Stereotypical

When I first started my job, a local clothier was liquidating his inventory of plaid shirts, and for ridiculous single-digit prices.  Succumbing to momentary insanity, convinced it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I stocked up.

My hasty shopping spree left me relegated to wear oxford-style tartan for years to come.  Workplace associates would later proclaim that plaid became my personal trademark.

The following Halloween, everyone in the office donned plaid shirts to celebrate my limited, and somewhat lacking, fashion sense.Scary_Plaid

As the company I.T. guy, I prided myself  on building rapport and improving morale whenever possible.  Often this meant helping with menial tasks, which many times interrupted my mundane technical responsibilities, but more importantly, provided an excuse to shed my necktie.

The Friday before last, ladies in accounting had requested my assistance with carrying boxed files to the basement storage.Matching_Plaid

With banker boxes heaped five high on the handcart, my free hand fumbled to call the elevator.  The doors parted to expose the empty car. Using the old heave-ho, the cart’s rubber tires protested lethargically, but eventually conceded the threshold from marble tile onto elevator carpet.  With a closing clunk, the car descended.

The lift slowed, stopped, and divided doors on fifteen.  Motion from the lobby was absent.  The symmetrical panels reached to reseal the compartment, until interrupted by an arm adorn with a monogrammed gold cufflink.  The doors recoiled to reveal a polished executive.  He boarded the car.

“Sorry…  I hate to hold up anyone getting paid by the delivery,” said the dapper gentleman.

My eyebrow arched.  A forced smirk failed to conceal my grimace.

“…or do you delivery guys get paid by the hour?”

My mind turned introspective.  My getup looked neither like FedEx, nor UPS, and I hadn’t a clipboard, nor even a courier crest sewn to my chest.  What made me appear to be a delivery guy?  Was it the plaid?

Ideas for a witty rebuttal simply vanished.

Constraining the truth, I muttered, “…something like that.”

————————————————————————————————————————–

The story mentioned above was inspired by the Trifecta: Week Seventy-Nine writing challenge.  This week’s prompt required me to write a response, 33 to 333 words in length, containing the word APPEAR  (specifically using its third definition).

APPEAR
1a : to be or come in sight <the sun appears on the horizon>
b : to show up <appears promptly at eight each day>
2: to come formally before an authoritative body <must appear in court today>
3: to have an outward aspect : seem <appears happy enough>

The Farewell

Jim&Pam_2

Leave it to me to get all sappy about the ending of a TV show…  As you may or may not know, this was the last season for NBC’s The Office.  Eight and something-something seasons later, the show’s finale aired last night.  It didn’t disappoint.

Seinfeld is the last significant television finale still etched in my memory.  Nearly everyone I ever know who watched Seinfeld felt the same annoyance I felt towards its final episode.  How could such an epic Thursday night tradition have ended so poorly?  It still turns my stomach to think about it.

Conversely, The Office couldn’t have ended better.  It left me smiling, laughing, saddened, but most importantly, it resolved the story(and unlike Seinfeld, didn’t leave you wondering if the show you’d watched for so-long might have only been half as good as you remember).  I was one of those few people who followed the show from season one.  Over the last week, I’ve been asking my peers, mostly co-workers, if they happen to watch The Office.  Once again, I’m one of the few.  So nine seasons later, what’s changed?   Now at least everyone knows of or about the show, even if they don’t watch it.

Back in spring 2005, the concept of The Office was new and novel.  It immediately peaked my interest with its documentary feel and character camera interviews (like soliloquies or confessions caught on tape).  And it was about work, and those were the days when I actually felt passion and worth just going to work.

The Office made a second season, and its fandom at my own workplace grew (likely because I was avidly promoting it).  Using my VCR, I would faithfully record the show on Thursdays, and during Fridays’ lunch break, my co-workers and I would bust-a-gut laughing out loud while watching the recording.  Like Miami Vice (Friday nights of my youth), Saturday Night Live (Saturday nights of my youth), and Simpsons (I can’t recall what night of my youth), watching The Office with a group of people makes the experience that much better.  Maybe like in a theatre or cinema, viewers feed off of each other’s emotions and reactions.

