Squashin’ the bugs…

A funny story from the road…

Traveling this week. Conferencing, to be specific. That means a seemingly endless number of side meetings, while attempting to get my science on. i was invited to a lunch meeting on the top floor of the conference hotel, in Monterey, California.

It was me, with six men… i work in Sausage Land, also known as the Technology Sector, and am often the sole female at the table. With amazing views from the balcony, i suggested we lunch on the patio – but one of the men, James, (vice president of some sort) said “I need to avoid the sun”, so i went out to move the large, stone-topped table so there would be sufficient shade.

the motherfucking view

Mark (CEO of an organization i work with, and James’ boss) said “Hey, we’ve got menfolk. Don’t hurt yourself” as i went to lift it. Dan (another attendee) and i, kept going. Others joined to help. i lifted my end of the table, but they thought the table was bolted to the patio and gave up. Dan and i kept going, and within another minute, un-wedged the table and got it moved to provide shade.

i walked back into the suite and told the others we fixed the table, and could lunch outside, while taking in the incredible view. James thanked me and i said “Mark means well, bless his heart…. but i can probably bench press more than he can!” which got a HUGE laugh! i told James “Be sure to tell Mark i said that…” and we proceeded to have lunch.

squash all the bugs

There’s more than one way to squash a well-intentioned, yet patriarchal bug…

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Not going to look it in the mouth…

“There’s a delivery for you!”

“Ummm… i don’t think i ordered anything….”

Tim has been delivering mail in my building for nearly all of the 30+ years i’ve been working there. He had the right name, and the right office, but i absolutely had no idea what could be in the small box he put in my hand.

“It’s from Amazon? i have that stuff sent home… Someone must have made a mistake, or sent me something?”

Tim stuck around to find out if he would need to re-deliver, or return, the box. i cut open the tape, and pulled out a wrapped gift.

“Well, someone sent you a present! Guess the mystery is solved!”

“Not entirely… i have no idea who would send me a gift at work!”

He started to move on to his next stop, but at this point was just as curious as i was regarding the contents of the mysterious gift box.

“Stick around! Let’s get to the bottom of this!”

Reading the Amazon gift tag, i quickly determined the source…

“Dear Daisyfae,

Hope this note holder comes handy when you need it. Thank you very much for your reference. I cannot begin to thank you enough.

From, Wei”

A few weeks earlier, i had received a request for a reference letter… A young scientist, fairly recently earning his PhD, was working through the arduous process to establish permanent residency in the U.S. It helps to have professional references included in the package.

If i know the work of an individual, i can often pull together a pretty good reference letter. It’s a small thing, and generally doesn’t take me a tremendous amount of time. i was familiar with Wei’s research area, and his work, and managed to knock out a good letter in about fifteen minutes.

Explaining this quickly to Tim, i unwrapped the paper around the box.

“i have no idea what this is… Don’t leave yet, Tim! i might need a witness!”

We both cracked up laughing as i pulled the note holder from the box. It was absolutely adorable!

the most beautiful gift ever“Bulldogs? How perfect! And Wei doesn’t even know me all that well…”

It is one of the most beautiful gifts i’ve ever received…

Give ’em the old razzle-dazzle

About three and a half years ago i fled left* my home organization for a new job.  There was angst involved, but i tried hard not to burn any bridges.

As i left the new shop to return to a cool new job at the original mothership last week, it seemed the bridges were still intact.  In fact, in an act of apparent organizational desperation, i was asked to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the annual corporate awards banquet.

i’m sure you know the standard “Awards Luncheon” scenario.  Rubber Chicken and Peas served lukewarm to tables of “conscripts”.  Boring lunch presentation – either by an retiree/historian, or some other droning dinosaur.  A dozen award categories, making sure that no possible job function is left out.

Figuring that the MC gig would be a nice chance to announce the return of the prodigal technologist – i agreed.  Moments later?  Stricken with the horrible realization that i had NOTHING appropriate to wear.

i’ve gained 20 pounds in the past year, and none of my dark business suits fit**.  Having begun the ritual weight-loss effort, there was no way i was going to go buy a new “fat suit” for the occasion.

While going over details with Studley, he jokingly said “Hey, you could borrow my tux!”  He immediately saw the little puffs of steam coming out of my ears as i munched it over.

