Tag Archives: holidays

All I Want for Christmas Is Fewer Office Parties

5 Dec

We’re less than one week into December and my calendar is already chock full of miserable holiday parties.

I don’t mean regular holiday parties. Those can be kind of nice when I’m able to kick the hermit in me and focus on good ol’ holiday cheer wine. I mean work parties. 

I’m sorry: work “parties”.

I’m quite certain that I have more interaction with other humans per diem in December than the rest of the other months combined. Unfortunately, most of those interactions are the result of mandatory work fun. 

As many of you know, I harbor a deep disdain for a variety of workplace traditions. Maybe all of them, actually. I hate the obligatory signing of a non-descript birthday card that some poor, abused office worker had to spend their lunch hurriedly retrieving and wondering if they would be able to be reimbursed for it. I hate the staff meetings where we act like the stale chips we found in the office closet will make our review of redundant agenda items more palatable. And above all, my beautiful butterflies, I hate mandatory work fun.

You know: mandatory work fun. It’s when your boss thinks it will help with “teambuilding” if you can all go do something fun outside the office together. Or worse: when your boss thinks it will help if you can do something fun inside the office together.

I have found this to be absolutely never true. Not once in my entire work experience have I been willing to pitch in more to lend Steve a hand with any of his tasks because I learned to respect and understand him more fully as a result of the way he handles himself after three tequila shots. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s just never happened for Steve and me that way.

Steve, just two tequilas in.

Steve, just two tequilas in.

That’s, of course, if Steve can even bring himself to drink in the first place. Mandatory work fun, in my experience, has meant happy hours where no one can actually drink because your boss is right there. And they’re usually talking about something horrible. Last Christmas, for example, my boss was actually doling out task items from the head of the table after pretending we were there for festivities; people had to get out notebooks or write on cocktail napkins. The Christmas before I distinctly recall a very vivid regaling by my boss of a stomach bug they got while traveling and the flurry of details that followed their plane ride back to the States.

I believe it wrapped up at about the same time our food arrived.

To add insult to injury, your boss won’t go where the office wants to go. In fact, they won’t even ask. They’ll just pick a place that matches their sentiments, which, as a rule, are almost never on par with everyone else’s sentiments. It will be a place where you can’t quite get comfortable with anything on the menu and even if you just do drinks you’ll be dishing out twice as much per beer as you would at your favorite joint down the street. Deep down, you’ll wonder if your boss will let the light of holiday joy infect their heart with the gift of giving by picking up the tab for the group or doing a round on them.

They won’t.

I’m barely a week into December and my planner is so rampant with mandatory work fun that even a frugal selection and a free parking spot each time will munch away a decent portion of my paycheck. Heck, my calendar is so rampant with required fake festivities that I can’t even get the time off I need for real festivities. Honest to all holy things the other day I was denied a day off the week of Christmas because I was told I have to be at work celebrating it with work folk.

For now, at least, I’m trying to find solace in the fact that there have not yet been plans announced for secret Santa-ing: my least favorite Christmas workplace experience. Perhaps this year I can be spared the terrible task of pretending to know someone well enough to purchase something they won’t regift while also not spending so much they think I make more than them or so little that they think I’m a cheapskate.

Why can’t we all just agree to keep the good parts about December in the office (the time off) and get rid of the bad parts about December in the office (everything else)?

Maybe unions should focus on these sorts of things. After all, these are the items that make a big difference in my daily life. Do you have any idea how much I would pay for a membership to a group that protects me from awkward office Secret Santas, terrible mandatory happy hours and required work festivities that override actual real non-work festivities? A lot. I would pay a lot. At least as much as the tab for my cheap beer and appetizers at mandatory work fun outings.

Unfortunately I’m not sure anti-work-festivities unions exist. At least, not yet.

It’s Christmastime, after all, and I do have a list to write.

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Goalsmack Month

3 Jul

Guys, it’s an important time of year.

