Monday, January 25, 2016

Workplace Ethics

Not to get into politics here, but it was clearly written by a liberal as there were plenty mentions of Trump and Cruz, but not one of Hillary or John Mayer, for that matter, and we all know almost all celebrities are on the left.

This topic came up not long ago with little bit. Not how John Mayer is a major a-hole, but how it doesn’t always feel like the good guy wins. More often than not, it feels like the butthole wins. The snitch. The goody-two-shoes. The suck up. And all the while, the good guy is left feeling inadequate and irrelevant.

I learned early on that it wasn’t enough to be busy; you had to look busy. At my first job out of college, I worked with a horrible woman — we’ll call her “Susan” —to whom I actually owe a debt of gratitude as she wound up teaching me a valuable lesson. Have you ever worked with this type of person? Susan was completely and utterly useless. There’s a bump on a log and then there’s Susan standing there staring at the log. The rest of us would bust our humps, multi-tasking and putting out fires (once, literally), running around like crazy people, and Susan would spend 20 minutes fooling with the copier that she jammed in the first place. In between checking trays #2 and #3, she’d make a cup of coffee, walk around the office, stop at every desk and tell each person how busy she was, and then she’d head back into the work room to look at the copier some more. Somehow, at just the right moment, the boss would walk by and see a strategically placed smudge of toner on her cheek and call us all together to celebrate this hero among us who so selflessly put herself above others, risking safety and a dry cleaning bill, to keep the office running smoothly. “What would we do without her?” he’d wonder aloud, and while the entire office stood there, half rolling collective eyes and half day dreaming about life without Susan, there she stood:  triumphant and basking in the glory of avoiding yet another day of honest work.

On the rare occasions that she wasn’t able to be seen being busy by the boss, she would resort to just telling him how busy she was. It was repulsive. And he bought it. In the four years I worked with Susan, I saw her work, honest-to-goodness work, for about 45 minutes and not all in a row. Yet, she managed raises, a fancy Herman Miller chair (for her bad back), an ergonomic wrist rest and mouse pad (for all of her late hours on the computer), and, although she held an administrative position, she wormed her way into an office (with a door) on the senior executive hallway because she had to have a window to help with her Vitamin D deficiency and tendency toward Seasonal Affect Disorder (S.A.D.). Feel free to join me when I say, “puh-leese!”

But I’ll tell you this much…as much as I hated the way Susan acted, I saw that it got results. I never brought myself in any of my jobs to perfect “the Susan” and I kind of pride myself on it. For one thing, I (mostly wrongly) assumed that bosses could see through that level of disingenuous behavior but again and again in different scenarios, men and women, bought it hook, line and sinker.

I eventually came to the conclusion that if it came down to me being a successful jerk or a slightly less successful non-jerk, that I would have to opt for the latter. And that’s my version of ascending the corporate ladder.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Lies We're Told

A friend of mine, brilliant blogger Martha [hint:  click her name back there to access her blog], recently wrote about finding some childhood toys in her parents’ attic, including some Cabbage Patch dolls (both licensed and the homemade variety). If you only read one of her blogs, read this one about how her parents met. But, if you have time for two, read this one about old toys. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It had a little romance. There’s something for everyone, I tell ya.

But it got me to thinking about my own childhood relics. I don’t have that many these days. If you know me, you know I lost just about all living proof of my existence in a house fire at my Dad’s house in 2010. If you don’t me, well, I seriously doubt you’re reading this blog as I do a pretty good job of keeping tabs on all 3 of my readers, but suffice it to say, I don’t have a lot of souvenirs from my past, at least my past prior to 2011.

I, too, had a Cabbage Patch doll. Well, I had something I was told was a Cabbage Patch doll, but it turned out the mother of one of my parents’ co-workers was whipping up fake ones in her basement and I was one of the lucky recipients. 

Enter Margaret. Margaret was approximately 24" tall, had weird yarn ringlets for hair, was wearing a white cloth diaper cover instead of bloomers, her arms were permanently stretched out in a cruxifixction pose, and she had no shoes, showing off two weird club feet. Margaret looked like a Cabbage Patch Kid in the same way an apple looks like an orange.

I don’t know if my parents thought the $30 price tag was too steep, or they wanted to avoid the in-store riots over these silly dolls, or they thought, “sweet little Valerie won’t notice the difference.” I’ll never know.  I’ll tell you what happened. I went to a slumber party.

Snotty girl:  What is that?

Little Valerie:  It’s my Cabbage Patch girl, Margaret.

Snotty:  Umm, no it’s not.

Valerie:  Yes, it is.

Snotty:  Do you have her birth certificate? (That’s going to be a “negative.”)

Valerie:  No, but she’s real and I love her.

Snotty:  Let’s see the signature on her butt. (Balls.)

Valerie:  Weren’t we going to play a game?

Then Snotty put her doll beside Margaret. It looked something like this:

Thinking about Margaret made me think about other lies my parents told me. Not big ones. Nothing involving fictional characters that break into your house in the night. No, I mean the every day variety.

Things like “you’re not fat; you’re just big boned.”

Baby Valerie, age 3 months (Yes, you read that right.)

And, that the pig tailed sailor look will never go out of style.


First grade.  2nd verse, same as the 1st.

Trifecta. 2nd grade.

And in the most awkward of middle school years, “you look beautiful…keep the sailor look, lose one of the pigtails.”

5th grade

Now that I’m a parent, you wonder if I ever lie to my kid? You betcha. Like every day.

Kid:  How long before we need to leave?
Me:  Five minutes. (Actual answer:  30 minutes)

Me:  If I have to tell you to clean up one more time, I’m taking away your phone, your iPad, your game system, all the TVs in the house, your books, and all the food in the house.”

Kid:  Did you ever ________ when you were a kid?”
Me:  Uhh, who wants to play a game?” (Actually, I answer every question like this as honestly as I can.)

It’s in these lies, though, that I hope one day, my girl will see more love than lie. I assure you, when I look at Margaret today, yes, she still scares the crap out of me. I mean, she’s almost as tall as I am, but I know my mama loved me enough to commission her. And, to me, that makes Margaret priceless.

Margaret, January 21, 2016 (age: 33 years)