Occasionally you open your mouth and say something that should be patently ridiculous to every person in the room. The mere suggestion should be met with mocking, rolled eyes, and sighs of disbelief. Mostly you do it when you’re a little bored or just want to see what kind of rise you can get out of someone. You’d never in a million years think anyone would take any of it as an actual suggestion.
Then, of course, you are brought crashing back to the real world with a comment about “how relevant” your suggestion is.
No. Please, just no. These words were not meant to be taken seriously. They were meant as biting critique of our penchant for creating monuments out of things that should be sandcastles. I’m not sure I remember what #winning looks like, but I’m reasonably certain we’re doing it wrong.
I wish I could tell you that I make some of this up just to have something to post, but the fact is most of it is “ripped from the headlines” of day to day life. Today’s post, for instance, comes directly from a meeting I happened to be stuck in for two hours last week.
Without exercising anything other than the most basic editorial control to allow for spelling, here’s what crosses my mind while I’m doing my best to look like an attentive and responsible adult:
– “We’re on your calendar to talk more about the calendar.” WTF? Really?
– Oh look, another meeting where the only output was lost time. Glad we didn’t accidentally do anything productive.
– Yeah, we have plenty of “management ‘tools'” around here already.
– It’s apparently time to play an exciting game of “Who the Fuck is on First?”
– Yes please, let’s add more training requirements because I’ve got nothing but free time.
– “We have a plan.” Yep. Been hearing that phrase for the last six months… still no plan.
– Yay! Let’s schedule another recurring meeting!!!!!1!
Seriously, folks, these are the only notes I took during that entire meeting. I’d have been happy to make note of anything that might have somehow been relevant to doing my job more effectively or efficiently, but that’s really not the purpose of these meetings. If you’re still trying to guage my level of my boredom, it’s best to imagine every other inch of the page filled with doodles… and then multiply how bored you think I was by a factor of three or four and then you’ll be in the neighborhood.
Here’s a pro tip from the average American office – if you’re bored and casting around for something to do, the answer should never be to park yourself in front of a colleague and then as many stories about your childhood, medical experiences, coworkers as you can come up with. Feel free to stop by to say hello, or to ask a question, or to relay some important tidbit of information, but for the love of all that’s holy, don’t look to the people you work with to entertain you when you can’t come up with anything better to do with your time.
It’s not necessarily a matter of interrupting anything important or time sensitive so much as it is that I simply have no desire to be your default method of passing the time. Do what everyone else does: piss away your day on Facebook, or walk down to the lobby and spend a few minutes watching TV, or take you cell phone and go sit in the john for 30 minutes. The important thing is that you not just make the rounds engaging everyone in 15-30 minutes of conversation from which it will prove difficult or impossible for them to escape.
I get it. We’re all bored. There are 746 million things we’d all rather be doing, but adding a person who doesn’t know when to STFU and move on to the mix adds insult to injury and makes one wonder what case could be made for justifiable workplace violence. In the average office, I’d be willing to bet a very large percentage would be willing to testify for the defense if you were to ever accidentally bludgeon your office talker into unconsciousness for the greater good.
I don’t know that I’ve ever had what would be considered a “good” Friday in government service. Fridays are the day when everyone wants to extend their weekend. On any typical Friday you can expect at least a third of the staff to be somewhere other than in the office. It’s easily double that on a Friday before a scheduled 3-day weekend. This is bad for two reasons. First, in the event that something actually needs to get done, finding someone to do it is a challenge at best. It’s even more problematic if you want to find the right someone or even just a random body who has the actual skill sets you need. Good luck with that. In the event that there is no Friday crisis, you’re probably going to discover more common situation of there being absolutely nothing to do. Usually that will set in a few minutes after lunch.
You can only refresh cnn.com so many times before realizing you’ve already red all the articles. I mean, it wouldn’t be so bad if the IT guys didn’t block most of the really interesting sites. Alternately, you could listen to the guy next door tell the same old stories he’s been telling since the first time you met. If you’re really lucky, some of your equally bored colleagues might be up for a game of Words with Friends. Otherwise, you’re doomed to spend the next three hours trying to look like you’re busy enough that it keeps the boss from creating work for you to do… because really, if there’s anything worse than being bored, it’s getting saddled with random busywork.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.