TheOfficeUKI’ve watched and appreciate the BBC’s The Office, but not nearly as much as States-side recreation.  Looking at each adaptation of The Office TV show, they differ so much as to practically exist on different planets (not just continents).  The intro scene into the BBC version seems sad, nearly dismal if not depressing, and the intro cinematography makes the show almost look more industrial than about an office.  But credit indeed goes to Ricky Gervais for creating the concept and for getting the whole idea rolling.

So what made The Office different from other television sitcoms?  It was the characters and the setting.  The personalities on the show were both believable and yet over-the-top funny.  So often, the show’s characters could seem so real, down-to-earth, and relatable, while other times you knew the story writers were taking you on some wild goose chase.  And their stories played out in an office space where just about anyone might relate.  Other times, the first person filming of scenes left the viewer actually feeling like part of the cast.Quad_Desk

What will I miss most about The Office?

I’ll miss the emotion that Michael Scott could awake in me–at times I just couldn’t help but root for him because he was the ultimate underdog.  Other times, he would leave me cringing or bubble up with anger.

The cast, while looking more like average folks, rather than Hollywood supermodels, had the ability to capture the viewer’s attention (and often their heart).  At different points in the story, substance rather than superficial made me appreciate each personality for who they were (or developed into).

Watching The Office often ended up being therapeutic… helping me appreciate the quirky nature of working with others, and to realize that the craziest day at my work seldom matched the madness portrayed on the TV show.

A few of my favorite scenes from The Office:

Megadesk
Quad Desk
Booze Cruise
Lip Dub Intro
Princess Unicorn
Finer Things Club
Dwight’s Concussion
Jim playing Call of Duty
Holly doing Yoda Impression
Michael Scott Paper Company
Death Bus (actually called Work Bus)
Michael Scott’s wearing a Woman’s Suit
Creed coloring his hair black to look younger
Identity Theft — When Jim steels Dwight’s look.
Holly, the new HR person, thinks Kevin is retarded
Andy sings to Angela with backing from the friends on phones
Dropping a water melon from  atop of the building onto the trampoline
Dwight reading the speech Jim wrote for him at the Paper Sales Conference

(and too many more to list)

So after spending nine years tagging along, thanks  for the smiles, stories, and laughs!

Do you have a favorite scene or storyline you related to in The Office?  Leave me a comment 🙂

The Show Goes On

Work has been all consuming recently in a way that leaves me wondering, “Why I do whatever it is that I do at work?”  Is that how a midlife crisis feels?  Pondering questions and searching for meaning and purpose?  If  it is  indeed a midlife crisis, would I even know it?

So…

Tonight, Sara Bareilles played live in Vancouver, but I’m here in Calgary.  Yes, I’m simply here, and slightly disappointed that I’m still in Calgary.  Just like most nights…

Brave_Tour

When I first heard Sara Bareilles was playing a couple Canadian cities, Toronto and Vancouver, I thought, “This is my chance!  I’ll fly to Vancouver, see the concert, and catch an overnight flight back after the show.  That way I won’t even have to spring for a hotel!  I could even be back in time to be at work the next morning (not that I would be productive).  The concert takes place at this artsy little theater called the Rio, and Vancouver’s Sky Train has a station close by the theater… I won’t even have to rent a car.  This will be awesome!”

WestJet

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  Flights to either Canadian mega-city were a wee bit outside my budget.  And not that it would be so bad to break the budget once in a while.  My problem is that I’ve already broken the budget one too many times.

