Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fear and Loathing at the Office

Here's something to keep in mind: if you've been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, don't listen to the voices.

I just thought I'd start this post out with a bit of sound advice, since it goes on to be fairly rambly and disorganized; also, if you're on psychotropic medication, right now would be an excellent time to dose up. Ready? Here we go!

Office politics are jerking on my marionette strings pretty fiercely this week. I am teamed with a consultant who's a nice lady - we'll call her Karen - but she's such a disorganized, high-maintenance, nervous, overbearing micromanager that she's absolutely driving me around the bend. And nice as she is, I just... just can't stand her.

I have an opportunity to escape within the company, though it's a bit iffy. One of the other consultants, Suzi, just lost her assistant. And she wants me. She loves me!

Suzi is the woman who originally hired me for this company. She's great pals with the president, Tiffany, who is the niece of the CEO, Ursula, and she gets away with things that any normal person at any normal company would get fired, and possibly sued and/or arrested for. Suzi is cute, energetic, dynamic, and engaging; she's also so monumentally disorganized that trying to communicate with her feels like you have a learning disability. She can't do anything for herself. She looks a lot like Jennifer Aniston.

Going from Karen's team to Suzi's team would be, in some ways, very much an out-of-the-frying-pan, into-the-other-frying-pan kind of proposition.

But the thing is, Suzi is what she is. She doesn't labor under the delusion that she's something more. Karen thinks she's the only person at the company with any degree of professionalism. And if she actually had any degree of professionalism, she'd be absolutely right.

Tiffany cannot stand Karen. Can't stand her.

When I got in trouble, a couple of weeks ago, for various assorted things that really weren't my fault - that really were mostly Tiffany's fault, so she needed a scapegoat - she had Karen write me up. And Karen felt terrible about it. So I feel really bad about asking to move from Karen's team to Suzi's team, because how do you think Karen feels about Suzi?

All together now! Can't stand her!!!!

Enter Tiffany's executive assistant, and a dear friend of mine: Magda. If my company were a Shakespeare play, Magda would be the Nurse: a little older; wise and funny; earthy, raunchy, nurturing, kind; above it all, yet in the middle of everything. I love Magda, but don't completely trust her; anything she hears may well get around to Tiffany. Magda is my administrative supervisor, even though for all practical purposes, Karen is my manager.

Magda knows that Suzi is agitating for me to come work with her. But she knows that I am agonizing about confronting Karen about the whole thing, and about effectively kicking Karen when she's down, seeing as how Tiffany makes life very, very, very unpleasant for those she can't stand.

So Magda comes up with a subtle approach. She doesn't tell Karen I want off her team. She doesn't tell Karen that Suzi is trying to steal me off her team. No.

She tells Karen that, since Suzi's assistant was let go and they need someone new, that someone new doesn't necessarily have to go on Suzi's team. The teams were very recently formed; they're still in the process of being reshuffled for the best fit. Why, perhaps Karen could have the someone new. Would Karen like to consider this? Would Karen like to interview the Potential Someone News?*

Yes! Yes, Karen is a little taken aback by the idea at first, but rapidly comes around. She would like to interview a Potential Someone New! She would!

Magda comes back and tells me this, and while part of me giggles gleefully at her masterful handling of the situation, part of me rears up its indignant little head and says - Hey!

Guess she couldn't stand me either (sigh).

*Band name alert!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Happy Holidays, from the Space Aliens

Today I got a Solutions holiday-edition catalogue in the mail. Are these things specifically designed to make you feel like an inadequate schlub? Or are they targeted towards space aliens who learned everything they know about Earth by watching Martha Stewart?

Get a load of some of this stuff.

Put mints inside, and place one of these affordable boxes next to every place setting - imagine the delight of guests when they are told to take theirs home!

I'd swoon with joy, myself.

I just... don't give dinner parties where you put a little porcelain box full of mints at every guest's place setting. Do you? Maybe you do. If so, I'm evidently not on your guest list.

Encourage family conversation or break the ice at your holiday get-together.
From silly to thought-provoking, the 135 questions on these cards will have everyone discussing their thoughts, opinions, desires and dreams.

Well. Life imitates art, or at least a Monty Python sketch. If we tried this at my in-laws' during a holiday gathering, a huge fight would break out in no time flat. Possibly even a hockey match.

No waiting for wine to "breathe." Oxygenate wine as you pour.
This unique pourer filters and aerates wine as you pour. No need for decanters, because you only open as many bottles as you'll use.

You can't even wait for your wine to decant? You moneyed, gadget-obsessed lush.

They don't mention if it works with boxed wine.

And there's absolutely no way this thing was intended for humans to buy:

Sharp stainless steel blads pierce the skin and cut around the center stone, leaving behind two perfectly sliced halves for you to cube or scoop out.

