Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/guide/.
Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)
Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right
Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains
Life(?) of Trillian
Friday, December 17, 2004
Hey! Look everyone! Webdate.com has a bunch of those actor imposters on their dating site! I've always wanted to date a celebrity imposter. It would be just like dating Richard Gere, Mischa Barton, Paris Hilton, J Lo or a young Tom Cruise without the pesky celebrity problems.
Who’s the Bravest of them All?
In my ongoing effort to observe and report, I endeavor to take on life and send reports to the Universe. Living life and dealing with it so you don’t have to, we always say here at Life(?) of Trillian.
It's in this spirit that I face work related required business social functions. If all those words strung together in one sentence makes no sense to you, you are the luckiest person in the world.
Because if those words in one sentence make no sense to you, you (or your girl/boyfriend/spouse) have a job which does not require you to attend social functions sponsored by business associate’s companies which are supposed to be fun but are really thinly veiled excuses for sales and marketing campaigns.
They are cleverly (and many times not so cleverly) disguised life insurance seminar-type events.
And some of us, many of us, have jobs which require us to attend these “social” “fun” events. The invitations begin arriving by mail and phone and email in November and strike fear in the hearts of those of us who “have” to attend them because our jobs/bosses/companies requires us to practice business etiquette which clearly states you must attend, make an appearance at, and stay long enough talk to the person at the sponsoring company who invited you. There is no gray area. No leeway. No getting out of it. Unless of course you want to be known as the gauche one who doesn’t follow business etiquette (not a problem for me, I’ll happily be known as the gauche one) and be stalked/plagued by calls from the associate who invited you prefaced with, “I didn’t see you at the party! We missed you!” (translation: You tacky, gauche low life, I invited you to a party with free food and booze and you didn’t bother to show up, I hate you and I am not going to cut you the deals on pricing I’ve been giving you for the past two years. In fact, a new price list is winging its way to you as we speak. Happy swutting holidays to you and your company. Happy new year. Bwa ha haaaaaaa.)
To make it palatable and intriguing and to be sure someone actually shows up, the sponsoring companies host open bars. This is a tender mercy they bestow upon their prey, erm, associates. Everything’s better with a little alcohol. Even Jim, the most obnoxious, overbearing, pushy sales person in the world is tolerable with a few drinks in you.
I’ve been able to gracefully and legitimately get out of a lot of this year’s business social responsibilities due to the fact that I’ve been out of town or working late because of an ill mother. Yes. It takes an excuse that extreme to get out of these events.
My Job is So Cool and Fun, Part IV I attended a few functions this year. I got through them. No one’s saying I enjoyed them. For me, these events have become like a yearly doctor exam. You have to do it. If you don’t you’ll get some really horrible disease which will go undiagnosed because that’s just the way karma works. It’s not pleasant, everyone else is there for the same reason (fear and blackmail), and like you, would rather be anywhere else. One by one we take our turn (oh swut, there she is, “Hi, you! How’s it going! Great to see you! Thanks for inviting me again this year!”), assume the position (drink and hors d’ouvres clumsily held (and often dropped) while trying to shake hands), try to go to our mental happy place (HR Puffinstuff, HR Puffinstuff...), make small talk with someone who is there to do a job everyone hates (“Hi, I’m Jim. I’m in sales. I’m an obnoxious, overbearing prat! Do you have a business card? Let me put you in my PDA!”), get probed and prodded (“So, are you going to order a gross of X for the Big Client project? Let’s talk pricing after the holidays, m’kay?!”), ponder just how long this is going to take and what the heck is going on (“Party” my arse, they entice us with food and booze, we’re like lambs to the slaughter), get left alone to try to regain composure (“Oh look, there’s Suzie! Do you know Suzie? Suzie works at (much bigger company with really cool clients who have big bucks to burn)! If you’ll excuse me, I need to catch her before she leaves. Have a great time tonight!”) and then leave as quickly and quietly as possible, casting a furtive glance of sympathy to those waiting their turns. (Poor Suzie. Dear girl didn’t stand a chance.)
These parties are the same the world over. No matter where I’ve been, what company I’ve worked for, or what job I’ve had, the common theme are these obligatory holiday parties which are frighteningly similar. It’s a small world, after all.
You will be able to spot the reps from the sponsoring company because they will have decided it would be fun to wear Santa hats, elf shoes, reindeer antlers, or a crown of candles a la Santa Lucia. Some will modify their fun adornment to show their personal festivals. (No one will ever forget the dreidels hanging from an account rep's antlers at a party I attended a few years ago.) They will also be the only ones trying to talk business. They will have their PDAs and Franklin Planners and stacks of business cards at the ready.
If you are unfortunate enough to stay late into the evening, when the liquor has been flowing two hours longer than it should have, and if you are sober enough to realize/remember what’s taking place before your very eyes, you will see things no one should be forced to see. You will see grown, normally respectable people groveling for business through slurred speech. You will hear people begging for interviews at other companies through slurred speech. You will hear things about other people and companies you really don’t want or need to know. You will hear remarkable promises being made. You will see some of the sluttiest/tackiest/tightest “festive” attire become sluttier/tackier/tighter. (My all time favorite was the light up sweater worn by a young female account rep. By the end of the evening the lights were strategically placed, and let’s just say her sweater was not the only thing lit.) You will see people attempting to be discreet as they leave together, but failing badly. You will see the back ends of people as they puke in the restrooms. You will lose any respect you had for your account rep. You will realize you now have an artillery of blackmail you can use if pricing negotiations get ugly in March. But only, of course, if you remain more sober and more above reproach than the rep. Which is why the reps will try to get you more liquored up than they are. A) They want you liquor you up, loosen your lips and have their merry way with your budget, and B) They want to be the one with the blackmail if things get ugly during pricing negotiations in March. So the trick is to stay more sober than the sponsoring company reps and leave early. Fortunately learned these lessons early in my career. And here I am sharing them with you. Because I’m swell that way. Consider it my holiday gift to you. See? Observing and reporting can be helpful.
