Accomplish those two things and you will be fine. You can also make up some sort of excuse where you don’t have to go. That might be preferable.

Oh… and be sure you take this t-shirt:

Because you never know when you might run into an asshat.

The Rick Perry Luncheon Part Two: Walking to the Van

If you are only reading this for the Rick Perry part of the story, this isn’t it. See how I told you upfront to save you the time and disappointment?

My co-workers arrive one by one. I realize that they too look very different in their dress-up clothes. Now we can look like instant grown-ups together. We are all joking about jackets that are too big or almost too small and I explain my impossible shoes. We all have a good laugh.

The driver of the van arrives and we begin the walk. My walk is fairly stable as long as I concentrate and take tiny steps. Once you get the rhythm down, it isn’t too bad. I am about halfway to the van when I suddenly realize I have left my bottle of water and cereal bar by the chair I was sitting in. Ordinarily, I would just run back in and get the items, but with these shoes I will never make it. These shoes are putting me at a huge disadvantage even BEFORE the zombie attack. I’m already falling behind all the other people walking to the van. There is no way I can make it to the lobby and back in a reasonable amount of time. The prospect of a three-hour drive without my bottle of water and cereal bar is dismal. Panic sets in. Quick, what would Holly Golightly do?!?

“Oh, no!” I declare, and stop walking.

“What is it?” asks one of my male co-workers who comes rushing to my side.

“I left my cereal bar and bottle of water next to the chair in the lobby.” I tell him. I’m watching people get into the van. This moment is critical. If I am getting that cereal bar it is now or never.

“I’ll save you!” The man says in a deep voice. Then, he turns around and is suddenly wearing a bright red cape. He dashes into the building and comes out triumphantly, water bottle and cereal bar in hand.

“My hero.” I tell him in a breathy voice.

Then, I make him walk next to me until we get to the van so it won’t look like I am the one walking slow. I also tell him to take off the cape because it looks stupid.

I think to myself, “If I had a ukulele right now, I would sing Moon River until all of your ears bleed.”

Then, I get into the van. In the struggle of navigating to the back of the van in my very tall shoes, the cereal bar slips onto the seat. I watch it slide down into an impossible crevice just as everyone belts in and the trip is underway. Damn.

A diagram of my cereal bar dilemma. Items may not be to scale.

Check back soon for the final installment of the Rick Perry Luncheon: The Rick Perry Luncheon.

The Rick Perry Luncheon Part One: The Business Professional Suit and Shoes

My company nominated me among a small group to attend a fancy luncheon in Austin. We were to meet at a white van at 7:30 in the morning for the three-hour drive. The dress code was business professional and it was casually mentioned that Rick Perry was at the event last year.

Okay. All I have to do is show up at 7:30 in some sort of suit for a Rick Perry luncheon. You would think that is simple enough, right? Well, you would be wrong. Dead wrong. This experience is going to take way much longer to explain than the time that guy brought up milkshakes from the past at McDonald’s, so I am going to break it into sections. This section is mostly clothes related, and Rick Perry does not appear. If you are mainly reading this for the Rick Perry experience, you may want to skip ahead to the part I haven’t written yet.

First thing to do is take care of the business professional end of things. Blazer, skirt, impractical shoes… I have all that stuff around somewhere. I dig through the closet and find two skirts, one brown and one black. There is also a blazer. The blazer is black. I thought I had a brown one too, but a brief tour of the rest of the closet fails to produce one. Okay, fair enough. I can still make this work. I put on the black skirt. It is way too tight. Fail. I put on the brown skirt. It fits nicely. Win.

Skirt, check. Now I just need a blazer. You know what? I HATE the word ‘blazer.’ ‘Blazer’ is a stupid word. Let’s use the term ‘jacket’ from here on. I notice there is a layer of dust on the ‘jacket.’ No biggie. Brush it off. There. Then, I try it on. Something is odd about the way it fits. I look at myself in the mirror and see…. shoulder pads. This jacket has shoulder pads. Those are still in style, right?

Just then my husband walks in to find me wearing a brown skirt with a black jacket and shoulder pads. He politely requests to know what the hell is going on. When I tell him about my Rick Perry lunch, he immediately places a call to our mutual friend, and, apparently, the owner of my other closet. She has been my emergency clothes person for years. For the sake of anonymity, I will call her ECP. If you see someone who is dressed impeccability and is a little taller than I am, it is probably her, so be nice.