This is a... disturbing, disturbing item. They call it a mango splitter. Actually, I think this would be a great gift for the stalker on any woman's list. He'll suddenly lose the urge to mess with you, and he won't have any conscious idea why.

Now that's what I call a solution!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bless You, My Self

I'm coming down sick. DAMN it!

In the 20 months or so that we've lived in this town, I haven't been sick once. Nada. Not so much as the sniffles. But today I find myself woozy and disoriented at work - which in itself would not really be an unusual symptom; feeling slightly sick to my stomach, likewise, is pretty much par for the course on any given workday IN HELL.

But sneezing, heavy-headedness and chills are definitely not the norm. This may actually be (horrors!) a cold. Or else maybe bird flu, or bubonic plague. It's too soon to tell.

There's an interesting psychology behind minor illness. People seem to take so much pride in it; they consider it such a representation of their innermost self, of their true character. Those who are often ill relish their sufferings, and brag about how terrible they feel. They enjoy the attention and the pathos and the drama of being sick. They drag themselves stoically to work, unless they force themselves to stay heroically at home. Whichever.

Then there are people like me. I'm never sick, never. And just look at me puffing up about it, as if excellent health were some kind of karmic reward for being a gosh-darn all-around super person. We look down our noses at the frequently ill; we give off gentle sympathetic murmurings, all the while secretly despising the weakness of character that allowed some piddling cold virus to get the better of you. And even more secretly, way down deep inside, in our heart of hearts, we whisper, "Hypochondriac!"

We healthier-than-thou types always end up shooting ourselves in the collective foot, of course - or perhaps I'd better just speak for my own foot. We make such a point of telling everyone, "oh, I never get sick," that we can't call in sick without the whole office smugly surmising that we're just hung over. Which, damn it! is generally the case.

And that's why I'm drinking a third glass of chilled Chianti as I type this post. For one thing, it's making my throbbing head feel quite a bit better. But more importantly, if I'm going to call in sick tomorrow, I damn well intend to enjoy myself tonight!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

In Which I Seek Gainful Employment

I've just finished scanning the Sunday employment listings. My current job, as you may have gathered, is lacking in a few minor respects; so I've been on the lookout for something new.

EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT Responsibilities include screening calls, inputting data, preparing reports and excellent communication skills for customer relations. Data entry and analysis requires MS Office, math and computer (Excel/Word skills). Send resume to P.O. Box 46, Portland, TX 78374

Mmmkay. Might be. Portland is a little far off. It always troubles me a bit when these listings don't have, you know, an email address, or in this case, even a fax number; but then again this is Corpus. I should probably be grateful they've discovered the wonders of the U.S. Mail. I might send off for this one.

Ho! Ho! OFF TO BANK YOU GO! Holidays are coming! Now's the time to feel good about the work you do and get paid for it. Futuremarket Telecenter, Inc. has immediate openings for Recruiters to call residents throughout the U.S. to recruit volunteers. Excellent Money! Base salary plus unlimited bonus. Day or Evening, part or full-time hours. Complete Benefits package. Paid Weekly Call Today Start Tomorrow! 939-7175

Who are you callin' a Ho? And why are you speaking like a badly dubbed Japanese monster movie?? NO SOUP FOR YOU!!

Executive Assistant Needed - Real Estate Office. Must be able to perform in a complex & stressful environment. Continuous phone client contact and setting up appts. and property files. Multi tasking. Strong organizational skills. Strong in Outlook and Microsoft. Excellent verbal & written skills a MUST. Minimum 2 years exp. Fax resume to 361-852-6445. Qualified need only apply please.

Fine, fine, I'll send off for this one, though I find it depressing that their tone suggests they've been getting lots of resumes for people who aren't qualified. For this.

I suspect a lot of people in this town aren't computer literate, frankly. Anyway, this probably pays about $10/hour.

Medical Office Medical & Research Assistant/Secretary. Flex schedule. Be independent & be able to travel several days, several times a year. Salary according to exp. Send resume & personal statement to: PO Box 60155, CC, TX 78466.

What the hell is a "personal statement?" Would it kill them to call it a cover letter? I hate this new age corporatespeak crap. I bet they'd be sorry if they had to read my "personal statement" (though my cover letter, if I say so myself, is quite fetching).

OFFICE MANAGER needed for busy medical office. College degree and two years supervisory experience required. Excellent salary. Send resume and cover letter to: Medical Office, PMB 291, 14493 SPID, CC TX. Ste A 78418-5940

This is actually right up my alley, though I never finished my degree and have never actually supervised anyone. Still, they've been running this ad for two weeks now, so maybe they're starting to get desperate. Mr. Resume may make a new friend tomorrow.