I’m not talking about the birth of our great and glorious beer-drinking reality-television-watching nation or even the birth of myself (occurring the week thereafter but unrelated to beer or reality television) or Christmas in July. I’m talking about the halfway point to New Year’s Resolutions.

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that the beginning of this month marks the halfway point for my Fat Ass 365 Project, wherein I vowed to do something health-related and workout-y for 365 days in a row, culminating in a 10K at the end of the year. Back in spring I participated in a 5K to keep myself on track and accountable and thererin concluded that I would rather die a slow and painful death in private than to be forced to do it publicly by running a long distance race..

Unfortunately, I’ve already committed online, in person, over the phone, and in print- I’ve locked myself in via every communication channel possible. I even have an accountability buddy. That is, a buddy who will come the day of the race to knock on my door and drag me to the starting line. This, of course, is all part of a well-constructed plan by pre-5-K Jackie, who believed she could do whatever she put her mind to and didn’t want to put up with wussy Future Jackie’s sissy whining. She set up safeguards and guarantees to ensure that Future Jackie couldn’t wiggle her way out of anything. Post-5-K Jackie, however, has the good sense to acknowledge how incredibly difficult it was to simply jog three miles straight and isn’t “sissy whining” so much as she’s “certain she will die”. 

But it’s too late. I’m locked in.

Death impending or not, I’m halfway to the reckoning. A little closer, actually, since the 10K is late fall. That means that in two weeks I officially start my training schedule. It’s not official, really. It’s just a piece of paper I tore out of a magazine that promised me lots of things. 

So I’m staring down the barrel of my New Year’s Resolution. So far everything is on track. I’m still working out, I’ve cut down my complaining to occasional, and when I think about running a 10K I still puke a little fear into my mouth. How you doin?homer

Many of you are in the midst of grand undertakings as well. Some of you got started bright and early in the year and some of you just hopped on board recently. You can start a 365 any time, so if this paragraph has you feeling left out, feel free to jump in any day now. If you’re nervous about doing the whole thing, you can always start a 30 Day Challenge. The mention of either is enough to get me all hot and bothered.

While you’re all assessing progress, charting future plans, and/or scolding yourself for negligence, I’ll be paying extra attention to Jillian Michaels  and logging more miles on my bike in the hopes that I can lower my risk of Death-by-10K. Maybe if I kick it up a notch these two weeks before training, I’ll thank myself later. 

Unlikely.

But first I must celebrate the glory that is Old Glory. I plan to do so with two toddlers, a baby, and a kiddie pool. I made cookies. It’s going to be excellent. 

Happy Almost Independence Day/My Birthday/Christmas in July/Goalsmack Month. And don’t forget – it’s never too late to join the crazy. 

A Premature Christmasgasm

7 Dec

christmasgasm

My apartment looks like I threw three elves in a blender and left the lid off.

Man, I love the holidays.

I’ve gone in depth about my Severe Holiday Disorder (SHDD) in the past when I opened up about my deep affection for using Excel spreadsheets to detail my Christmas gift giving (Christmas in Excel).  That’s just the tip of the iceburg.  I actually start that spreadsheet in August because I can’t possibly contain all the Christmas-related energy I start to muster once I feel the chill of Autumn.  And I put all my energy into that spreadsheet from August until the day after Thanksgiving, when I’m officially allowed to barf holiday cheer from one decked hall to the other. 

Dave has a rule that I can’t put my Christmas cheer on display in our dwelling place until after Thanksgiving has been officially sent off.

It’s a fair deal I suppose, but I know it just stems from his bah-humbugginess.  It isn’t that he’s a Grinch so much as he’s just notably devoid of holiday cheer.  You know that moment when you’re walking downtown and everything is lit up and everyone is wearing Christmas colors and it starts to snow and people are smiling at you instead of cursing at you and you feel like there could just be peace on earth if mankind would continue to sedate themselves with cookies and shopping for all eternity?   He doesn’t get that feeling. He just, you know, exists. I usually have to pull him kicking and screaming down to storage to get out all the holiday-related things I’ve collected or stolen from my mother’s house.  I always mark the weekend after Thanksgiving very clearly on our calendar so that he can see the entire day is reserved for PreChristmasing.  

