Business Learnings

Fact: Aspiration equals bifurcation

Freelancers often have extra time on their hands waiting for the next gig.

I spend my hiatuses thinking up facile little sayings that will be short enough for even my readers to memorize, and tailored to suit their vapid sensibilities.

These things just kind of flow through my brain. I don’t even know what any of them mean.

Like when I was taking a dump this morning, I came up with “aspiration equals bifurcation.”

I have no clue what that means. I was just passing the time. And a turd.

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Am I crazy or is there really a nugget of wisdom here.

Yes, and before I flush, I’d like to share with you my Business Learnings on the matter.

This one is quite obvious and simple.

If you’re not doing what you love for a living, and you’re not loving what you do for a living, but you want to do what you love for a living, you have to do what you do for a loving after you do what you do for a living, until such time as you can make doing what you love to love to do what you also love to do for a living.

Vince in Grey Lynn

If what I’m saying rings a bell, then you don’t need me to tell you that you’re in for a lot of hard work.

It’s going to be two full-time careers for a while, most likely until you’re dead.

A lot of entrepreneurs simply start out by putting in 18 hour days for months straight, just to get their startup off the ground.

That means it’s hard, but it can be done.

So don’t fret. When you are ready to swing from your occupational vine to the vine of your true calling, you can count on me for a tortured metaphor.

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What’s true for the business entrepreneur is true for the ambitious creative type.

Let’s say your day-job is ventriloquist dummy busker. Sure, it pays the rent, which because you live in a cardboard box means you have plenty of money for booze.

But when you tuck yourself in at night, you feel like something’s missing. No, your flask isn’t empty.

It’s the hollow feeling you get because you’ve always dreamed of being a famous mime.

Your real job begins at five o’clock. You rehearse all night, and you hone your performance on the open mime circuit, where you network with other mimes, but without ever saying a word

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That’s just an example. Frankly, I would love to see an open mime night, if it literally meant gutting mimes at the end of their bit.

It would have the added benefit of discouraging other people from becoming mimes. But if they still wanted to do the open mime night, and they don’t mind dying by evisceration, who are we to say no?

The real eye opener in this Business Learnings is why I would even bother making a joke about mimes.

When does anyone actually see a mime in Auckland? Except when Cirque du Soleil is in town, but that doesn’t count because they’re a bunch of pretentious Euro-twats.

But the bottom line remains the same. “Aspiration equals bifurcation” makes a lot of sense.

So, I haven’t completely lost my mind, is what I’m telling you.

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Pep for a dry spell

A contractor’s life takes so many sharp turns and spins, it makes you want to vomit on your computer.

But you stop yourself because you remember it will be hours before Jacquie comes home from work to clean up the mess.

You swallow your apprehension, along with some partially digested Weet-Bix, and you take your new freelance life one day at a time.

What other choice do you have?

Take a look in the mirror. What do you see?

A consummately unemployable wreck of an early middle-aged proto-carcass with awkward teeth and smallish man-boobs?

It should be. That’s what you are, my friend.

You are no doubt flinching in disgust. We all are.

But it’s just us talking, making candid assessments of ourselves. (Thus the mirror imagery).

So swallow your pride, along with some twice-digested Weet-Bix, and face the facts.

You’re a freelancer because nobody will tolerate working in the same building with you.

Fair enough. They have their own Weet-Bix to digest, a process that could only be hindered by your physical presence.

Plus, everyone knows you wear Birkenstocks.

Your career, you see, is exactly where it needs to be. At home, with the blinds shut, handcuffed to the bathroom radiator except for two 15 minute breaks for breakfast and lunch.

Look at yourself in the mirror again.

But this time, with as much dignity as you can muster, gaze into your own eyes and shout:

“I am a leper.”

Now let’s connect the two metaphoric images central to this post.

As I’ve so ingeniously demonstrated, the contractor’s life is a curvy, bumpy, quaggy slog.

When you’re working, the stretches are sometimes smooth, sometimes tough to navigate.