Hiring for 2005 Postal Positions $18.50-$59.00 Benefits /Paid Training/Vacations. 1-800-584-1775 Reference #9017

Hrm. Hrmmmmm. Now, they're not saying what kind of positions they're hiring for, just throwing out some rather un-Corpus-like wage figures. It's possible they're just zombies out to feast on my succulent flesh. Still, that would probably be an improvement.

[IMAGE] no description available

Betcha that was my dream job.

Scheduling Secretary Very busy group practice team player with scheduling exp. Medical manager required. Insurance knowledge preferred. Bilingual a plus. Salary to commensurate with exp. Excellent benefits pkg. EOE. Send resume and salary req. to PO Box 271345, C.C., TX 78427.

I have to provide my own medical manager???? Damn! They want a lot these days. Well, I have no insurance knowledge and, while I can get by in German, I suspect that's not what they have in mind.

BUSINESS IS GREAT Dancers/Waistaff needed. PT/FT-no tip out. Apply Bottoms up 5945 Williams

There we go. Any titty bar called "Bottoms Up" has got to be loaded with class. I hope my teenage daughter hasn't stolen all my thongs.

ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT: - We are looking for a highly organized individual who is able to stay focused under constant interruption. Responsibilities include: answering phones, issuing PO's; processing bills for payment. Must be DETAIL ORIENTATED and be able to multi-task. Excel and QuickBooks experience necessary. Please apply at Atlas Tubular, LP., 1710 S. Hwy 77, Robstown, TX Fax resume to (361) 387-4613

This one's been running for a couple of weeks too. Have they just not been able to find anyone detail-orientated enough, I wonder?

Or is it that everyone who is, has been unable to refrain from correcting the ad snidely in her cover letter, thus blowing her chances at this plum of a job?

DROP BURY TECHS Needed for a local cable contractor co. Must have own truck w/ valid insurance. Background & drug screening. Please apply @ 326 S. Enterpize Pkwy off of Old Brwnsvlle Rd.& S.P.I.D. or call 289-5222. Bring valid DL, SS card & insurance w/ you.

And yet another one that's been running for several weeks now. I haven't got the faintest idea what a "Drop Bury Tech" is, and apparently nobody else has either.

I should probably just send in a resume. What have I got to lose?

Local Woman Cooks Dinner, Feeds Family; Casualties Minimal

My paternal grandparents met at Cornell University, in Ithaca, New York. He graduated with a B.S. in Agriculture and she graduated - from Cornell, mind you - with a B.S. in Home Economics.

In the 1920s, when a woman went to college to get her M.R.S., she wasn't screwing around.

Grandma was, as you might have guessed, a real pro at this homemaker stuff. She harvested vegetables from her own garden; cleaned, processed, canned, and/or cooked them; stored apples from the orchard in the cellar; cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner every day; saved carefully labeled leftovers in Tupperware containers and served every last one to the family till it got eaten; made and mended clothes; crocheted rugs and bedspreads; cleaned the house; washed and ironed the laundry; dusted the knick-knacks; and taught English to immigrants, volunteered for Literacy Volunteers, and donated Bibles to prison inmates in her spare time. I believe she accomplished a great deal of this whilst wearing snowshoes.

Me? I'm lucky if I can make it from the bed to the bathroom in the morning without stumbling over Cootie parts. And what does that say about my housekeeping skills?!? My own grandmother efficiently ran a household the size of a small village, and I don't even have enough sense not to pay good money to import plastic vermin?!? What the hell?!?!?

So I hope you'll understand my sense of accomplishment at having cooked and served dinner to my family tonight. Normally, this is my husband's job. He goes out of town sometimes, for a day or two, and I calmly serve frozen pizza or fish sticks. But this time, he's away for two weeks and I would like to demonstrate that I, too, am able to run a household. So I bought raw, completely unprocessed chicken thighs from HEB, and I barbecued them over a charcoal grill. (Okay, so the side dishes were canned cream corn and canned baked beans heated up over the stove. Give a girl a break here.)

Normally I'm a bit insecure about my housekeeping skills. I've managed to dodge focus on them through the clever expedient of being the primary breadwinner; still, I can't help but cringe when I get home after a long, hard day of bullshitting clients/coworkers at 7pm, and realize that no one else's house - NO ONE'S - can possibly be as much of a mess as mine is. Ramen noodles ground into the carpet just inside the entryway? Toilets from the Black Lagoon?? The kitchen faucet buried, inaccessible, under two days' worth of cereal bowls??? I think not.

So this couple of weeks with my husband away is my challenge, my chance to see how well I really can run a household on my very own. Part of this would be training my own teenaged children to actually clean up after themselves; for God's sake, even my happy-go-lucky maternal grandparents had Mom and her siblings washing dishes on a regular basis when they were quite small. They didn't purchase artificial vermin for their house, either.