But  not this year.  This year, things were different.

You see, this year Dave is a mailman.  And before Thanksgiving I received a cheery phone call from this modern-day Santa, who told me that he was delivering packages and saw all the lights on people’s houses and was feeling funny on his insides.  I explained that was his heart growing three sizes bigger and he exclaimed that he wanted to string lights throughout all the house.

THROUGHOUT ALL THE HOUSE!

It was a Christmas miracle.  And now the apartment has holiday cheer in every single corner.  Except the toilet.  I’ll admit I saw the appropriate toilet-covering decorations at the store and that I may have stopped briefly to examine their properties, but so help me sweet Baby Jesus I will not decorate my toilet.  I have boundaries.

Even the babies.  DECORATE THE BABIES.

Even the babies. DECORATE THE BABIES.

Every other corner, however, is filled to the brim.  I have totes full of things I use on a regular basis that had to be put into storage to make room for things that have no practical function whatsoever but to be glorious tidbits of holiday cheer.   Dave was so excited he even went online to find a Christmas project and made a fantastical DIY Christmas tree in addition to our regular one.

We now have three trees.  Three.  Like a holy Christmas Trinity.

There is, of course, a bit of a downside.  Dave started feeling all jolly back in mid-November, but since then the ten hour days of hauling parcels from one house to another in the icicle-booger-inducing-cold in the name of Christmas cheer has kind of gotten to him. I fear he’s had a somewhat premature Christmasgasm and now every time he comes home all he sees is work.

It’s hard to be Santa.

I’m trying to come up with solutions that help me with my Christmas fix while also allowing him a reprieve.  My top two ideas are to cover everything in white sheets when he gets home  or to take a note from his favorite holiday and do some sort of Christmas-Halloween blend.

Of course, Tim Burton already did that.  I guess option two could just be to play Nightmare Before Christmas on repeat every night.

I do feel bad for the guy.  Besides the fact that his job is naturally difficult year-round and that he’s part of a company that’s going publicly bankrupt, every holiday season when most other folks are complaining about going to too many awkward office holiday parties, he’s hauling enough sacks of mail and truckloads of parcels from Santa’s sleigh to make him want to assassinate the jolly bastard.

Before I do any of those things, though, I’m just going to go with my gut and spew my holiday cheer on him every day from sunrise to sunset in hopes that I can reach that part deep, deep inside of him where he once saw a few Christmas lights and felt warm and fuzzy.  I figure it will drive him very severely in one direction or the other, and quite frankly if he’s going to assassinate Santa it’s better we know now so that we can set up a counter strike. 

I hope all that holiday cheer spewing doesn’t mean I’ll run out of steam before the big day.  My spreadsheet is only half complete.  There’s so much more to do – I can’t possibly have a premature Christmasgasm too. I CAN’T.

I can do this.  I can.  I just downloaded the Andy Williams Christmas album this week.  That’ll keep me going for at least another seven days, right? Right!? Wish me luck.  I’m going in.

♫ ♪♪ ♫ ♫ It’s the moooost wonderful tiiiiiime of the year (ding! dong! ding! dong!)….♫♪ ♫  ♫ ♪ 

The Holidays Make Me Want to Elope

28 Dec

 

Holiday vacation has convinced me of the need to elope.

I can’t tell you how many times in the past several days I have been asked the date, time, and specific logistics surrounding a marriage that has, in fact, not yet been discussed by Dave and I.  There were a slew of examples, but suffice it to say that the straw that broke the Jackie’s back was when my 12-year-old cousin was visiting us today and said “You’re the outsider.  Everyone is married and has a baby.  You aren’t even married yet.

