Thursday, July 8, 2010

Miss Manners ... or was it Miss Congeniality?

Today was a pretty slow day at work. I had to wait for various documents for nearly all my files, and I spent a good portion of the day doing plain data-entry. However, the most exciting part of my day was getting to talk to one very grouchy woman on the phone.

This lady (who had a deep voice) was using a tactic popular with people who manipulate others - it's called "being unnaturally calm and condescending instead of screaming and yelling." Unfortunately, this tactic doesn't really work with me - so when the lady repeatedly told me she did not want to speak with the only guy in the office who could answer her question, and I very nicely told her that he was the only person who could help, she didn't win me over with her calmness. (I didn't even tell her what I was thinking: Life's full of things you don't want to do! Put on your big girl panties and deal with it!) This went on for a couple of minutes, after which she asked me, "Is everyone in your office an a**hole?" I said "Ma'am, excuse me..." and that bastion of class and taste hung up on me.

I would just like to point out that if you call an office, and the intern tells you she can't pull something for you, she probably can't. Sure, we've all had the annoying "Oh, he's at 'lunch' right now," but if people can't pull a document, they can't pull a document. Sometimes, you just have to talk to people you don't want to talk to - and then life keeps going.

Like the proverbially fly-catching honey, I would have felt very differently about this woman had she not sworn at me, insulted me and my coworkers, and hung up on me. As much as coupons get you better service for less money, simply being nice to people does the same. While it is a little different regionally (in New York I can get pretty pushy, because that's more accepted there), being nice to people results in free things, special treatment, and lays the groundwork for more contact in the future. These are ALL good things. This woman lost every single one of them (not like my office hands out a lot of freebies or special treatment, but the next time she calls me should be an adventure).

Manners are essential in economics. At the very least, not swearing is a good start for most conversations. In a world increasingly dependent on networking, immature phone calls like hers do more damage than they used to. In a world with more emails than telephone calls, getting rid of your swearing habit before it's easily documented is probably a good move. She hurt her own case for no good reason - except the three-second feeling of satisfaction she got from "showing me who's boss." Not a very good trade-off if you ask me.

I got yelled at in:
Beige dress pants with brown pinstripe, short-sleeved brocade jacket, cream lace tank, purple and gold beaded dangle earrings, large silver and rhinestone flower ring, and brown snakeskin pointed-toe pumps.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Happy Birthday to (Déjà) Vu

In an interesting turn of events, I'm actually combining yesterday's and today's events - because they were strangely similar.

Three people in my office have birthdays within two weeks of each other - me, our legal assistant, and our associate attorney. Since I was gone all last week, the office very nicely put together a party for me and our legal assistant yesterday - we all took a paid 30-minute vacation, ate cheesecake, and the birthday ladies got cards. During this little respite, we found out that our associate attorney had also had a recent birthday - so today, we all took a paid 30-minute vacation, ate pastries, and the birthday lad got a card.

It was so familiar that several people suggested doing a better job combining the parties next year - maybe going out to lunch as an office. This, however, is an interesting dilemma - because birthdays are a touchy thing. No one would suggest having one day in the office where we celebrated EVERYONE'S birthday, even though everyone has one. Birthdays are the days where people want to throw up their hands and say "I'M BEING SELFISH AND YOU CAN'T STOP ME!!!" and instead ask for two half pieces of cake - the first because of the "diet," the second because it's "just so good." It's simply impossible to have an entire office feel that way on the same day.

Birthdays and other special events are the kinds of things where efficiency isn't the primary concern. In fact, efficient celebrations would result in one (possibly two) holidays per year, where we'd celebrate everything. While some guys may jokingly say that would be easier to keep track of, they simply haven't thought through the ramifications of having every one of their coworkers want two half-pieces of cake on the same day. Birthdays are a sort of "Get Out of Jail Free" card for feeling special - you don't earn it, but it's a good feeling just the same.

So, while I don't think our associate attorney deviously planned a party all to himself, I'm glad that he got to down a giant cannoli and feel special. I'm also pretty glad that I was included in yesterday's party, and I'm certainly not complaining about two 30-minute paid vacations in two days. While I'd advocate for more birthday celebrations, I think things worked out so nice ... we did them twice.

I celebrated two birthdays in:
Black and white houndstooth pencil skirt, black button-up shirt, wide red belt, silver hoop earrings, silver bangles with semi-precious stones, and black patent pumps.

