What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Romaine. After discovering that romaine lettuce was temporarily poisonous to people, anything containing that devil’s weed was unceremoniously yanked from the shelves of grocery stores across the country. That’s fine. E. coli isn’t exactly something most people want spread around. But please, in your haste to throw out all things green, spare a thought for the poor tortoise keepers among you. Even if romaine wasn’t a staple food for my tort, it was an element of the spring mix he got on a fairly regular basis. With romaine being potentially toxic for human consumption, of course spring mix it disappeared from the shelves too… which has left George with a mix of kale, mustard greens, and collards that he is clearly not in favor of based on his attitude for the last several days. The supply is also a lot more limited with people also opting for the “whatever is green” option to meet their salad needs. We’ve reached the point where I’m 100% willing to risk a few measly human deaths to have a happy and well-fed tortoise again. 

2. People. It’s kind of adorable that anyone who knows me thinks I can be guilted into changing my position by showing me pictures of or telling me stories about people. I think my position on people as a group is pretty well known. There are, of course, exceptions and people who I dearly love and highly respect. For the most part, though, I literally can’t even with people. By contrast, though, if you harm one little hair on the head of an animal that’s not culturally accepted as livestock, though, and I’d be happy to melt your face off with a blowtorch.

3. The United States Postal Service. We’re now well into day five of watching my latest prescription refill travel the approximately 40 miles between DC and Baltimore. After two days of lingering around our nation’s capital, the precision tracking app provided by the USPS tells me that it’s once again on the move… of course it neglects to mention where it’s headed or when it may arrive other than blithely saying it will be on my doorstep my 8PM tonight. That seems unlikely since the rest of my mail arrived hours ago and, well, since this is the 2nd soon-to-be-missed delivery estimate. Yes, I can call in a “bridge” request and CVS will front me a few days of meds from a local store – with the requisite $80 co-pay of course – but that’s not the point, really. I don’t think expecting a delivery service that would arrive to me in a more timely manner than if I drove way the hell down to Tampa and picked the order up myself from the warehouse is really anything out of order.

That one guy from the meeting who had a beard…

I have a confession to make. If I’ve only met you once or twice, I’m never ever going to remember your name. If I only see you once a month, I’m not going to remember your name. If we pass in the hallway every day and I recognize you by sight but we don’t have any substantive interaction, I’m never going to remember your name.

Some people have a knack for matching names and faces – even for people they see once and then maybe never again. Honest to God, I can sit in a meeting with you. Have an entire discussion and use your name the whole time, but five minutes later I’ll end up referring to you as “that one guy from the meeting who had a beard.” I know that for a fact because it’s exactly the phrase that came out of my mouth this morning in reference to a meeting I was in yesterday.

So, I’m not good with names. I make up for it with wit, charm, and by never talking myself into a position where I’d need to use a person’s name. Studying your own handout while asking “What do you think,” is a good way to avoid the awkwardness, in case you’re interested. Just avoid eye contact so it’s never entirely clear who you’re addressing and most of the time you’ll be good to go. And sign in sheets. Sign in sheets are your friend. They’re like having a cheat sheet only it’s perfectly legitimate.

All I’m saying to the people who I’ve met already and for those I’ll inevitably be forced to meet in the future, is don’t take it personally when I can’t call you by name in a meeting, after a meeting, or really at any time. Frankly I can’t call anyone by name. Sometimes I draw a perfect blank on people I’ve worked with for almost half a decade, so it’s nothing personal. It’s not you, it’s me.

I’m sure there’s some kind of mental gymnastics I could do to power up that part of my memory that is supposed to store and recall names, but doing that would require far more effort than I’m really willing to invest in it. I’m happy enough continuing to use second and third-person pronouns to meet all my professional needs.

From the Mailbag: On Wisconsin

The Question: What are your thoughts on the recall election in Wisconsin?

The Answer: As a rule, I’m not a fan of recall elections. Every four years we go to a lot of time, expense, and trouble of electing our state governors. Thanks to a spastic media and more political blogs than anyone could ever possible read, we pretty much know what we’re going to get in a candidate. If someone, like Scott Walker campaigns on a platform of lowering the cost of state government, reducing its size, and decreasing the influence of public sector unions, well, it stands to reason that he’s going to at least try to do some of those things when he gets elected. Trying to recall the guy for doing something that you don’t like smacks of childish tantrum-throwing, especially when you’re going to have a regularly scheduled opportunity to throw the bum out in two years.

I don’t have any great love for public sector unions. As a teacher I was forced to be a dues paying member of one as a condition of employment. Even now, I’m nominally “represented” by a union, though it lacks the ability to negotiate pay or really do much of any substance. At least I don’t have to pay for the privilege this time around. As a public sector employee, I’d be up in arms too if the powers that be unilaterally decided to slash my pay, cut my benefits, or otherwise endanger my livelihood. Given the state of the federal budget for the foreseeable future, it’s an issue I’ve actually give a lot of thought to lately. After two years of a pay freeze, and a massive impending cut to my department’s budget next year, it’s not all that hard to see myself screaming bloody murder from the atop the barricades. Even so, I think history has proven recall elections to be little more than an enormous waste of money for everyone involved.

It’s a bad time to be a government employee at any level – local, state, or federal. Budgets are going to continue to diminish, services are going to be reduced, and the number of employees is going to decrease. The public is pissed at the politicians and the only group the politicians can kick with impunity are the rank and file government employees. From the tealeaves I’m reading, I get the sense that times are going to look a lot bleaker before they even think about getting better. Even so, I think there are more productive uses of my time and effort that playing the recall game. I’d find it much more satisfying to see someone’s reelection campaign go down in flames head to head against a candidate I support. I’ve always felt it was better to vote for something I believe it rather than just voting against someone I don’t like.