Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Social Interaction - Quiet Vinny.

I recently figured out one of my main problems. No, not that one! The other one of my main problems. Nooo... Not that either- Wait! I do that? Okay! Let's not get off track here. Just stop listing them for a sec and pay attention. I'm referring to the issue I have when it comes to talking to people.

Despite the amount of words I've put down here on the blog, I forever remain a crappy conversationalist. Fact is, if you met me and we had to have a face-to-face conversation it would probably be a painful experience for all involved. I like to think it's because I'm not a people person. I think I mentioned that a few times in the past. I'm awkward when it comes to communicating verbally. Not because I can't think of what to say but because, whenever someone talks to me, a million thoughts about possible responses swirl around in my head and I get confused. This leads to such gems as saying the wrong thing, not getting the words out properly and – my all-time specialty – talking too fast.

I've thought of ways to fix this but nothing has ever really worked. Friendly and polite have always been my “go-to” states. These, however, are not natural for me. Growing up, I had to work at it. I decided that the mannerisms of a friendly person were what people considered acceptable so I just went with it. (Because what else does an eight-year-old think about?)

After I left the bank, where being fake-friendly was an actual job requirement, I'd gotten my fill of it. I decided to let more of my cynical, dry wit out and it worked pretty well... That is, until the new super-religious supervisor at my next place of employment thought these traits were undesirable of someone working under her and set out to have me removed (I'll mention again that I was never cynical to her). I didn't want to be fake-nice but after that experience I was convinced my initial theory was correct. As a result of all this I'd resigned myself to my awkwardness.

Until recently, that is. See, recently it occurred to me that I was looking at the problem all wrong. I don't always have to have something friendly to say or even something witty. I don't need to improve my conversation skills. I need to do away with them altogether. Well, mostly.

Stay with me here.

You know those guys who keep to themselves, looking all serious and deep in thought and badass. They usually don't say much aside from the odd grunt or one-word response. That's me! I could totally do that! I mean, I already do it sometimes. What I need to do is step it up and be the quiet badass all the time. No one expects the quiet badass to say much. No one expects the quiet badass to smile and feign politeness. The badass does not need to try to be the life of the party.

Have you ever heard of Batman telling jokes during the Justice League weekend barbecues over at Superman's fortress? No! Batman is the one silently examining the pent-up alien beasts in Superman's zoo, figuring out at least eight different ways to subdue and recapture them should they ever escape. No one ever says, “Hey, Bats! Tell everyone about that time you...” No! They all take a vote as to who will approach him to ask if he wants a beer and pray he doesn't karate-chop the unlucky sap through a wall for sneaking up on him too quietly.

I could totally be Batman!

I wish I'd figured this out before! So many wasted years trying to be “social” and “friendly” and none of that was ever truly in my nature. Sure, I'm a nice guy and I'm not denying that, but that doesn't mean I want to talk to you. I honestly don't want to participate in a verbal discourse on how hot it is today. No, I do not care to elaborate on what I meant by “Meh,” when you asked me how my day was going.

Of course, it doesn't help that whenever I don't feel like communicating someone is always there to chime in with a, “Hey, Vinny. You okay? You seem quiet today.” I hate that! Thanks for the concern and all but I just don't feel like talking. That's all! That's it! I'm not upset, I don't need to open up and I don't have a problem I need to get off my chest. Yes, I am sure. I just want to be quiet. It's nice. I like it.

Jeez! It's like society is forcing me comply with their mass-produced standards of social interaction. But I ain't your robot, man! I'm totally not going to dance to your little tune while you pull the strings on my cheeks to make me smile so you can feel comfortable. And I sure as hell ain't going to conform to your fascist rules about mixing metaphors... Man!

Imagine the freedom. I'd never have to fumble for words again. Even better I won't have to pretend to be extra nice and smile just to make others more relaxed. I can finally be the badass I was meant to be!

Now all I need is to get people to stop bothering me. Karate-chopping someone through a wall might seem a bit extreme but I'm fairly certain it'll get the point across.

Friday, May 2, 2014

I Have No Idea What I'm Doing - The Return.

I’m afraid I'm going to gripe a little bit so bear with me. Remember a few months ago I told you all about my employers deciding to exploit make use of my past experience as a reporter and putting me on a special assignment to write a white paper? Sure you do! This, as I mentioned, resulted in my being unceremoniously pulled from my desk, my duties and even the building and being shipped off to the Central Office where I and the other three members of the team would spend our days toiling away on the deserted top floor.

Then, of course, the HR girls were taken away too. I never mentioned this but, at my old desk, I was surrounded by the pretty girls from HR (Seriously, it’s like baring a resemblance to a porcelain doll is one of the hiring criteria for that section). I wasn't in HR, mind you. That was just where they had room to seat me that was closest to my department.

I'll admit I didn't mind this too much.

Still, aside from all that and me having to spend four times as much in transportation costs (No, I wasn't being compensated for this), it actually wasn't so bad. The team got along and, while progress was slow, we were actually starting to get the thing going. The whole point of us being transferred was to prevent us from being distracted by anything else. We were supposed to focus on the white paper and the white paper alone and get it done as quickly as possible.

For two months we battled traffic, parking issues (the other three drove) and the lack of decent lunchtime dining options (there are places you can get food but they’re all very far away). The people on the ground floor didn't like us very much, even though we all worked for the same government ministry (related to aforementioned parking issues) and sometimes the air conditioning on that floor broke but we persevered.

Now, we’re back. As of two weeks ago our long trips to Central came to an end and we were called back to base. You’d think I’d be happy now. Right? Now that it’s all over I get to return to my desk, resume my work and patiently endure the HR girls’ cooing over how much they love each other’s hair/shoes/outfit/etc. I would have been happy, if that were the case. See, the project isn't finished... I think. In fact, things are getting more and more confusing.

Let me explain.

Recently there has been some reshuffling of senior positions at the Head Office which forced our team leader, a Divisional Director, to have to return to base to assume some new responsibilities. With him being called back it made no sense to leave the rest of us there so they brought us in as well. The project isn't over. We’re just continuing it at Head Office... in the middle of all the distractions they wanted us to stay away from...

This, in itself, is annoying but the real problem is that the entire project has become an afterthought to the great big heads upstairs and no one is really taking it seriously. The team leader is too busy with his new responsibilities and they've separated all the members of the team as far away from each other as they could. However, since it hasn't officially been declared dead, I’m stuck here, one floor below where my real desk is, plugging away at it, wondering if there’s even a point. Added to that, they’re slowly starting to squeeze other tasks that have nothing to do with the project into my portfolio.

Then I saw an email from someone in the division wondering when I was planning to meet with her and officially assume the duties of my desk...

I don’t mind being given something to do. Don’t get me wrong. What I do mind is being taken from a division where, at least, I had some experience (and something nice to look at when I got bored) and being put in one where I had almost zero usable skills. While it is true I felt a little overwhelmed from time to time, at least I knew enough to fake it when I had to.

Helping write the white paper was an exception. This division I've been dropped into now deals with things like creating policy and a whole host of things I have never dealt with or have never been trained for.

Still, everything’s up in the air at this point. Just as I have been receiving little-to-no information on what’s going on, I think it’s safe to assume I’m not the only one and a lot of them don't really knows I’m only here on loan. In the end, I may end up being left alone to finish what I was sent here to do and go back to my “home”, surrounded by the pretty HR girls just one floor above.

I hope...