Archive for the 'business world' Category


Breaking points


Last night I got a call from Twila.  Twila hates the phone, despises it.  When any phone at all rings, irritation springs up within her and the look in her eyes is that of a trapped animal.  When it’s her phone that rings, it’s the animal to the tenth power.


She tells me her mind goes through a process like a flow chart:  after the irritation comes the fear—of an unwanted caller, of a wanted caller wanting to talk too long—and, if yes, she’s amenable to answer, she steels herself and answers gruffly; if no, she’s not in a place to deal with it, she presses “Ignore,” and sits for a moment in the spin of what just happened before trying to right herself.


And so it is that Twila rarely picks up the phone to “bother” anyone.  She wouldn’t want to put anyone through the misery of a call that wasn’t either pure business, very important, or emergency-important.


I understand Twila.  I used to work for her.  We’re kindred spirits, both of us soft and sweet dreamers, quiet souls content to be alone and amusing ourselves forever and ever.  We were once pretty, knotty pine pegs now with edges and corners from having been brutally pounded into the constricted square holes of the business world. 


Both of us just ended up in that world.  Our paths meandered that way and parts of us rose to the occasion and enjoyed the status and the money and parts of us rebelled deeply, eternally.  It’s just that I happened to have a little more resistance to stress built into my DNA than Twila does.  She had to leave to try and grow pretty and knotty and full of creative potential again.


And I stayed.


“Humans are more playful than I remembered…” she told me.


“Remembered from when?”  I asked.


“From when I only thought like a hermit and lived less like one.  From the days I had to show up at an office every day and act like I knew what I was doing…”


“Oh, right,” I said, smiling to myself.  “What brought this on?”


“Facebook,” she said.


“What on earth are you doing on a social networking site?” I asked.


Twila blew by the question.  Her hollow-sounding voice continued like her mind was off wandering, trying to make sense of things, while her mouth was getting distant signals from her mind, just moving, relaying remnants.


“People are more playful…  More like playful puppies than I remembered,” she said.  “And I realized I’m more like an old, mother dog…  Of course I’m not old or a mother…  But it’s my mind.  My mind feels old and tired, impatient with all the tail-chasing…  Do you know what I mean, Zan?”


“I know it like me, like you, Twila,” I said.


“I signed up to interact with Gina.  Do you remember her?”


“Yeah, yeah!  In Legal.  What a sharp lady!  Man, I admired her…”


“Oh me too.  Anyway, that was fun until others started finding me and I thought that was fun until I started getting invited and tagged and interviewed and poked and chatted to and my wall written on and the blow-by-blows of everyone were snowballing—Dick is now friends with Jane, Sally is barking at the moon, Bobby is pulling out the wedgy Suzy gave him—all threatening to roll me up until I became part of the impending, absurd avalanche…”


I waited a moment, heard her swallowing back a rush of emotions.  I thought maybe comic relief would be good about now, so I said, “Just a little too much like the work world, eh?”


I could hear the relief in her laugh.  And I could tell she’d broken free of being balled up, that she’d figured it out, what she needed to do, just in the telling of it to me.




“But nothing seems to change,

the bad times stay the same,

And I can’t, oh I can’t run.


Sometimes I feel, sometimes I feel,

Like I been tied to the whipping post

Tied to the whipping post

Tied to the whipping post

Good lord, I feel like I’m dyin”


“Whipping Post,” Allman Brothers Band



Ice ice berg

A colleague of mine, Gita, is in a fog again.  It’s a monthly pattern of late, seems like.  She looked up at me from her office khaki chair in her office khaki cube.  “I’m clearly having clarity problems,” she said with a half smile, the public view of an iceberg.  The rest of the iceberg, if you looked well into her eyes, was unresolved pain.


Duty called, the universally understood human duty to route a congenial pathway miles around a touchy issue or a point of contention, to diffuse a potential blow-up or tearful situation that wouldn’t suit a business environment.


This duty also includes imparting the sort of acknowledgment that glances off, but doesn’t further, the difficulty of the bottom of the iceberg.  Pulling off this delicate balance insures that the afflicted one won’t feel dissed coming up out of the agreement that now is not the time.  Later maybe, but not now.


I set a look of steel support in my eyes and patted Gita’s shoulder, more toward her back.  “Do you take something for these times?” I asked.


She looked down at her hands.  “No,” she said, and looked back up at me, searchingly.


Quickly, deftly, diving down to lift us both out, I switched the patting to a warm rubbing and allowed my eyes to soften, as if they were on a dimmer switch, to a hazy level of concern.  I smiled warmly, firmly, at her and said, “Come by my office after work.  I take natural supplements that really help me focus.  I’ll tell you about them if you like.”


Gita received this morsel of hope hungrily, gratefully.  Her eyes brightened with the joy and relief the mere promise of light brings.  I felt the heavy weight of a darkened life leave her body with each word that left her mouth, “Oh, Zan, thank you so much!  I will stop by to see you on my way out tonight.”


“Good,” I said, genuinely pleased. 


“I’m terribly sorry I couldn’t finish the Denver study in time for your ten o’clock,” she offered.


I said with assurance, “Not to worry.  I know enough about that project to hold my own in the meeting.  Just be kind to yourself today, alright?  That feasibility study can wait a bit.”


I patted Gita’s shoulder again, smiled warmly at her and left for the ten o’clock.  Truth is, I didn’t know squat about the Denver project but I’m a good bullshitter.




Anything less than best is a felony

Love it or leave it, you better gain way

You better hit bull’s eye, the kid don’t play

If there was a problem, yo, I’ll solve it

Check out the hook while my dj revolves it


“Ice ice baby,” Vanilla Ice



The games people play: Alpha dog

From a distance, it was a loud buzz of two female voices, first time lunch dates in the same playing field, vying for supremacy.  And everyone knows the ultimate victory in professional dominance is won most deeply lastingly lunch date by lunch date, client by client, coworker by coworker, by every one-on-one kind of relationship you can imagine, right on down to your drycleaner counter person.


Both women were impressively assertive, but of course one woman was more so–she exercised time-honored tricks of the alpha trade in talking loudly through interruptions from the other and laughing loud husky interruptions into the other’s dialogue–and within some small minutes, it was clear who the victor was.  Clear to both women, well understood.  There was a mental handshake and the pack babe backed down, bowed in honor to the alpha diva.


Hyde had vaporized, leaving Jekyll to continue the luncheon and all was well.  Loud, testosterone-laden barking had shifted into husky, low-buzzing estrogen tones.  There was a low-rolling urgency, pleasant to the ear, a competent, cutting edge tête-à-tête.


Although Pack Babe had acquiesced, never forget that she was a pro, too, and never allowed Alpha Diva to take her more than that one notch down.  She gave Alpha Diva her due respect but held true to her own vision of her internal worth, and Alpha Diva gave her that, respected her for that, let it go at that.