Need Date

Emails can sometimes be comically misinterpreted, and I have a very fun example to share today. First, some background.

My company has a tool that tracks “issues” – be they defects, change requests, new requirements, whatever. Back in December, someone created a whole bunch of issues, one for nearly every software product we had, requiring the software products to pull in the new O/S version.

The issues were given a Need Date of 1/31/2020, meaning that’s when they wanted us to have completed incorporating the new O/S, and then immediately set to a state of ON HOLD, because the O/S wasn’t ready yet.

Fast forward to this week, the beginning of February. The issues were returned to the OPEN state right as my software development team began to plan our work for the next two week period (referred to as a “sprint”). I assumed they would probably want it done in the next two weeks, but wanted to make sure, so I asked the following in an email:

Can we get updated Need Dates?

They are currently set to 1/31, which isn’t very realistic… ūüôā

My team pulled this into the current sprint on the assumption that you would want them within the next two weeks, but we don’t actually know the necessary schedule.

About ten minutes later, I got the first response, which was stunning:

We are expected to deliver the system in March…so in order to have time to ensure things boot prior to that I wouldn’t recommend us moving the date out. If your organization can’t make it then we’ll have to work that with the program office.

Do what?! I was flummoxed. My email was short. It said the date was unrealistic and included a tell-tale smiley. Didn’t that give her enough pause to realize the problem with the date? I decided it was worth a bit of a troll in response:

Ok, I can tell you unequivocally that our organization can’t make a date that is 5 days¬†in the past. I’m asking you to give us a Need Date that is >= the day the issue was moved from ON HOLD to OPEN.

She was good-humored and self-deprecating in her response, but there was just one problem in her explanation:

Lol I thought it said 2/31. Too many windows open.

Yep. February 31st. Lol, indeed!

I teased her privately about mistaking the date in the past for a date that doesn’t exist, but I was still looking for a real Need Date. She had passed on the responsibility for a new date to her boss, who asked me this:

You want all 199 need dates updated?

Now, I really only cared about 5 of them, the ones belonging to my team, but it was reasonable to assume that most everyone would want to know when we were expected to be done. Which, you notice, he was still not telling me, choosing instead to express incredulity at the thought of updating the date in the tool for that many issues. So I tried again:

I think there’s a tool to do mass updates on issues so I wouldn’t expect that to be burdensome, but I would settle for an email telling us when you want them done.

I probably should have just said an email would suffice, but I’m pretty sure the mass-data-entry tool was written specifically for this team and I was annoyed that I wasn’t getting an answer. Maybe he left for the day in the 20 minutes between sending his email and me sending mine, but it’s worth noting that I have not gotten a response.

Does that mean we get to pick our own? I’m gunning for 2/31. ūüôā

The Case of the Dirty Cake Knife

Once upon a time a group of engineers lived in a large space divided into little boxes and devoid of any windows. The engineers were basically happy. They all worked on different projects under different supervisors but were united as one big happy family under the same kind and attentive manager.

The engineers enjoyed the company of an incredible administrative assistant, who occupied one of the little boxes. She helped them with expense reports and labor corrections and equipment requests and a myriad of other things. One of her unofficial duties was the planning and execution of Snack Days.

Snack Days were glorious occasions where everyone would bring food from home to share. The admin would orchestrate the whole thing including arranging everyone’s stuff into sensible groupings, stowing food away in the fridge or trashing it at the end of the day, and cleaning up the common serving utensils that had built up over time and were stored in her cubicle.

One day, life came crashing down around the ears of all the happy little engineers. Their distant overlords disrupted their daily lives by splitting up the family. They all still worked in the same space on the same projects, but no longer for the same manager. They all got new ones – three news ones, actually. Each little cluster of people with a new boss. And the beloved admin was assigned to yet a fourth one.

Since she was no longer responsible for anyone in the space, she soon moved out. The utensils moved to a credenza in one of the walkways. And since the admins now responsible for the people in that space were already cozy in their existing spaces next to their managers, none of them moved in. The engineers were adrift.

Eventually, they developed a plan for snack days. They agreed that each team would sponsor a snack-day-worthy holiday. The scrum masters for those teams would do the coordination, but the team members were responsible as a group for setup and clean up. The engineers had failed to consider certain edge conditions, however.

You have to understand, these are people who, when someone brings random food and sets it out on the front table to share, often leave the empty container when they take the last item, instead of throwing it away. These are the same people who tended to assume someone would take care of the leavings of their snack day offerings. They barely pick up after themselves and have little motivation to clean up after others.