But when there isn’t any new work coming in, you’re spinning your wheels in a rut, doing nada but make the mud fly.

You shut off your engine. You shake your head, and you catch yourself in the side view mirror.

Then you look at yourself, and smile with pride, as you scream:

“I am a leper. And my car is stuck in the mud. Can someone please help? You wouldn’t have to come in direct with my hideous putrefaction. Just call the automobile club. I’d do it myself, but I’m afraid to lose what’s left of my last finger-stump. You know, because I’m a leper.”

There. Was that so hard? Even if it was, it’s better if you come to terms with your present, grim circumstances.

Because now you can look at the bright side.

You’ll be tempted to feel sorry for yourself. Work has slowed down, you’re unemployable, and frankly, when I see you coming toward me on the street, I duck into a nearby shop to hide.

Only then do I realize that I’m in Auckland, and the nearest shop is a 27 minute bus ride away. So, I’m fucked, because you’ve already seen me and hooked me into this stupid conversation.

You’re “sad because the work isn’t as predictable and safe as you’d like, despite getting some pretty interesting assignments that you’d never have gotten before had you not become a freelance writer?”

Which is what I’m saying out loud as I type this, in a mock baby voice.

In other words, you know what your problem is, you big baby?

You see your situation as a glass half-empty.

That could be a good thing if the glass is half-full of arsenic-laced Diet Coke.

Or just Diet Coke.

But for the purposes of this metaphor, let’s say the liquid in question is water. Mmm. You like water, right? Everyone loves water.

Are you seriously going to tell me that you won’t drink up that water because you think the glass is half empty, knowing all too well that the glass is half full (and not with a poisonous substance, at least not beyond human tolerance, you know this to be true)?

If that’s really how you feel, you need a spanking.

And I can’t wait to give you one.

Figuratively, I think.

Maybe your problem comes from you not looking hard enough in the mirror.

When I look at you looking at yourself in the mirror, I see a person who is completely self-absorbed.

Why are you still looking at yourself the mirror? That bit is dead. Deader than dead. Was probably stillborn. But in any case. Dead.

If you tried looking on the bright side for a change, instead of in the mirror like you always do, you’d see you’re not in a quagmire. You’re on an adventure.

Uncertainty is an acceptable price to pay for the relative freedom, and variety, that comprises the contractor’s work life.

To enjoy being what you do for a living isn’t enough to keep your business afloat, however.

This might be a drag to you, but you are running a business. A business called Me, Myself and I, for which there is no such thing as down time.

There are always plenty of things to do when you’re not working on a money-making project.

It can be bookkeeping, marketing efforts, picking out an ergonomic chair, getting into a dispute with a call center employee because they no longer sell the ergonomic chair you want in puce, and so much more.

In my downtime, I like to demonstrate my superior writing capability and lord its brilliance over my trembling readers.

That’s one of the reasons I keep this blog, obviously: to demonstrate to potential business partners that I’m the best source of the best creative shit to ooze out of a person’s brains ever.

You know what I mean?

So, for instance, today I wrote this poem, which I call Introductory Rates for First-time Clients:

I am a leper.

My car is stuck in the mud.

Can you help me?

Will you help a struggling leper?

I can help you.

I have metaphors, such as my career is like a car stuck in the mud, and when I look at myself, I see a self-absorbed person looking back, but with much of his face missing.

I am a leper.

My car is stuck in the mud.

Wink.

I’m on an adventure!

Will you help me help you?

Now you are saying yes.

Now I am locking my car and I am coming to you with an invoice, already.

Now you are pointing to my shoe, which I left stuck in the mud behind me

with my foot still inside

so, easy come easy go.

I’m a leper on an adventure.

Introductory rates apply!

The people seem to love it.

I post it on my blog, sit back, and watch the monie$ roll in.

Incidentally, I ran into the male Gummy Bear today.

He seems to have misgivings about his current sales role, cold-calling people to buy I forget what.

He told me that although he sometimes calls some of the women back after the shift to just “listen to their voices”, he doesn’t find the job challenging.