While I wallow in my disappointment, being tired from work, I’m left to express my thoughts here.  While writing this entry, I happen on this concert clip which just seems to go with the moment…

Special thanks to Peter Wu for uploading this clip to YouTube

Maybe a letter, the kind that never gets sent, would be appropriate for the moment…

Dear Sara,

You don’t know me, and I suspect we’ll never meet face-to-face.  If we ever did meet, I  wouldn’t know what to say and nor would it sound intelligent.  I’m pretty sure if we had went to school together, we would have been freakish friends at best.  Okay, I’d probably been the freakish one.

I wish I’d been able to make your concert tonight.  It wasn’t meant to be this time, but rest assured, I’ll add it to my future bucket list (and mark it: things to do for sure).  Instead, tonight I’m doing the dad thing, the trying to do the right and responsible dad thing for my wife and kids.

“What?” you ask.  A father that listens to your music…?  I know, I know.  I’m not your usual demographic, but for some reason much of your music resonates with me.

I hope your next album, Blessed Unrest, proves to be a huge commercial success (that way you’ll keep touring, and maybe even come to Calgary one day.  No?  I guess a Calgarian can always dream).  Until then… all the best to you!

Sincerely,

Dad (not to be confused with your own Dad)

Being naivE

Image

Many years ago, when I worked in Parks and Rec, the bottled water craze had newly infiltrated society.  Some coworkers of mine bought into the belief that the tap water they’d been drinking for years was now unhealthy compared to the new bottled water alternatives.  My water-drinking associates even preferred certain brands of bottled water over others because, apparently, certain companies made better tasting water.  Not than anyone here on earth really makes water; It’s more an art involving filtration. To me, it all just tasted like water.

I also think holding bottled water made people feel attractive.  If you compaired a mental snapshot of me drinking water from a tumbler (freshly poured from the tap) to any of my coworkers drinking from one of their branded bottles, 9 times out of 10 times their drinking definitely looked cooler and sexier.  Mind you, most of them were young women, fit life guards, and looked both cooler and sexier than me doing almost anything.

Bottled water also became, dare I say, fashionable?!  A person might stroll into a room, OR that same person might stroll into a room with a bottled water in hand.  Did the person with the bottle look thirsty?  No, not really.  Did they look prepared?  I suppose, but not boy scout overly prepared.   That bottled water portrayed the drinker as enlightened, and made statement that tap water and drinking fountains were unfit for their lips (which reminds me of a movie… but read on).naive

As you may have guessed, bottled water was never important to me.  Sadly for both the world and I, neither was fashion.  At some point, someone brought it to my attention that evian spelled in reverse was naive.  This pretty much solidified in my mind that I would never become a bottled water toting person.  It seemed very naive indeed.

dutch_parking

Being naive was something I hoped not to be. Try as I might, I couldn’t avoid it forever.  In 2000. I moved into a four-plex rental in Edmonton.  The buildings were converted military barracks and had huge backyards without fences.  At the end of the backyard was the community gravel pad for parking, and at the end of my designated parking was this sign that read DUTCH PARKING ONLY.

I’d never heard of the “dutch parking” term .  Did it refer to a method of parking like angle parking?  Maybe it was like going dutch on a date?  I noticed some of the neighbors parked bumper to bumper, two cars deep.  Was that the elusive dutch parking method?  This was Edmonton after all, and I was the new guy.  Maybe along with Edmonton’s crazy traffic circles, dutch parking might have been a unique regional term.

When the property manager stopped by to have me sign some paperwork, I asked her about dutch parking.  She looked confused.  I pointed at the sign and wondered out loud what it meant.  She rolled her eyes and said, “It would be removed if it bothered me that much.”  The light finally went on in my head; it was ethnic humor placed by the previous tenant.  Now I was the one rolling my eyes, but at myself.

While writing about bottled water and being naive, drinking fountains came to mind.  I can actually remember the few drinking fountains in my life that provided reasonable satisfaction.  As a thirsty kid, nothing was more annoying than a drinking fountain that lacked water pressure.  Nobody wanted to suck the water from a public fountain. blah!  I’d rather have kissed a girl.  Later in life, I still rather kiss a gal.