Which brings us to the dirty cake knife. A couple of the teams who still worked for a common supervisor had an end-of-year party in December. The supervisor had it catered and also bought a cake from Costco, which is way more cake than even a group of hungry engineers can polish off after a catered meal.

Someone brought the cake into the work space along with the spatula and knife that had been used in its serving. No one thought to move it to the refrigerator at the end of the day. Eventually, the next day, someone decided it probably was not safe to eat and balanced it on top of a trashcan. The janitor got the hint and took it away. The cake-encrusted spatula and knife were set down in an empty cubicle near that trash can.

And that was it.

No one was responsible for cleaning the utensils. No one even seemed to notice them, tucked away in the empty cubicle at the end of a row. Whoever set them there either forgot about them, hoped someone else would step up, or fell victim to a serious bout of “not my job”-itis. Regardless, the utensils sat. And sat. And sat.

The engineer who occupied the office across from the cubicle had been absent the day of the cake eating. When she returned was the day the cake rested on the trashcan. She had no idea how long it had been there. She didn’t notice the utensils until some¬† number of days later.

And true to her profession, when she finally noticed them, she thought, “Well, I wasn’t here to enjoy the cake.¬†I’m not going to clean them. Someone who actually got to eat some cake can clean up after themselves.”

And with that, she went about her job and forgot all about the dirty utensils – just like everyone else.

Except she kept rediscovering them. Eventually, she started thinking about taking them down the long hallway to the break room at the other end of the building, which was the closest location of a sink. She thought about it, but figured they’d have to soak. And for how long? She needed to check her email again.

And then she’d forget. Again. And then rediscover and think about taking them to soak. But it was time for her daily stand-up meeting. Maybe after. And then the next time she remembered, maybe on the way out at the end of the day. There was always a reason that “now” was not a good time. And, really, it wasn’t her responsibility. After all, she’d just be doing someone else a favor.

One day, she heard another engineer discover the dirty knife and spatula. “Who do these belong to?!” the engineer exclaimed.

The first engineer hurried out of her office and explained.

“Well, should we just throw them away?” asked the recent discoverer.

“No!” the forgetful one said, shocked. “They are a perfectly good spatula and knife. They just need to be cleaned.”

“Well, obviously no one cares enough to clean them,” replied the second, holding them with every intent to just throw them away.

“But it’s the only knife we have,” tried the first. “We won’t have a knife the next time someone brings a cake in.”

“Oh,” replied the second, now understanding. “I assumed the boss had brought his own spatula and knife.” This engineer was a relatively new resident to the space.

“No, we’ve got a small stash of spatulas and serving spoons and that one knife. I mean, I guess I could see if there’s another knife, but it seems like a shame to throw this one away.”

“I agree,” the other responded. She looked around awkwardly like she was unsure what to do with the knife now that she had decided not to trash it. “I guess…” she hesitated… “I guess one of us should clean it… but…” she set it back down in the cubicle. “I’ll have to maybe do it later. I’m running late to a meeting.”

The forgetful engineer sighed at the lost opportunity for someone else to clean the knife. And then she returned to her office. She had stories to write for the next sprint, after all. Maybe she’d take the utensils down to soak later. She could leave a note explaining that they were the collective problem of the entire work area and that anyone who saw the items soaking could pick them up out of the soapy water, scrub them clean, and return them to their credenza. But she forgot later.

And then one day she heard the banging of credenza doors opening and closing, drawers sliding open and shut. And a voice asking no one in particular, “does anyone know where a knife is?”

“You need a knife?” she asked with a smile as she exited her office.

“I do!” he responded. “I went to Baton Rouge this weekend and it’s the season. I brought back a King Cake.”

She led him to the empty cubicle. A cubicle, incidentally, that was adjacent to his own.

“There’s our cake knife,” she said, pointing into the cube.

“Oh.” he responded. “Oh.”

“That’s from when you guys had cake without me at the group party last month. It would only make sense for someone who actually ate some of the cake to clean it.”

“Whoa, wait. That’s from¬†that cake?!”



“Yes. I was going to take it down to the break room and soak it but it was never a good time when I thought about it. So it just sat there.”

“Ok…I guess I’ll… go clean the knife.”

“Excellent!” the first engineer said, relieved of the responsibility but a little embarrassed to demonstrate that she had known about, but not dealt with, the knife and spatula.

