Archive for August, 2007

Making white noiseI got in the lift (elevator) to take a ride up to the 5th floor and a guy I’ve never seen before gets on with me. The second the doors closed, he started taking to me.
He (loudly): Hey, what’s up?
[Damn, why do I always end up with the chatty type?]
Me: Not much happening… keeping busy.
He: Where you going?
Me: I am just on my way up to the fifth floor. Do you mind hitting the button for me?
It seemed he must not have heard me as he made no move to hit the lift button, even though he was standing right in front of the panel.
He: God, I need a holiday. The new project deadlines are killing me. I actually spend more time at the office than at home.
Me (smiling): I know the feeling. It’s tough going this time of the year. Hey, can you press five for me, please?
He looked at me, somewhat surprised, and hit the button for the 5th floor.
Me: Thanks.
He: When you get to the supermarket, will you pick up some toiletries for me. Yeah, some tooth paste and a few cans of deodorant? I realised this morning I was running low.
That’s when it hit me. He had a little wireless ear piece in the ear facing away from me, and was talking to someone on his cell phone. Bloody hell!
Luckily, the lift god responded to my silent prayer of “oh-jesus-please-go-faster-and-let-me-out-of-here”. The lift doors opened on the 5th floor and I got out in a hurry.
I’m still dazed. I hope I never run into him again.


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I work with aliens

Overheard in the tea-room
Guy 1: I couldn’t make it to this morning’s status meeting. Did I miss anything important?
Guy 2: Nah, you didn’t miss much. Every time someone said something, it was like in one brain and out the other.

Gives new meaning to the term schizophrenic, don’t you agree?

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Man walking tightropeIt’s been a kak week and it feels as if I am in limbo. It is nearing the end of August and at work we are already planning ahead for 2008. And even though it is not necessarily a bad thing, it reminds me that 2007 is starting to circle the drain.
While I am happy(!!) with what I have accomplished at work, I can’t shake the feeling that I dropped the ball when it comes to my personal life and the goals I set at the beginning of this year. What the fuck happened?
I believe that every person in my life is an example of something. Sometimes good… sometimes bad. They are my beacons and serve as subtle reminders of who I want to be and who I do not want to be. I navigate my life to some degree by what I see in the people around me.
I have a good friend who is a social worker. Her job entails that she works with orphans and abused children (of which there are plenty in this fair country of ours!). Kids who come from broken homes. The ones life has kicked to the curb so many times, it is a wonder they are still alive… let alone standing.
She is probably the most devoted person I know. She spends more hours on the job than I than anyone I’ve met. She is always at the office, always doing some form of case work and always talking about how she really should be doing more. I don’t quite understand what exactly she is doing all the time, but her compassion and devotion is unending.
While I greatly admire her, she is a prime example of someone who IS her job. She is unable to talk about anything without relating it something that happened in her job. Every story she tells becomes a life lesson. A reminder of how bad things can get out there. Her friends (myself included) become her students. It’s tragic really, but also interesting to see how her whole identity is shaped by her profession and the people she comes in contact with.
I find a lot of joy in what I do for a living. What I do may not be as profound and selfless as what she does, but without my job/profession I probably would not be who I am today, let alone sustain my bad habits. Yet, I do have other interests. I have hobbies and activities I like to participate in, and I can carry full conversations that don’t involve using the buzz words that are typical of my profession. Perhaps I have learned to find my identity in other things and perhaps the way I identify myself is just as bad… but surely if your job spills over into your normal life to the point where you basically have no life at all, that has to be a bad thing?
I feel sad for this friend… sad for what she has to deal with and sad for the children she so desperately wants to help. I worry that she has no life of her own. I sometimes wonder if in dealing with the problems of others she shies away from dealing with the problems in her own life.
I am also keenly aware that she is an example of someone I hope never to become… someone whose whole identity/life is DEFINED by what they do.
Perhaps I am just selfish or perhaps I feel this way because I see myself becoming a bit of what she is for reasons that are less noble?

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Emotional infidelity

“When one is in love, one always begins by deceiving one’s self, and one always ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.” ~Oscar Wilde

[Picture this] You are sitting at home watching television one night when your cell phone beeps twice. It is a text message. You don’t recognise the telephone number, but you open the message and read it anyway.
It is a message from a girl you knew back at university. More specifically it is a message from the girl you had a crush on all those years ago, the one who would smile at you in Economics class and send your young, adolescent heart into a tailspin.
The message reads: “This is Jane. Remember me? I got your number from [insert name of mutual friend]. Just thought I’d say hello and find out how you are doing?”
Your heart beats wildly. The memories come flooding back. (don’t they always?) It’s been almost ten years since you’ve seen her and you wonder what she looks like now. Is she still the hot girl you perved over all those years ago?
You reply with a “Good to hear from you!” Of course you remember her, and pretty soon you are exchanging text and e-mails on a regular basis, only you never mention it to your partner.
It turns out Jane is unhappily married (coincidence?). At first, it is just witty digital banter about this and that, but soon you begin to commiserate about the past and share personal details of your life. The question of meeting up for drinks has been raised a few times, but has not yet materialised.
I have heard the phrase emotional infidelity thrown about recently. My first reaction when I heard the phrase was, “what a load of psycho mumbo jumbo!” Now I am not so sure.
My question is: Would you regard what I describe above as cheating?