Emphasis hers.

As you may imagine, this came as the caboose on a very long train of marriage questions I endured throughout the holiday vacation.  In a rather comedic turn of events, I realized for the first time this past weekend that Dave has a slew of grandmothers.  His family believes that you divorce a person, not a family, and thus has continued to welcome all once-members with open arms in a rather unique display of love.  As a result, he has no less than six grandmothers.  In fact, when I asked him to confirm my count, he replied, “yeah, that sounds about right”, indicating that perhaps he has even lost track.

And those are just his.

Think about that.  Really think about what it would be like to repeat the conversation you have with your grandmother each holiday several different times with several different grandmothers of varying moods, characters, and sizes.  How two people can be dating for four years and still not tied the knot eludes most anyone over the age of 60 and it’s bound to come up eventually.  At one point following a substantial intake of wine, I recall having my entire wedding planned before my very eyes.  Something like two locations, two states, and a neighbor’s backyard.  I also recall the words “pig roast”.

I don’t even have a ring on my finger.

Not that I mind that my hand is sans shiny bauble – I rather enjoy living like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.  Dave and I tend to think of it as if we have our entire lives to be married and our entire lives to have a kid, but only right now to be dating.  And we rather like it at the moment.  Anything further isn’t really anyone’s business in my opinion.  But nonetheless, opinions come in the form of pig roasts.

And so I’ve decided that when the time comes, David and I might be better off eloping.  Brides have a hard enough time settling in to their wants for the day without catering to others in medium-sized families.  Can you imagine the tug-of-war to be had with a family large enough to have an indefinite number of grandmothers roaming the earth?  Besides, I’d say the cost of even a modest wedding would easily hit a price point over that of say, a trip to Barcelona. We could hop a plane, do the deed, hang around for the honeymoon, and come back to whatever backyard barbecues anyone pleases, so long as they’re the ones handling the stress and cost.

I think it sounds like a solid plan.  Of course, now I’ve gone and planned everything out without the shiny bauble to provoke it. 

It appears the grandmothers have won after all. 

4 Notes on Better Gift Card Giving

26 Dec

I’m going to go ahead and venture into uncharted waters here.  I’m going to explore the unexplored – to encroach upon indecency.  I want to talk about gift card etiquette.

Let me start by saying that gift cards are a lovely thing.  They’re the perfect gift, if well-employed.  Being given a well-considered and well-delivered gift card for a special celebration can provoke a grown man to pee himself with glee (also known as Glee Pee or #gleepee).  In return for their generosity, the buyer typically receives discounts or a free gift card of a smaller amount at their favorite stores.  Thus, when properly employed, the gift card is the gift that keeps on giving.  When not properly employed, it’s a last-minute, lazy gift.  While still appreciated, it struggles to leave an impact.

So here are some of what I believe are useful gift card etiquette tips.  Somewhere out there, I’m sure there’s an incredibly official and highly lauded version of this already that the world has agreed on. If such a thing exists, I hereby declare my willful ignorance.  I am the original and only source for final consultation on these matters.

Be Sure to Notate the Amount on the Card. There are several ways to do this. You can simply write in a card what the amount is,

This is the look of grateful confusion.

along with a personal message.  You can write it in Sharpie on the back of the gift card itself.  Most stores have made this easy on you by setting up the world’s easiest Ad Lib so you can stop scratching your head on how to approach the issue.  “Happy Shopping from __________.  The amount on your card is _______________ and can be used in store or online.”  Or if you’re being totally awesome and shopping small business, you’re dealing in paper gift certificates and this is already handled for you (one more reason to shop small).  No matter which way you prefer, please don’t overlook this detail.  Though we’re thankful for any gift of any size, the difference between the way you thank someone for a $5 gift card and a $500 gift card are significantly different.   It’s like a piece of candy and a car, folks.  Give us a little guidance.

