Sunday, November 25, 2012

Scrambled or Fried

I started drinking coffee occasionally a couple of years ago, and the habit has been picking up steam ever since. Until recently, though, I managed to stay firmly in denial about the chemical dependency aspect of regular caffeine consumption.

A few months ago we hired a new morning receptionist, and I was excited to train her on the desk and get back to my regular morning job in another part of the office. She arrived early the first day—having already drunk her own coffee—and I didn’t want to abandon her up front while I prepared my usual cup. It’s not as if it mattered. I could always pour some later in the day if I still wanted it.

About an hour into Sadie’s training, my headache started. Along with it came a cloud of foggy exhaustion that muddled my ability to explain the more involved office procedures.

I blamed Monday morning for my mental malfunctions, but the confusion only worsened as time went on.

By a quarter to one, I only had fifteen more minutes to hold it together before training was over for the day and I could address the pressing caffeine situation. I was babbling unnecessarily about some obvious reception process…

…while another part of my brain fantasized about breakfast foods.

Meanwhile, a woman headed toward the lobby doors from outside. I couldn’t tell at first if she was a new visitor or someone who had already checked in, and this dilemma was enough to overload the circuitry. Instead of offering Sadie advice for either situation, I pointed toward the entrance and shrieked the first thing that came out.

By the time the woman reached the desk, I was desperately feigning normalcy.

I was impressed that Sadie showed up the next morning for another day of working in a confined space with me. She did take precautions to avoid a repeat performance, though.

P.S. To anyone looking for the story of how I got a sewing pin lodged in my leg: It’s coming. I have to sharpen it up a little—improve a few points, sew up the gaps, take another stab at one or two things.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gimme Five

High fives work best if you focus on the other person’s elbow.

I learned this bit of wisdom a couple of years ago, and just a few weeks later it proved to be spectacularly true. A friend and I achieved, thanks to elbow sighting, a perfectly formed forearm arc culminating in a flawless thwack that rang out around us.

I stood back for a moment to reflect on the beautiful thing we had created.

Just then, someone else bounded across the room to congratulate us on our technique, which had impressed him from twenty feet away.

The Elbow Trick: It can’t lose!

Of course, solid fives also require situational awareness.

A few weeks ago, a client called my office with a problem that eventually took me, a department manager, two off-site staff, and half a dozen phone calls across three cities to solve. Later in the day, I was upstairs delivering mail when that manager spotted me.

Then she extended her hand at an angle right between “handshake” and “low five.”

I assessed the interpersonal factors involved as quickly as possible…

…and opted for the five. We made contact with a satisfying, elbow-targeted smack.

Then the person standing behind me placed the cell phone that the manager had been waiting for into her still-outstretched hand.

The Elbow Trick: It can still lose.