What People Do (Privately?) in their Vehicles

When I drive, I like to look at the people around me. It’s always amazing how many people seem oblivious to the fact that everyone can see them picking their nose (my friend Pam has an obsession with poop, mine is nose-picking), putting drops in their eyes, yelling at someone on their Bluetooth, or stuffing their pie-holes with a burger.

If you don’t have polarized sunglasses, I highly recommend them for voyeuristic driving activities. See, when you look through your rear-view mirror at the car behind you and you’re either A) Not wearing polarized glasses, or B) Not wearing any glasses at all, the sunlight usually creates a glare, preventing you from really seeing in. Polarized glasses however, change the direction of the sun’s reflection off the glass so that you can see through the glare. Nifty stuff this science!

Anyway, people in their vehicles are notoriously bored. Some alleviate the boredom by doing any one (or more) of the aforementioned activities—some with more aplomb than others. Most people simply sit there like bumps on a log looking like their life has come to a sudden end and they just really don’t care.

It’s sad really that a race of beings, such as humans, could evolve themselves into such mindless boredom.

When questioned, most “minds” would say that human’s greatest society-changing discovery might include:

  • the steam engine…and thereby the combustion engine of today
  • medical marvels (antibiotics, MRI’s, X-Rays, etc.)
  • the microprocessor

But I offer a different view. I believe the most society-changing discovery of all time (not including fire…cuz obviously fire trumps all) is the Air Conditioner. Yessir, once again we can thank the British for making us miserable. Were it not for one Michael Faraday in 1820, inventing the first in a long line of modern air conditioners, we might all be outside doing something more suited to our heritage. Instead, we’re stuck in our cars.

Think about it, without air conditioning, we couldn’t stand to sit in our cars; we couldn’t sit in these blasted skyscrapers and we darn sure couldn’t run our supercomputers. Oh sure, we could still have toasters and hair dryers, but there would be no advanced computers and we wouldn’t all be sitting in our automobiles—miserable—on our way to work everyday.

So next time you’re sitting at home watching sports on TV, consider the AC. And then, feel free blame the Brits.

Yearly Pediatrician Check Ups

Not mine thank you…the kids. In a moment of what could only be described as insanity, I volunteered to take both boys (simultaneously) to the Drs. office for their yearly checkup. Ethan was due for his yearly and Aiden for his monthly.

We arrived at the scheduled time of 8:30 as we were supposed to, and were behind probably 4-5 others who were there with their sick kids, ranging in age from infant up to at least 15. This one mother acted as I imagine my adopted mom would have if suddenly faced with actually having to care for a child. She didn’t have a clue. I mean, come on, anyone who goes to the doctor knows the routine right?

…you walk in…you sign in…they give you a chart to fill out and you hand them your insurance card…sometimes you immediately pay your co-pay, and you get the heck outta the way. Not so this mom. She fumbled, she mumbled, she SET HER PURSE ON THE FLOOR TO LOOK FOR HER INSURANCE CARD. And then…and then, when all that was done, she just stood there in front of the sign-in sheet and wouldn’t move. The kicker was that her kid was a teenager and here she is acting like it’s the first time she’s been to the Dr. Lay off the Prozac lady and plug into reality.

Here I am, holding a not-too-light infant and carrier, while trying to herd my older son away from the sick kids and into the “Well children” side of the office.

Luckily, before there was an evisceration, the lady finally moved and things proceeded as normally. We were called back…well, actually my youngest son was called back and then when I explained they both had appointments, well…I think I just completely threw her for a loop. She placed us in a room while they “sort it all out,” with a sickly sweet smile that makes you just want to say, “Don’t bother, I’ll find another Pediatrician.” Which I won’t because it’s way too difficult a proposition.

So finally about 20 minutes later, two ladies come in to tag-team us and they proceed to ask for my oldest son’s cooperation, and in response he stuck his finger up his nose and proceeded to hide behind a chair. Now normally, this is where I’d grab an arm and drag him out kicking and screaming all the while threatening a spanking, but I’m in pubic, so instead I use the old, “You won’t got to the train show today unless you do this” argument. And it works a little; at least enough that they do what they need to do. My youngest son was easy…all they had to do was remove his clothes and he was ready to go.

So, when they left, they told me to take off all my oldest son’s clothes down to his underwear (you mean diaper?) and wait for el doctor. Thirty minutes later, I’m out of soothing bottle for the infant, my oldest son has run through his gamut of toys and I’m getting steamed. I stick my head out the door and start complaining to the first lackey I could find, who actually stood her ground fairly well, until I used the, “I don’t care how many sick kids came in ahead of me, we had an appointment. If you can’t staff enough to meet your obligations, then don’t make any.” There was nothing she could say to that really, so I win!

Finally the doctor came in, one of the few we really like there, and that really saved the day. The kids are healthy, the Dr. used his authority to tell my older son that “Picking your nose is an ugly habit,” and “You should use the potty ALL the time.” We’ll see how well that works.