How to get through a holiday business function with your sanity and job in tact.
A) If dates/spouses are invited, take one. If you don’t have one, find one. Everyone, male and female, needs a rent-a-date in their holiday arsenal. A friend no one at the party will know, a brother or sister will work.You and your date/spouse need to form very clearly defined plans of action for leaving the party. Establish an agreed time to arrive and depart the party. On the off chance you’re both having fun and want to stay longer than the agreed upon departure time, be sure to have a signal for “I’m having a blast, I want to stay longer than an hour!” But the most important plan is your contingency evacuation plan, your “I’ve had it, we’ve got to get out of here now” contingency plan. Practice your plan well in advance of attending the party. You do not want to confuse your signals in the event of an actual “I’ve had it, we’ve got to get out of here now” emergency. A word about rent-a-dates: I have a great one. He’s gay. He’s been my rent-a-date for so long there are people who think we’re married. I’m not kidding. For girls, the great things about a gay rent-a-date is that they always look fabulous (they will own at least one tux), they will help you with your hair, make-up and clothes before the party, they always treat you better than an actual date, they can hold a gin martini almost as good as Roger Moore, they will hurl really funny catty remarks about people at the party, they will respect you in the morning, AND you can return the favor by being their beard if they should require one. Everyone wins. The hazard with a gay rent-a-date, though, is if they meet someone at the party they really like. Work out a contingency “I’ve met someone interesting let’s ditch this party now” plan with your rent-a-date for this possibility before attending the party.
B) If dates/spouses are not invited, Yeah! Instant excuse to leave early! “My husband/wife/boy/girlfriend has a party at their parents’ tonight, just wanted to stop by and say hello, happy holidays, see you next year!” If you do not have a husband/wife/boy/girlfriend, make one up. Yes. Lie. Everyone will be intrigued by your new imaginary husband/wife/boy/girlfriend, and gossip and rumors will spread like wildfire throughout the party all night all over town by noon the next day. So what? If you don’t have a husband/wife/boy/girlfriend chances are your reputation could use a little intrigue. “But what happens when I have to actually produce a real husband/wife/boy/girlfriend?” you ask, worried. Oh, silly, Relax. Holiday break-ups are so common, after the holiday party season has ended, all you have to do is make-up a break-up with your imaginary husband/wife/boy/girlfriend. And guess what? People will feel sorry for you (be sure to make yourself the innocent victim in your imaginary break-up) and will be eager to set you up with someone, probably someone from the holiday party. Hey. Trust me on this. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.
C) Know your alcohol limits. Seriously. If you know gin martinis go straight to your head, DO NOT DRINK ONE at a business social function. Because the pain of the hangover the morning after is nothing compared to the pain of your boss’ screaming echoing in your head when s/he finds out you agreed to give all of your company’s business to the sponsor of the party, even though their prices are double that of the closest competitor. And even worse than the pain of the hangover or your boss screaming at you, is the pain of unemployment resulting from your irresponsible, drunken behavior while going beyond your alcohol limits at a business function. And no, Clintoning, Lewinsky-ing or actual sex with any business associate during or directly following a business social function IS NOT OKAY. There will be repercussions, and unless you are able/willing to face those repercussions, stay as chaste as a new born baby during these functions. I don’t care if Gina’s sweater has flashing lights on her nipples and she’s giving lap dances to all her clients. This is your time to shine as the example of decorum and proper business etiquette.
D) No matter how hard they try to get you to agree to a contract/product/meeting after the holidays, be strong and make no commitments to the party’s sponsor account rep. Smile and politely say, “The budgets on those projects are being reviewed, our client had lower revenue figures than expected so we have to trim the costs and scale down our original plan.” Feel free to embellish and add look of real serious and grave concern. This rhetoric, which may or may not be a lie, will shut up almost any rep except the most obnoxious prat who no one takes seriously anyway so it’s okay to just walk away if he persists after you make this comment. Maybe you really do want to use the party sponsor company. Fine. Great. But commit to nothing now. Stay strong. Stay courteous. Stay employed.
E) Chances are very good you will be invited to several holiday functions sponsored by competing companies. You will see most of the same people at these parties. Patterns of behavior will emerge. If you’re lucky, you might develop a relationship with a fellow business party invitee. This is good. This is very, very good. You may not realize it, but being friendly with another client of a company is a very, very good strategy. It gives you bargaining power. It gives you clout. It gives you someone to talk to at these things. And together, talking and drinking, you will be a threat to the reps at the party. They prefer to strike their prey when they are alone or with a date/spouse. A client grouped with another client can cause serious negotiating issues. If client A finds out client B is paying less for the same service/product, client A is going to be very, very difficult. So most reps will avoid stalking clients at parties who have allied themselves. It’s easy to find an ally client. Just observe who is alone and attending some of the same functions as you. March right over and introduce yourself, making it very clear you are a client and not with the party sponsor. (It should be obvious because you won’t be wearing a santa hat, elf shoes, antlers or Santa Lucia wreath.) Don’t badmouth anyone. Don’t gossip. Just be nice and talk about how you know the party’s sponsor. Trust me. Conversation will ensue.
I survived, I will survive. It’s almost over. The end is near. I see the bleak empty calendar page which is January fast approaching. And there is much rejoicing. Because I have a really cool and fun job.
Look, I'll make no apologies for these. No one, especially me, ever said Scots are a healthy lot, or culinary mavens, or sane. And yes. I have tried one. Okay? True confessions. I have eaten one. Well. A bite off the end of one. But I didn't swallow. That's right, I Lewinsky-ed it. And it is as gross as it sounds. It was one of the most disgusting things I've ever put in my mouth. There. Now leave me alone about this and Haggis, too. Neither one of these things is my fault or my responsibility.
I've got two words for you unScottish palate snobs, especially those of you in New York: Fried Twinkies.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
As the creative driving force of the company, I am frequently asked by co-workers to "help" with personal projects. Children's' birthday party invitations. Engagement party invitations. Office party decorations.