The next morning I have an appointment with ECP to try on suits for my Rick Perry lunch. ECP has a closet that is organized and amazing. Within thirty seconds of walking into the closet, I am holding four suits and four very silky shirts, all settled perfectly into their wooden hangers. I decide not to mention I had crammed my brown skirt into my purse just to ask if she had something to match with it. “Try these on,” she says and leaves the room. I was happy with the first one. It fit and I looked normal. But, about three iterations later, I had a perfect combination of suit with matching shoes. Very, very tall matching shoes that were a little too large.

ECP told me I could go to the store and buy some gel things for the back of the heel and also, if I planned to be walking, some for the bottom of the shoe as well. Since I naturally assumed I would be walking in the shoes at some point during the Rick Perry luncheon, I headed to the store. I also got some backup shoes in case there might be some sort of eminent disaster, or zombie attack. You do NOT want to be running around from zombies in heels. It puts you at a huge disadvantage. Plus, @plumsauce10 told me that spiky heels make the best zombie defense.

Stuff I bought so I can walk at the Rick Perry luncheon

So, now I have my suit, my tall shoes, and things that will allow me to walk in my tall shoes, and back up shoes for the zombie attack. I am ready for my Rick Perry luncheon. ECP told me to practice walking in the shoes once all the gel inserts are in to make sure they fit, but I’m sure they will be fine. Dr. Scholl knows what he is doing with the gel inserts. He is a doctor.

The day of the Rick Perry lunch, I put on my suit, and outfit my shoes with the gel inserts. The heel is still slipping. The shoes are also a bit difficult to walk in. It is like I can’t use my entire foot anymore. I’m unsure if this is because of the height of the shoe, or the fact that it doesn’t fit. Confusing. Also, the gel pads keep slipping out. Another problem is the suit is making me feel strange. I have never worn a skirt to the office. Not even for the interview. I have underestimated the weight of having luncheon with Rick Perry. Panic sets in. I can’t do this.

Then, I take a deep breath and remember watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s with @lucysfootball. Holly Golightly taught me that if you look cute, you can be a mess and no one will care. This will be my theme for the day. Look out world, I am in my fancy suit and ill-fitting shoes, and you are going to love me even if I can’t remember your name!

Suit accomplished, I get in the car to drive to the office. I soon realize I can’t possibly drive in these heels without potentially killing someone, so the shoes come off. This is actually a larger setback than it seems because they were nearly impossible to get on in the first place. I don’t know how shoes so damn hard to get my feet into can still be slippy at the heel. It doesn’t make any sense. I arrive at the office with ten minutes to spare. Trying to get the shoes back on in the car is impossible. I’ll have to get to the lobby.

I practically fall out of the car holding my shoes, a bottle of water, and a cereal bar. Ordinarily, all of these items would fit in my purse. However, I have a fancy purse now that matches the suit because I don’t want to look like a bag lady in front of Rick Perry. I somehow manage to make it to the lobby where I sit and examine my shoes. I haven’t even successfully worn the shoes from my car to the building. This does not bode well.

Suddenly, I realize I have never seen anyone in this lobby sitting in a chair holding their shoes. This is most likely NOT normal behavior. I take a deep breath and channel Holly Golightly…. Yes, I am slightly ridiculous, but I have a very fancy suit and the world absolutely loves me. A man walks into the lobby and pushes the elevator button. He glances over. I hold my shoes in defiance. “Ha, Ha,” he says, “It looks like a shoe store in here.” Yes it does, elevator man. You have no idea.

Once elevator man is gone, I manage to the all the gel pads in the proper place in the shoes and somehow get them back on my feet. Now that I look like a normal person wearing shoes and sitting on a chair, I wait for my co-workers to arrive.

Check back soon for my next installment… walking to the van.