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Peanut GalleryHis heart’s pumping all right. I couldn’t tell any difference. ~Charlie Brown

On Saturday afternoon, I decided to take a walk to the grocery store about 5 blocks from where I live. I would normally make this journey by car, but I thought what the heck, the walk would do me good.
When was about halfway there, I passed a man mowing the lawn in his front garden.
“Afternoon”, he said to me as I drew level with him.
It is an odd way of greeting someone don’t you agree? Announcing that it is the afternoon. Throwing a random fact at a complete stranger. It is like he is the town crier or perhaps he just wanted to remind me what time of day it is, in case I had forgotten.
Thinking about it, it is probably better than saying, “Good afternoon”. Who knows what kind of day the person you are speaking to may be having? One person’s idea of “good” is another one’s “bad”.
Perhaps on my way back I’ll just say “Groceries” or later on tonight I’ll go back to his house, knock on his door, and when he answers I’ll just say “Evening,” or “Night” or “The JSE industrial shares are up by 1%”. We could start a whole new trend.
The idea of greeting someone with only a single word actually appeals to me. I suppose the only thing more appealing than “Afternoon” would be to say “Day”. One random syllable. That would be ultra economical.
It would confuse the fuck out of whomever you are talking to. They may even start a rumour and say something like; “You know [K] who lives down the street? He has a bright future as a public speaker. He’s always so economical with words… gets right to the point”
So I said, “Afternoon” and continued on my way. He nodded and carried on mowing.
That right there is what I call connecting with people.

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So there I was, having dinner at my sister’s last night. I knew that dinner was just an excuse to get me to visit. Usually this meant that she had a personal matter to discuss with me. Being the “sucker” and loyal brother that I am, I said yes.
After dinner her 8-year old son comes in and says, “Uncle [K]… I’ve got 10 minutes to go before bedtime. Mom says I’m should bug you so that I’m not bugging her.”
“How nice of your mom to say that. So… whaddya wanna do for 10 minutes?”
“I don’t know”
“I have an idea. Why don’t you watch cartoons, and I’ll go to your mom and bug her for ten minutes?”
“Ah, ok.”
“Thanks kid, I owe you one”
“I like the new Harry Potter PSP game”

It was the casualness with which he threw out that last line that made me giggle for five minutes straight. Kids!

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Skeptical(Hey yo wassup dawgz?! Erm, oops… wrong audience)
Ok, so I’ve been to a few job interviews lately. Not because I am unhappy where I am or actively looking for a new job, but if people/agencies call you up out of the blue to discuss new job opportunities, then you owe it to yourself to give it a go. I am a right man-whore when it comes to networking and marketing myself.
I actually enjoy job interviews. I think of them as professional chats. There is really nothing to fear or to be nervous about. People ask you questions on the one subject you are an expert on. Yourself. Best of all you do not have to study up on the subject the night before.
OK… perhaps there is a little bit of reading up on the company you are interviewing for, but if you are familiar with the market and the job issues, there is pretty much nothing you cannot handle.
However, some of the questions put to you are just plain daft (imho). I was interviewed last week by a young woman (girl?) who could not have been older than 23 for a position that is on the same level as my current job.
Now, I know that in addition to ensuring that I am suitably qualified, she also had the enviable(?) task to gauge my personality, come to grips with the person behind the CV and establish whether I would be a good fit for the company. But when you’re asked a question that basically borders on a philosophical discussion, you are just looking for trouble.
Perhaps she had read the question in an HR manual and perhaps she thought it was very clever. Or perhaps she always wanted to be a psyche major, but ended up in HR instead. I am partial to the latter.
The thing is that when you put the dodgy question out there, then you had better be prepared for an equally dodgy answer.
The question I was asked was, “If there is one thing you could change about your life what that would be and why?”
[Ba-boom!] I was pissed off immediately when I heard the question. Why? Well, for one I thought it was beyond the scope of the interview. If you have to ask me something, narrow it down to specifics for Pete’s sake! Secondly, the person sitting across from me did not know me well enough to make sense of anything I was about to say. Depending on my emotional state of mind, and whether I chose to answer the question on a professional or personal level, I could lead her astray for hours on end.
I wanted to throw caution to the wind and tell her that I had this dream when I was 12 of wanting to become a pornstar, but then I thought she might ask me to audition. So I let it slide.
Instead, I flashed her my biggest “best-est” smile and said. (Paraphrased)

If I am to answer your question suitably, I have to answer another question first, and that is: “Am I happy with my life and who I am at this point in time”. You will also have to play the role of the fairy godmother here and throw in the gift of foresight, because nothing I say or do right now will make any sense if I cannot predict how it would/will have affected my future/present happiness and where I will finally end up.
All the choices I have made in my life and everything that has happened to me in the past has culminated in me being who I am today… and where I am today. Life is just a series of events and each event follows on what has happened before.
Perhaps changing one thing may have resulted in me being a different person or being in a different career, but I would not know that unless I can pinpoint the exact moment that put me on this path I am walking right now.
By and large I am happy. I have a promising career ahead of me. Call me an optimist, if you like, but I can only see things getting better. My personal life is not in shambles and I have not had any suicidal thoughts. Things could always be better, because as human beings we are programmed to be dissatisfied with what we have. It is called ambition.
I may not always have made the best choices, but that does not imply that I made bad choices. I did the best with what I had and with the information I had available to me at the time.
So I can honestly say that I would change nothing. Not unless, as I’ve said, I have the gift of foresight and can predict exactly what ripple-effect a small change to my past will have on my life and the people I have in my life. I could end up exactly where I am today, and that would not necessarily be a bad thing.

When I was done, she looked at me, made couple of notes on her notepad and then moved on to the next question.
I was somewhat taken aback by the callousness of her response. Is it proper to ask someone a question like that in an interview and not have anything to contribute at the end of it?
Perhaps I was too cocky in my response, but when you are asked a “crappy” question is it not a wise thing to stay away from specifics and answer it general terms?
What would you have done?

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