In the past three months (yes, the very same past three most chaotic, busy, emotionally draining and trying of my life months which some of you have painfully endured with me) I have been the one person decoration crew for: Two retirement parties, one baby shower, one "we just landed a huge client" party, a sales drive kick-off (this is a bi-monthly requirement of mine, apparently. The sales manager is one of those people who uses themes and "awards" and kick-off parties to motivate the sales staff. There is a plethora of Successories items in their office. Natch.), four birthday posters and (so far) three holiday parties. I have also designed and coded several webpages in conjunction with these and other events ("as long as you've already got the graphics, you can just post it, too." Want to say: "Post this you swutting inconsiderate jujuflub!" Instead say: "Yeah okay." because yes, I will already have the graphics and what's a little coding and posting and I just want this person out of my office and life as quickly as possible.)
I could almost understand/expect to be crowned Queen of all things Festively Decorated if these soirees were in my own department, among/involving my immediate co-workers. But with the exception of the baby shower and one of the holiday office parties, I was asked/imposed upon/threatened/blackmailed to come up with a theme, design and produce decorations for parties for people and departments in which I do not work and barely know the people involved. Simply because I am the driving creative force of the company. Which apparently leads people to feel free to impose, I mean ask, me to manage the design, decor, theme and production of party related paraphernalia. (Word spreads. If I'd said no the first time, had my former boss not "cleared it" I wouldn't be in this situation, with this reputation today.)
I could almost, sort of, kind of understand being asked to "help" with work related functions, or at least functions taking place in the office or for people who work in my company. But more often than not, the office party, co-worker roasting poster, party invitation is for someone I do not directly work with, and most often do not even know. And even more often than that, these requests are for parties/people completely unrelated to anything to do with work. Children's parties. A sister's friend's engagement. A father's retirement.
Sometimes these are truly fun projects. A chance to get all wacky creative and do things I don't normally get to do with projects at work. The birthday posters and retirement/leaving party invitations have become a particular specialty of mine, I'm sort of known for them, and given enough time, I actually enjoy them.
Unfortunately, I don't like most of my co-workers. So no matter how much devilish fun I could have with their personal projects these requests are always a huge imposition.
Wait, back up a minute. Regardless of the status of co-workers, no matter how happy and peaceful and friendly your office is, these requests are always impositions.
Because I have an actual job. Projects. Deadlines. Things to do, people to see. A paycheck to earn.
But people, people who need favors, are the neediest people in the world.
They will beg, whine, pout and threaten to "clear it" with my boss.
I always wonder how these conversations go. I cannot even comprehend the act of going to someone's boss and requesting a personal favor. I wish I had nerve like that. I wish I had no conscience like that. I wish was as stupid as that. I wish I had a set of balls like that.
Obnoxious Moron at Work (OMAW): "Hi Creative Driving Force's boss. How are you? Did you catch that game/movie on Lifetime last night?"
Boss of Creative Driving Force (BOCDF): "Yeah, wasn't it too bad they lost/sad when she died?"
OMAW: "Really a shame. Say. You know what be more of a shame?"
OMAW: "Yes. A terrible shame. So I spoke with Creative Driving Force and she said she's too busy to do this for me and something about abusing company resources. Very uncooperative, she was, not much of a team player. I told her I'd clear it with you."
BOCDF: "Yeah. She can be that way. I'm sure it wasn't anything personal. She's just a bitch. I'll have a chat with her and be sure she understands she needs to make your kid's birthday party/engagement party/funeral notice an award winning design. Consider it cleared. Because I am God to her. My commands are non negotiable. Because I am her boss. And she must obey me. No matter how unethical or inappropriate the command. She. Must. Obey."
OMAW: "Thanks, I knew you'd understand."
BOCDF: "Don't mention it. Really. Don't mention it to anyone. Ya goin' to Margie's party tomorrow?"
OMAW: "Of course!"
BOCDF: "Me too! See you there!"
OMAW then, chest puffed up all snarky like, marches (yes, marches) back to my office and says, "I cleared it with your boss. I want something with (an officially licensed and copyrighted character), a photo of my kid/fiancé/e/dead person, here are the hand written and barely legible details and I need 73 copies by tomorrow afternoon. Your boss said it was okay to use any time and company resources necessary."
"Oh. Okay. But. See. There are copyright issues, you can just go around using the likeness of licensed characters all willy nilly."
"Oh come off it. It's my kid's birthday party/engagement party/funeral notice. No one's going to see it. It's not as if we're making money on this."
"No but, I mean, Darby Conley might not like Bucky or Satchel's likenesses affiliated with your engagement. He might find it offensive. In fact, he'd probably find you offensive for even considering using his characters for your invitations. It's beyond copyright infringement. It's about personal ethics. How would you like it if some complete stranger used the likeness of something you created for their kid's birthday party?"
"I wouldn't care." (They never do. Never. Not ever. No one would care if their licensed and copyrighted characters were used without permission. I find this very difficult to believe. Hence a large portion of my distrust of the human race.)
"Look, I'll do something cute/nice/clever okay?"
"Okay. But I need them tomorrow. And make them look as good as those ones you did for (other co-worker)."
"I'm on a deadline, I mean, I'll try, maybe day after tomorrow?"
"No, they gotta be in the mail day after tomorrow. Tomorrow. I need them tomorrow. I cleared it with your boss."
(Strike me down now, please. Just let me die a quick but violent and messy death right here in my office, in front of this audacious, inconsiderate moron. Let that be on their conscience. Let the image of me simultaneously combusting, heart still beating as it bursts out of my chest, head blowing up a la Scanners and then bursting into flames be the vision they carry with them throughout the rest of their long and miserable life.)
Just a little fantasy I've been harboring for a while.
Silly really, because...
My Job Rocks. Part III
Holiday madness is now in full swing. I don't like the holidays. I really, really do not like the holidays. I don't even like the term "the holidays." I really, really do not like "the holidays" this year. Single, alone, sick and struggling mum, friends everywhere but near, trying to finalize moving house across town, dead mice...things are not all festive and jolly in Trillville.