Workplace Guidelines for People who are Me

I’m not sure why it is so difficult being me. How do seemingly simple tasks get tangled and become obscure? To figure this out, I have decided to break down an uncomplicated task that inexplicably went awry. You are coming with me to work, ready? The job for today is to add new course names to each course in this eLearning catalog. Here is the list of courses and the new course names on an Excel spreadsheet. Looks like all we need to do open each file, change the course number, republish the course, and mark completion on the spreadsheet. Simple enough. Let’s get started.
How to be Me:
  1. Open Spreadsheet.
  2. Open the first file.
  3. Suddenly remember that the intern who was testing the courses last summer found a glitch that was never addressed.
  4. Decide to take matters into your own hands.
Looking up the documentation, you see that the intern was getting unexpectedly ejected from the end of course exam. Opening one of the files, you notice that the hit area for the Cancel button is a larger size than the actual button. Clicking next to the button could cause users to inadvertently eject themselves from the scored exam. Test this for yourself to find that you are indeed unexpectedly tossed from the scored exam.
Decide that as long as the courses are being updated anyway, that this is an issue that clearly must be addressed. Add issue to the spreadsheet. Looking at the documentation, you notice another issue. The page number text field is a little too small for double digits when viewed in certain browsers. Decide to fix this issue as well and add to spreadsheet. You can also make a new spreadsheet if you feel the first is getting too crowded.
Browsing through the courses, you notice that some have the Cancel Button issue fixed while others do not. Now you need to document which courses actually need the additional updates. Feel free to start another spreadsheet for this.
Start fixing the courses, but for some reason, don’t start at the beginning of the list. You won’t remember why you started in the middle or one-third of the way through, just that it seemed like the logical thing to do at the time.  You should also consider getting so involved in making the additional changes that you forget to change the course numbers. Changing the course numbers may have been the entire aim of this project, but now it hardly seems important.  Realize, suddenly, that all spreadsheets are now completely non-informative of actual progress.
Once you have the state of the courses in complete disorder, a co-worker will ask you where you are on the project. He will also probably want a copy of the spreadsheet so he can ‘help’. Of course, he will know nothing about the Cancel Button or text field changes, or the additional 3 to 5 spreadsheets and their new fields, so any help at this point is going to be anti-help. This will be way too hard to explain. Despite the fact that he seems to think he has asked a relatively straight-forward question, look at him blankly.
He will persist. You might as well just tell him you have no idea where he should start on the spreadsheets, or even which spreadsheet as there are now three of them. He will now give you a familiar look of condescension to which you are immune.
Showing Progress
Of course, you will need some way to report progress that is specialized for this unorthodox method of completing a project. Allow me to provide with some guidelines:
Your boss, at some point, will want to know how your team is progressing on a given project. When reporting progress, always go with a percentage.  I usually go with 85%. Sometimes, my boss will look at me funny and insist, “That is exactly what you said when I asked for a progress report on the other thing.” At this point, I try to look both surprised and enlightened, before changing the number to 82% or sometimes 86%.
If at any point in this process, people become agitated with me, I usually explain that they only have to put up with this for less that 8 hours a day, while I have to live with my brain all the time. They seem sympathetic.
How to NOT be Me:
Just change the damn course numbers.