“Wha’ I go’ si’ behoind a desk for all day?” said the bear. “Leicester pe’pl are pe’pl pe’pl, if y’g’t m’y me’n’ng.”

“Yes, yes of course.”

And who could argue with him? He’s a big guy. He’s massive. He can lift a Sumo wrestler riding a giant pink unicorn named Sassafras.  At least that’s what his Linkedin profile says.

“I’m loo’n’g for another jawb now, but I’m ofa-quawified,” said the bear. “So I’s can take a break and rest me weary ‘ead wi’ a game of ‘Double Solitaire.'”

What the fuck is “Double” Solitaire? I saw an ad on Facebook for a game app by that name.

Usually I play solitaire by myself. As the name suggests.

Solitaire is French for “stupid, tedious game for people who need a life.”

Obviously, I play it all the time.

 But Double Solitaire?

Are there people so bored, who’ve given up on life so much that they will double-up on Solitaire?

Double Solitaire sounds like a game a giant anthropomorphized Gummy Bear would play.

It’s hard to imagine there are that many Gummy Bears running around, downloading Double Solitaire.

So, maybe there are other people in the target market.

People with split personalities, for instance.

It’s bad enough if you have more than one personality, but you’re extra screwed if all your personalities are the kind of loser who would play Double Solitaire.

But then if Double Solitaire were for people with multiple personalities, the makers would have to realize that each personality is a potential customer.

And if that were the case, why would they call it Double Solitaire. They’d do better if they called it Deluxe Party Solitaire with a note saying, “Great with 6 to 12 players!”

Oh, fuck. Where was I?

Right. Long story short, I was glad to have run into the Gummy Bear. He reminded me that as much as you worry about where your next gig is coming from, your work life is no longer highlighted by the brainless memes, game apps and office gossip that too often characterizes a nine-to-five job. Anything to break up the tedium of downtime.

So it isn’t so bad to be a leper after all.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

[[First draft. No pics. Light proofing. Pics later]]

How to resolve your inner conflicts

Earlier today, a friend confided his professional ambivalence to me over the phone.

This isn’t to suggest that my friend is ambivalent about phones. He uses them all the time. But it’s natural to sometimes be of two minds when faced with only difficult options. I believe resolution is always at hand, and I wholeheartedly agree.

My friend started in right away on his career woes. It was an obvious sign, a cry for help. I could tell by his pathetic sobbing.

There's light at the end of the tunnel. And it's not even a really long or particularly dark tunnel. So, stop your bitching.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s not even a really long or particularly dark tunnel. So, stop your bitching.

There is no better feeling in the world than helping a friend, letting him know it’s not the end of the world if I’m smarter than him. That’s why I gave my friend advice without him even asking. That’s the kind of guy I am.

Paying it forward is a way of life. When people give you good advice, share it.

Talking about it sharpens your own thoughts about your life goals. Of course, all the advice I’ve received from anyone turned out to be rubbish. So I had to make up something on the spot, and hope to god it was relevant.

Mixed messages.

Mixed messages.

What I came up with may sound strange, at first. But it is highly relevant to anyone stuck in work or life. People are the sum of all the stupid mistakes they’ve made. What harm could one more do?

Let’s say my friend’s name is Jim, but everyone calls him Jim.

Jim was at a crossroads. I don’t know why he had to phone me from a busy intersection, but that’s Jim for you.

Jim confided to me that he was at a crossroads. His job was going nowhere. He had pretty much gotten as high as he ever would at his firm, now that they’ve instituted regular toxicology screening. Jim wasn’t sure if he should find a job with a competing firm, or leave his sector altogether.

“Jim,” I said, “Have you ever considered telling everyone that you’ve joined Starfleet?”

The long ensuing silence on the line showed me that Jim was intrigued by the idea.

Eventually, I asked if Jim were still on the line. He said yes, but no, he hadn’t considered telling people he had joined Starfleet.

“I think it’d be a good career move for you,” I said. “A new employer; definitely a new sector, to say nothing of the Delta Quadrant. Plus, it will look great on your LinkedIn profile, and you get to wear a comfortable uniform.”