Do Your Homework. Now, I may be a little old school in this thinking, but I’m a firm believer that any gift that is given should be given with great thought.  There are some occasions which call for gifts of light and casual measure; hostess gifts, for example, are the kind that show appreciation for someone without making a personal commentary.  But when you’re buying birthday, anniversary, or holiday gifts, the occasion calls for some forethought.  You can say just as much with a gift card as with a hand-selected gift if you just put the same amount of thought into it.  Consider the stores your recipient likes to shop at.  Extra points if you pick a place the person would like to shop at, but doesn’t do so frequently because of the price points of that store.  If you give me a $50 gift card to a shop I usually can’t justify spending money in, you’ve just given me the best guilt-free shopping trip ever.  More bonus points if you check out the store’s price levels beforehand to gauge an appropriate amount.  a $10 gift card to a store that carries $250 shirts probably isn’t the best choice for a personal and impactful gift.

Get Creative. Consider grouping cards together or selecting a gift certificate for a  particularly great location.  For example, by purchasing a gift certificate for the movie theater and a gift certificate for a restaurant nearby, you’re giving someone the gift of an evening out.  Or if you give someone a voucher to a location near where they vacation or have always wanted to, you’ve just reminded them that you know what they love and given them a reason to go visit it.  Or even just coming up with clever labels for the way you give the gift (e.g. give them a gift card to a liquor store and a bake shop and label them “naughty” and “nice”).  Anything you can do to show that you didn’t just pick a gift card lazily off the kiosk is one step closer to a meaningful gift.

Be a Better Recipient. This is by no means required, but it sure does go a long way to show appreciation by sending the giver a text, call, or casual note mentioning a second thank you for the gift and what it was you just purchased with it.  I bought my brother and sister-in-law a gift certificate to an upscale restaurant for Christmas.  Ten months later, I got a text from him thanking me for a great anniversary dinner.  It’s a fantastic feeling to be thought of and to see how the person chose to use it.

So there you have it: four things I think everyone should bear in mind with gift cards.  I’d even go so far as to say that if you don’t want to consider the above when you’re giving a gift card or certificate, you might as well just stuff money in the card and scribble your name.

It will leave the same impact, but require less of you. 

Oatmeal and a Dream

25 Dec

My Christmas present this year came in the form of a dream.

Bear with me: I’ll be relatively brief.

I had been hired as an intern for an incredibly rude and demanding woman.  It was supposed to be an elite position – one that people fight to get.  So all the new hires were in her apartment, all dressed exactly the same, and all hanging on her every word.  After she dished out the first task, I was feeling pretty angsty and decided to go for a run in the hallway.

Please note: running has invaded my dreams.

But even running made me feel nervous inside, so instead I decided to prop myself up against a wall in the hallway and play with some sticky finger frogs.  Not sure where those came from – I think the kids toy fish pond at my family reunion when I was 8 years old.   I say outside the door and watched intern after intern rush out her apartment door all haggard and hurried, hoping for their lives that they wouldn’t make a mistake.

After I’d had enough of my finger frog fun, I ventured back into her apartment and slipped in unnoticed.  She whipped her head around, thinking of her next task and demanded that I carry it out.  I took a nice big breath, grabbed my stuff, and told her I’d rather not. She was confused and asked what exactly I thought I was doing.  I told her I decided this wasn’t for me and I was going to split.

And so I did.

It was epic.  It was like the end of The Devil Wears Prada, when Anne Hathaway decides that she wants to get back on track with her life and away from the pressure and stress from Meryl Streep.  Glorious indeed. 

I woke up feeling fantastic.  Today begins the first true day of vacation.  I have quit my job in my dreams and I have been liberated by my imagination.  Here’s to one full week of no stress, no angst, no pressure.

Merry Christmas, all.  May you find a way to escape your everyday stress and simply enjoy the day. 