Office Stealth

Last week’s post focused on winning at small talk. However, it occurred to me that some of you would rather NOT win at small talk. If you prefer to go through your day without chatting about sports, you will need a lesson in office strategies of war.
Stealth Mode: The best way to deal with the enemy is to not engage.
@daralynnieloo suggests the most obvious, yet very important office stealth tactic: “ hiding within your cubicle.” I recommend you also have a complicated spreadsheet handy you can stare at intently. People will be less likely to bother you if you look busy.
Eventually you are going to have to leave your cubicle to get snacks. When leaving the safety of the cubicle, @daralynnieloo suggests you “dress in an abstract pattern based off colors in your surrounding area, the randomer the better. Also, face paint.” I know what you are thinking, you have a meeting later and that face paint is really hard to wash off. There must be an easier way, like a cloaking device.
While one would assume cloaking devices to be fairly common in the workplace, @heinakroon says, “There are cloaking devices nowadays, but they only work in infrared and microwave spectra so far.” However, I’m pretty sure I can get the microwave in our break room to produce come cloaking technology if people would stop using it to make popcorn. What good is it to be cloaked if you smell like burnt popcorn? It probably won’t help that much.
In fact, @heinakroon most likely already has stealth technology all worked out. He is keeping it under wraps, you see. The problem with stealth technology is that you can never share it because then everyone around you would have stealth. Then you would have to get even stealthier technology to overpower the first stealth technology. Pretty soon you will be so stealthy that you won’t even exist.
In case you somehow aren’t successful at adopting microwave spectra stealth technology, @me_mumstheword suggests, “Look like you need something and no one will see you.” To facilitate this, I have made you a line of office stealth t-shirts.
This last one didn’t work for some reason.
While it may not be possible to travel through the office entirely unobserved, protective materials and behaviors can be implemented to prevent enemy approach and ensure your safe return to the cubicle. @daralynnieloo suggests that you “wander around with a stack of papers that you are pretending to make sense of. Constantly flip thru and mumble.” For increased effectiveness, @fearthecute has a list of specific muttering words you may find helpful. They include ‘deadlines’, ‘client’, ‘report’, and ‘presentation’.
Cubicle Invasion: AKA the peer-and-glare
The peer-and-glare is a classic form of cubicle invasion and requires more aggressive measures, including, but not limited to cats.
When @sepilipa told us all that she “got the peer-over and glare from the girl in the cube next to mine.” @SparkerPants quickly came to the rescue with a very practical suggestion. “Bring a cat to the office, hold it over the cube divide. No one does the peer-and-glare like a cat.”
@sepilipa‘s cat demonstrating the dreaded cubicle peer-and-glare: an expert for sure.
To get this plan to work, you will need to consider how you will transport the cat.  You will most likely need to sneak the cat into the office since cats are notoriously uncooperative and will never go for the business casual dress code. Dogs on the other hand, would put on a pair of khaki pants without complaint, but they aren’t as good at glaring. So, don’t bring a dog.
You can probably sneak the cat into your office in a briefcase. Everything looks professional in a briefcase. For tips on getting the cat into the briefcase, please see Wikipedia.
Purchasing the Proper Equipment: Everything important in life is free, except for the really cool stuff.
A lot of people say that throwing money at a problem is not the solution. I would like to ask these people if they have ever TRIED throwing money at the problem. And also, are they throwing enough money at it? Throwing enough money at a problem with solve EVERYTHING. Look at Donald Trump and the hair.
Unless you have decided to pay @fearthecute for some extra muttering words, or @heinakroon for his secret stealth technology, all the suggestions so far have been free. Now I will present some options for those of you who are better funded. Money wins wars, you see. Or starts them. Or perhaps has nothing to do with them, I am really just making this up as I go. Sorry.
@me_mumstheword says that “keeping a bloody hatchet on your desk is a deterrent to unnecessary chatter.” She insists that her hatchet is primarily a ruse, but does admit, “I’d not be afraid to use it. Head-off any pestering, so to speak.”
The hatchet below is actually listed as a “bloody axe” but I like that it already comes with a kill count already carved into the side. People will be less likely to mess with you if they know you have taken someone out in cold blood before lunchtime.
http://www.mypartyplanner.com/products/bloody-axe.html
@daralynnieloo keeps “rubber bands and marshmallows” handy to prevent the “peer-and-glare. “Nosy neighbor pulls a Kilroy, bean her between the eyes.” While @daralynneiloo means well with the rubber bands, I urge you to forgo mere rubber bands in favor of this baby from marshmallowville.com.
As an added bonus, it is camouflaged. No one will see you until they are unwittingly pegged with marshmallows. Buy one even if you don’t have an office job. It will facilitate the interview process in case you decide to get one.
Well, I gotta go for now. I have a spreadsheet to stare at and I am pretty sure I just saw @heinakroon duck around the corner under the cover of infrared microwaves.  It was the cat he was carrying that gave him away.

How to Establish Rapport in the Work Place

My friend sent me an email link to an article about small talk. I was initially thrilled for the small talk advice. However, I was a little put out that the article was titled, “Asperger’s Syndrome at Work: Why Small Talk Matters.” To make matters worse, the article is actually an excerpt from the book, Asperger’s Syndrome Workplace Survival Guide: A Neurotypical’s Secrets for Success.

Why would ANYONE, much less a close friend, send me an Asperger’s Syndrome article? There is nothing wrong with me, you see.

Of course, if there is nothing wrong with you, you probably don’t need the shirt, but that is NOT the point I am trying to make here.

So, of course, instead of reading the article, I call her yelling, “What the hell! You think I have some sort of syndrome?!?”  To which she responds that I most likely have a multitude of syndromes for which there are no cure and/or medical treatment and why can’t I just read the goddamn article for Christ’s sake?

