Saturday, November 20, 2010

Backseat To No One

I do not address this next topic lightly. I am aware of how strongly people feel about this but something needs to be said. Someone has got to stand up and say “Hey! Wait your turn.” There must be a champion for the neglected and silently suffering. Who will stand up for the little guy when the world seems all too willing to let it fall by the wayside? As usual it’s me.

I was driving home from work yesterday and flipping through the radio stations when I heard one of my favorite songs. You’d think I would have been thrilled with such a happy coincidence that one of my all time favorites was being played just when I happened on the station, but no. Why you ask? What was the song you ask? O Holy Night.

Good people of this great land hear me. Far too long have I stood idly by while the Christmas season has swept through the calendar like a spilled cup of grape juice on the kitchen counter. Gone are the days when people put up their tree on Christmas Eve. Christmas lights started appearing on houses in November and we said nothing. Department stores donned Christmas decorations while our pantries were still full of Halloween candy and we smiled. Radio stations devoted their slates to Jingle Bell Rock and Holly Jolly Christmas just after Veteran’s Day and we sang along. No more!

I too am complicit in this insurgence in the war of holidays. I live on a street where neighbors revel in holiday cheer. I love their devotion to Christmas and the lights, decorations and music that flood our street at this time of year. A couple of them already have their lights up and a few others are working on it as I type. But I cannot remain silent any longer.

How dare you step on Thanksgiving. HOW DARE YOU!

I know it doesn’t have scores and scores of songs devoted to it. There aren’t bright shiny decorations associated with the season. There aren’t weeks of anticipation leading up to an event so big that its eve is also a holiday and children don’t receive a multi-week break amping up said anticipation. But doesn’t it deserve the same treatment that we give every other holiday? That is, to be left alone un-encroached upon by its neighboring holiday.

What other holiday is treated so poorly?

Thanksgiving is a glorious day of feasts and football, family and gratitude (yes in that order). Close your eyes and imagine with me…no wait, strike that, if you close your eyes you can’t read this anymore.

[I’ll pause and wait for my slower readers to figure that out]

Are we all back? Good then.

Imagine the smell permeating the house; turkey, pie, stuffing, pie, mashed potatoes, pie and rolls, pie… The family is together and the game is on. Heavenly.

This is a day that deserves better and we can give her better. We can give her our full attention; for the love of pie we must give her our full attention.

I too love Christmas and understand the temptation to bust out the wreath and mistletoe just as soon as the mall goes all winter wonderland on us. It takes a good deal of restraint to stave off this premature jubilation and wait.

If you won’t do it for Thanksgivings sake then do it for Christmas sake. Sure the idea of Christmas spirit all year long is great but if it were Christmas all year long then Christmas wouldn’t be special and we’d have just destroyed everything that we look forward to.

I’m not asking that you wait until that blessed day or even that we shove Christmas back to its own calendar month; I’m just asking for one more day. The Friday after Thanksgiving you can just go nuts. Put up a forty foot inflatable Frosty (my neighbor’s got one), go all Griswold on your house, bust out your Blue Ray edition of Polar Express and wear it out, you get the idea. We can do it and we and both holidays will be enriched.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Punch Me In The Face

I love movies about the old west. I love the no nonsense heroes. The cowboy who is carving out his piece of the world, the local sheriff standing alone against corruption or the outlaw with a good heart. These aren’t complex characters in many cases, one commonality unites them; the expectation that people act civilly and responsibly. If they don’t the repercussion is swift and definitive; a punch in the face.

Not unusual in these movies is the occasion where someone is shooting off his mouth or disrespects a woman or just in general is being a public nuisance. That is when someone will step forward and punch that guy in the mouth. Of course someone is there to catch him or pick him up off the floor. There is a brief pause in the action where onlookers wait to see if anything else will come of it. Sometimes a friend or relative of the recently struck will appeal to local law enforce, “Sheriff, ain’t you gonna do someth’n.” His reply will consistently be something like, “He had it a com’n.” And that would be that.

Today we view those times as crude, uncivilized, even barbaric. But what if they had it right?

In movies today, set in present times, it is not uncommon to see someone take a well deserved shot to the face. Generally it comes with a painful shake of the hand and a great sense of satisfaction for the character and the audience. But when was the last time you saw someone take one to the chops in real life?