Today’s chuckle shall be brought to you by The Oatmeal.  If you don’t follow The Oatmeal, or you think I’m talking about a food and not a web comic, you should consider changing your ways and forever brightening your life by paying it a visit.   So here’s a little Christmas cheer for one and all: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/christmas
 

Please Stop the Holiday Commercials. Please.

24 Dec

It's not Christmas until you get your kid a toy that makes them wet their pants

I’ve been away from television for quite some time.  But as it’s the holidays and most folks just sit around in front of the television until it’s time to carry out an obligatory tradition or two, I have no choice but be subjected to the doom tube.

Today I was introduced to the Wuggle Pets commercial.  Then some stupid dance Skechers that used ballerinas to sell what looks like a running shoe.  Then I saw a woman purposefully knock all her spices out of her cabinet so that the narrator could show me the solution to her intentional hand spasms. And then I gouged out my eyeballs with a dinner fork.

After you’ve been disconnected from the world of flashing lights and blaring voices, it’s a little shocking to be around it again.  There are all sorts of pop culture whosits and whatsists that I don’t understand and advertisements that are so incredibly stupid it makes me want to write a letter to corporate headquarters all over the nation.  Of course, this is really what I always wanted and the very reason I got rid of cable. For a while there, seeing a commercial for Wuggle Pets would have been ordinary to me.

Now it looks like certain death.

So I’m glad I’ve made that transition successfully.  The only unfortunate consequence is that now when I have to sit in other people’s living rooms for a significant amount of time, I get incredibly annoyed and upset by the yelling and screaming to buy products, the stupid reality shows that have people hooked (they’re scripted, people.  scripted.), and I mourn for the fact that I’m not doing anything constructive with my time. We could be playing board games or talking about life or going on an adventure together or volunteering in a soup kitchen or wrapping presents for kids in need or anything, really, except staring at a group of overexcited child actors freak out about a machine that lets them stuff their own stuffed animals. 

I know this is not a typical reaction.  I know.  I need to accept that Wuggle Pets are part of my reality and that turning a blind eye to them doesn’t mean they stop existing.  If I can just hold out for two more days, Christmas-oriented advertising will be off the playlist until next fall.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Try not to gouge out eyes with silverware. 

‘Tis the Season for Bad Decorations

23 Dec

‘Tis the season for white trash decorating!

One thing I love about Dave’s hometown is that  it’s almost exactly like my hometown except his is in New York and mine is in Pennsylvania.  It’s quite a bit more prosperous than mine was as well.  It’s kind of like his hometown is what mine would be if mine hadn’t shriveled up and died of weary old age years ago. It at least feels like home in a way, even when it’s not really home.  So on the way to his parents’ house for Christmas, I got a real dose of my own hometown loveliness: white trash decorating.

You know what I’m talking about.  Little random crap figures in the yard, Christmas lights that look like someone had a seizure in the middle of throwing them on the bush, and (Lord help us all), those huge, plastic, inflatable snow globe things.  Half of them have been there all year.   The other half are thrown in for good measure at Christmastime. 

Every time i see them, they’re only half-inflated and drowning in a sea of 10 others scattered about the sad, sad lawn.  

This is best case scenario here. Take half those bush lights and toss them to the wind, suck half the air out of the inflatables, and knock a few things over. Then we're in business.

Christmas spirit, indeed.

I’m not really sure why they bother.  Who looks out on a lawn of half blown up life-size snow globes, a few crooked cardboard stands, and a weathered sign that says “North Pole” and thinks they’re doing their part to spread Christmas spirit?   Of course, maybe it’s self-serving.  Maybe it’s a matter of tradition and they don’t think it looks  nice either but it’s what they grew up with so they keep doing it.  

Can you help me understand this?  Are you perhaps one of these people? Why do you do it?  Why do you lug all of that stuff out of your attic, basement, of what-else-have-you only to blow them up halfway with no semblance of order or preconceived strategy?  