Studley:  “We can stop by my place on the way back to work and you can try it on!”

daisyfae:  Oh, hell yes!  i can open with “Wilkommen” from Cabaret!  Nothing like some camp to liven things up!

The tux fit.  The plan was hatched.

Practiced it all, including many hours spent farting around with a magician’s cane.  Scaring friends in bars.  It had to be perfect – literally only one shot at getting it right!  Got the Audio/Visual squad involved – and they helped me lay in backing tracks for the song.

i was prepared – but no one else knew what i was planning.  Not even remotely nervous – until i saw our CEO walk in… The guy known for tearing off heads, ripping new assholes, and generally being a humorless curmudgeon.  Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea?

Too late.  All in.  Go big or go home.  Yada yada yada….

Showtime!

Slight case of nerves in front of about 250 people – but the cane worked perfectly, and got a chorus of “Oooohs and Ahhhhs”.  As i got to the word “Welcome” i was looking right at Mr. CEO – and he had thrown his head back…. with laughter!  He was clapping!

Whew!

The rest went well, our guest speaker was actually funny – and i managed to keep my job.

every girl's crazy 'bout a sharp dressed...

Got a short-notice ping from friends as i left work, inviting me to a Friday night VIP “Ribbon Cutting” event at a restored mansion, now being used to host weddings and special events.

Since i was already dressed for it…. Went headed off to VIP Wedding-land for some free beer and appetizers!

closest i'll ever get to a wedding dress

And THIS is the closest i’ll ever get to a wedding dress!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Wrote “AMF” on the sign out board.  Stands for “Adios, Motherfuckers!”

** Why can’t they make them with “power stretch” panels – like maternity clothes?!?!?

Time traveling…

Twenty years ago when i walked across this campus, the strap of my backpack tossed over one shoulder, i easily deluded myself into thinking it possible to be mistaken for a student.  A graduate student, probably, but in my late twenties, i could still pass. 

This week?  Nope. 

Sporting my “Elder-Hooker” collection of travel clothing, i couldn’t even pass for a professor this year.  Just another invisible middle-aged woman, attending a conference on the grounds of a marvelous California campus.  A campus wedged neatly between the mountains and the ocean.

This meeting is held annually at the end of June, and has been at this site every third year for decades.  i’ve attended eight of these west coast conferences, going back to the early 1990’s.  The recurring venue – as well as the recurring content, and people – provided an unexpected pinning point, hiding inside a routine business trip. 

Although different from the Christmas pinning point, i was surprised to find myself stumbling backward in time.  When not attending sessions, or being goofy with my friends, i was awash in memories.  It was just a nice summer conference trip… The flashbacks caught me by surprise.

Time with old friends.  Making new ones.  Laughing about all the stupid stuff that happened before.  Who we are.  What we do.  How we live.  Catching up on lives lived hundreds of miles away.  From the mundane to the deeply personal, a chance to get the latest news…

“Hey, he’s fourteen already?  Great looking kid!” 

“I’ve got to do it…  I’m moving out next month.” 

“It’s a constant political battle for lab space and funding!  I’m looking for another gig…”

“Did you hear about Dr. Z?  Did six months in jail for that shit…” 

“Hey, RD dyed his hair!  Who wants to ask him if the carpet matches the drapes?”

Memories of insecurities and angst.  Hook-ups – near misses, line drives.  The occasional grand slam.  Unnerving flashback to a conversation on that bench.  “He died?  Really?  When? What happened?”

Hours spent playing billiards in the local Irish pub.  Pool parties.  Beach parties.  Private parties.  Conning the guys at the bar to get us guitars for an improvised jam session.  Scamming my way on stage with the hired band playing at the conference picnic… after swiping a cowboy hat in order to blend in…

The year i brought my children with me to the meeting.  The Boy, at thirteen, brought a friend.  Hitting the huge concrete park, they were in sk8rboy heaven!  The Girl, at fifteen, enjoyed wandering the small college town, roaming from thrift store to thrift store, while i attended sessions. 

Listening as a colleague commented on the smokin’ hot co-ed walking toward us at the conference reception, wearing a mini-skirt and go-go boots.  Enjoying his discomfort when i said “That’s my daughter.  She’s fifteen. Don’t you have daughters?”