Not that they ever really were. Well. I mean. There were a few years there, The HWNMNBS Years, those were festive and jolly and full of hope. And there were some holidays when I was a kid which where great.
But since hitting adulthood, apart from The HWNMNBS Years, Trillville is not the place to be for happy holidays.
I am begging you, pleading with you, those of you who love "the holidays" and are happy and festive and merry and bright, to please, please be considerate and understanding that not everyone shares your enthusiasm for "the holidays." We are not mean people. We are not Grinches. We are not Scrooges or any other holiday spoiler character. We are happy for your spirit and happiness over "the holidays." Sometimes you even make us smile or laugh. (But some of you just make us nauseous and annoy the bile out of us.) We mean you no harm or ill will. We'd just like it if you'd show us the same respect and not shove "the holidays" down our throats.
It doesn't mean we're depressed, bitter or Jewish.
We just don't like the over commercialization and insane marketing of the industry which has become "the holidays."
Maybe some of us are depressed, bitter or Jewish. So show a little swutting respect and compassion.
If you know the creative driving force of the company (or anyone else) has been going through a lot of personal crisis' lately, maybe it's not the year to beg them to design your personal Christmas cards. I saw some very cool cards at MCA gift shop. Maybe someone else in the office can handle the decorations for the office holiday potluck and gift swap for a change. Maybe, just maybe, they're too swutting busy with their actual job to do any of this.
I've heard there are departments and even entire companies which slow down and even nearly stop working during "the holidays." I cannot even imagine such a place. My mind goes completely blank at the thought of not having much work to do because it's "the holidays." So apart from being a huge professional and ethical imposition, requests for personally designed items and decorations are also huge personal impositions, particularly during "the holidays." Creative driving forces have to do all the same things as everyone else: Shop, attend stupid but required functions, send holiday greetings...
Maybe, if anyone paid any attention at all, someone might realize The Creative Driving Force has been in the office earlier than everyone and leaving later than everyone lately except for weekends when they trek five hours to help take care of their sick mother. And maybe then it might occur to someone that they're too busy and don't even care about your stupid holiday cards and the inane office party and gift swap in the first place.
But no. No one will notice these things. Or care about them. And if the Creative Driving Force mentions any of these issues, someone will just march over and "clear it" with their boss.
I always assume I get a lot of personal favors begged of me at work because people are oblivious. So I'm going to enlighten those of you who might not otherwise realize that Creative Driving Forces are not magicians. Invitations, decorations, posters, websites and whatever other creative thing you need take time and thought to design and produce. We make it look easy because we're good at our jobs. We're like Olympians. If we're even moderately okay designers and have semi-current technology at our disposal, we can make it seem effortless and even fun. What you don't see are the rejected ideas, the stumped thoughts, the 1 AM moment of Eureka!, the paper jams, the cyan toner cartridge which is new but the printer says is empty...just because "creative" is in the job title doesn't mean it's just one big inspired thrill a minute. We're mortals, too. We have to think and work and fight with office equipment just like you.
Just in case anyone out there is unaware, designers charge money for these sorts of things. Many designers charge a lot of money for these sort of things. My company charges other companies a lot of money for my work. Of which I get paid an infinitesimal fraction so just wipe that snarl of jealousy off your face. I'm poor. I am grossly underpaid. I am: The Company Whore. My talent, creativity and time is sold on the streets. My pimp is the company, and they're doing quite well for themselves. Like all whores, I am expected to look and behave as if I am earning all or at least a fair cut of the profit so the clients don't feel guilty or wrong for using me. The Company likes to parade me (and/or my talent) around like an exotic seductress, a siren of creativity and good taste. But the harsh reality, when the clients aren't around, is that I am grossly underpaid and barely surviving while my pimp is having a grand time with the money I earn for them. They rape me of my talent, sell it and turn a nice profit for themselves. (This is especially true for people in the recording industry, too, by the way. And a lot of other industries, too. It's called capitalism. But on a personal level, if you're only taking home a small fraction of the money earned off your talent or skills or hard work, if the income balance is tipped unfairly against you, sorry to tell you: You're a whore for your employer. Don't be bitter and resentful (like me) just realize this is going on and don't be so quick to be so understanding when your boss tells you there won't be any salary increase for you this year.)
I'm not chastising anyone, per se, I'm just taking a minute to ask you to keep in mind, when you beg that favor from the creative driving force of your company, even if they oblige with a smile and eager willingness, even if you don't have to stoop to the "clearing it" level, that if you were to have the same professional quality work done by someone other than the person you are begging the work from, you would be paying a lot of money, or at least some money, for their services and time.
The person in your office might turn down the offer of money or even be embarrassed by the mention of money (creative driving forces, especially the young ones who are not yet jaded, are nice this way and "wouldn't dream of charging a friend or colleague for their services") but you should offer a token of appreciation.
At the very least a piece of cake from the event the person helped decorate.
The offer of "I'll buy you a drink/take you to lunch" is rarely appropriate. Sorry. I know this sounds ungrateful. But. These are almost always shallow, vague offers which both parties know will never be taken. And even if there are genuine, specific offers made, chances are you and the creative driving force don't know each other very well for very good reasons. You probably won't have much to talk about and will probably discover you don't like each other that much. If you've "cleared" anything with their boss, they hate you and the last thing they want to do is share alcohol or food and time with you.
