Charge Ahead!

The aisles between the cubicles where I work are very long and very narrow.  I’ve worked in this space for over a year now and I’ve made a few observations about the choices my co-workers and I make while navigating the cubicle aisles.

When you enter the aisle and see that someone else is heading toward you, you have a choice.  You can charge ahead or you can step aside.  Most people appear to have a strong preference for one action or the other although mood and circumstance can cause some to act out of character.

The Step-Asiders are going to step into the nearest cubicle opening or side aisle to give the other room to pass.  This can be a bit awkward if the other person wished to enter the space that they have moved into, but for the most part, all is good.

The Charge-Aheaders are going to walk down the aisle on the assumption that the situation will resolve itself without collision.

If a Charge-Aheader encounters a Step-Asider, life is good.  The two parties are able to go about their business without conflict.

Life is also good when two Charge-Aheaders meet up.  I’ve yet to see a showdown in an aisle with neither party making way for the other.  No, the usual behavior of two Charge-Aheaders is to simultaneously pivot toward the near wall and quickly sidestep past each other.  It’s a very efficient group.

The only problem, as I see it, is when two Step-Asiders try to walk down the aisle.  They each dart into the nearest cubicle opening and wait, sometimes without looking up, for the other to pass.  Eventually, they gaze down the aisle to see the other person doing the same.  Then there’s handwaving or verbal encouragement or maybe both parties trying to resume progress and then stepping aside again when they see the other moving.  It’s a very friendly and selfless group but can be exhausting to get caught up in.

I’m sure there’s a metaphor for life in here.  Something about the relative success and opportunities for people who take charge vs. those that take the back seat and wait on others.  I’m definitely a Charge-Aheader in Cubicleville.  In life?  I’m trying.

Oh, and if you think I’m rather neurotic or warped for analyzing the walking patterns of my co-workers, you should read my analysis of public bathroom toilet paper dispensers and this post won’t sound so odd to you.  Plus, you should keep in mind that engineers get paid well to solve problems and analyze.  It’s not like we can just turn it off when we step out of our cube!

One final note:  I wanted to measure the aisle width for you.  I didn’t have a tape measure but I did have an extra long (18 inch) ruler.  I poked my head out of my cubicle and when I didn’t see anyone, began to measure – not on the floor, just waist level.  I didn’t care if I was really exact.  Well, as I tried to read the result (it was less than two rulers wide), someone stepped out into the aisle.  I tried to hurry back in my cube but she had seen me.  She asked what I was doing.  I said I was curious how wide the aisle was.

“Why? They aren’t going to change it.”

“I know.  I’m not asking anyone to change it.  I was just curious.”

She responded, “You know if they were to change it, they’d just take the space out of your cube.”

“I know,” I said, exasperated. “I don’t plan on saying anything to anyone.  I just wanted to know how wide it was.”

She didn’t understand.  I didn’t even bother to say I planned on blogging about it.  If she couldn’t understand my curiosity, she would certainly not understand my desire to write about it.  I guess not all programmers have the same level of curiosity and analysis about everything around them.  Oh, well.

Avoiding the Earworm

I work upstairs. At the base of the stairs is a small lobby with a big flat screen TV that runs the same video ad nauseum. It never stops. It just runs over and over and over and over.

Most of it is tolerable enough – as much as hearing the same thing over and over again can be. I mean, I’ve raised three toddlers; I know a thing or two about hearing the same video repeatedly. But this is beyond what any two year old can throw at you. I’m pretty sure that if this were Barney and my kid was me, they’d still want to scream by now.

The most obnoxious part of the video is without a doubt the song at the end. It’s overly dramatic and sung with such pomp and grandeur that it makes me want to puke. And then it gets stuck in my head and I spend the rest of the day wishing I could puke it out.

So I’ve started trying to avoid the song. When I open the door at the top of the stairs, I pause before going down. My plan is that if the song is on, I’ll either go back through the door and wait or I’ll run down the stairs.

When I enter at the bottom, I prepare to run up the stairs. But even running, I catch enough and the earworm takes up its residency. I can’t handle it anymore. I think I might be close to insanity.