Feeling old and young simultaneously.  Memories rolling by like a newsreel…

A pile of silicon dioxide.  We tell the tales, draw the lines, leave a few footprints.  It all sort of flows together…. 

And the tide rolls in…

Slacker tactics

With my personal life in overdrive for the past few months, i’ve been a bit distracted in the office.  Buying property, getting my old house prepared as a rental property, and moving – not to mention the requisite “party time” – has interfered with what used to be long days in the office.

And this is a good thing…

Yesterday, i was on the hook for a 2:00 PM presentation on “Future System Requirements” to a group of clueless geeks researchers.  This has been on my calendar for two weeks.  Being in full-blown procrastination mode, i planned to work on it that morning… knowing i could pull off a rectal extraction on the topic in about two hours! 

But it was not to be… Due to an unexpected, and delightful, opportunity to spend a little time with a friend*, i took an early lunch hour**, and for some reason, the afternoon presentation was about the last thing on my mind.  Returning to the office around 11:00 am, i realized that it was FRIDAY, and i was on the hook for my weekly two hour professional studies seminar.  Since i’m taking the final test MONDAY, bail out was not an option… Yikes…

Finishing the seminar, i scrambled back to my office, and spent an entire fifteen minutes whacking together a few charts that could tell a basic story.  Confident with the general subject matter, i’ve tap danced in front of more difficult audiences, on more difficult subjects, so i knew i could pull it out of my ass and it wouldn’t be terrible.

Arriving at the other building for the presentation, i encountered a researcher wandering aimlessly through the hallway***, and i asked where the meeting was to be held. 

wandering scientist:  “It was cancelled!  Didn’t JB copy you on the e-mail?”

daisyfae: “you’re shitting me?”

Naturally, i wandered into JB’s office asking about the meeting – and got an “Oh, SHIT!  I forgot to copy you on the cancellation notice!”.  Gently barked at him about “time management” and “communications breakdown being more damaging when we’re all overloaded”.  Even threw in a “look, you need to rescheule this ASAP since i’m gone for two weeks, buddy…”. 

Snarling just a bit, i left his office, heading back to my own… and rather than use the unanticipated hour to work ahead on the next looming “deadline”?  i grabbed a cup of coffee and cleaned out my e-mail folders… i mean, it was Friday afternoon and all…

All that theater training sure comes in handy sometimes.

Even Einstein needed to fuck off sometimes

* yes.  it was EXACTLY what you’re thinking…

** hour or two… but who’s counting?

*** they tend to do this.  if i were still supervising, i’d have RFID chips embedded in their ears for tracking purposes.  maybe with a “shock collar” function just for giggles…

He’s consistent, but…

There’s one in every organization – The Big Stubborn Dumb Guy (The BSDG).  Scott Adams, who brings us Dilbert, features such a critter from time to time.

Today?  i had the pleasure to be forced to* sit in a meeting with one of our own oxygen thieves**,  participating via video teleconference.  This weekly “brown bag cluster fuck working meeting” is supposed to be one we attend “as available”.  i have been chastised for being magically unavailable*** on Tuesdays by my friend, T, who essentially owns those of us with a common organizational function****.

The BSDG is a significant reason for my Tuesday Houdini Routini.

Today?  No surprises.  Hash, rehash, and regurgi-hashing the same points over and over.  Things that have been discussed, resolved and RE-discussed and RE-resolved for months must be dragged out, gnawed on and revisited.  He’s not stupid man.  Quite functional in many ways.  He simply can’t tell you his name in less than 15 minutes.  And with out questioning why you are calling him by his name, and hell, who decided to use names in the first place?

Perhaps the most entertaining thing this one does is drop his self-titled “signature” line into a conversation.  To punctuate the merciful end of a meandering, circular rant, he will often close with “I may be wrong, but I’m not in doubt!”  Said loudly, with great conviction.  Sometimes?  He’ll even strike a pose.

So…  you’re consistently stupid?  Not always a good thing, is it?

Courtesy of Despair.com – i have patterned my professional life after the teachings of these brilliant souls…

* Oh, you evil Slayer of Geese, and Calmer of Stinkin’ Crybabies… that was an hour of my life you stole from me.  You owes me some pints, Muthafuckah!

** At least it was on video and he wasn’t actually sucking up my oxygen. 

*** First opportunity to schedule something – ANYTHING – on Tuesdays and i’m outta there!  i had to reschedule my [ahem] personal waxing for Wednesday this week, or i’d have been at the salon – Enduring. Much. Less. Pain.