The best part is, I said at the end, when people ask what you do for Starfleet, Jim can say with a studied, casual shrug, “I go on adventures,” and then walk away, leaving the rest to other people’s imagination.

Friends and good advice go hand-in-hand.

Friends and good advice go hand-in-hand.

Jim didn’t know what to say at first. Then he said, “OK, but how will I make money?”

“Oh, you wouldn’t make any money,” I said. “But you would be institutionalized. Which is better because you won’t need money. And if you’re lucky, they’ll keep you sedated, and maybe even let you go on wearing the uniform.”

At that point, Jim had to get off the phone. I’d given him a lot of food for thought. What kind of friend would I be if I hadn’t?

Business smart, business heart

I used to think people who hung inspirational posters in their cubicles to keep them going through the day were kind of pathetic.

They were the twitchy type, the kind that could snap any moment.

I used to dread going to work for fear that one of them would crawl out on a ledge. I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation. Should I try to talk them down, or encourage them to jump, by showing them one of their inspirational posters one last time. Maybe the one that says YOU CAN DO IT! superimposed on a dewy meadow.

Pathetic or not, you can’t blame people for wanting to eke a modicum of joy from their inane work life. But you can help them improve their taste.

Most inspirational posters are hackneyed, life-affirming snippets that make you want to poke your eyes out. It’s usually something Gandhi or Maya Angelou said, and a picture of a mountain or a beach or a trailer park. Needless to say, these posters speak to everyone, which means they speak to nobody in particular.

That’s why I’m introducing a new feature: Basement Life Business Learnings ¡nspirationa!s.

These are little phrases, observations and bon mots superimposed on beautiful, professional-esque photographs, customized to address your specific feelings about your particular shitty job.

Feel free to peruse them. Select the one(s) you like, print them out, and tack them on your wall. You’ll thank me later.

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You schmooze, you never lose

Take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror if you can stomach it. It’s time for a reality check.  Your livelihood is at stake.

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Now answer these questions. Do you sense change in the air at work? Is it more than just the sales team using free samples of cheap hand lotion on a junket? Have you been called into a meeting with HR, only to find your manager grinding up and snorting prescription pain killers off their iPad? Have you been escorted briskly out of your office by two security guards, when you assured them three times that you were going and that you had only stopped that one time to pick up the rubber stress doll that kept falling out of your bankers box, so you don’t have to push so hard? Have you started to calculate how many hours you’ll need to busk on Queen Street to afford a pack of cigarettes. And do you actually know  the words to Hey, Jude? Or the chords, for that matter? Should you save yourself the trouble by simply pawning the guitar?

In this day and age, you can’t afford to not ask yourself these questions.

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The world is changing, my so-called friends. Media jobs are going the way of the dinosaur. If we’re lucky, we’ll all get trapped in a tar-pit and die. That’ll show those future paleontologists what it was like to have the lives drained out of us, staining the carpet around our cubicles. Which in many workplaces is a fire-able infraction. And when you do get fired, don’t think of yourself as unemployed. Think of yourself as a fossil sans portfolio. Take comfort in the thought that seven million years from now, a fourth grader on a field trip to the museum will get bored, pick his nose, and wipe the snot on one of your femurs.

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For the rest of us condemned to obscurity, there’s always schmoozing.

Whatever else changes, schmoozing is still the best way to move from a job to a career. If you didn’t just want to be a street level drug dealer, for example, but set your sights higher to money laundering services, you can’t just search SEEK, and presto. No. You have to have a sit down with the franchisers, and negotiate the terms. And there’s a whole lot of paper work to fill out.

Similarly, if you’re in media, and you want to move from a job to a work life that you love, you must schmooze. The word is so New York. It comes from the Yiddish shmuesn, which means “to chat”, and traces its origins to the late 19th century. This coincides with the huge migration of European Jews who stopped off in the Lower East Side for a pastrami on rye before heading off to Long Island. From New York, schmooze seeped into popular media, according to something I just thought of, and from there to the rest of the world.