This brings us to today. Today, I entered at the base of the stairs and heard the song. It’s cold outside so I was wearing gloves and a stocking cap with earflaps. I tried to press my fingers into my ears but there was too much fabric and hair blocking me. I could still hear the song. I slipped my fingers under the flaps of the cap and began to sing “La-la-la-la-la-la.”

That was working. The problem, though, was that there was a door at the top of the stairs. I’d have to remove a finger to open the door. I’d be able to hear the song.

Determined not to hear another bar, I increased my volume as I prepared to open the door. I opened it and rushed through, loudly and monotonously singing “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA“… and then… nearly ran over a shocked coworker.

He looked at me and exclaimed, “What the HELL?!”

I burst out in nervous laughter and rolled along the wall away from him. “Oh, man. Oh, man,” I said. “Ok, that was embarrassing. I can’t handle that song down there. I just can’t. I couldn’t stand to hear it again.”

“Well, I’m tired of it too,” he said. “I just don’t go to such extremes.”

Such extremes, indeed. At least my witness was a coworker and not a stranger. And at least he didn’t catch me singing my sped-up version of the Smurf’s theme song. That’s my song-blocker of choice when I’m feeling particularly cheerful. He might have felt compelled to mention the incident to our boss then. As is, I suspect I won’t hear the end of this for a very long time.

Riding in Cars with… Whomever

I am still trying to teach my husband the proper way to interact with other people in certain social situations. I’ve been trying for quite some time now and so far my teaching skills have proved sorely lacking.

Take today, for example. A friend and former coworker stopped by for a tour of the studio and to say hello. Our plan was to go out to eat lunch afterwards. This friend is still in his twenties, single, no kids – still enjoying a much more carefree life than ours. In fact, he ended up being a bit late because he was slow to get up after some heavy drinking at a party the night before. While he and my husband had met and like each other, he is essentially a stranger to Hal.

This doesn’t particularly bother Hal. You know how some kids have to try every public bathroom they encounter? As soon as you walk into a store or restaurant or someone’s house with such a kid, they immediately express an urgent need to use the facilities? Well, Hal has a similar obsession except his is an unquenchable desire to ride in other people’s cars.

As I walked into the house to get my things, I heard Hal ask the question.

“Daddy, can I ride in his car?”

I held my breath because I knew he would likely not answer appropriately.

“Well, Hal. That’s not up to me. You’ll need to ask him.”

Oh, no! I thought to myself. Wrong answer! See, my husband is of the opinion that everyone should be able to speak their mind and be truthful, no matter how uncomfortable. He’s not into the social niceties and hinting phrases that should be employed in situations like this.

By the time I got back outside, Hal was crawling into his booster seat that had been installed in the back of the other car. The friend was laughing. It sounded to me as if he was a bit in disbelief that he was about to transport our child into town in his car.

When I got into our car, I told my husband what he was supposed to say in a situation like that. “You don’t put people – especially people without kids – in a situation where they have to say no to a four-year-old. You just don’t do it. You should have said, ‘No, sweetheart. Why don’t you just ride with us?’ That way, if they are truly ok with him riding with them, they can say, ‘Oh, that’s ok. I don’t mind.’ But if they don’t want him to ride, you’ve let them off the hook.”

“If they don’t want him to ride with them, they should just say so.”

“Say no to a four-year-old?!”

“Yes. If they don’t want to do it.”

“Honey! You shouldn’t force people to do that.”

“I’m not going to serve as a barrier between my kids and other people.”

“Uggh! This is a tactful way to give them a way out if they don’t have it in them to tell the kid no but really aren’t comfortable taking the kid with them.”

“So what you are saying is that the next time a situation like this comes up, I need to tell him, ‘I don’t know. You need to go ask your mother.'”

“Well, I guess if you want it to go through two layers instead of just one, yes.”

“If that’s what it takes because I’m not going to do what you suggested.”

When they got to the restaurant right after us, I was waiting to open Hal’s door. “Is it everything you thought it would be?” I asked him.

The friend climbed out of the car laughing. “Oh, man, did we have some interesting conversations!”

I’m sure you did, buddy. I’m sure you did. The Facebook posts and blog entries pale in comparison to the real deal.