To be fair, I have received a few tokens of appreciation which were really nice: A certificate to a shoe store (top of the list of thoughtful, personal, obviously from someone who actually cared gift of thanks); cookie/candy basket; flowers (this is really nice but be sure they're not a big bouquet of roses which will just look a little weird and send a very wrong message to a) the creative driving force and b) the rest of their office); a bottle of booze (and for swut sake, at least take the time to find out what they like, or if they even drink (most creative driving forces drink. heavily. and just about anything. "Here Trill, do you like Armagnac?" offering a two litre bottle, "I do now!")) It's okay to re-gift, in this case, but for swut sake don't let on that it's a re-gift. Yes, someone had the nerve to say to me, this is an exact quote, preserved here for posterity and for all the world to read as the most tacky token of appreciation ever offered: "Thanks for the decorations for our office holiday party. (your welcome, what's your name again?) It looked great. You're amazing. (Thanks, tell HWNMNBS that, will you?) You should do this professionally. (erm, um, I do do this professionally) Everyone loved it. I cannot believe what you were able to pull off with just two days notice. (good thing you "cleared it" with my boss) It was the best party our department has ever had. I can't wait to see what you come up with for us next year. I won this gift certificate for ($20 at the city's most expensive restaurant, that $20 won't cover the coat check) at my wife's company party. We'll never go there. (Like I would? You're in Cost Analysis you know I'm the company whore and earn no money, you imbecile.) I'd like you to have it in appreciation for all your efforts." Guy in Cost Analysis, I hope you are reading this, recognize yourself and are embarrassed and ashamed. Nothing, zero recognition, would have been more appropriate than that feebly offered useless re-gift.
More proof that people, as a species, are obnoxious, rude, inconsiderate, selfish, loud mouthed co-workers who use those traits to get their way. All the time. No matter what. They always get what they want. And if they want the creative driving force of the company to design and print and hand embellish their holiday cards, then that is what they will get. Let it be written, let it be law. "Cleared" and everything.
My job is so cool and so much fun that I not only get to deal with high maintenance clients, inept and rude co-workers, unrealistic deadlines, vendors who don't deliver as promised, all on time and under budget, I also get to design everyone's personal projects and decorations for every party. Now that's a fun job.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004 Y'all have been asking about Reality Wednesday, sorry, Trillian's Life has been ?able and far too real lately. But today, A Very Special Reality Wednesday...
Chicago Retailer Marshall Fields Hires Clay Aiken to Work Christmas Windows Clay Aiken, American Idol sensation, seen here resurrecting Snow White, has been hired to work the holiday windows at Marshall Fields' flagship State Street store.
"I wanted to pick up a little extra holiday cash, and I'm contractually obligated to live my life in the public eye as a recording industry puppet, so I thought this would be a good way to do both. It's working out real well. I'm naturally very wooden, I have real bad fake looking hair, I'm small and gawky, I don't really have much of a social life, so it's a good fit for me." Aiken commented during a late night break while the windows were being cleaned and dusted. "It's just a seasonal job, but who knows? Maybe if I work real hard and things work out okay they'll keep me on after the holidays."
Snow White, who is daily resurrected from an evil witch's spell by Mr. Aiken's kiss, remarked, "I just assumed he was gay, not that there's anything wrong with that, you know, whatever."
Ms. White is excited about working with the American Idol has been sensation, "He broke that bitch's spell, so it's all good. After this window gig is over I'm going to have the Queer Eye guys pull an intervention on his hair. I myself am reviewing some offers, Survivor: Fairy Tales, Who Wants to Marry the Fairest of them All? and I'm a Window Dummy, Get Me Out of Here! have all expressed interest in me, I'm sure due to Clay's appearance with me. I owe him a lot, he's really given us small wooden animatronic people with bad hair the sort of exposure we need to crossover into the mainstream. He's not only America's idol, he's our idol, too. He's right in here with us. Sometimes I'd swear he's a small wooden animatronic person. He's giving us small wooden animatronic people great exposure."
Responding to questions about the term "dummy," Ms. White and Mr. Aiken agreed the term of choice is small wooden animatronic person, or SWAP. "The D word, I mean, it's just so cruel. I mean, where I'm from we all called each other dummies, but for us to go forward, to eliminate bias against small wooden animatronic people, as a group, there's no gray area. So we've got to stand for zero tolerance of the D word. They, we, I prefer to be known as small wooden animatronic people, or SWAPs, as the government classifies them, us." Mr. Aiken explained. "There's a lot more SWAPS out there than you might realize," he continued. "Most of the people you see on reality television programs are actually SWAPs. For professional purposes, you know, to get work, to be accepted, they hide their background. Some of the richer SWAPs, like over at Saks and Niemans, have work done on their hair so you can't hardly tell they're small wooden animatronic people."
Mr. Aiken's father has been the subject of much speculation and public ridicule from Clay himself. Rumors about his genetics have been making the rounds in gossip columns, credible sources have revealed Mr. Aiken's father is half SWAP. Mr. Aiken addressed those rumors at a press conference held to kick off his tenure in the Marshall Fields' holiday windows: "Y'all know I've got issues with my father. I barely know the man. It's possible he is half SWAP, and that's okay with me. I don't have an issue with his heritage. I'd be proud and honored to find out I'm part SWAP. I identify with small wooden animatronic people, so, you know, who knows? Maybe I am part SWAP. All the more reason for me to make the SWAP agenda my agenda."
"See what I mean? He's got the heart of a dummy under all that stiff, bad hair." Snow White jokingly chastised, then gets her fingers caught in his hair while attempting to give him a jockular tossle of the locks.
Number Five, one of the "little men" in this year's Snow White themed windows, commented further, "Clay's the real deal. When he's in that window, he's one of us. Solid, wooden, jerky, bad hair - a true professional. I've been workin' these windows a lotta years now. I've seen a lot of celebrities come and go. They just can't take the long hours and boring repetition and monotony of the gig. But Clay, he's a good kid. He's used to monotonous boring repetition. The other American Idol also rans all want the hip in your face stuff like Old Navy. Look at them, across the street there (pointing to the Chicago branch of the teen emporium) it's all so flash. That's just not Clay. He truly is the measure of a man. A small, wooden animatronic man." Wiping a tear away, Number Five clears his throat and whistles a jaunty toon and heads back to his window.
Snow White, taking a long drag on a cigarette and checking the clock, "Break's almost up, Clay. I gotta call my agent. You got change for the phone?"
"Sorry Snow, pay day's not 'til Friday." Clay jokingly chides Ms. White as he tosses her two quarters.