Schmooze has come to mean chatting with a purpose, and for people in career transition, the purpose is making your brand known.

I wish I’d known this last night when I attended a networking function run by the Social Media Club of Auckland.

It featured a panel of music industry people discussing about how social media is changing the way they do businesss. This was my first SMCakl (pronounced “smackle”, apparently) event, so I was bit surprised at how quickly the discussion turned into a moderated chatroom with sound. Smackle encouraged the audience to tweet, with screens set up around the atrium at the Vodafone building projecting the Twitter feed. The seats may have faced the stage, but all eyes–including the panelists–were on the screens.

The challenge for me last night was I hate networking. It’s beyond my capabilities. Everyone I talked to was taller than me. It was like the troll scene from The Hobbit when the hosts ran out of pizza. The Vodafone atrium lights were harsh, fluorescently transforming me into a giant, grease-clogged pore. I’d been out schmoozing all day with potential business partners. I hadn’t shaved since Sunday, needed a haircut, forgot to shower for several weeks, wore my Birkenstocks and my second-hand suede jacket containing forty years of other people’s smells. And still I found it really difficult to talk to people. And far too easy to interrupt them mid-sentence and say, “Ok, we’re done here,” and walk away.

Conventional wisdom about networking would qualify that as a problem. Not me. If branding is about persona, I did exactly what I needed to do in pursuit of my new career as a middle-brow comedy writer, like the ill-begotten bastard child of George Carlin and Truman Capote. When people see me, I want them to say, “who let that in?” Personally, I never remember the people I’ve invited to parties over the years, but I sure remember the assholes I specifically wanted not to come but showed up anyway.

You may find it important in your particular field to actually talk to other people and not offend them in appearance and odor. I don’t judge. But whatever your dumb reason for doing whatever you do is, your best foot forward should be the one that people remember.

best foot forward

[[Third draft, tightening up the graph about my persona; getting it tight the first time. All photos by the author, except the graphic picture of his foot taken by Vera Supergenericgirl Alves]]

You exit your job with poise, not me

[[third draft, proofed by Vera Alves and some busy-body do-gooder. ]]

Fairfax magazines saw two big changes in the last two weeks.

The first one is that as of the July 5 issue, Fairfax will cease to publish Reseller News, which means I’m going to be out of work from July 4 onward.

In a completely unrelated development, the company just installed an automatic external defibrillator in the atrium.

Automated External Defibrillator

I’m not sure what to make of the phrase in quotes. Is it to hint that we are in fact allowed to fuck around with the AED. even when it’s not an “emergency”?

I like that the machine will talk you through it. But I’m sure we all know how to use a defibrillator from television. You rub the paddles together, jolt the victim and then start chest compressions, while shouting, “Don’t quit on me, man. Live, damn it, live. Don’t give up on me.” But it might be more fun to let the machine say it.

I’m not the only person being made redundant. It’s me and nine other people. I feel bad for them. And I feel awesome for myself. Because this turn of events has actually had a positive effect. I feel confident about myself for the first time in my life, even though I’ve decided to switch careers entirely, and seek work as a comedy writer. So, the other plus to the change is I’ve gone completely insane. The transition was subtle–I hardly noticed the difference.

Except that with my new self-confidence, I realize there need to be some changes around here. I know all of you people look up to me as some kind of demi-god, as a gladiator of the arts and letters. I’m like Gertrude Stein, with an extra penis. Picasso’s.

Anyway, I appreciate your adulation and support, but really. It’s not nearly enough.

This Zarathustrian transition will be hardest on those I speak with face-to-face. Because I tend to spit on them a lot when we’re talking.

That used to make me feel remorse, and I would apologize to them for spitting. And without fail, they will always answer, “You didn’t spit on me.”

Bullshit. You know very well I spat on you. You’re just trying to make me look like an idiot by being the one to draw attention to the spit. And you don’t respect my culture. I come from a long line of spit-talkers. Thanksgiving growing up was like a bunch of dueling automatic sprinkler heads. We are a moist, expressive people.