Still a bit annoyed, I find the article and begin reading. My indignation dissolves at the first sentence:  “If you are like many people with Asperger’s Syndrome, you categorize small talk as a nonsensical ritual where people waste time talking about stupid subjects no one really cares about.” Crap. I think I have Aspergers.
According to Barbara Bissonnette, author of the Asperger’s article, small talk is actually a “critical workplace skill.” Sharing friendly comments with your fellow employees “sends the message that you consider yourself to be part of the group.” Also, you never know when you are going to need your car jump-started and if you go around being an ass to everyone, probably no one will help you. The article didn’t come right out and say this, but I’m sure it is what Barbara was getting at.
I will now summarize the most important points of the article combined with valuable insights from my own personal experience. I won’t bother to separate these in any way because what I have to say is just as relevant, if not more so, than the published work of a writing professional. In fact, I guarantee that after reading this, we will ALL be winning at small talk. Ready?
There are three very important factors to consider for winning at small talk. These include:
1.     Discussion Length

Small talk is the discussion of a general topic for the typical duration of five minutes.  The actual passage of time may seem much longer than five minutes, so you need to find a way to keep track of the time without being obvious. When the conversation is near the five minute mark, you are done. Actually, after four minutes, you can break from the conversation abruptly at any time.
2.     Topic Choice

You should choose a neutral topic that won’t make people uncomfortable or angry. The article specifically says not to call anyone fat, but you should probably already be aware of that, so I won’t go over it. If you follow sports teams or watch popular programming, these are great conversation topics.  However, if you do not watch televised football or keep up with who got fired from Dancing with the Stars, this is a serious shortcoming on the small talk field and you are never going to win.
3.     Personal Connections

The main point of small talk is to make connections with others. According to Barbara, in order to do this, you have to keep the discussion going for at least two or three turns. In other words, respond to people in a way that encourages conversation rather than prohibits it.
For example, if a guy is standing there in the break room and you really want that Diet Coke or whatever it is you went in there for, you will probably end up talking to him. He might say something like, “Did you see the baseball game last night?” You have two paths available at this point. The first is the more direct path in which you say, “no,” grab the Diet Coke and leave. Giant fail! Answering “no” is automatically losing at small talk because you and your opponent have only each had one turn. To win at small talk, you must the take the second path and say something like, “I don’t follow baseball. Do you play?”
I know exactly what you are thinking. This type of statement is leaving the door wide open for this fool to go on and on about baseball and you will never get to drink your Diet Coke. Plus, how do you know that this isn’t going to turn into a situation like when you are nice to a stray dog? This person could follow you home and then refuse to leave your porch until you discuss the entire cast of Glee. Granted, if this type of thing were likely to happen, surely they would outline it in the book. However, I haven’t read the entire book, just the one article.  If someone follows you home and refuses to get off your porch, you should definitely buy the book. They probably tell you how to get people off your porch in the Appendix.
A Successful Small Talk Example

Allow me now to enlighten you with my own personal experience. I am sitting in cubicle world, when one of my fellow cubicle dwellers decides to spark up a conversation. Although my sense of duty in participating in the conversation immediately conflicts with my intense need to end it as quickly as possible, I now recognize the importance of winning at small talk. Luckily, the topic of choice is a neutral one:  trees.  I am winning already.
Cubicle Guy would like to hypothetically have a tree in his yard. Apparently, Fugi applies are in season at the moment, and these are Cubicle Guy’s favorite type of apple. If Cubicle Guy would have had planted a tree of this type in his yard, say, ten years ago, he would now be able to eat all of the apples and have some shade. 
In order to win at small talk, I must choose my response carefully. I consider telling Cubicle Guy it is impossible to plant trees in the past, but I can’t confirm this for a fact. So, instead I tell him, “I like plum trees. I would like to plant a plum tree in my yard.”
Things seem to be going well. Cubicle Guy is on his second turn, and I am pretty sure the conversation has taken at least three hours. Winning!
This is when Cubicle Guy states that I should not be planting anything right now, much less a tree, because there is going to be a huge drought next year rivaling the record drought of the 1950’s.
Now I am pissed because I didn’t want to plant a damn tree in the first place. How did I end up with Cubicle Guy telling me what a dumb idea it is to plant a fictional tree in the middle of a future drought?!

