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Friday, October 25, 2013

Show a Little Spirit

It is Spirit Week here where I work. And I can’t get a damned thing done, because there is team building going on.

I am fully aware there is no “I” in “team.” But being an anagram aficionado, I do know that there is “me” in “team”. There is also meat, which is kind of what I feel like when I have to participate in team building activities.

Whoever came up with the idea of team building for business groups, in my humble opinion, should be taken out, tied down, and beheaded with a butter knife. And everyone who has ever had a horrific team building experience will be invited, and all those scorned people will go back to their jobs feeling better about what they do. That will be the ultimate, and surely most successful, team building experience.

Let’s face it. There will always be people who love their jobs and get along famously with their co-workers just as there are people who hate their jobs, hate their companies, hate their co-workers and try to bring down the people who love their jobs. Can’t we just accept this and move on?

All you need to do is Google “Team building gone wrong” or “weird team building activities” to learn that some ideas for team building have resulted in near-death experiences. The same search will return names of companies who will, for a steep fee, come in and provide you with team building time wasters that they claim will build the morale of the employees. Do these activities actually work and solve personality problems in the workplace? Absolutely not. Maybe for a day or two the Debbie and Douglas Downers of your office will be slightly warmer and fuzzier, but after that, they return to their old grumpy selves, and the workplace returns to what it was before someone shelled out a big chunk of change for crap like this.

And just to prove that I am not a Douglas Downer, I’d like to say that Spirit Week at work is one of the most well thought-out and useful team building weeks I’ve ever been a part of, because one of the activities is a friendly rivalry which involves departments competing against each other to raise money for breast cancer research. And since I have a dear friend who just completed the months of misery that goes along with breast cancer surgery, chemo, and radiation, I am pushing people to wear the pink ribbon stickers I made and to donate money.

Once at a former job to build team spirit, my department went horseback riding in the cold Virginia rain. No one had raincoats, just wet sweaters and water absorbing jackets that brought about near hypothermia.

On another occasion the department went to a movie together. I have to say that there’s nothing like interacting with your fellow employees while being totally silent in the dark to raise team spirit. At least they bought us popcorn and drinks.

Another time at the same company, we were given $20 in quarters at a gambling casino. People with addictive personalities added some of their own money and ended up losing hundreds of dollars. Talk about a pick-me-up. After I had pushed $11.75 in quarters, one at a time, into a slot machine, I ended up taking home $99.25. So that was an individual win for me, and aren’t personal victories and small fortune-making what team building is all about?

So next door to my office right now, they are making a video where 6 people at a table are doing a hand clapping, table slapping, cup-turning-over cheer to a song by some famous singer I’ve never heard of. That will be our entry into the departmental video contest to be shown on, um, Thursday, I think. I’ll have to consult my schedule. Yes, there’s a schedule. It is a week of activities, after all.

In all honesty, I don’t have anything to complain about. I’m one of the people who loves my job, and I have never had to submit to one of the following real-life team building episodes that others have frightfully had to suffer through.

Summer Olympics challenge in Homestead, Florida. Homestead is just about the closest place in the US to the Equator while still being on mainland Florida. As an employee who’s pushing 60 and who has atrial fibrillation and dilated cardiomyopathy, I can think of nothing more “challenging” than running around in 90+ degree heat with high humidity, competing against very fit co-workers young enough to be my grandchildren.

Paintball. Always a brilliant activity from a liability standpoint. I read about managers being shot in the crotch and spending the rest of the day on a bus, others suffering severe bruising, and screaming in fear of being hurt. Personally, I had a friend who was blinded in one eye while removing his goggles to wipe sweat out of his eyes. He sued the guy who shot him and won.

Throwing paint on each other. On one website I read where a team of 10 all donned white tyvec coveralls and face masks and dumped paint on each other. I can’t think of an easier way of determining who the most hated person in the company is. Just measure the coverage on his/her coveralls. I’m sure that improved the morale of 9 of them.

Waterboarding. An April, 2008 Washington Post article details a young sales rep being pinned down with his head facing downhill while his supervisor poured a gallon of water in the poor-producer’s face as he gasped for air. Afterwards, his supervisor told the rest of his sales staff (and I’m paraphrasing), “Did you see how hard he struggled to breathe? I want to rest of you to struggle just as hard to make your sales quotas.”

Kissing. reports that one team building activity was to assign each person on a team to perform a greeting used in foreign cultures. One lucky person was assigned the task of kissing everyone in the company on both cheeks. Think of all the people you work with and imagine not catching, tasting, or smelling something really gross from this fun-filled activity.

Telling the Truth. One group I read about was forced to go around the room and tell everyone what they disliked about each person. True, they also had to tell them what they liked about the person. But when 12 people tell you have halitosis but think you are probably a good parent, which do you think Stinkybreath is going to remember? This resulted in many people running out of the room in tears. Go, team!

Outing. One team building activity I participated in was to contribute to the community by donating blood. The HR secretary was under pressure to call everyone working the day the bloodmobile came to remind them to give blood. This was about 25 years ago, way before HIPAA laws. To this day, gay men are turned away if they try to give blood. The secretary called me and asked me if I was going to give blood. I told her no, that I couldn’t.