Similarly, if we part after spending time with each other, I refuse to take care not to run into you again after saying goodbye. It happens too often. You go to a business meeting. You make an excuse after 20 minutes to get back to the office. And after saying goodbye, you run into each other, in the elevator, or at the adult video store inside one of those booths.

The awkward re-meet is one of the biggest pains in the ass in public life, and you should all know that I have spent much of my time not just avoiding the re-meet, but of meeting in the first place.

No more. In fact, you can expect from me not just one awkward re-meets, but several in the same night. I may turn up in the elevator. I may turn up already tucked in your bed. Doesn’t matter. Because I’m not going to be taken for granted any more. Which means, to all you workmates, mates and mate, buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Doing the Parnell Hustle

I never knew what a hard-sell was until we moved to Parnell.

I’m referring to the small, family run fruit-and-vegetable operation up on Parnell Road, near the Japanese joint; one of them mother-daughter situations.

Until yesterday, I’ve only ever transacted with the daughter. She is courteous and efficient, doesn’t interfere, mainly because she finds the whole situation hopelessly dour.

At least that’s the impression she gives. It’s a resignation, but not in the slump-shouldered manner in which I carry mine. She just looks like she knows that every day, her customers rely on her to ring-up and bag their fruits and vegetables, which used to make her want to put a shotgun in her mouth.

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Not anymore. She is a beaten soul who does her job adequately, and keeps to herself, which is why it’s always such a pleasure to see her. In and out. No chit-chat, no hard-sell. No wonder she’s been the Parnell Merchants Association “Produce Salesperson of the Year” three years running. Keeps one of the certificates on display somewhere under the mints and chewing gum.

The mother is a different story. Jacquie warned me a long time ago. “Stay away from that woman,” Jacquie said, dressed in a fortune-teller costume she sometimes wears to work, “Yesterday that woman used her evil powers to make me buy a half-eaten apple. And it wasn’t even that good.”

If only I’d listened to that crazy old gypsy woman. But then I never would have seen for myself how spot-on Jacquie was. I understand now why she always says, “Keep walking, keep your eyes down” whenever we’re shopping for fruit and the mother happens to be lurking.

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Yesterday, I made dinner because Jacquie was in a temporary coma and didn’t have time. So I planned our meal and went for a few ingredients at the stand.

It took some time for me to shop. For instance, not being sure what an onion looked like, I walked the two aisles for about seven minutes. I was fine once I did a Google Image search. But my lingering attracted the mother’s attention, not out of suspicion, but out of hustle.

She started asking me if I wanted to buy something she was holding in her hand. It was labeled in Chinese, with a picture of something I wasn’t sure was intended to be eaten.

“You buy this,” the mother said.

I said I didn’t need it and she quickly put the box back on the shelf, and came back with a bag of yams.

“It’s good, you buy it.”

I said no again.

The mother spent a lot of time pushing a tray of various fruit sliced up. It was getting toward the end of the day, and she was anxious to clear the inventory before it spoiled.

“It will make you strong.”

I said no, but a few minutes later, when I went to pay, she came back out from the register to make one last pitch.

She picked a tray out and tried to put it in my hands.

“It’s good, you buy it,” she said.

“I have bananas at home.”

She drew closer, and patted me on the belly.

“It’s good. Fruit for dessert. You buy it.”

“No thank you.”

“Sliced apple, orange.”

“I have fruit at home.”

“Kiwi fruit, orange.”

“I eat bananas.”

“This has no bananas.”

“Oh, that’s too bad.”

I felt bad. This woman was really putting her all into the sale. But she didn’t provide any metrics, or demonstrate a total cost benefit analysis, and how she was working without a PowerPoint presentation, I don’t know. Let’s just say she couldn’t justify my $3.95 investment in fruit when, as I told her, I already had some at home if you count the chocolate covered cherries molding on top of the fridge.