The most memorable drinking fountain movie scene from my youth had to be in Michael J. Fox’s Secret of My Success movie (1987).

I can’t help but smirk at the sappy David Foster tune playing in the background, or how Helen Slater’s hair style looks eerily like Princess Diana, but that was the 80s.  Had the movie been shot two or three years later, I doubt she would have been sipping from the drinking fountain.  I’m guessing it would have been from a plastic bottled water.

I Can’t Really Take the Credit…

awarded

Today, I was recognized. I didn’t even stop to bask in my momentary success and recognition. My mind was immediately fixed upon writing an appropriate un-awkward reply (thanks for the thanks?  I think it ended up awkward).  Pondering it all, it occurs to me that I didn’t even tell my wife (sorry my love… it slipped my mind… and you weren’t home for supper. Next time I’ll send an email right away, hopefully, maybe? Who am I kidding?).

So tonight I was articulating ideas that I’ve been itching to type. Initially it didn’t even occur that I should Press my momentary success from today. My natural tendency is to shrug off the glory, but even the smallest victories should be celebrated (if only for a few brief sentences). So in the spirit of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 “…a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” this is my moment to shine (but really to reflect more than shine).

Here’s the note with my own [amendments] to protect the innocent.

recognized

Perhaps the most satisfying part of getting recognized by this particular fellow was knowing that he had driven an outsourcing of my job (and others like mine) only two years before. Just like life, things change, companies change, and leaders’ minds do too.  So for me, despite a couple years of mourning, tearing down, and weeping (really more disappointment than all-out weeping), and swapping relative certainty for the unfamiliar, today I feel a wee bit built up, with reasons to laugh, and even reason to dance a little jig (if only to myself, and with a few friends reading along–thanks for being here too).

All this to say, I can’t really take any credit. It’s all about shining and reflection. I might show up to work each day, but it’s Christ in me that brings out the best in me. If there’s goodness to be found in me, it’s not me, but rather a reflection of Him. And if I’m honest with myself, anything I do above and beyond the call of duty, I do for my Love of Him.  In my weakness, He remains strong.  So today, I really owe my thanks to Christ working in me, and how He makes me look good.  Thanks be to Him!

Slaves [and IT guys too], obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. ~ Colossians 3:22-24 NIV

And it just occurs to me… at the end of my acceptance spiel, just like every other major celebrity at an award show, I end this off by offering thanks to God.  Go figure.  That wasn’t planned.  Really.

Thoughts on 40…

…not to be confused with turning 40!

I stumbled upon an article on the site Digital Spy where a poll conducted by LA Fitness asked 2,000 people for their 2013 objectives.  Here’s the top 40 list from the poll, many of which certainly did end up on people’s lists of New Year Resolutions (and my thoughts trailing afterwards).

40

1. Read more books (I’m confused… texting, youtube, and social media has all but eroded everyone’s attention spans.  Why would we want to read more books?  Maybe we subconsciously want our attention spans back?  Wait?!  What was I writing about again?  Dang!)
2. Save more money (Sure, I’d like to save more of my money.  How ’bout finding extra money?  Or armed robbery?)
3. Lose weight (Just like money; think more dollar bills and less change.)
4. Redecorate (… your walls with cereal boxes.  That’ll save more money.)
5. Take better photos (… by using real cameras again.  Or by stop using InstaGram.)
6. Go traveling (… which seems counter to saving more money… unless using a bicycle.)
7. Sell old unwanted stuff on eBay (Agreed.  eBay is cool, but Kijiji is cooler–you actually meet freakish people, when you’re not getting stood up by them!  Jerks!)
8. Buy a tablet (… from the paper isle at Staples.  Kickin’ it old-school!)
9. Organize photos (Start by not taking pictures on every mobile device you own?  Just saying.)
10. Do something for charity (Start by buying the person behind you in line a coffee.  I’m the guy with the plaid shirt.)
11. Spend more time with kids (Can’t quite understand it.  My kids would rather not. Perhaps 2013 wasn’t the year to stop buying deodorant.)
12. Buy a Sunday paper  (Really, with the same money we’re trying to save?  The TV guides online now! And we still have no attention span.)
13. Less TV time (Agreed.  Cut the cable.  Watch more shows online.)
14. Connect my computer to my TV (Sure, right after I buy a new TV in 2014 with all the money I saved in 2013.)
15. Leave work on time more often (Great idea! But I’d rather start by just getting to work on time more often.  Unless we’re trying for a shorter workday?!  Duly noted.)
16. Less time on Facebook (Excellent!  Please help me find more annoying friends to further repulse me from using it.)
17. Totally revamp my wardrobe (Plaid?  Plaid forever!  The rest of you are nuts.)
18. Try a new hairstyle (Sure.  But first I’ll have to transplant some from the lower regions.)
19. Get a six-pack (Okay, But beers not really my thang.)
20. Eat less chocolate (What?  Who are these freaking people!)
21. Socialise more in real life rather than Facebook (Yes.  It’s called a telephone young people. You talk with it.)
22. Drink less alcohol (Agreed. Even better, drink someone else’s alcohol).