**** At least we let him think that.  Sometimes.  When it suits our purposes.  Well, at least when we can use it to blame him for things…

The Job Interview Challenge

When not allowing my house to be overrun by “hoards of unruly lads“*, i have a pesky day job, where i reside in the bowels of a large organization, geographically dispersed across the nation.  In any bureaucracy, hiring practices are often monstrously over-managed, with ridiculous rules and requirements to avoid lawsuits assure fair and open promotion processes.

As a result, a senior female generally participates in personnel selection processes for key positions.  Since we are a technology-based enterprise, the number of senior women can be fit into a gnat’s ass with a greased crowbar is low.  Being a Senior Technologist – With Ovaries – i am often asked to sit on interview boards. 

This is an important responsibility, which i do not take lightly – helping get strong candidates into the right positions makes a huge difference.  It also offers a chance to scout for undiscovered talent that can be shamelessly stolen considered for jobs i need to fill additional opportunities.  But sometimes?  It just makes my brain hurt.  Today offered such a moment.

Candidates were pre-screened through a resume review process, and as a result, THE SYSTEM [bleat of discordant music] coughed up three candidates to be interviewed.   Two were “knowns” from within the local population, the third was a woman from an organization far, far away.  And when invited to interview, she accepted.

The resume looked “ok”, but not a strong fit for the position being filled.  None of us had any real sense for how THE SYSTEM [crash of thunder] made the call, but it seemed she had checked all appropriate career boxes along the way.  The fact that she was willing to interview was a bit of a surprise since it really didn’t seem to be an ideal fit.

As we awaited her arrival, we wandered into the “So, any idea what’s up with this?” realm.  Knowing we had some time to kill before she arrived, i said “i can tell you what she looks like” and was challenged by other panelists to write my description down.

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Friday Night Throw Down – Scores and Highlights

A successful party – celebrants suitably honored, attendees suitably hammered.  House?  Mostly unscathed.  Dog?  Mostly recovered.  Laundry?  Not even close to being done.  Leftovers?  Delivered to feed the cast and crew at a rehearsal today… 

– Perhaps a total of 80-100 people dropped by between 5:30 PM and 3:00 AM.  Fortunately, they came in waves, with the early arrivals including familes – with ridiculously cute children – a few pregnant women*, and folks with early bedtimes.  Late arrivals?  Last person to show up arrived at midnight.  Fortunately, one early arrival managed to park in my crabby neighbors yard before he got out his “no parking” signs.  Twit.  i hope someone puked in his yard.  Again.

– As a result of this event, i’m even more comfortable with my decision to remain very, very single.  i didn’t have to ask permission from, nor consult with, anyone before deciding to do this.  My house, i can do what i want!  i used to have parties on a much smaller scale when i was first married, but my ex-husband was uncomfortable with it, so i stopped.  The kids loved it when they were little – nothing more fun than watching grown ups get silly!  Now?  They still love it… and can play along!

– Naturally, we took advantage of the opportunity to taunt one of the celebrants when he went down for the count.  Didn’t really pass out from alcohol consumption**, just tired.  In addition to the standard “write on his face with markers” trick, we photographed him with a stuffed sea monkey i happened to have on hand, reminding all party goers to keep an open mind – “It’s not beastiality, it’s interspecies erotica”.  Oh, and we put a temporary tattoo on him.  A “tramp stamp” above his ass crack.  Suspect he won’t realize he has it til he’s showering at the gym next week.  Hopefully, we used the “Exit Only” tattoo…

– The Boy made it home, and was awestruck to find not one, but three kegs awaiting him.  One still half full of Guiness.  His eyes shone the way they used to on Christmas morning!  The look on his face was precious as he toyed with the idea of moving the keg to his bedside.  Auto-beerotica?

– Mr. Pickles loves parties.  An endless stream of people on hand providing attention.  Sticky children, covered with tasty food bits to lick.  Wayward jello shots to eat from the ground.  If you look closely in the lower left corner of the crowd shot, you’ll see that there is a large brown animal cruising the food table…  He hasn’t moved much today.  We were both on the move for over 8 hours – me moving food, drink and trash, him playing with new friends!  It’ll wear a pup out!  On the bright side? No one threw up on him this time***.