However, I MUST MAKE connections and get to that second turn.
Therefore, I tell Cubicle Guy that he is completely right about the tree planting.  To further support his theory, I tell him that we are actually 10,000 years into a major mass extinction event with inevitable ecological crisis. In addition, our ocean currents are slowing and sometime next week everyone will be living either in icy wasteland or barren desert. And also, there was something about sunspots increasing or decreasing, whichever it is, we end up fighting each other for food. Absolutely no one should waste time planting trees right now when we clearly all need to be out hoarding cans of creamed corn.
And then it happens…I WIN! I should get some sort of small talk prize or something.
Evaluating your Success

Now look back on your conversation. Did it last for approximately five minutes? Was your topic neutral? Did the conversation exchange between both participants at least two or three times? If so, you WIN! You are now free to go back to your desk and watch YouTube videos. Here is an exceptionally good one:
Enjoy your day.
Resources

For Further Research on inevitable ecological crisis, go to heinakroon.com to read “We’re all doomed.” In case you have time before we are completely doomed, there is also a great post about whether or not your shampoo is working.
To learn more about the barren wastelands caused by ocean currents and sunspots, you can read Frozen Britain: How the Big Freeze of 2010 is the Beginning of Britain’s New Mini Ice Age, by Gavin Cooke. 
However, I would not recommend reading this book unless you enjoy waking up at 3:00am worried about your lack of food fighting and scavenging skills.
Why Small Talk Matters” was an excerpt from  Asperger’s Syndrome Workplace Survival Guide: A Neurotypical’s Secrets for Success, by Barbara Bissonnette. Think how much you would be winning if you read the whole thing.

If I were famous, I would be spending way too much time hiding in bathrooms

As some of you are aware, I recently went to a conference. Those of you who are aware of my attendance at this conference are most likely thinking, “Another post about the damn conference???” Which is why I had to trick you into coming over here with an obscure title. Do NOT worry. This is the very, very last post about the conference… unless I think of another one later. But, I probably won’t.

The conference simultaneously terrified me and made me realize how little it takes to strip me out of my comfort zone and make me feel completely out of place. I had more in common with the homeless dude sitting outside of the train station than with any of the conference attendees. Granted, I don’t know why he chose to sit on the steps with all the broken glass on them. I’d like to think I would choose a more desirable location to sit if that was what I had planned for the day, but @lahikmajoe said I have a lot to learn about being homeless.

I spend a lot of time trying to pass myself off as normal; however, the guise is thin and easily dissolved. Walking into the conference ballroom for lunch and finding cards on each table denoting the required conversation topic horrified me.  It is bad enough they expect me to make small talk with a bunch of people I don’t know while trying not to spill food on myself.  They shouldn’t be able to tell me what to say.

Also, I am not going to get all enthusiastic about whatever the keynote speaker is talking about in order to sell his new book.  I’m just not built that way.  Surrounded by all of these serious people with their wholehearted eagerness, I constantly felt a strong urge to go somewhere and hide.

I felt really depressed for being like a fish out of water at this thing until I read through Jenny’s blogs looking for quotes I could use to make fun of it. In her post, “I shouldn’t be allowed to mix with real people,”  she describes spending four hours hiding out in the men’s bathroom during a BlogHer party she was hosting. That is when I realized that real problem in this scenario was NOT my social ineptitude, but the fact that men’s bathroom at this particular location failed to provide an accommodating hiding place.

Due to the lack of men’s bathrooms available as hideout locations, I propose we install Anxiety Rooms for people with social incompetence and/or genuine anxiety disorders.

Don’t feel like having lunch today with a note card demanding you to discuss the Analysis of Community Marketing? Exhausted from cheerful people handing you business cards after PowerPoint presentations? Tired of burying yourself in cocktails so everyone around you will start making sense? Try our new Anxiety Room! It is quite comfortable and much similar to a men’s room without the urinals.

To make an unnecessarily long story less long… I survived. After a grueling three days, I gave the bum on the steps a commiserate nod, and boarded the train toward home. I would like to take a moment to thank my Twitter followers for keeping me company and putting up with the conference play-by-play. I appreciate you more than you know. And also, thanks to Jenny for reminding me that even though lunch table topics terrify me, I can still count myself in good company.

And….

To close with the last part, what you’re drinking at Starbucks is not national security.

How to Endure a PowerPoint Presentation

Some of you are excruciatingly aware based on my Twitter and Blog rants that I recently went to a conference.

This conference, which sucked all the humor out of my brain, was divided into two tracks, Business and Technical. After a day of watching people type and then point to lines of code, my head went numb. Therefore, I decided to take a break from the Technical Track, and cross over to the Business side.