I watched as the mother replaced the fruit and returned to the counter, looking at my purchases and rubbing her hands together. She was completely unfazed. She knew she was not closer to hitting her quarterly targets, or winning that set of steak knives, yet her spirit was not crushed. The mother pointed at each item.

“Onion, pepper and noodles,” she said.  “Stir fry for dinner. It’s very good.”

And she continued to praise my good taste and judgment in my evening’s menu choice, right through until I left the store.

 I thought I’d gotten away with it, but annoyingly, as I returned from the dairy with milk and bread, she stopped me on the sidewalk.

” You came back,” she said, and went to get the fruit.

Which I ate later for desert after the stir fry and chocolate covered cherries, which made me vomit, so none of this mattered anyway, in the end, but that’s another story.

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Getting the hang of LinkedIn

Do you enjoy having your skills endorsed by your LinkedIn connections?

I love it.  First thing in the morning, I’m on LinkedIn. Finding an endorsement for allegedly being able to do anything makes my day.

Without regular endorsements, I would be forced to go into the manager’s office and stab myself in the neck with a letter opener as I handed her that week’s time sheet.

Not something anyone wants to see happen. But at least I’d still get paid. And I may even get sick leave for it.

So, yeah, I rely on endorsements, within reason. How else are you supposed to know you’re good at something if strangers and casual acquaintances don’t tell you so?

Fun with apps

As un-stabby as an endorsement makes me feel, I now have second-thoughts about their value, professionally speaking.

Endorsements are inherently qualified. In my experience, the only people who endorse you are the ones that know you well enough to be overcome with pathos and charity. Endorsing should have been one of the beatitudes. Blessed are they that endorse on LinkedIn, for they who love to be endorsed are some sorry-ass motherfuckers. 

So, maybe it’s your buddy endorsing you. Or maybe someone wants to be endorsed in return.

But what exactly are we endorsing?

More fun with apps

Last week, I wanted to endorse my buddy so that they would endorse me in return so I wouldn’t have to stab my neck for the fifth time that week.

The way LinkedIn works, it asks you a question. So for my friend, it was “Does ___________ know about Newspapers?”

Well, I should fucking hope so. Newspapers have only been around for like more than two centuries. Who doesn’t know about newspapers? You’d have to have been freeze-dried in an avalanche 22,000 years ago in present day Switzerland to not know about a fucking newspaper. My 10th grade English teacher spent half a class period teaching us how to properly fold the New York Times for when reading on the subway. And they say public schools are going down the toilet.

Parnell at night

LinkedIn sometimes asks loaded questions, like, “Does ___________ know about Proofreading?” Was their last email rubbish? Is this a rhetorical question to underscore  someone’s inability to string together two coherent sentences?

See? There’s just no way to know.

Some questions are rather vague. I really don’t know how to answer “Does ___________ know about Swedish?” Swedish what? Meatballs? Same goes for “Does ___________ know about Wireless?” for which I selected ‘yes’ because I happened to know what kind of bra this person wears.

There was a serious typo in one question: Does ___________ know about CRM? Uh, I have a question. Does LinkedIn know about Spellcheck?  The word you’re looking for is C-R-I-M-E, dumbass.

Sky, afternoon, with Paper and Procreate
You get the picture.

The point is you have to be wary of LinkedIn endorsements. Sometimes, payforward is a bitch.

Supermarket sociology 101

Think about the people who you admire the most.

Take your time.

They kind of suck, don’t they?

We all do. That’s what defines humanity as one big family that really, really sucks.

I’m not saying everybody sucks all the time. Far from it. But if we didn’t suck for a significant, notable portion of our waking days, would people ever have needed heroes, saints, or my blog?

This isn’t something that I just came up with. It’s from the hours and hours over the course of my life that I’ve wasted in supermarkets.

Supermarkets must circulate an airborne compound that reduces people to they way we were when we realized we had moved from the world of the simians to a new, elevated form of asshole.