The spatula was soon clean and resting in the credenza with the other serving utensils. The knife took up residence on the front table with the boxed King cake and a stack of napkins. It was covered in almost as much cake debris as it had been mere moments before. Except now it sat alone.

How long will it sit unclean? Until another cake arrives? Will it ever rejoin its mates in the credenza drawer? Will some engineer, maybe the bringer of the King cake, actually clean it as soon as the cake is gone? Only time will tell.

Geeking Out Over Your Badge

Everyone has something they geek out over. Maybe something you don’t think other people care much about so you try to keep it under wraps most times. And then you unexpectedly encounter a kindred spirit, causing you to burst free from your constraints and revel in the moment of solidarity.

That happens to you, right?


Well, it happened to me recently. A co-worker stopped by my office and asked, “Do you ever get bothered by all the signs around here that say ‘Everyone must scan your badge‘?”

He didn’t get much further than “Everyone must” before I was jumping up and down, pointing at him, and saying “Yes! Yes! Oh, my goodness, yes! Those signs drive me¬†crazy!”

“I mean,” he said, “I’m looking around thinking, ‘how many times do I have to hand out my badge so that everyone else can scan it?'”

“I thought the same thing! And I always wanted to say something to someone but I thought most people wouldn’t get it so I never have.”

“Well… that’s why I came to you. I knew you’d understand.”

“You definitely made the right call,” I said, still on a bit of an adrenaline rush that someone else had been bothered by the signs¬†and said something to me. “If you had said something to Tony, he would have just given you a blank look or rolled his eyes and made a disparaging remark.”

“I mean,” I continued, “it’s a tricky problem, right? Because ‘Everyone’ means…”

“That it should be ‘his or her badge’ – I know,” he jumped in. “And that’s awkward on a sign but it’s still what’s right.”

“I’ve often thought about how they could reword it. I’d prefer ‘You must always scan your badge’.”

“Me too. Just say ‘Scan your badge! Every time!”

I don’t know how it is with other flavors of geeks, but having a moment with a fellow grammar geek can make a person’s day. And really, the world would be a better place if every establishment identified a grammar-geek-on-call that would be contacted before any text was committed to a sign or any other official or permanent communication.

A Little Bit Older

We are all getting old. Some of us more than others, but still. We’re getting old. And forgetful. And sometimes we all get forgetful at the same time in ways that actually help each other out in our own forgetfulness. And sometimes it’s good for a laugh or two. Which is good.

I had a birthday recently. It was something more than 40 but less than 50. Closer to 40, at least for a little bit longer. I don’t publicize my birthday on Facebook, don’t tell a bunch of people, don’t remind folks, and… our administrative assistant quit posting them on the bulletin board at the end of last year. So I wasn’t expecting much. Life met expectations.

My husband and daughter wished me a happy birthday in the morning, but not my sons. My best friend from now and my best friend from days past each sent me a message in the morning before I got to work. My mom tried to call me around the actual time of my birth but got busy and called about 15 minutes late. I wasn’t at my desk so we didn’t talk until she called back later that evening. My eldest son then wished me a happy birthday when we met up at the restaurant complaining that “no one told me! I didn’t know!”

And that was that. And I was fine.

As we turned off the light and prepared for bed that night, my husband asked me if I had talked to either of my parents that day. I told him about my well-wishers and then said, “But it was strange. Penny didn’t say anything to me at work. She always wishes everyone a happy birthday. She’s got them all marked on her calendar on the wall.”

“Oh, shoot!” I said suddenly. “Grant’s birthday is coming up and I don’t have any more birthday cards in my desk! I’ve got to remember to get cards tomorrow.”

At which point I gave a mental thank you to Penny for forgetting my birthday and thus reminding me not to forget Grant’s.

The next morning, Penny slid into my office and I knew what was coming. “I forgot your birthday yesterday!” she said. “I’m really sorry. With this new job, I just don’t seem to look over at my calendar as much.”

“That’s ok,” I said, and then told her about my conversation the night before. “So, see. You helped me out. Thank you!”

But as you might guess, I forgot to buy a card for Grant that evening. I woke up the next morning, the day before Grant’s birthday and the last day of the work week. I was making small talk with my husband and told him about how Penny had given me belated birthday wishes the day before.