At any rate, I got out with my sanity (just barely) and major brownie points with my wife, which is really worth gold in these days of precious few moments of “me” time. So, all’s well that ends well, at least until next year.

Those Little “Oh crap!” Moments in Life

By now, most of you know that I recently went back to work for a company that I used to work at as a contractor. Well, actually, the location is the same, but the company was bought out by Mega-Corporate, so the theology is different, but the general culture and politics are the same.

At any rate, when I worked there previously, I was a writer of all things product oriented. Now, I’m back and while I still basically do that, my official title is much for “official” sounding and I have more responsibility.

OK, so stage set…on with the story.

I was brought in on a project today because…well, it’s my job now. There were two papers being written for a single subject, but each with a slightly differing focus. Due to some daylight savings time scheduling issues, I went ahead and dialed into the 2 p.m. call just to make sure that I wasn’t supposed to be on it rather than the 3 p.m. call as my MS Outlook showed.

During the call, one particular high-level guy at my office was talking about some changes to the paper (not the one I was supposed to on the next call for) and someone mentioned my co-worker who was supposed to be on the next call, but for whom I’d taken over. Well, someone said, “Oh, she’s delegated this to some Chris person who will be on the next call.” Well, this high-level person said, “Yeah, well, Chris is just a writer.”

Now, writers by nature have thick skins. It comes with the territory; otherwise anytime someone edited or critiqued a story, we’d be popping the anti-depressants and calling 911. So, this didn’t really phase me, but ever since I saw this particular high-level person walk out of the bathroom stall with papers in-hand, not wash his hands and then proceed to put those same papers on my boss’ desk, I’ve really just not liked the guy. I tell ya, it was straight out of a Seinfeld episode (“I’m sorry sir. This book has been in the bathroom; you can’t return it.”).

So, I un-mute my phone and chime in, “Oh John, that’s not entirely correct.” There was a pregnant pause at which point he attempted to backpedal while simultaneously attempting to ascertain my new role while explaining to everyone on the call about my former duties.

I tell ya, it was priceless. Others on my team seemed much more distraught over the whole thing, but I surprisingly had a very “zen-like” calm over it. Dunno why.

So that was my fun for the day. To his credit, high-level person called later and apologized. That was nice of him, but I still won’t shake his hand.

New Guy Office Embarassment

It all started pretty innocuously; but let me first provide a little context:

I have severe lower back problems. I’ve had two discectomys for my lower back and I continue to have a good deal of pain. Sitting makes any back problem worse. So, I sent an e-mail to my office’s facilities manager asking for a chair with a seat that tilted back, so as to relieve the pressure off my spine. In fact, here’s the text of the e-mail (edited for brevity):

“My name is Chris. I work for Tom up in Prod. Marketing on the 4th. I was mentioning to one of my team members that my chair and my back (2 surgeries) don’t get along, and she indicated I should contact you to see if we have any alternate chairs.

I understand these are very nice chairs we have here (Leap), but what they don’t do, is angle the seat enough to take the stress off the spine. I only know this because I’ve suffered from back pain since I’ve been working in an office. Ideally, people with my back condition want a seat that tilts back much like a recliner seat. That puts all your torso weight on your back rather than pushing it down into your spine and buttocks.

I know, I know…Waaaay too much information right? Basically, I just wondered if you have any other chairs I might could test-drive for long-term comfort?”

Pretty basic right? Well yesterday, no fewer than 5 people–yep, count ’em–showed up at my cubicle. Three of the people were from some sales place and one of them was an ergonomics expert. They proceeded to criticize my whole work area, I’m sure in hopes of getting my company to purchase a bunch of stuff for me.

I work for arguably, the best known IT company in the world, and I’m sure the dollar signs were just floating across their eyes. I was finally able to convince them that I wasn’t looking for the world, just a comfortable chair, so they finally left me alone.

Well, I’m test driving this new chair here, it’s a HumanScale Freedom chair. It’s a very interesting chair, with nifty arm thingies that go up and down like the seats on equipment at the gym. It has a gel-covered seat for my bum, and when you lean back in it, the neck part keeps your head in one place so that it doesn’t screw with all the perfectly aligned ergonomics you (should have) set up with your monitor.

But here’s the kicker…the seat doesn’t tilt! The one feature I asked for is absent in this miracle of modern steel and chemistry. And come to find out, from one of my colleagues who used to work in that industry, this chair isn’t even as expensive as the one I was using, which was a very nice Steelcase Leap chair.

I’ve now sent another e-mail to facilities politely refusing the chair, accompanied with a picture of a chair that does specifically what I want it to do. I mean, I’ve already caused a row, I might as well see it through till the end and get what I want.

So part of me is flattered that my company cares this much, but mostly I’m just embarrassed.