It was a good time.  One of my young friends thanked me – saying that my willingness to do this, to bring people together for celebrations, helps make the workplace more tolerable.  And i truly enjoy it – when i’m not beating myself over the head, saying “i’m too fucking old to be doing this!” 

Perhaps the entire situation is best summarized by a conversation with The Girl tonight.  i was sympathizing with her regarding the state of her parents.  Her Dad is living with a “crazy selfish bitch” and her Mom is hosting frat parties and doing keg stands in the back yard.  Her response:  “Shit, it’s even worse than that.  You guys are both probably getting more than either of us… That’s just sad…”

____

* Also known as “designated drivers”.  One spouse has been pregnant at the last two parties, and begged me to have another one after this baby is born so she can eat the jello!

**  i’m not so sure… although he was up at 8:00 am this morning, cleaning my house!

*** Perhaps only because Mr. Pickles was outside when the young man who’d experienced far too much intimacy with a bottle of vodka decided to paint my living room floor.  A shade called “Grey Goose”.

Toga?

From the top of my “What the fuck was i thinking?” file*:  i have once again offered my home as a “Party Substrate” for two young engineers from the office celebrating promotions.  For this Friday.  And yes.  i said “once again”….

As an “old and crusty” yet “sorta cool”** mentor within the organization, i am known for my enthusiastic support of the younger technologists.  When they need celebrate a promotion, or say farewell as they change jobs, they often have no suitable location for a party.  daisyfae to the rescue!  The last farewell party ended up with somewhere between 80-100 people stopping by during the course of an “afternoon – evening – early morning – ‘get-yer-ass-outta-my-house-i’m-going-to-bed’ pre-dawn”. 

It was big fun.  The party gaggle was back the next day – not of bright eye nor bushy of tail – and cleaned my house as promised.  My responsibility is to make jello shots, keep an eye on the guests to assure all get home safely (or are tucked onto a horizontal surface until ready for transport), and generally flit about moving piles of kibbles to where the clumps of party goers are assembled at any given time***.

This gaggle includes one of my favorite “young ‘uns”, and i’m sure it’ll be big fun.  This will be the fifth in the series, and we’ve finely tuned the process – making it all pretty straightforward.  They bring food, drink, tables, chairs.  i open the door.  We play.  i go to bed.  They clean up.

i once heard a comedian reference his method to “drunk proof” his house before a party – which included duct taping his dog’s ass.  Not likely to be that kind of party****, but i should locate Mr. Pickles kevlar collar and barf-proof cape just for safety.

_____

* “File” is an understatement.  This collection is being converted to microfiche for efficient permanent storage…

** “Agedly hip”?  “Crustily cool”?  Have to work on this…  Perhaps The Great One can provide guidance….

*** Also, to assure that no one has sex in The Girl’s bed.  Her direct orders.  Not that it’s a problem with this crowd, i do have to lock things down before hosting cast parties for my theater crowd…

**** No one from my extended family will be in attendance.

The Suit

Wearing a government issued Polyester Suit – complete with flag lapel pin – and using a booming baritone “press conference” voice – the Monday workshop opened with the requisite “Suit” – representing a high level government office. Speaking like Reverend Lovejoy from The Simpson’s, we got to listen to gems such as:

“In their present form-MA….”

“Trying-GA to develop novel approaches that increase synergy-YA…”

“Plans are like airports! Think about airports – you collect passengers in a location, move them to other locations, and launch them on their way to their destination. And all airports-za, do it BADLY! Plans-ZA are like that!”*

“No data-bay-us will be sufficient to answer all questions-ZA…”

“The Special Summaries are like airports-ZA, too – except they’re always fogged in! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk…” 

Mercifully, The Suit only spoke for about 15 minutes. Had it gone any longer, i’d have considered taking up smoking again – but only for the opportunity it would provide to put cigarettes out in my eyes, distracting me from the audio-pain.

Are such windbags born or bred? Do they start out as normal humans and adopt the ways of the beast during an assimilation process or are only the windbaggedly inclined drawn to – and ascend to – such positions? Important questions to ponder as i consider retirement and the rest of my life – tending bar…

_________

* no idea what this fucking analogy was about, but since he was of sufficiently high level, it got a polite chuckle from the “brown snorkel” brigade in the audience