“Oh, shoot!” I exclaimed. “I forgot to buy Grant a card! Crap! I’ll have to stop at the store on my way to work, but man, I like to slip them in their office when they aren’t there. That’s going to be hard to do now.”

“You better hurry then,” he said, “so you can get in before Grant does.”

“Oh, it’s too late for that!” I said, laughing. “He’s already there.” Grant was always at work by 7, the time on the clock at that moment.

Nevertheless, I hustled along, actually remembered to stop at the store, and made it to work in just over an hour.

“You are lucky I’m here,” said Grant when I stopped to check on a project we were working on together. Expecting a tale of near-death, I listened with a certain amount of apprehension, but as the story went on, I became confused.

He and his wife had attended a wedding the night before. Which was strange, being a Thursday. The wedding had been at mealtime and the reception had been light on food. Was he telling me he nearly starved to death?

Not knowing the bride or groom at all, being present merely to support the groom’s parents, they slipped out soon after the reception ended and went out to eat. Ok, so maybe a near wreck somewhere along the way?

No, no wreck. They made it home safely. Spent a quiet remainder of the evening. So what had caused him to almost not make it to work?

The story continued to the morning. He woke up. He went into the kitchen. He started taking care of some bills or something. Like he always does. He heard his wife wake up so he put on the coffee for her. She soon came into the room.

“What are you still doing here?” she asked.

He was confused. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“But she wasn’t giving it up,” he told me, starting to chuckle. “She was going to make me work for it.”

Eventually, she said, “You think it’s Saturday, don’t you?”

He was sitting in his pajamas, contemplating whether to fix sausage and eggs, when he would normally have already been at work.

“It’s funny you should say that,” I said. And then I proceeded to tell him first about Penny forgetting my birthday and thus reminding me not to forget his. And then me forgetting to buy a card anyway and remembering as I told my husband about Penny remembering the next day. And then my husband telling me to hurry and me telling him that Grant was already at work. “Except you weren’t, were you?”

“No!” he said laughing. “I was still in my pajamas.”

We laughed some more and he told me I didn’t have to give him a card and I told him I would anyway. And later on, after he found the card on his desk – me having successfully placed it undetected¬†while he was sitting there, he came in to my office to thank me and say again that it wasn’t necessary, and that now he understood why I had had a bit of glitter on my lip earlier. The card having had several colors of glittered balloons and gifts on the front.

There are a number of very young people in our work area now and they sometimes make me feel very old, older than I actually am. But moments like this help me keep it in perspective. There’s a lot of “old” going around. And we manage to have a good time with it.


Revolution #8

We have boxes at work to put personal belongings in. They each have a key with a number on them. You select a box, put your stuff in, and take the key. When you leave, you insert the key, open the door, get your stuff, and go home. Simple.

Over time, I – just like many others – have developed a box preference. My personal, no-one-else-better-take-it box. It took awhile to get to this point. I started out with box #4. But box #4 was on the bottom left and I guess was pretty popular because I couldn’t reliably get it. I moved to #16 but its locking mechanism tended to catch. Sometimes I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the door¬†open.

Eventually, I settled on #8. Yes, I greatly prefer the multiples of 4 because they are on the bottom, just below my eye level. I can see in easily. So for the last several weeks, maybe a couple of months, I’ve used box #8. It didn’t seem to matter what time I got to work, it was always waiting for me. Even if there were only 1 or 2 boxes with keys still in them.

It’s like the universe and all my co-workers understood it was my box.

And then one morning… the key was missing. I was irritated, to say the least. I resigned myself to using #16, forgetting that the locking mechanism catches. I grumbled any time I got into the box that day.

When I left fairly late that evening, the key was still missing. I began to suspect that not only had my box been co-opted by someone else, it had been taken over by someone who takes the key home with them. They aren’t supposed to do this, but some people feel so strongly about their box selection that they do anyway. Had someone been waiting for the opportunity to steal my key all these weeks?

I got to work early the next morning – no key. Went home that evening – no key. Next morning – no key. All week long, I never saw box #8’s key. I started using #28 but being that far to the right disturbed me. I wanted my #8 back. I contemplated putting a sign on it begging for its return.

Then, that Saturday, as I pulled the clothes out of the washing machine to transfer to the dryer, I saw the tell-tale bright yellow plastic tag of a box key. Surely not, I thought to myself. Is it really?