The first thing I notice about the Business Track is the change in dress code. The polo shirts and torn jeans from the Technical Track have given over to power suits. Also, no one in this room has an iPad, or a laptop open. No one is even typing into a phone. They all have notepads and tablets. Not ThinkPads or electronic tablets either… they are using pens. I decide that I too will get out a pen and take notes. By ‘take notes’ I mean write down random crap I’m thinking during the presentation. My plan is do this with a very serious look on my face so as to appear productive.

Pablo, our presenter for the afternoon, is Italian. I’m not sure if all Italian men resemble a Ken dolls with longer than average side burns, but Pablo does. Pablo thoughtfully takes a moment to inform us of his hobbies. Apparently, he enjoys running, reading, socializing, and jazz. These seem like odd hobbies to me, but then again people describe my hobby as, “Typing sarcastic shit into the Interweb.” I discreetly enter Pablo’s list of hobbies into Twitter. A few seconds later, @Handflapper and I agree that Pablo most likely uses liberal amounts of Axe body spray.

There is a snack basket being handed around the room, but I have already had three bags of Cheetos today. I can’t possibly eat anymore Cheetos. Entering information about the surplus of Cheetos into Twitter results in @lahikmajoe challenging the ‘real’ cheese aspect of Cheetos. Sadly, I fail to defend the cheese content and admit to eating orange powder. My potential marketing position over at Cheetos is now in serious jeopardy.

The next slide of Pablo’s Business Track presentation says, “INFORMATION OVERLOAD.” I write this down in huge letters on the notebook. I am so winning at taking notes right now.

I don’t know if all Italian men frame their sentences oddly while using a thick Italian accent, but Pablo does. He declares with enthusiasm that we are “very much overloaded with information.” Apparently, he fails to see the irony that he is very much contributing to the overload.

I check Twitter again. @jbrown3079 suggests that the Cheetos’ lack of appeal means it is time to leave the conference post haste. Pablo seems unaware of both @jbrown3079′s timely advice and my strong urge to leave his presentation. He pushes on to the next slide which is a picture of Facebook. “Knowledge is evolving,” he states with confidence. I am unsure how this message is connected with Facebook. He really should have gone with Wikipedia for that one, or maybe YouTube.

Pablo’s next slide is inexplicably a Jackson Pollock painting. I am suddenly missing the screens of code. I had a good setup over there with my laptop and duck. Why did I come over here to listen to Pablo? This has been a huge mistake. I check Twitter again to consol myself. @bottledshiny states, “My brain went far, far away.” She must be at this conference somewhere. If I didn’t have to keep my brain in my skull it would have made a run for it a long time ago.

Proceeds from the sale of this shirt go to @bottledshiny. Wait… I suddenly remembered this shirt doesn’t exist. If you see @bottledshiny, just hand her money. Thanks.

About mid-PowerPoint, I notice that Pablo likes to end the most important points of his presentation with the word, ‘whatever.’ Example: “These types of activities are directly linked to content growth and whatever.” “The link between a data driven community is evaluated by business integration, analysis, and whatever.”

Are we supposed to be furnishing the last parts of these statements for him? This could be a call for help. To salvage the rest of the presentation, I will combine Pablo’s statements with those of the most eloquent person I know: The Bloggess.

To decrease legibility, Pablo’s statements are in teal, while contributions stolen from Jenny’s blog are in pink italics. This is all I can do for you today, despite its skull casing, my brain has gone far, far away.

The link between a data driven community is evaluated by business integration, analysis, and I just got molested by a giraffe and I smell like urine.

There are endless opportunities in this type of methodology, but it is very hard to pretend you’re important when all you do is write about clown porn and dead kittens.

A social community is drafting new challenges and homicidal monkey cards for hopeless romantics.

Taking a step forward, we are making this process more useful. You will see the metric here, distracting you with animal tails and mouse skull necklaces.

Who are the influencers of the most important sources of information? Are they prepared for a long vaginal court battle with Eve Ensler?

Hard-linking communities and business improve the internal process, and there are some things that you shouldn’t have to worry about spontaneously combusting and one of those is jam.

To close with the last part, you can dive deep with this in-depth approach, and what I would imagine syphilis smells like.

Don’t get all crazy just ’cause I threw a vampire monkey-wrench in your faulty zombie logic. (Okay, that one was free)
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