I celebrated one birthday in:
Purple pencil skirt, white three-quarter-length sleeved button-up shirt with black pinstripes (it was an ode to the Rockies), black satin swing jacket, black and silver hoop earrings, black and silver watch, and nude and black snakeskin concealed-platform pumps with a faux wood heel.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Week of Competition

Last week I couldn't possibly have blogged, because I was suffering from pure exhaustion - and, instead of my usual business casual, I was in ATHLETIC APPAREL. I'm not talking little Soffe shorts and a tank top either - I'm talking my long, black PE shorts from 8th grade (they used to have my name on the left leg, but it washed out), and a short-sleeved "athletic-style" (read "the kind you paint in") shirt, with my second-least-favorite kind of footwear (after flats): tennis shoes. Why, you ask, did I sacrifice my energy, blog, and business casual for this mildly butch work-out look? Because it was Super Kids Sports Kamp, and I was an archery clinician!

For those of you who don't know, Super Kids Sports Kamp (SKSK) is a week-long sports camp my church puts on for elementary-school kids. In the mornings they play Capture the Flag and run around the gym, then we have a skit and clinics in the morning (we have sports from All-Rec to Tennis to Archery to Football to Dance). Then it's lunch-time, followed by singing, another skit, and a lesson, then afternoon games! The whole time there are cheers for special words (like awesome, so, and okay) and a giant competition between the McCoys (red) and Hatfields (blue). Everything from clinic drills to dressing up crazy to afternoon games earns points for the two feuding families, and the winner of each day gets fruit snacks. The winner of the whole week (determined by a nail-biting "Great Race") wins "Icee-juicees" (you might know them by their colloquial name: Otter Pops).

Having been a kamper and huddle leader (counselor) for years, I love SKSK. While I can't sum up a whole week in one blog post, I'll share a few thoughts - because I still had economic adventures and theme days at Kamp!

One of our special cheer words is for "Competition." Since the Hatfields and McCoys are in a giant COMPETITION all week, the word gets thrown around frequently. When you hear this word, everyone stands up, makes giants "Cs" with their arms, and yells "Cooooo-mpetition, Competition, Competition, Com-Pa-Ti-Tion!" This makes my free-market-loving heart almost as happy as a Rockies fan tonight!

See, at SKSK kids do a lot of awesome stuff and have a lot of crazy fun that they wouldn't have if it weren't for the competition. Points motivate kids to jump higher, run faster, shoot straighter, and twirl longer than if they were just practicing to practice. Do you think we could have kids screaming for their family while playing a game of Giant Twister if we told them it was because they had nothing better to do? How about if we told them that Hatfields and McCoys are basically the same, and competitions can lead to hurt feelings, and so it's better if we all just do whatever we're capable of and that effort doesn't matter in the end? Well, that's basically what we're telling businesses in the "free" market and basically what we tell kids in school.

With the corporate bailouts, our government has sent a strong message that there are no winners, and that effort doesn't matter. That competitions hurt feelings - and that no one is allowed to lose. If the government tries to make the finish line "fair" instead of the starting line, everything ends in a draw - which is boring at SKSK, and lethal in the free market. If Total and Special K cereals were exactly the same, there would be no need for both of them - one would die. While Obama claims that the bailouts will create more jobs, in the long run they eliminate competition, which kills jobs.

We feed our kids this drabble every day though - I graduated second in my class, and our valedictorian, one of my dearest friends in the whole world, was not allowed to give a speech at graduation - or at any other senior event. When she talked to the principal about it, she was told "Graduation isn't about you. It's about the kid who barely graduated, who just squeaked by." Sorry, but graduation is about YOU and YOUR accomplishments. And if we have to pick one graduate who it's really about, my vote goes to the valedictorian. Unfortunately, for fear of hurting someone's feelings (someone who didn't try very hard, I might add), our valedictorian was not allowed to say anything to the class she led. This imaginary kid had no idea what a blessing he received by not having to be aware of someone with a higher GPA.

Competition is a crucial part of life. It creates better products, better services, and better people. Every winner has lost at some point - and somehow they survived. Without bailouts, without silent valedictorians. So, as a proud Hatfield, I say, "How about a little 'Cooooo-mpetition, Competition, Competition, Com-Pa-Ti-Tion!'?"

During SKSK week, we had theme days. So, I fostered competition while in:
Black gym shorts, SKSK baseball-style t-shirt, and tennis shoes (First Day).
Black gym shorts, hot pink tights, neon green "Navigators" big t-shirt (from my sister!), orange pom-pom earrings, neon bangles, and tennis shoes (Neon Day).
Black gym shorts, tie-dye shirt, tie-dye socks, and tennis shoes (Scrubs/Tie-Dye Day).
Black gym shorts, purple Rockies t-shirt, purple wool socks, purple frog earrings, and tennis shoes (Purple Day).
Black gym shorts, SKSK baseball-style t-shirt, and tennis shoes (Camp Shirt Day).