Sure enough, I had apparently slipped the key in my pocket that last day I had it instead of putting it back in the lock before I left. In short, I had stolen the key from myself. Friday, I had begun to complain to co-workers about the stolen box. And then Saturday, I looked the thief in the mirror.

That week the key was missing, someone else had put signs on some nearby boxes reminding people that the boxes and keys were company property and you were not to take the keys home. I had cheered the signs. On Monday, I slunk past them and quickly used the #8 key to open the box before anyone could see me.

The next day, the key was gone again. And then I entered a twilight zone. Had someone coincidentally taken #8 the day after I returned the key? Had someone that knew the story deliberately taken #8 just to mess with me? Had I accidentally taken it home again? How would I ever know?

I returned to #28. The next day, #8 was missing again. I began to think #28 would have to be my new box. I suspected the new guy had taken a shining to #8. Especially as his supervisor, I couldn’t exactly say, “Hey! Are you using box #8?! That’s mine! Hands off!”

But at the end of the second day, I saw the key hanging from the open box door. And I smiled. It was waiting for me the next day and I grabbed it. Get there before him enough and he’ll probably get the hint. I hope.

No Good Deed

A coworker brought four dozen donuts to work Friday. ¬†I’m sure he thought he was doing something that would be appreciated by everyone in the area. ¬†It’s traditional for people to devour donuts. ¬†They are provided at meetings, breakfast meet-ups, church “coffee and donuts” time before worship. ¬†It’s a thing. ¬†People love it. ¬†I’m sure he thought he was being nice. ¬†He anticipated thanks.

He got anything but.

When I walked in the door, Greek yogurt riding along in my bag, I saw the donuts and the first thought that went through my head was, What jerk brought donuts?!

I stood in front of the boxes and lifted the edges just enough to see the types.  Two dozen glazed.  One dozen chocolate icing.  One dozen blueberry cake.  Damn.

I’ll just eat one. ¬†It’s ok,¬†I thought to myself.

No it’s not! ¬†It’s never ok. ¬†Donuts are terrible for you. ¬†Think of all the working out you’ve been doing. ¬†You want to make progress. ¬†Don’t eat a donut. ¬†Eat the yogurt,¬†I responded sternly.

Fine. ¬†I dropped the lid and began to walk around the table. ¬†But… But cake donuts aren’t quite as bad for you. ¬†Are those blueberry? ¬†Maybe I should see exactly what kind those purplish ones are.

Don’t do it! ¬†Just walk away!

I studied the boxes some more and then picked up one of the cake donuts. ¬†When I sniffed it, I accidentally touched it to my nose. ¬†Great! ¬†Now you’ve touched it with your nose. ¬†You are going to have to take it now.

Like you didn’t already have to take it after you touched it.

Quit splitting hairs.  This is all your fault.  Jeez!  You have no self-control.

Whatever. ¬†We’re two sides of the same coin. ¬†We’ll skip the yogurt. ¬†Minimize the calorie hit. ¬†Besides, that yogurt has 10g of fat, half of it saturated.

I went to my desk and shamefully ate the donut. ¬†When I learned who brought them a short time later, I harassed him for putting such temptation upon me. ¬†A handful of others chimed in. ¬†No one seemed happy that he had brought the donuts. ¬†Well, except the youthful recent college grad who ate two because she doesn’t yet have to worry about where the calories go. ¬†And the biggish guy who works out all the time but also eats whatever he wants and doesn’t care. ¬†Everyone else was definitely annoyed. ¬†The donut bringer hunched his shoulders and defensively said, “No one is making you guys eat them.”

Sometime later, a regular visitor entered our area. ¬†He’s very loud and not someone I ever would have pegged as a health nut. ¬†I knew he was there the moment he walked in the door because his voice boomed across the room: ¬†“WHO BROUGHT¬†DONUTS??!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? ¬†THOSE THINGS ARE HORRIBLE FOR YOU!

I died laughing and headed to the front of the room to join the conversation. ¬†So did the donut bringer, a few minutes later. ¬†He glared at us¬†as he walked by and mumbled, “I’m¬†not a jerk.”

Some of us may have had good intentions to not eat the donuts and some of us may have been able to keep to those intentions all morning. ¬†But I couldn’t help but notice that before lunch, all the donuts were gone.

When I told my husband, he was aghast at our response. ¬†“If I were him,” he said, “I’d bring donuts¬†every Friday. ¬†Just because you guys hate it.”