“Why not?” she asked.

“That’s none of your goddamned business,” I replied and hung up on her.

So as I consult my Spirit Week schedule once again today, I see that points will be given for everyone who donates blood in the bloodmobile sitting right in front of my office window. If anyone nags me today to donate, I won’t use profanity. I’ll just say that the blood bank will not accept blood of men who have sex with men. It’s my own little consciousness-raising campaign.

Hopefully it’ll lift their spirits.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Place for Everything

I have found an organization that was created just for me, and I am going to sign up. It’s called NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers. You can sign up with them and earn your certificate as a CPO, or Certified Professional Organizer. Google it if you don’t believe me.

I found out about this organization in a follow-up email sent to me by The Container Store. I had made an on-line purchase with them and arranged to have it waiting for me at the store, which is right across the street from where I work. This is because I am so organized that I don’t need to wander isles of stores, looking for what I want. Instead I can just spend five minutes risking my life walking across an 8-lane highway to pick it up.

They say that you spend a third of your life in bed, so having a really good mattress is a smart investment. For me, the second third of my life is spent at work. The third third of my life is spent looking for my car keys, glasses, jump drive, mandated cell phone, or wallet, because that is just how organized I am.

I am so disorganized that I have three hundred and twelve nail clippers. This is because if I only had one pair of clippers, I’d never be able to find them. So I have one in my desk drawer at work, one in the kitchen junk drawer, one in the end table next to my place on the couch, three or four pair in each bathroom, another in my nightstand, and so on.

So because I can always find nail clippers, I feel qualified to be a CPO. The secret is not having a place for everything and everything in its place, as The Container Store would have you believe. The trick is in duplication. Have multiple wallets with multiple items that you carry in your wallet. You can get duplicate driver’s licenses and credit cards. You can get duplicate keys cut and glasses with the same prescription.

I love going into The Container Store and looking at ads for those professional closet organizers who come into your house and turn your disaster of a closet into a work of art. The Container Store sells these high-end European systems with shiny stainless steel wire baskets and solid cherry wood hangers. If I adopted one of those methods of organization, I would have to throw out 90% of my clothes. I have a tee shirt collection that encompasses two shelves in a closet and three bureau drawers in my house. If I wanted a closet that looks like the pictures in the closet organizer ads or in the displays in The Container Store, I would have to scale down to eight tee shirts, six polo shirts, four short sleeve and four long sleeve button down shirts, a few pair of pants, one jacket, and I’d have to buy two sweaters and something long, like a trenchcoat.

One of Other Bill’s cousins has a closet designed by a professional. It is full of shelves with scores of polished shoes. There are built-in drawers, and areas for long dresses and double rows for hanging blouses and slacks on polished wood hangers. It truly is a work of art. It is also about twice the size of our master bedroom. It is more than a walk-in closet. It’s a drive-in warehouse. You could back an 18-wheeler in there, unload it, and the closet still wouldn’t look cluttered.

I have been kindly asked not to empty the dishwasher, because inevitably, I put things in the wrong place. My theory is: if it’ll fit somewhere, that’s a good place for it. Additionally, Other Bill prefers to put away his own clean clothes after I launder them, because he has a “system.”

I probably have 150 tee shirts, but I wear only a half dozen of them. Whatever ends up at the top of the drawer or in front of the shelf is usually what gets worn, unless I am going for a specific look, which is never. It’s a tee shirt, not a facelift. If someone would come up with a cordless electric tee-shirt shuffler, I would buy it in a heartbeat, because buried in there somewhere are some shirts I really like.

So maybe after I retire I will become a Certified Professional Organizer and can start my own business and charge for my services. This means I will have to become a member of NAPO and enroll in their classes and take the CPO exam. And that would mean I would have to get organized enough to remember to attend their many webinars. They actually do have a curriculum which you can find here. My favorite class, I am sure, will be PO-103W, Ethics for Professional Organizers and Productivity Specialists. Yes, NAPO has an actual Code of Ethics by which a CPO must abide. I mean, you can’t just walk into someone’s house, throw out 75% of their shit, collect your fee and leave. A dining room table with 8 chairs? Really? How many times have you used this in the past ten years? I’m calling Goodwill. Do you really need this aquarium? Don’t you think these fish would be happier in their natural habitat? Let me just Google Greenpeace.

I’d be much better organized if everything was digital. I can tell you how much my tax refund for 1984 was in less than 30 seconds, just by searching my jump drive (if I can find where I put it.)

We have these two wooden plates that are of sentimental value to Other Bill. We “misplaced” them. It is only natural that when something goes missing, I am the presumed culprit because of my disorganization skills. On more than one occasion we literally tore the house apart looking for these plates. They turned up, as most things do, when we were looking for something else.

So maybe if I make a searchable PDF file of the location of everything in the house, nothing would get lost, and I could find everything in a matter of seconds.

Nah, that wouldn’t work. I’d never put anything back where it was intended to stay. My theory is a place for everything and everything wherever it’ll fit.