I’ve thought about knocking on the door of one of these homes/shacks/trailers and asking why.  I’d be all sly about it and compliment them on the lovely job they’ve done. I’m sure they’re super happy with it and will be glad to tell me all about it.  Or maybe it will just be some guy in his underwear who complains about how his wife told him to do it so he just threw them all out there willy nilly like.  Maybe half-inflated snow globes are just a sign of struggling matrimony in small towns.

I think I probably cracked the code right there. 

Dear Post Office: This Is Why You’re Failing

21 Dec

Ah, graffiti. The fronds of malcontent.

Okay, to be fair, I’m sure you’re failing for lots of reasons.  A lot of them don’t have anything to do with you.  Online banking, email, and a general love and desire for more trees in the world among them.  Maybe something to do with the economy.  Maybe.  But I don’t know anything about economics.   All I know is you manage to complicate the shipping process beyond all human comprehension, and there is not one single post office in my area that doesn’t have a hell demon working the front desk when I visit.

Ever.

You see, I’m the kind of person that accepts that certain branches might just have a sour staff.  Perhaps they’re overworked or understaffed or generally malcontent.  Maybe everyone in the office is really quite lovely but the person who works the shift that I always chance to visit during is just a grumplepuss.  There are lots of things that could align themselves on any particular day that lead to an unsatisfactory visit. I accept these as challenges in the business place for which I cannot possible hold you accountable.  Sometimes there’s a bad egg that gets through the production process.  I understand. Really.  But I have visited no less than three offices in and around my neighborhood and not a single one has a pleasant person at the front desk.

Ever.  Do you hear me? Ever.

Listen: my mom works at the post office.  She’s been a loyal worker bee for well over a decade.  Because of this, I am wont to go easy on the post office folk. They have a rough gig.   That’s why I know the answers to their questions in advance (no, I’m not shipping a ferret, a bottle of  arsenic, or a box of anthrax, yes I do want delivery confirmation but not insurance), do my very best to be well-prepared before I make it to the counter, and when there’s a line, I remind myself that the post office has a lot of business to tend to during the day – most of which happens far behind the front counter.

I even try to be an advocate for the post office, and when I have a poor experience I go to usps.com and let you know.  But you don’t really want to improve.  I know this because when I go online and detailed my experience earlier this year when there were three people at the front desk, only one of whom was doing any work, the other two who were laughing and discussing procedures for Passports, and the one woman who was working was loudly complaining about her work conditions while a line containing half my neighborhood was bending out the door, you wrote back some garbledy gook about how the post office is busy and has peak hours and you’re doing your best.

That’s a bit defensive, post office, don’t you think?  You see, I want to be constructive.  I want to help you solve your problems.  I want to help you understand that when people can make the choice to go online to do all their business (or UPS, or FedEx, who you yourself do business with), they expect you to treat them well when they pay you a visit.   But I can’t help you if you’re in denial.

So let’s get real: ya’ll need to get some better customer service.

I still have to call my mother to figure out what ships where for how much and how big it can be.  Or what kind of paper it has to be wrapped in.  Or what happens if I answer the hazardous/liquid/fragile question with a yes.   You’ve got a very complicated system going on.

Now, I know you recognized this for a moment and attempted to put in self-service package centers in some of your lobbies, and I really appreciate that.  You also did the “if it fits, it ships” campaign with the flat rate boxes.  But let’s be honest: while that’s a good deal if I’m going to send a shoebox full of heavy metals from East Coast to West, it’s not the most cost-effective option if I want to send, say, a stuffed animal.

So why don’t you just have a person in the lobby to assist with these sorts of things? Why can’t I just put a banana on the counter and ask you to ship it for me? I don’t care if I have to pay a service fee.  I don’t care if I have to answer questions about the origin of my banana and my intent in shipping it.  I’d be so thrilled to talk to someone who is pleasant and wants to help me figure out how to get my banana from one place to the next in the most cost-effective, logical manner possible that I’d happily stand in line if you were understaffed, overworked, or – say – going bankrupt.