But here’s what I found fascinating (and cause for hope). ¬†We have a snack bar full of junk food and cheap canned soft drinks in the fridge. ¬†People bring candy and other junk and leave it on that table by the door. ¬†But people didn’t like seeing the donuts. ¬†Just a few years ago, no one would have made a scene. ¬†Maybe, just maybe, we are all starting to learn.

Then again, someone set an apple on the table next to the donuts. ¬†The donut bringer indignantly exclaimed, “Ok. ¬†Who put the¬†apple next to my donuts?”

I thought it was a pretty funny statement. ¬†But not nearly as funny as the fact that the lone apple was still sitting there at the end of the day – long after the donuts were gone. ¬†So I took it, intending to eat it. ¬†It wasn’t nearly as tasty as the blueberry cake donut. ¬†I forced myself to take several bites before dropping the remainder in the trash.

Lost and Found

So, the other day, I stepped into my favorite workplace bathroom and chose my favorite stall.  I noticed an old-style, basic black plastic comb on the toilet paper dispenser.  You know, like one a man might keep in his back pocket.  That struck me as strange, but no big deal.

I turned to face the toilet after locking the stall and noticed something much stranger.¬† The Febreeze bottle that usually sits, if I’m not mistaken, on top of the paper liner dispenser above the toilet was actually floating in the toilet water.¬† I stared at it blankly for a moment and then quickly moved to my second-favorite stall.

As I did so, I thought back to my boss telling me he had seen a pair of reading glasses in a toilet of the men’s room about a month ago.¬† His comment at the time was that he would have left them there too.¬† I had pondered whether it would have been worth it to me and whether enough washing could have overcome the ick factor had they been my glasses.¬† With the Febreeze bottle, I found myself annoyed at the person who had done it for not retrieving the bottle and throwing it away.¬† I briefly contemplated doing it myself but then thought better of it.

Shortly after my boss told me about the reading glasses, I noticed a paper towel lying on a table in the adjacent breakroom.¬† On top of the paper towel was a pair of gold reading glasses.¬† Written on the towel was “found in men’s room”.¬† I wondered whether these were the toilet glasses.¬† I assumed the janitor had retrieved them and I couldn’t help but wonder if she had washed them with soap and water or just dried them and set them out there.¬† They sat there for a long time.¬† No one claimed them.¬† I wondered if the owner knew where they had been and refused to pick them up.

Back to the Febreeze bottle.¬† I walked into the bathroom the next day and again chose my favorite stall.¬† The Febreeze bottle was no longer in the toilet bowl.¬† No, it was sitting on the floor, waiting for someone to feel the need to use it.¬† Again, I wondered who had retrieved it and why, oh why, they hadn’t just thrown it away.

When A Man Lacks A Dragon

The conversations that can be heard over the cubicle walls in the morning are sometimes a bit louder and more joyful than those that occur later in the day, people having not yet settled themselves down to their work.  There was one such conversation taking place this morning down the hallway.  A young recent college graduate was talking to a couple of the more middle-aged men in the group.

She apparently expressed her wish to see “How To Train Your Dragon II” this weekend.¬† One of the men, who prides himself in being obstinate and contrary, loudly questioned her sanity for wanting to see a sequel to a children’s movie, obviously believing that the only reason grown adults see such cartoons is because they are dragged there by their children.¬† This, being a sequel, was even less likely to be worth viewing.

“But I loved the first movie!” she exclaimed.¬† “Haven’t you seen it?!”

“No, I haven’t.”

“You haven’t seen How To Train Your Dragon?!”

“No, I haven’t because I don’t have a dragon so why would I need to know how to train one?”

I contemplated standing up (on my tippy toes or no one would see me over the cubicle wall) and supporting her claims that the movie was worth seeing.  I heard the other two men reluctantly confirming her assessment of the movie (having, indeed, likely only seen it because they had children of the appropriate age).  I felt it perhaps wise to not get derailed within minutes of arriving at work so let it be.

As the conversation continued, another woman poked her head in my doorway laughing and shaking her head.

“Conversation annoying you, is it?” I asked with a smile, knowing that the conversations often did since this particular coworker is easily irritated by even the most minute sounds.

“Yes, but…” she shook her head, laughing.¬† “But… just because this friend of mine… she… she put this thought in my head concerning the title of that movie… and now!¬† Now… I can’t hear it without thinking about that.”

Not being a person good at picking up on innuendo, I nevertheless reasonably guessed what that thought likely encompassed and started chuckling myself.

