What Other Cultures

have I encountered in America? I've not been to another country, except a brief jaunt across the border into Mexico, although vacationing in southern California (which I stubbornly refer to as Cali, to the annoyance of my family) felt like a weird hybrid. The hispanic culture is so pervasive that entire neighborhoods are bedecked in spanish-language billboards and street signs, my cousin lives with a hispanic woman, and with the palm trees and pervasive smog it certainly feels like a foreign land.

It was a change moving from the slopes of Colorado to the hills of Pittsburgh, but not nearly so drastic. Mainly, Pittsburgh is dirtier.


The Ghost of Lumberg

I was a little worried about myself this evening, because after being made a supervisor at my place of Werk I have had two Bill Lumberg moments. In case you haven't seen Office Space, he's the typical Hellhole Office Mealymouth Boss Guy, the type who'll approach you about doing extra work with that "sorry, buddy, but 'ya know we're kinda gonna have to ask you to do this thing, here, yeah, super sport, thanks a ton" attitude, non-commital and falsely apologetic.

I totally used that voice, without even realising it, when I had to ask someone to go do an extra job. He called me on it, which is good, and I was sufficiently embarassed.

The second time was when I was announcing a new office policy. Basically, the more you screw up, the more crap work you get. An unwritten rule since time immemorial, we were to put it in writing, and I had approved this with all the other managers that are higher up than I. I thought it would be kinda cool to make it like a Contest! that no one wants to win. In that spirit I prepared a wall-sized poster that said "Announcing a Fun New Office Contest / Policy!!!" The rules and current leaderboard were placed right below it. Publicly visible, it would have the effect of reminding people to do their jobs, and what little embarassment they suffered would serve to ensure that they did not repeat their mistakes.

The first person who's name was on the leaderboard saw it as I put it up and became extremely irate. It wasn't cool, he said, to just impliment a new policy without giving the victims fair notice. I replied that if he had been doing his job, this wouldn't be an issue. We argued a bit more, and I decided to take the poster down in favour of placing notes in the mailboxes of the offenders. I worried about the decision for a short time afterwards, questioning my motivation for the poster. Did I really just suffer from some sick need to embarass people? Was it based on how much I'd been teased in public as a schoolkid?

No, I decided, I was not trying to avenge my nerdy past. The answer is actually much simpler, and it's the same reason I had the most fun of my life in Navy ROTC indoc. I enjoy, for lack of a better phrase, getting my ass kicked. It has always spurred me on to improve myself, and I am always grateful for it. Other people, however, would react very differently to the same stimuli, and this I must remember.