You know what? Not even a week ago I had a friend tweet about how she stood in line for a very long time just to get a book of stamps.  She didn’t know she could go online to order, get them from a brochure, or have them delivered to her by her postal carrier.

Hey: you know what you have to do.  You know what the problems are.  We’re confused, you’re over-complicated.  We’re busy and you don’t have the time for us.  We want to give you our money and keep you going, but not if you’re going to give us attitude and tell us how much you hate your situation while we do it.  So just put some smiling, patient faces at that counter, give us a shipping specialist with a heart of gold, and start spending your time educating people about how easy it is to order stamps from home so they get the heck out of line.

I’ve got stuff to mail. 

‘Tis the Season for Work Holiday Parties

16 Dec

Work holiday parties. Amirite?

So, last time this year I had just gotten my feet wet in the ponds of the corporate jungle. (Are there ponds in jungles?  I digress.) I was new to my department and I was still hourly so I could get out of quite a few obligatory holiday party invitations.  Some happened at night and I couldn’t work overtime, some happened during the day but I only had so many hours to complete a specific amount of work, and so on and so forth until I wiggled my way out of every possible outing.

This year, the game has changed.

I’m salary now, and my feet are no longer wet.  I’m fully submerged and drowning in the awkwardness of obligatory holiday parties.  Office creatures love food.  They adore it – they are almost entirely sustained on meetings, lunches, coffee breaks, communal candy bowls, and impromptu snack suggestions.  So naturally, they take kindly to gatherings of any sort that are wrought with food.

Better yet: food that can be written off as a business expense.

I’ve been invited to no less than eight holiday gatherings so far and it isn’t even the week of Christmas.  I’ve been unable to get out of four of them.  I have a 50% dodge rate, which in the corporate forest, is pretty good odds.

There are creatures who thrive on the suggestion of simultaneous mingling and food chomping. “Networking”, they call it.  I’m not really into it.  I don’t really want people to know who I am or what I do.  In my experience, the more people who know you and your position, the more people call on you to do things.  Since I’m an assistant to a high-level executive, I don’t leave my corporate cave so that people don’t  ask me for an appointment or try to pick my brain for how to best navigate difficult subjects in a meeting.  There’s nothing relaxing or festive about being harassed about why I won’t put someone on her calendar just because we both got to the cookie plate at the same time.  

I’ve been looking for a sweater with croissant-wrapped mini wieners all over it so I can hover by the buffet table unnoticed.  Turns out you can’t buy everything on Amazon. 

And listen – crossaint-wrapped mini wieners are not cheap.  While corporate is usually all right with expensing one or two major functions, they aren’t about to foot the bill for every little get-together.  There’s your floor, your department, your building, your unit, and your actual company party to all worry about. That’s before your actual friends at work decide to throw get-togethers.  Each one has a different clothing policy: wear an ugly sweater, don’t wear an ugly sweater, pay 5 dollars to wear jeans, bring a can of food for a homeless shelter and sport a wacky hat.  Each one has a different gifting policy: white elephant, traditional gift exchange, everyone donate to charity instead, or sort it out amongst yourselves and cringe when the boss’s gift isn’t well-received.   

By the time I’ve filed all the details for each gathering and burned a fresh stack of cash to attend them, I’m actually wishing I could just do my regular work and be left alone.  Call me an office Grinch, but there’s only so many times I can make jokes about human resources people or whatever happened at the holiday party three years ago (that I wasn’t even at, by the way).

Maybe that’s their plan.  Maybe this has all already been thought out.  Since people tend to shut down once the month of December hits, companies encourage frequent holiday party planning so that we’re coaxed back into the idea of putting in a solid 8 hours.  In fact, we’re so thankful that we don’t have to have our day interrupted by fruit cake and bad potlucks that we almost smile while we work.  It’s brilliant! Twisted, but brilliant.

Touché, corporate.  Touché. 

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