starbucks_barrista
23. Buy less coffee from Starbucks (Sure.  That’ll last a week.  When was the last time you tried office coffee? So how do you steal Starbucks coffee anyways?)
24. Start my own business (By now I think we’ve determined I’m trying to save money, and my attention span is limited at best.  Let’s wait til 2014 for this one.)
25. Tell someone I have feelings for them (I’d love to tell my boss about my feelings, but suppressing them helps keep me employed.)
26. Quit smoking (Yes.  Setting things on fire is bad!  I think we covered that in 2012.)
27. Gain a promotion (Again.  That’s why we keep our real feelings to ourselves, right?!)
28. Learn how to use Twitter (Sure. So I can miss use the hash key and further erode my attention span).
29. Run a half or full marathon (Who are these people?!  Ah, right… silly LA Fitness poll.)
30. Call people more than text (That depends… how about good news by phone, and bad news by text?  Seems like a reasonable compromise.)
31. Cut someone out of my life who isn’t good for me (Hey, why are you looking at me that way?!)
32. Meet online contacts in real life (I’m not sure I want any more scary real life people in life, unless you’re buying me coffee in the Starbucks line.)
33. Watch less reality TV (And more YouTube instead?  I don’t think this is helping any of us.)
34. Text people less (Less bad news is a good thing… see my point at number 30.)
35. Try to save relationship (Does that involve you saying, “I think we should just be friends?”  No.  Say it isn’t so!)
36. Try extreme sports (Only if I get a cool free Redbull outfit, a TV special, and a good looking nurse.)
37. Get better at social networking (How about we try complete sentences with capitals and punctuation?)
38. Stop contacting/going back to an ex-partner (That depends.  How much money money did she have?)
39. Have a face-to-face with my boss to find out where I stand (This was covered under the previous “feelings” discussions.)
40. Do a bungee jump (Only as the guest of Reality TV–please come back ABC’s The Mole *sniffle, sniffle*)

Farewell Note of Encouragement to Guylaine

Guylaine,

Sometimes thank you cards just don’t provide enough space to fully express a person’s gratitude, or in my case, not near enough space to contain my long-windedness.

You might recall me mentioning one of my first recollections of working with you… In door four I found myself cross docking a trailer of packages destined to Edmonton.  While sending the freight up the line, I had suggested you might help by going to tower one to send the packages down to door seven.  Leary of my suggestion, you casually wondered aloud if I might be looking for a way to embarrass you, the new manager, in front of P____y, your trainer.  I was dumb founded.  The thought never crossed my mind,  but afterwards, I wished I had thought of something similar and sooner.

My other earliest recollections of working with you include frantic moments where you rushed here, there, and everywhere.  Half the time, you muttered under your breathe in the lovely language of French; the other half you swore,  but again, in French.

