Friday, November 19, 2010

Alles in Ordnung!

The other night my daughter was visiting and accused” me of having an obsessive/compulsive disorder when it came to cleaning stuff and keeping things, in what I term, a state of order. My German heritage (Alles in Ordnung) coupled with being a Virgo may account and lend some good credence to this accusation. In reflecting on this potential truth, I took a quick inventory of some of my behaviors.
I’ll report, you decide:

1) my garage has 3 vacuum cleaners, all used for expressly different purposes and labeled accordingly,
2) my cologne is arranged in a cost descending order such that the cheaper stuff is used first whilst the expensive (Givenchy Pi) is used only for those special occasions,
3) my email in box never has anything older than 1 week in it,
4) my breakfast routine is carefully organized for the expedient and quick morning execution plan,
5) my morning “sit down” is scheduled in my Outlook,
6) my work desks (home and at the office) are free of litter and unwarranted paper refuting the axiom “a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind,”
7) my public restroom behaviors NEVER touch anything (don’t get technical here, please!) without a paper towel insulator,
8) I enjoy hanging around organized people and listen for tips (& write them down) on ways to get more organized,
9) I make many lists, then sticky notes reminding me to read the lists,
10) my truck is washed at least 3 times/week and dusted nightly and
11) most of my writing is about things that repulse me (except for when I write about myself, like this piece).

So maybe my daughter is correct in her assessment. In actuality, I would re-term the aforementioned “accusation” and re-term it an attribute, of which I wish more people possessed. Nothing is more disgusting than to walk into a colleague’s cube and see piles of paper and a cutesy little sign that reads, “the buck gets lost here!” Dirty cars should be illegal and public restrooms should be designed “touch less” (eg DEN airport). I do struggle with this as the world seems to be moving more toward of a state of entropy versus organization, but that’s my problem. I enjoy my little neurosis and feed it regularly. I am sick, but organized!

Despite this disease, the worst part of it is that I actually don’t feel in control of anything (listen up here all of you Pscyh majors, this may be a thesis!) and I tend to lose things or misplace things. It’s like I’m so fricken organized, that I am out of control. The other day I had to replace a sink fixture because, in the spirit of organization, I tossed a .39 cent washer thinking that it was taking up valuable garage space and that I’d never need it again. $243 dollars later after a trip to Home Deep, I started to feel guilty.
But this feeling soon disappeared when I realized that I was 3 minutes late for fertilizing my lawn.
Sick, very sick.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gas Line Rage and The Fall of the Rights of a Pedestrian

Gas lines are everywhere and I’m not sure why. I think a lot of people are traveling this summer despite the record high oil prices, and that must account for some of the traffic at the gas pump. The interesting social dynamic at the gas pump, however, is what this blog is about. I go to a gas station that is tied to a large grocery conglomerate and if you spend a certain amount of dollars per month, they give you a considerable discount on the price per gallon. I absolutely despise going to this gas station, however, because it is, by far, the rudest place to trade. It’s not the gas station’s fault, it’s the consumers that seem to take great pleasure in jockeying for the next ‘in line’ purchase. It’s much ruder than the type A people in the store check out lanes that zip back and forth to expedite their purchase. You know who you are; you’ll jump 8 lanes of lines to save a few seconds on your checkout time. Wow. What an accomplishment!

At this particular gas station, it’s just plain obnoxiously rude. Cars line up on the adjacent street so as to get the jump at the next available pump. This creates a backed up traffic jam on the particular street. Once a filling spot is open, people will jump to that space in order to save precious time. Yesterday I had the unpleasant task of buying gas. I was in the line and with one car in front of me. A spot became open, but it was “bass-ackward” to the guy’s gas tank. He violently gunned his car, grinded his reverse gear and backed into the space almost killing a patron in the process. Fortunately the patron was nimble on foot and managed to avoid a near death experience. The driver of the car said nothing to remedy his rudeness and only proceeded to glare at the walking patron for being in his way.

What’s wrong with this picture? I think it has to do with the de-personification of courtesy when one gets behind the wheel. The larger the vehicle, it seems to be the less need for courtesy and politeness. I drive a small Toyota so I’m humbled at every intersection! My solution to this gas station problem is simply to queue up behind someone gassing and then let it be. I may take 3 minutes longer, but it solves the road rage problem and the street jam. Turn off your engine, take some time and don’t jeopardize lives in the process of filling your tank. Road rage is nothing more than the lack of courtesy and politeness to our fellow human beings that happen to share our planet during our time here. The challenge for us all is to slow down, take it easier and don’t act as if our time at the gas pump (or check out lane for that matter) is a life and death situation. Not doing so may indeed make it a life and death situation for some pedestrian.

In Boulder pedestrians have the right-of-way. I like that. In Northern Colorado, pedestrians are simply obstacles to overcome or over-driven. When I moved to Colorado some 35 years ago, I was impressed at the patience people used when driving. Pedestrians were king. Can we return to such a state? Yes, if each one of us simply slows the pace down a bit, realizing that our vehicle is an extension of our personality and that we should never do anything in a vehicle that we wouldn’t do face to face with a fellow human.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Technological Devolution in the Corporate World of HR

(Written several years ago)

Automated phone systems suck.
I’m talking about the automated/voice activated/touch a number/never-talk-to-a-human type of a system. We have one here at work in our E-HR department, which, by definition, is not really a department but a web-site.
The overall concept of Electronic Human Resources (aka ‘Personnel,’ the 1980 term that absolutely repulses some of the left-behind-carbon-based-units) is an oxy moron. Our HR department is a web-site with a few nerds that keep the content up to date. If you want to know about your benefits, you go to a web site. If you want to fire someone, you visit another website.
Nary has a human entered into the equation.
To make matters even more insulting, our E-HR now has a automated phone system interface, which now settles the even slightest possibility of encountering a carbon-based-unit (CBU) with even the most drastic “life-changing event.” If you die, you are suppose to let your significant other know of these websites such that you can be properly removed from the payroll and deleted from all PDLs. You can automatically program the website for a “level on non-activity period,” which will make the assumption you’ve croaked. “if you are dead, press or say 9…if you are dying, press or say 911…if you have to fart, press your butt or say PPPFFFTT…if you are suicidal, please hold for the next available agent. Your call is important”(unfortunately not to anyone here).