Maybe I'll even look into going back to school in the fall. Cornell probably wouldn't have me; but if I buckle down, I might be able to get into the Home Ec program at TAMU-CC.

I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Working for the (Wo)Man

You know what the trouble is with working for a woman-owned, woman-operated company? The trouble is that you can only sleep your way to the bottom.

Well, figuratively speaking, of course. There are some rather juicy rumors about me and a consultant who was recently fired, with whom I worked quite closely, even though he telecommuted from another city and I've actually met him in person maybe 8 or 9 times. But if there's anything true about my employer, it's that they never let a little reality get in the way of a good story!

And that's really at the root of how they do business. We provide (or may provide) conceptual services: our president (who is a niece of the CEO - and not the only niece of the CEO in senior management, either) comes up with some really boffo ideas, goes out and pitches them to rapt clients, then breezes off to the next sale leaving a befuddled staff scrambling to figure out how to either (1) implement them, or (2) make it look more or less as if we had. Frankly, I'm amazed we've never been sued; but then again that's probably an advantage of having contracts that are drawn up by salespeople rather than lawyers.

And of course the account managers who are left trying to figure out how to make these boffo ideas happen (the president is much too busy to be bothered with details, and can get impressively furious if questioned) get the blame when the client gets pissed off.

So I'm currently in a bit of hot water at work. Well, I'm far from being the first and will not be the last. To say it's a very political place is a bit of a slam on politicians, really; to say it's a lot like junior high school casts innocent 7th-graders in rather a bad light. Then again, what the hell have 7th-graders ever done for me?

Our president has her staff working on a book for her, so she can go on Oprah. I'll be sure and post about it when that happens. With any luck I'll be working somewhere else, and making my way to the top - hopefully, through competence and hard work...!

Not Thankful for Mortality

From my teens through my early twenties, I kept a diary, scribbled in spiral notebooks. The earlier volumes are decorated with lace and wallpaper samples and have my name written on the front in big calligraphic flourishes. The contents are embarrassing beyond belief; one of these days, if I ever get around to it, I'll make a nice bonfire and destroy the evidence of my adolescence. I shudder to think of my grandchildren one day reading that sticky mishmash of naive dreams, agonies, self-absorption, and anatomically questionable sexual fantasies. Perhaps this next couple of weeks, while I'm on my own, I'll brush off the old firepit and exorcise my teenaged demons.

It's something to bear in mind as I try my hand at blogging. Hey, kids! All the ickiness and angst of my innermost thoughts - now on display for the general public!

And the innermost thoughts are always doozies, aren't they, during the holiday season? I am home by myself (well, 'cept for the kids, who really don't count anyway) for the next couple of weeks as my husband is in Houston helping out his sister, who was recently diagnosed with leukemia. We saw her Thanksgiving Day, for the first time since she was diagnosed and began treatment. She looks well, aside from having no hair and needing to wear a surgical mask all the time.

It's set me off, yet again, into reverberations from my mother's death of complications from breast cancer (the cancer itself was in remission - she died very suddenly of embolisms) a year and a half ago. It's been the central element in my life ever since. She lived in another part of the country and I very rarely saw her, had never seen her during treatment, and her illness never felt quite real to me. At the time she died, I had just begun, for the first time, to realize that maybe she wasn't going to be around forever, which was a horrifying thought. Then suddenly she was gone. And time, rather than softening the hurt, just seems to rub my face in it deeper and deeper because the weeks and months and years pass by and she's still gone...

My sister-in-law is in need of blood, particularly platelets, so I went and gave platelets yesterday. It takes about 90 minutes. They pump the blood out of you, separate out the platelets, then pump the blood back in (eegh - that's all right, really, you can go ahead and keep it...!) It's mostly the same sensation as giving blood, no big deal, just takes a lot longer. 90 minutes is just a very long time to be alone with the kind of thoughts I found myself alone with during that process; and I would really rather have had (to borrow from Douglas Adams) a chaperon... The donation needle hurt like a son-of-a-bitch going in and no wonder; I looked at it as the phlebotomist was removing it and that bastard was huge! (The needle, I mean, not the phlebotomist.)

I found it more frightening than painful. The apheresis machine was all gurgling and beeping and clicking and I was so afraid it was going to mess up and pump some air bubbles into me, or go haywire and suck out all my blood, or who knows what. I had the most hideous sense of fragility. Anything can go wrong, at any moment, without warning, and kill you - and, what's more, eventually will. And that's... that's just... unacceptable!

All I can say is, I hope I've come to grips with this shit by the time I'm old, because otherwise it's really going to suck.

And on that note, welcome, imaginary readers, to the inside of my head! Sorry there's not a bit more fripperies about the place. I expect I'll be posting quite a lot over the next couple of weeks. Happy Thanksgiving!