If that happened today, instead of the piano player halting, the barkeep staring and the clobbered being helped to his feet while wiping the blood from his lip; you’d have people calling 911 on their cell phones and most assuredly a horrified bystander questioning the puncher, “What is wrong with you?!”

As a society we’ve progressed to a point where it is unacceptable behavior to knock someone down who is acting a fool. I teach my children to use their words when faced with a conflict. That’s what civilized people do. All that is fine and good except for one small thing; we’ve enabled the fools.

You see, two rational intelligent people can work through their differences without physical confrontation. But what happens when a rational intelligent person is crossed by a clown without a shred of decency or common sense and no regard for the general welfare of humanity. The fool can act as he pleases, disregard any plea for civility and go about his business while the rational, sane, intelligent person is left frustrated and unsatisfied. So you do the right thing and the offending party leaves unscathed and largely unaware of the damage done. This situation will, most likely, be repeated again and again because rational intelligent people are bound by the expectations of society and are unable to correct the fool’s behavior through reason and discourse. So the fool will continue being a fool because he can.

Now before you get too carried away I’m not suggesting that anybody go around willy nilly throttling people who upset or annoy them. However, on the occasion that you run across a fool and all attempts at reason have failed wouldn’t it be nice if, in the end, someone could help that fool to his feet with a shrug and onlookers and authority figures alike could say, “Well, he had that a com’n.”

Taking it a step further just look at what happened at Felcher & Sons when they brought in an office linebacker. Productivity went through the roof. The Terrible Terry Tate brand of justice produced immediate results and put the fools on notice. (excuse his language)

What if people could expect a measure of instant justice when they were out of order? The acts of thoughtlessness would decline exponentially. If you give people license to be fools then you are left to deal with fools. However, if you put fools on notice then they’ll be forced to snap to attention and act right or suffer the consequences. Think of it as an adult spanking.

What if the punk talking during the movie who’s rebuffed repeated petitions for silence or the incompetent colleague whose perpetual thoughtlessness puts your team under the gun time and time again could expect a clothesline or a well placed stunner or DDT? You think they might modify their behavior? You bet your sweet bippy.

At one point or another we’ve all wanted to belt a deserving somebody; a coworker, a neighbor, a stranger; I don’t know a wife out there who hasn’t wanted to pop her husband from time to time. That thought has probably crossed my wife’s mind while she read this.

Look, I’m not condoning random acts of violence or saying that you should start punching people in the face…I’m just saying imagine a world where people had to think twice before they said or did (or wrote) something stupid.

Friday, November 12, 2010

10 Commandments for getting along with your IT guy

I’ve given a lot of thought to this subject and I really think I can help. You see to many people IT guy is a mystery; a reclusive, surly shadow that descends upon you in your hour of need and disappears thereafter, from sight and consciousness, moving on to the next user in distress. Dealing with such a creature may seem complicated or daunting. Keeping that in mind I’ve come up with 10 guidelines for successfully navigating the pitfalls of dealing with your IT guy.
***disclaimer*** I am perfectly aware that there are many fine IT gals out there but for the purposes of this blog both IT guys and gals will be lumped together and referred to as IT guy.

1. Thou Shalt Not Forget Thy Password
We understand that you have multiple passwords and most times they are different. Requiring you to change your password, for security reasons, to you seems unnecessary. We get that. Nonetheless you have to change your password and you know you have to change your password. Resistance is futile. When the time comes to change your password you must engage whatever cognitive function you can muster and retain the information you’ve chosen to use. That brings us to the next commandment:

2. Thou Shalt Not Excuse Thyself In Any Way
When you screw up, own it. The natural inclination is to say “It wasn’t me.” Well it was you. No one else uses your computer, just you. The argument is often proffered “I remember my password; the system is not letting me in.” Let me tell you something “the system” doesn’t care who you are, “the system” doesn’t have any prejudice or bias against you and “the system” isn’t trying to sabotage your day. “The system” just wants the correct password and when it receives that password (that you set by the way) “the system” will gladly let you in. You know how we know that? Because everyone who entered the correct password was promptly let in and did not have to call us.
Another thing, saying “I’m not a computer person” or “I’m computer illiterate” is a cop out. It’s 2010, most jobs require some sort of interaction with a computer. And guess what? Your job requires that you use a computer. Why is it that people wish to be viewed as competent in every other aspect of their job but are unwilling to put any time or effort into figuring out what every ten year old knows how to do? You don’t have to be a “computer person” to operate a computer and saying you are “computer illiterate” tells us you are either lazy or not bright, we’ll let you pick.