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It’s not that people’s intelligence quotient, per se, drops precipitously when entering a supermarket. (Assuming they survive the passage through the automatic doors). Supermarkets want you to spend, so they will leave people with an adequate supply of brain cells to remember their PINs with. Any more stupid-compound in the air, and the supermarket would have to initiate a “special needs” aisle just to keep the lines moving.

Which is, of course, an abortive concept, when considering that a “special needs” aisle would be completely lost on the shoppers that needed that aisle the most. Pretty soon, supermarkets would have to assign staff to round them up every so often just to get them to the special needs aisle in the first place. Sort of like what they do already with the carts in the parking lot, only with a moron attached.

No supermarket is going to do that. Are you kidding me? It’s bad enough they had to surrender the choicest parking spots to the preggos and toddler-laden. Supermarkets know full well that they would turn over a lot more cash per hour if the spots closest to the doors were reserved for the right demographic. These are the people guaranteed to spend the least amount of time shopping, making room for others of their kind on a regular basis.

This segment includes men shopping by themselves, OTC drug abusers, and shoplifters. I’m getting screwed out of a good parking space in three different ways.

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You might think of a supermarket as the most reliable place to find life’s essentials. Why, you could be blindfolded, and still find the pork rinds, cheese-spread, word-search puzzle-books, and canned spaghetti, without knocking that many things or people over. Believe me.

These days I’m treating trips to the supermarket as sociological field research. As I’ve explained to the managers at Countdown over and over, I’m only trying to learn about the human condition when I follow people through the aisles, taking notes, and occasionally crashing my cart into theirs and blaming them for the collision. This isn’t some crazy stunt. It’s academic rigor.

Ultimately, the supermarket is where people go to suck the most. And wherever these assholes go, that’s where you’ll find the sociologists.

In this scientific-y light, looking upon supermarkets as dispassionately as I now do, you will come to understand that all supermarket shoppers, regardless of their class, ethnicity or gender, are assholes.

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This is not completely their fault. A supermarket is never designed as a communal space, but as a conveyor of individual selection. So if someone is blocking the aisle because they can’t decide between Schwepps Ginger Ale and Home Brand, you would be technically correct to identify your subject as an asshole. But you have to be true to the context. It is probably the first time in hours, if not days, that this person has not been in a seated position at home, in a car, or in a cubicle. Try to remember that the next time you start hitting one of these assholes upside the head with a box of Cheerios. I can’t stress this enough. If someone had only warned me about interacting with assholes out in the field, I’d be published in a journal by now.

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Don’t think that I’m excusing this behavior at all. Not everything comes down to nurture.

I’m having trouble categorizing my latest subject. It was 3:30 on a weekday afternoon. I had just pulled into the children’s parking lot to replenish my supply of word-search puzzles, before getting in the queue for the self-check out slots. There were three or four people in front of me, and it took longer than necessary to wait for a station to open, thanks to my subject. It seems that the woman decided that this was another great opportunity to teach her five-year old daughter about how the world works, and have fun doing it.

I give it up to the girl. It only took her 18 tries before she got the litre of skim milk scanned. She had a little trouble with the bananas, but after about an hour, it all worked out. As in so many cases like this, it wasn’t the child that was at fault, but the mother, who qualified under academically sound guidelines, as 100 percent asshole.

I really don’t think you can attribute this case to a differential between personal and public social spaces. After all, I’m sure this wasn’t the first time she took her child to the supermarket. Had she been paying attention all those other times, she might have noticed the line forming thanks to her sprog’s adventures in point-of-sales technology.

This is the pathology of a particularly acute asshole, one who imagines that everyone else in the world is going to love participating in her child’s personal development. Oh, fucking joy. Don’t these people understand that some people have places to go, like one of the stalls in the men’s room at the office, which is the only place where I can really get some word search puzzles done.

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Of course, without more data, it’s impossible to know why this mother behaves as she does. One theory is that she has had so many children in quick succession that some of the blood that other people normally have flowing to their brain just said “fuck it, we’re just going to end up coming down here again”, which is not an efficient distribution of oxygen to anyone’s system.

But, as I say, one can never know. But one can make an educated guess.