“So…” she continued, “when he said… ‘I don’t have a dragon‘…”¬† She dragged out that last word and raised her eyebrows to provide more emphasis.

By now I was fully laughing with her.¬† The conversation down the hall was full of laughter but now my cubicle was as well.¬† She returned to hers in short order and I returned to my work.¬† But now we were primed to hear every remark in the movie conversation in a much different light and I wondered… if the people down the hall heard us… whether they wondered what exactly we were finding so funny, each in our own separate cubicles.

Learning via Eavesdropping

Sometimes I forget that my cubicle neighbors at work can hear my phone conversations.¬† I think that if it’s important (like with my doctor’s office), my lowered voice is sufficient to keep the conversation basically private.¬† But when I’m not trying to hide it, they can – and do – hear every word.

Today, my daughter, home for summer break, called me.¬† Only, when I answered, she didn’t say anything.¬† I did the whole “Hello?¬† Hello?¬† Jane?¬† Can you hear me?” bit before hanging up.

When I had arrived at work this morning, the light indicating voice mail messages was blinking.¬† I was surprised to discover that there were 3 messages waiting.¬† Most workplace communication occurs either a) via email or b) during regular business hours so I am unaccustomed to unexpected voice mails.¬† The expected ones tend to be automated messages from the school that I already know about because they also went to my cell phone.¬† Plus, school isn’t in session.

I was surprised when the computer voice recited my daughter’s phone number as the originator of the first message and further surprised when it gave a time that was obviously after I would have left work.¬† And then I heard the message.¬† No talking directly into the phone.¬† Just background noise.¬† Background noise that I recognized.¬† It was the school board meeting from the night before.¬† She had obviously “dialed” me while leaning against the wall waiting for recognition for an achievement.

I quickly dispatched the other two messages as well after confirming that they were more of the same.  So when she called again this morning and did not say anything, I assumed she was doing it again.  I immediately called her back.

“Hi, Mommy,” she said.

“Hey, sweetheart.¬† Can you do me a favor?”

“What’s that?”

“When we get off the phone, please immediately call someone else.¬† Anyone.”


“Because then when you butt dial, it’ll be someone else instead of me.”

“But I didn’t butt dial you!¬† I was calling you because you called me this morning.”

“Well, you didn’t say anything so I assumed it was another butt dial.¬† I had three on my voice mail when I got here this morning.¬† You kept butt dialing me at the school board meeting.”

While we then discussed the reason for the call and her assertion that this was why she needed a better phone (read that as ‘an iPhone’), I heard my nearest neighbor laughing.¬† The laughter was not dissipating and I strongly suspected it was due to my conversation.

I then heard him move to the cubicle next to him and whisper (loud enough for me to hear because he is *not* a quiet man) to the next guy about the term “butt dial” which was apparently completely new to him.¬† He was incredibly tickled by the term and I found myself chuckling at his amusement.

I then quietly related the situation to my daughter since I suspected I wasn’t giving her my full attention.¬† She laughed but then reiterated her claim that the butt dialing was her phone’s fault.

“Phones don’t call people, honey; people call people!”¬† This assertion cracked me up, in part because the guy behind me is such an ardent gun enthusiast that he probably has the original phrase about guns on a bumper sticker or two.¬† Jane didn’t get it though so I had to explain it.

So the woman who is usually the most clueless person in the room was able to enlighten two different people.  I feel so worldly and knowledgeable.


Help Me Rhonda

Some folks recently moved into an area near my work area.¬† Quite a few of them, actually.¬† Now there’s a lot more people in the halls, bathrooms, and break rooms.¬† Some of them are completely new to me, but some I recognize from other projects in times gone by.

I encountered one of the latter on a recent morning and a name jumped front and center. Tim Smith.

Immediately behind the name was a strong sense of doubt.  That is not Tim Smith.

I played it safe and gave a cheery and familiar, “Good morning!¬† How are you today?”

He said he was good.¬† We went our separate ways.¬† I conjured up my mental image of Tim Smith.¬† Yep.¬† Not Tim Smith.¬† I couldn’t remember who this guy actually was.¬† No matter.

That afternoon, we quickly passed each other as we rounded a corner from opposite directions.

“Hey, Rhonda,” he said. “How are you?”

“Fine.¬† And you?”

Rhonda?!¬† Who’s Rhonda?

I stifled my laughter until I was a safe distance away. At least I hadn’t called him Tim.