The other "little men" laugh and Clay falls in line with them as they hi ho off whistling to their window stations.
More photos of Clay Aiken's holiday window debut here.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The holiday greetings are arriving in bulk. Apparently a lot of people have been really busy and eager to send their yearly greetings.
Not my friends and family, mind you. Fortunately, everyone except my way too much time on his hands cousin who works in a think tank at MegaComputer Corporation who will one day rule the Universe, is as busy, slacky and apathetic as I am about holiday greetings. The exception is my mum, but of course this year things are a little different for her.
Sorry. Just had to take a break to go sob in the ladies' room. Doing better with that - I'm able to pull myself out of a choking sob fit in less than 15 minutes now.
Yeah. It's a swutting wonderful life.
My mum is the sort who orders six different types of cards to fit different types of people and religions ("generic is so impersonal...these are our friends and family, we can't send some blanket one message-does-all message to the people we're meant to care about most") and then hand writes a very personal, heartfelt letter to each recipient. She somehow manages to get this accomplished by her personal deadline: December 15. The cards were ordered pre-incident, so she's got the cards. But the personal, heartfelt messages are going unwritten this year.
Sorry. That one took a little longer to get over.
Right. So far the greetings which have been rolling in en masse are business greetings. Nice, generic, sometimes funny, rarely clever, often tacky holiday greetings from business associates. Mostly sales people.
A cool and fun job. Part II. Last night I was in my office late, trying to catch up on office stuff and going through two days of mail. Loaded with holiday greetings. Kind of a nice way to end a long day.
Until I opened a card from a sales person whom I have worked with once. I had all but forgotten about him. It took me a few minutes to remember who he is and how I know him. Oh yeah. I ordered one thing from his company, a unique and last minute order for one of our clients who had a fund raiser going on and needed a give away. The sales guy was pleasant enough, he gave me a "good deal" ish, and that was that. I will never have a need for his product again. We both know this. But he sent me a holiday greeting. Which is not unusual and mighty swell of him.
If it had ended there.
This man wrote me the sort of heartfelt personal messages my mother writes to her close friends and family. (Well, as you will soon read, my mother does a much better job of it) A very detailed letter about him and his family. Not even news of his company. (I get a lot of those sort of letters, form holiday greetings from companies which are lifted straight from their annual reports.) No, this man was apparently so taken with me, or so desperate for another sale, or completely confusing me with someone else, instead of the usual scrawled signature on a generic Winter scene card, he gave me a detailed, month-by-month review of his 2004.
Call me evil. I had to laugh at the absurdity of this. Here's a man I never even met face to face, talked on the phone about his product exactly four times in a span of three weeks last Spring. That's it. End of story.
But I found myself sucked into his year in review. Strangely compelled to read his holiday greeting. By the end of the letter I felt a little naughty. Like I'd been a voyeur with a holiday greeting intended for someone else.
We'll call him Bob. 2004 was quite a year for Bob. First, he won the North Central District Division leadership challenge cup, a nail biter, apparently. From there it was onto the regional leadership challenge where he faced many stellar colleagues and associates vying for the Midwest regional title. Bob came in second in the Midwest division. (Maybe next year Bob, maybe next year) But as Bob says, there are no losers at the leadership forums. Everyone there is a winner. (So true Bob, so true.) Bob's wife (we'll call her Sally) was apparently not feeling well at the Midwest regional finals. She was in her sixth month of pregnancy, and you know how women get in their sixth month! (I'm not making that up. This boob actually wrote that in a holiday greeting card. To a female client. Way to not win friends or influence sales, Bob.) (And by the way, No Bob, I don't. Most of my friends have started to feel better around their sixth month of pregnancy.) It was just as well that Bob came in second at the Midwest regionals, because precious twins Quanah and Bakli (Those names have not been changed to protect the innocent) Both(Imagine that!) were chosen for their soccer leagues under fives tournament of champions which kept the whole family busy on consecutive weekends for six weeks. The mighty Trojans won their regional title, Quanah and Bakli both scoring goals during the six week tournament. (Way to go kids! Trojans! Oi, oi, oi! Wooo hooo! Trojans rule! Wait a minute. This is an under five year old soccer team. Named The Trojans?) Meanwhile, Hialeah was making quite a sensation at her dance recitals. (Way to go again, Bob, giving your daughter a stripper name and enrolling her in dance classes!) She was honored to study under Michael Flatly for an afternoon session. (I cannot wait to see what artistic interpretations that will create when she's 21 and "paying her way through college.") Sally's parents arrived for a pre-birth visit, which helped out a lot with all the preparations for the new baby and managing the other three little rascals. Because "as these things always happen" Bob was really busy in the few weeks prior to Sally's due date. He was the company sales leader for that quarter. (Wooo hoo Bob! You've got next year's Midwestern regional all but in the bag!) Sally's parents were a tremendous help in the days leading up to the birth of Xuxa. (again, not a made up name) With everything happening all at once, the family would have crumbled if it weren't for the "glue called love" Sally's parents "poured all over everyone." (Gross metaphor, Bob. Laying it on a bit thick there, aren't you Bob? Come on, tell us what really happened...the old lady was mean and bitchy and ballooning up like a Zephyr and not giving you any not that you'd want any and then her parents showed up for an extended stay, her mother's worse than Sally on the rag and her dad's a drunk, and they were driving you insane, and that damn tap tap tapping of Hialeah's and the twins with their damn footie all over the place, you just had to get out and you're not a drinking man so you turned to your vice: Work. You sold the heck out of cheap crap promotional items to soothe the beast raging within you.) Xuxa arrived three days early, 7 pounds and a healthy set of lungs. (Har har. Keeping you up at night, Bob? Been thinking more about that vasectomy?) The annual Summer trip to Lake Minnebego was especially nice this year, the kids all had a good time, even though Quanah got poison ivy and Hialeah got stung by a bee. The kids are all doing well with their swimming, even