The other day I was having one of those potential “life changing events” (severe pains in my chest) from navigating my arse off trying to find out if my prescription hay fever medication was covered under my e-insurance. After around a half an hour trying to navigate the 1,000 layer deep web site, I finally tried the “contact-us” button and got this ominous looking 1-800 number. I called it and ended up in another phone system from hell for another 38 minutes. I never did reach a CBU and finally ended up putting the call on hold and going to bed, hoping to screw their system somehow.
For about 2 years I had this method of simply hitting the pound key multiple times until something happened to kick me into the waiting arms of a CBU, but they’ve now disabled that functionality and it drops you back to the main starting menu asking your sex, mother’s maiden name, passwords and sperm count. If you miss anything, then it gives you a cryptic website where your profile may be updated. Problem is, you need the same logon and pw to weed through the web site.
This is progress or, said another way, technological devolution.
And what happened to the “rotary phone question?” This was another way around these idiotic systems; pretend you have a rotary phone, don’t do anything, and then they have to talk to you. They’ve disabled that function on our E-HR automated phone system as they believe no one really has such an antique.

So I’m fed up with our fancy technological lunacy that is seeking to substitute human contact with electrons. E-HR is stupid, yet it saves a bunch of money so I guess it’s the right thing to do. After all, if we paid people to talk with other people, that would be a real waste of money and, therefore, be an excellent candidate for being “cheap-sourced” somewhere else in the world, with more lost jobs...
Press 5 if you are feeling lucky. Press 3 if you just robbed a bank. Press this, press that. I'm not IM-pressed.
"If you wish to speak with a humanoid CBU, we are sorry, but there are none left. Please visit our website where you can solve your own stupid problem. Have a great day!"

I give up.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Garage Golfing

Some time ago I had this terrific idea on how I could create a mini-driving range in my garage. I had seen the idea done before at a golf shop in the Bay Area where they hit real balls with real drivers against a wall lined with mattress-like material. The balls hit the soft stuff and the balls simply died. I actually woke up one day thinking that there's really NO reason why I couldn't do something of the same right in the ole garage. The idea continued to build as my creativity worked imagining that I could simply use a large fishing net, some string and an existing tee mat that I use outside in the summer when driving whiffle balls. I sped home from work, left my truck parked outside and began stringing up the large fish net to the garage ceiling, the 67 Classic Mustang front drivers side wheel spinner and its antennae, a ladder and a 2 x 4 board. For the ball-collection base I used an old fitted sheet, thereby making a safe haven for the balls when they died on the net. Beth wondered if she should put her Camry outside, but we (other friends and my son arrived on the scene) assured her that "...we've been golfing long enough to be able to hit a net from 3 yards away!"

We had been golfing for a little over 6 months.

After setting up the netting and getting out my clubs, I was thinking that I need some practice on the new 3 wood that I just purchased, but my son talked me down to a 7 iron for warming up. This turned out to be a very good piece of advice. One of the distinct advantages of the newly designed "garage driving range" was that one could literally watch the garage TV whilst practicing driving a ball! The netting was about 5 feet in front of the TV and we were watching the Simpsons. My son even commented "...just aim for the TV" as we could see it through the fish net. How cool!

I started with my 7 iron so as to 'feel out' this new driving range. I think I was a bit too excited and put a bit too much on the first drive. The ball struck like a lightning bolt under the 2 x 4 anchor, peeling like thunder through the netting and careened under my work bench at a velocity of around 98 MPH. Not good. Well at least I missed the TV and the dent in the dry wall can hardly be seen since it's behind my workbench. Next I secured the 2 x 4 anchor with more nails, which I knew would solve the problem of low flying shots.

I never thought of slices, however.

The next shot was a slice totally missing the netting and fired through my tools, hitting the peg board and knocking off several bags of cement screws. My son was there dying of laughter watching all of this so he tried a few shots and they were ok. My confidence was re-built so I tried another shot with my 7 iron. This shot was really not nice. Never mind that the ball bounced back from the net and almost killed me, I nearly wrapped my Calloway 7 iron around the nearby ladder on my follow through stroke. I had inadvertently moved a bit too close to the ladder. My coach tells me to follow through on my swing, yet I think he's making the assumption that I'm playing outside in the clear of any ladders. The ball actually ended up flying very fast under the 67 Mustang making very nasty sounds as it was losing its energy on the undercarriage of the car and careening over the perfectly finished paint job.

We sold the car shortly thereafter. And it had nothing to do with my golf game.

I never imagined that I could lose golf balls in my garage, but to this day 12 of my new Top-Flite balls are somewhere in my garage. We decided to migrate to the whiffle balls, which would be an order of magnitude safer. Not so. Let me just say that a whiffle ball traveling at over 100 MPH in a garage can be very dangerous and damaging. I really believe that the dents in the Camry can be pounded out with minimal effort and the broken light fixtures are not that expensive. The group was choking up with heinous laughter by now so I decided that I had done enough damage for the evening and that I should just wait until the weather clears and golf on a real golf course.

While we all had a good laugh, I learned a very good lesson tonight; effective garage-golf may be more expensive than simply going to the driving range!