Thanks for the tips…

Last week, much like this week, has been a bit of a broiler in the mid-Atlantic. As a result, my local electric utility sent out a bulk email with some “helpful” tips for dealing with the heat.

Tip #1: On hot days, use your grill to cook so you’re not adding heat to your house. Yeah, that’s a pass. It’s 95 degrees outside with 80% humidity and you want me to stand over and open flame flipping chicken or burgers instead of standing in the 70 degree kitchen where I can control the temperature to within a degree or two with a flick of my thumb.

Tip #2: Do laundry and run the dishwasher at night. Fun fact, night is when I sleep. I’m not staying up until the small hours to do laundry to save a fractional percentage cost of doing it during normal hours. Doing these chores during the non-peak hours you’ve designated doesn’t actually use less electricity, it just makes using the electricity I need to complete these tasks more inconvenient.

Tip #3: Close your blinds to reduce passive solar heating. Here’s the thing… I’m awake during the day, I like being able to see outside while I’m awake. I know I’m just weird like that. These big ass windows and the view they offer are part of the reason I bought the house in the first place. Otherwise I’d just stay up all night with no view doing laundry in the small hours of the morning like you so helpfully suggested.

All I see when a utility offers “helpful” tips such as these is a company that has opted to develop a network that they’re worried might not be up to meeting peak demand. With so much of my monthly bill being service fees rather than the actual cost of the electricity itself, I have very little sympathy in their desire to offload their problems onto the consumer rather than admitting they failed to design or maintain a sufficiently robust system to meet actual requirements.

How to get a tip…

It’s a weekday. The regularly scheduled shuttle between the hotel where I’m staying and the concert venue I’ll be at tonight stops running at 9:00. No good for my plan. A quick trip to the concierge, a few mumbled words, a bit of special paper changing hands and within two minutes, it’s “No problem, Mr. Tharp. Call my cell when you’re ready to leave and I’ll send down one of the hotel drivers.” Motel 6 would have been cheaper, but it’s hard to beat the overall value I’m feeling just now. 

So you just graduated?

The whole world is open before you. Congratulations! I won’t mention that you’ve just been booted into the real world into the teeth of one of the worst job markets in living memory, or the fact that your degree doesn’t actual qualify you to work in your field, or that you’re about to enter a soul crushing, mind numbing grind that will rob you of your youth and keep up its blistering until you’ve dropped dead or saved enough money for retirement – whichever comes first. I won’t bring any of that up because your graduation is a time of celebration. It’s a chance to recognize a milestone achievement before you go off to make your way in the world.

Life after graduation doesn’t have to be doom, gloom, and the choice between living in your parent’s basement or your own studio apartment with an endless parade of ramen for dinner. Sure, you’re going to want you weekends to stretch from Wednesday afternoons until early Monday morning, but a few rounds of sitting through some mindless 8AM staff meeting will most likely break you of that desire. It’s just one of the machine’s many ways of breaking you down so it can building build you back up into a useful and productive cog.

Hope isn’t lost, though. The good news is that countless generations have preceded you. A few of their number were even thoughtful enough to write down a the tips and tricks that will help you navigate the professional world you’re about to enter. Now I could let you in on all these secrets for free, but that really defeats the lesson I’m trying to teach here – that sometimes free advice isn’t worth the electrons it was written with. Sometimes if you want the inside scoop, you’ve got to be willing to pay.

Let’s face it, at the low, low price of $2.99 for the ebook, knowing what you’re in for before it happens would be deal at twice the price. So, my newly graduated friend, I invite you to head on over to iTunes, SmashwordsBarnes & Noble, or Amazon to pull back the curtain and take your first steps into a broader world forewarned and forearmed. Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees is the graduation present to yourself that you didn’t even know you needed.

Three tips for workplace survival…

I make a concerted effort to steer this blog away from specific issues at my own office and more towards a general discussion of work in general and the foibles of the workplace writ large. However, like the modern cop dramas that everyone seems to love these days, the following issues are ripped from the headlines of real life experience while working in an office somewhere in Maryland. No bureaucrats were physically harmed in the writing of this post, but their souls might just be a little more crushed for the experience.

1. Don’t send an email and then immediately walk over to the recipient’s desk to tell them you sent an email. Thanks to the little glowing screen on their desk, they probably know this already. Plus, there’s a good chance they’re working on something and will get to whatever issue you’re having in its order of importance to them, not based on the number of times you ask for it. In fact, multiple requests for the same information will result in all of your messages being shifted to the bottom of the pile.

2. If you’re working in an office far removed from lunch options, there’s a safe bet that you’ll do at least a little eating at your desk. While it’s sad and depressing in its own right, the thing people need to remember is that the lunch break is sacrosanct. It should be inviolable, except under the most extreme of circumstances. If you approach someone’s desk and they’re stuffing half a sandwich into their face, that shouldn’t be considered an open invitation for a long winded discussion about anything. That’s especially true if the victim of your verbal deluge is trying to read a few pages of a book or magazine while jamming his face full of food – pretty much the universal sign that they’re on break and not working at the moment. If you’re one to be stuck eating at your desk on the regular, picking up a Do Not Disturb or Out to Lunch sign to hang on your cube at appropriate times might not be a bad investment.

3. If you think you’re having a discrete personal conversation on the phone in your cubicle, think again. Everyone within earshot knows if you’re blowing up at your wife, behind on your mortgage, or recently contracted the herp. Yes, we all know having those conversations from the comfort of your office chair is convenient, but sometimes everyone would be better served if you wandered off somewhere and had that discussion on your cell phone. When you’re forced by your profession to sit shoulder to shoulder with them for eight hours a day, you can at least do them all the favor of not discussing your most recent bout of hemorrhoids?

If you found these tips useful, remember there are plenty more hints and tricks handily outlined in Nobody Told Me: The Cynic’s Guide for New Employees.