little Xuxa got in on the fun, with Sally and Bob's help, of course! (Of course! Bob, of course!) They especially loved watching the Olympics and trying out all the different sports they saw on tv. Bakli (I wonder how old this kid will be when it is first nicknamed bakelite. Or bake me. Or Make me. Or Fake ly. Or shakey. Or Baclava. Or...ooops. I hope it's an adorable, intelligent child who grows into a devastatingly good looking, well adjusted adult.) Anyway, Bakli practiced shot putting with the croquet balls and, har har, nearly took out the neighbor's dog. (Perhaps Bakli is crying out for attention and help, Bob. It's not too late to change it's name. It hasn't started school. Jason or Jennifer are very popular and should quiet things down on the screaming out for attention and gender specification with damaging and violent acts of aggression, Bob.) Once Hialeah was back in school, and now feeling better "after birthing Xuxa" (after birthing? Bob? After birthing? You do realize there is an actual thing called after birth. An actual sort of gross thing. An actual sort of gross thing no one wants to think about. Especially while reading a holiday greeting. About your wife. After birthing, Bob? That's one for the books. Gotta hand it to you on that one Bob.) Sally resumed her scrapbooking business. (I should have guessed Sally is a crapbooker. It was so obvious. The weird kids' names. The husband in sales. The Irish dancing. The soccer. The vacation Upnorth. Yes. All the clues were there, I just didn't pick up on them. I'm tired and under a lot of stress right now.) If you want the best keepsake album your family will cherish for generations, give Sally a call, she's back in business and scrapping up a storm! (Anything to keep her off the streets, eh Bob? Wait, is this a holiday greeting or a sales flyer for Sally's crapbooking?) The holiday festivities are now in full swing. We are looking forward to Xuxa's first Christmas. We're staying home this year. Since we're the one with the new baby, all the grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins are coming to our house. My sister is expecting, (expecting what? a Fed Ex package? Chinese take out?) so next year we'll be spending the holidays with her new baby in Arizona. (Thanks for the heads up. I'll be sure to catch you before you leave town.) I want to take a moment to personally wish you and your colleagues and family a happy holiday season and thank you for your business past, present and future. (No. No Bob. Don't you dare evoke Dickens. No. It's just wrong. Bob, you're going straight to literary Hell for that "joke" in really horrible taste and sad attempt at a plea for business. That's gonna cost you the Midwest regionals, Bob.)
There was no photo enclosed (surprisingly) so I have no idea what gender any of his children are - with the exception of Hialeah whom I assume by the stripper name and the Michael Flatly dance thing is a girl. Also surprisingly, there was no cutely cut out card for Sally's crapbooking business.
Yes. My job is fun and interesting and there is never a dull moment. When my dysfunctional, mean, lazy coworkers or high maintenance, demanding clients fail to provide me with hours of entertainment and enlightenment, the vendors I use rush in to save the day.
Monday, December 13, 2004 Listen, if it wasn't friendly you probably wouldn't have even got it... Some people are under the misguided notion that I have a "fun" or "cool" job. True, there are worse things a person could do for 9-12 hours a day 5-6 days a week. Cleaning cesspools comes to mind, for instance. Lethal injector. Piranha fisherman. High school economics teacher. White House cabinet member.
Let's see just how "fun" and "cool" my job is. Here is a glimpse of a few moments of a day in my life. A sample conversation I had with a Very Important Client from a Very Cool Company spending gazillions of dollars a zillion of which is being handled by yours truly:
Important Client: "Trillian, we love the new layout, but we're worried the new text won't flow properly."
Trillian: "You've got new copy?"
Important Client: "Yes, I emailed you the new copy with the vendor policy notification a few weeks ago."
Trillian: (Pause, trying not to panic, quickly scrolling through her email) "I'm so sorry Important Client, I don't think I received that email. We're having serious spam issues here. Seems our filters are doing the opposite of what they're intended to do. I am really sorry about this. Could you re-send the copy? And what is the vendor policy notification?"
Important Client: "That's happening in our office, too. I was amazed your proof got through our filters. Anything with attachments, especially PDFs usually never makes it to my in box. The vendor policy notification is a document our legal and finance department are sending to all our vendors notifying them of our policy and payment changes. I think you're okay, but a lot of our vendors are going to have to re-submit a lot of documentation proving their worthiness. You might want to have your legal group look at it."
Trillian: "Soooo, it's kind of important. (If it's so swutting important and you're having spam issues, too and you haven't heard from me about it in two weeks, could you not assume I didn't get the swutting email and phone me?!) This could potentially delay payment or even contract renewal if someone here doesn't review it?"
Important Client: "Yes, there are a few signature's required and you'll have to re-submit your original contract and the back-up documents proving you are an actual company with racially/sexually balanced employees."
Trillian: "So that email was kind of important?"
Important Client: "Yeah, no big deal, I'll just re-send it."
Trillian: "Okay, but could you also snail a copy of the vendor policy notification? Just in case I don't get the email?"
Important Client: (audible sigh) "Okay. Meanwhile when can we see the proof with the correct copy?"
Trillian: "As soon as I get the revised copy I'll make the changes and send you a new proof - this afternoon if I get the copy in the next hour."
Important Client: "Great, we want to get this out before Christmas."
Trillian: "Yep, that's the goal." (I'm well aware of the deadline, you overpaid status whore, I was the one who set the production schedule in the first place.)
Important Client: "You are coming to the party Thursday, aren't you?"
Trillian: "Erm, um, yes, of course, of course. Wouldn't miss it for anything." (this woman is lying)
Important Client: "We had so much fun last year, I can't wait for this year's party!"
Trillian: "It sure was a blast, it'll be hard to top last year." (this woman is lying so badly her pants are on fire)
Important Client: "You know you can bring a date if you want!"
Trillian: "Okay, thanks, great. (Oh boy, that means if I don't bring a date I will once again look like the pathetic social loser I am but unless I contract bubonic plague there's no getting out of this 'party' because they are Very Important Client and to not show up would be a huge sociobusiness faux pas.) Send that copy so I can get hopping on the changes and get that policy notification into the right hands."