Months and months later, your rag-tag Shift found its rhythm, the team gelled, and you, Boss, well you relaxed (just a wee bit).  Magically, the Sort’s targets no longer seemed so very far away, package handlers worked together (almost team-like), and work became fun.  The Purple Prison, my name for the Station, and the word fun seldom, if ever, had been mentioned together, at least as long as I’d worked there.

Fast-forward ahead a few more months: Your team not only had rhythm, but ran nearly like a well-oiled machine.   Your once little lost group of misfits now seemed almost efficient; once considered an oxymoron for the Station’s night Shift.  More time passed, and gradually, you won the hearts of your peers, specifically the Vampire (a.k.a. N__k) and Av_t_r.   Your hands-on inclusive management style earned you new-found respect.

One of my own personal goals in life is to learn from all my experiences (work and otherwise).  Often, this means I try to observe and learn from others, which often motivates me to revisit (and sometimes challenge) my own assumptions and opinions.  There are many things that I learned while working with you.  Please permit me to share a few…

People deserve a second chance.  Apparently some people deserve a second, then third, and for very select cases, even a fourth (lethargic D_r_k comes to mind).  I saw  you work, and work diligently with co-workers, many of whom I had simply written-off.  I was uncertain if you exhibited more patience or more persistence, but anyone who worked alongside you certainly had a very fair chance at success.  Sadly, most of those fellows never appreciated, nor even realized, the investment you made in them.

Good managers, like good friends, find room for empathy.  In my work life, I’ve experienced managers that definitely could learn a lot from you.  You always demonstrated empathy when working through decisions with employees–you always factored in an employee’s situation, their needs, and their goals while you sought to balance the Station’s objectives.  Sometimes you got burned, but more often than not, you gained loyalty and appreciation from your employees.

Hands-on managers greatly improve their chances of success.  A couple of years ago, if someone mentioned that our Sort might take first place in anything for the corporation, I would have erupted in laughter.  Much to my delight, you lead our team to number one in scanning compliance for Canada.  What seemed once impossible became possible.  I figured this happened because you coached everyone everyday, and you invested yourself with your hands-on approach.

Balance is a life-long pursuit.  For me, balance in life and in work has always been a challenge.  In my mind, I just figured that one day I would discover the secret.  Working with you, it became apparent that balance is (and remains) a life-long pursuit; more a journey than a destination.  On many days, I wondered why you stayed on our Sort.  Fridays seemed like hell.  Other entire weeks seemed like hell. Eventually it became apparent that immediate hardship would eventually lead to something, somewhere better.  It’s a good reminder… the little unpleasantness today doesn’t mean a lifetime of unhappiness.

So, what else is there to say?  I could go on some more, but I won’t.  Instead, I want to express my gratitude for your generous spirit, both inside and outside of work.  You’re amougst the most giving people I know, and a sharp contrast to the selfish attitude too often exhibited within our culture.  You were never cheap to share treats, to lend an ear, to offer kudos, or to learn a bit about each person that worked alongside you.

The time we spent working together was never without rough spots, but those were definitely the exception.  And even when there disagreement, it helped me to appreciate all the good days because, by far, the good outnumber the bad.  Somehow, we always worked things out in the end.

The Station was very different before we met.  Now that you’re gone, things are very different again.  Rest assured, I certainly enjoy the time we did work together and often look back to those pleasant memories.  My co-workers and I are a bit weary in spirit, wondering how the next manager will be different, and how he won’t be like “our” Guylaine.  For certain, you leaving is our Station’s loss and Kelowna’s gain.  Without a doubt,  I’m confident you’ll be great, and do even greater things for the company and that location.

One last thing… It has been a pleasure and honor to work with you.  I’ve heard it said, “Some people come in and out of our lives, but a select few leave fingerprints.”  I’m grateful to have your fingerprints on this part of my life.  Thanks for being a great manager and friend.  All the best to you and your future endeavor!

With Kindest Regards,

Lane