3. Thou Shalt Not Start Thy Query With “Quick Question.”
The implication here is that you’re so busy that you need a brief answer right away or that the question is insignificant and therefore not worth either of our time. Both of these are irksome. We fully recognize that this prefix to your question is rooted in your IT guy’s ‘don’t bother me’ persona and that it is intimidating to call him. You may think ‘I’m simply alerting him that I’ll only require a moment of his time’. You don’t know that and can’t control that; beginning your conversation with “Quick question” is a bad idea. Simply state your problem or question and allow your tech support to judge the value of the conundrum and determine the length or brevity of his response.

4. Thou Shalt Respect Thy IT Guy’s Time
We all know the Brothers Grimm tale of a shoemaker and his helper elves. Each night the good shoe cobbler laid out a piece of leather and went to sleep. At midnight the little elves would appear and make shoes while the cobbler slept. In the morning the elves would be gone and the cobbler would find a fine pair of shoes ready to be sold. Well you are not a cobbler and we are not elves. We work the same hours as you. In the evenings and on weekends we go home to our family. We too get to take lunch every day. Inviting us to work on your computer while you are at lunch, at 5 o’clock when you are done for the day, or on Saturday when you won’t be bothered doesn’t work for us.

5. Thou Shalt Not Stop Thy IT Guy In The Hall
If you see your IT guy in the hall there’s a good chance he’s going somewhere. He’s not just wandering aimlessly around the building waiting for someone to stop him with a question or a problem. Odds are someone has already called or emailed him with a question or problem and he’s on his way to respond to them. Your hallway question or problem is the equivalent of cutting in the lunch line. It’s not fair to the others involved. Oh and if he’s not on his way to help someone he’s on his way to the bathroom. He’s been holding it for some time because he was on the phone with someone claiming that they did not forget their password or that they are “computer illiterate”. So please give him a break. A smile or a polite head nod in the hall will usually be returned in kind.

6. Thou Shalt Have No Other IT Guys Before Him
Whether your boyfriend, brother or roommate is an IT guy, computer guru or tech geek is irrelevant. Your support comes from your IT staff. Going to someone else first only makes the problem worse when they can’t figure it out and you are forced to call your IT guy anyway. Saying that you tried to work it out through outside resources does not garner you any points, only chagrin.

7. Hast Thou Rebooted?
With the inevitable bumps in the road that come with regular computer use you’ll experience a glitch, a bug or a frozen application or system. Before frantically reaching for the phone and dialing your friendly neighborhood IT man, stop for a moment, take a breath and ask yourself “Have you rebooted?” You see this will save you from shamefully answering “No.” when your IT guy asks you that very question when you know good and well that would most likely have done the trick in the first place.

8. Thou Shalt Not Be Cute
Your IT guy visits many different people throughout the course of the day. He sits in offices and cubicles, on some chairs that are comfortable and others that aren’t. Working on computers requires that he sits at a desk that is not his own in a workspace where you are accustom to seeing others sit. When stumbling upon this out of the ordinary scene you may feel compelled to make comments such as these: “Why Barbara you’ve changed.” or “My Bob, you look different today.” or “Suzie, did you get a haircut?” These are not original and to your IT guy, who hears this six times a day, it is maddening. Resist the urge; fight it with every fiber of your soul. We beg you.

9. Thou Shalt Not Be Disingenuous
Starting your phone call with “Hey buddy” or “What’s up brother?” does not make us buddies or brothers. Asking “How’s your day going?” or “What’s new with you?” may seem polite but in the context of why you are calling is moot. We are not buddies as we never hear from you other than when something is wrong or you need something. This is not a social call; you are calling because you have a request for help or service. Pretending it is anything else is just a waste of our time and your energy. You give no thought about your IT guy unless you have a problem. We accept that, let’s move on.

10. Thou Shalt Express Thy Gratitude
IT guy is a thankless job. He is remembered only in your hour of greatest frustration and angst; to be immediately forgotten once the crisis has been addressed or the problem solved. If you really want to get along with your IT guy this commandment is above all others. Say thank you and mean it. You will endear yourself to him in a way that even he doesn’t understand.

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