Important Client: "Right away. See you Thursday!"
Trillian: "Ta, Client, till then."
Very Important Client, working at a Very Cool Company which has gazillions of dollars to spend has updated copy for a marketing piece they want to mail by Christmas. And a policy change of some sort for their vendors.
Very Important Client emailed these vital bits of information to me two weeks ago.
Let's pause right there.
Vital bits of information. Email is great. I love it. But. For swut's sake, if the swutting copy and especially policy changes are crucial, would it not be advisable to send them snail, with a signature required? I know this sounds dreadfully gauche and old fashioned. But. Two weeks and a lot of work, time and effort later, I was oblivious to the new copy and the policy changes. Depending on what the copy changes are, there could be a lot of re-work and re-design involved. Meaning, a lot of time and effort, mostly on my part but there are other people involved, too. And what about this vendor policy business? What if we don't measure up to their racial and sexual standards? What if we don't pass their criteria? What if we didn't get the forms returned on time because Very Important Client emailed them to me and the email was filtered?
Let's pause on that topic for a moment. I am spammed to near death. I receive an average of 250 spam emails a day. More on weekends. To my professional work email address. It's not just me. Everyone in my company has the problem. Most people receive more than I do. (I am apparently more savvy at figuring out what and how to filter) We allegedly have a super spiffy filtering system. I set my controls to filter all the words and phrases and possible combinations I can think of - you just have to think like a pathetic perv spammer, be the pathetic perv spammer - and yet I am still barraged with them. Even though I very clearly have every iteration and bastardization of viagra, cialis and vicodin in my filter list, I still get email from people selling ViKagra and CBalis. Today I received email from "dripping pussy," "ass fuck," and "ass lover" wants to show me "just killer anal sex the way it's meant to be (complete with graphic photo and video attachments, yes, ass lover really loves ass and wants the world to see it the way it's meant to be) and someone named Mack Gipson wants to show me how his daughter is hurting, while his apparent colleague, Jarvis Johnson, wants to increase the size of my manhood.
Yes. All those emails and many, many more get through our super filtration system, get past the words I have painstakingly entered in the filter list. And yet, email from clients and coworkers and friends doesn't get past our filter.
This is happening with increasing frequency. Many of my friends report bouncebacks from my work email account. Several clients have received the same bounceback messages, or worse, nothing. They are just going along assuming I have received their email.
So today, I proclaim from here on out, unfortunately, any "important" email sent to a client, vendor, colleague or co-worker which receives no response (email or verbal) in three days must be followed up with a phone call or in person conversation.
Yes. I know the ramifications of this. I realize email has gloriously taken pesky personal interaction and conversation out of our day to day lives. We've been anonymously roaming our business and personal lives, safe behind the wall of email.
"Didn't you get the email?" is such a trite cliché it's time to retire the phrase. Just assume they didn't get the email and ring them or get up from your desk, walk down the hall and talk to the person.
I know, I know. No one says this is going to be easy. No one wants this. We've gotten very comfy behind our wall of email. Got bad news to deliver? Say it with email. There are people, mean, horrible, cowardly people, who break-up with their boy/girlfriends via email or text messages. Lay-offs and firings via email have become common place. Benji was laid off via email. (Ironically, he received that email but not the three leading up to the lay-offs regarding the company's financial issues.) I recently saw Dr. Strangelove for the bajillionth time (because it is one of the most brilliant movies of all time). I'll play Tattoo Love Boy here and give you a funny yet poignant reminder of why interpersonal conversation is important. Peter Sellers (as President Muffley) calls the Russian Prime Minister, Dimitri, after learning a quack admiral has ordered an attack on Russia (this was back in the glorious days of the cold war for those of you too young to understand the significance of this). Pres. Muffley is explaining to Dmitri what has happened. He ordered his planes to attack your country. (pause)Ah. Well, let me finish, Dmitri. (pause) Let me finish, Dmitri. (pause)Well listen, how do you think I feel about it? Can you imagine how I feel about it, Dmitri? (pause) Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello? (pause)Of course I like to speak to you! (pause) Of course I like to say hello! (pause) Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened. It's a friendly call. Of course it's a friendly call. (pause) Listen, if it wasn't friendly you probably wouldn't have even got it...
It's going to take courage, stamina and a lot of purple pills for us to get through this and go back to the old way. The old way of interpersonal conversation. Yes. Speaking with other people. Either by telephone or face to face. This is going to separate the adults from the babies. The credible from the jerks. The brave from the whimps. But do it we must. There will be confrontations. Controversy. Crying. We've been spoiled. Coddled, even. And now it's time to Wise up and rise up, rage against the machines and actually speak to our colleagues, clients and coworkers.
If this thought frightens you, you might want to consider Toastmasters International. Yes. They're still around and yes, they do a swell job of helping business people speak without making idiots of themselves.
If you or the recipient of your would be email are Outlook users, empower yourself with the knowledge that every email not sent is personal and direct hit at Bill Gates.
I'm not saying eliminate email. Geeze, no way. I love email. But. somewhere in the past five years, we, yes, we, all of us, have become a little lax about our business communication. Email is easy. Email is cheap. Email can be fast. Email is often necessary. (I can't tell you how many times one of my deadlines would have been missed were it not for emailing an attached doc. I never counted, but I'm sure it's in the high hundreds.) But. Along with it came spam. A lot of spam. The ugly underbelly of email. And just as the nay sayers insisted in the early days of email, there is a serious lack of interpersonal conversation. And that's leading to misunderstandings, mismanagement and missed deadlines.
For this I spent how many years in various colleges? For this I earn a meager paycheck which barely puts a roof over my head and feeds my cat? For this I deal with a group of dysfunctional, mean, stupid coworkers? Yeah. This is a fun, cool job.
Don't they use those hose things to drain cess pools, I mean, you don't actually have to touch anything gross, right? Which states have death penalty? Can you use nets to catch Piranhas? Geeky high school kids aren't so bad, are they? Does every woman in Bush's cabinet have to kiss him? In public? And look happy about it?