Biff Sock Pow

Finding the humor in everyday life.

Archive for the tag “Workplace humor”

Solving For X

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I went through most of today feeling sort of gobsmacked, much like the fish that float to the surface of a lake when an efficiency-minded fisherman decides to fish with dynamite.

What caused this smacking of the gob, you ask?

Well, it was caused by the fact that I didn’t have to go to work for four whole days due to the July 4th holiday weekend and today was my first day back at work.  Like most people, I loved every minute of being off.  However, there is a dark side to being off from work.  And that is:  you have to go back to work at some point.  And the longer you are off, the more of a shock to the system it is when you have to go back.

I have always heard people say things like, “Man, I loved being on vacation, but after X days I was ready to come back to work.”   The variable X ranged anywhere from one week to four weeks or more.  I have been unsuccessful at figuring out what that X is in my own life.  In the course of my long career, I have been off anywhere from one or two days at a time to nearly three weeks on a row.  In none of those instances did I ever say I was ready to go back to work.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  The longer I am away from work, the less ready I am to go back.

I’m pretty darn sure I was supposed to have been born into the “idle rich” class.  I would love to spend my days practicing falconry, assessing polo horses, taking up yachting, playing chess with living chess boards, having tea on the east lawn, and losing large sums of money in Monte Carlo and laughing it off as being just part of the game.

What I’m NOT suited for is being awakened harshly every morning at 6 am by an obnoxious alarm clock so I can shuffle off to create ephemera for amorphous clouds of management in order to satisfy vague objectives.  When I get home at the end of the day and am asked “How was work?“, my usual answer is, “I’m not sure.“, though sometimes I will answer, “There’s no way to tell.”  To-do lists were created, tasks completed, and then dutifully checked off of the list.  But if someone were to storm into my office and say, “Biff!  Show me what you’ve been doing all day!“, I would have to gesture vaguely towards our company’s server farm and say, “I rearranged the alignment of millions of microscopic bits of magnetic particles.”  More than likely, that person would say, “Good job!  Keep up the good work!” and then would de-materialize in front of my eyes.

This easily explains why I’ve never been able to find the quantity of days in a row I’d have to be off from work before I’d say, “Man, I’ve really enjoyed being off from work for 75 years, but I think I’m ready to get back to work now.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Stimulating Simulations … or Simulating Stimulation

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It was a quiet day if Biffville.  I spent most of the day with my head buried in a spreadsheet that was so complicated that I began to doubt my sanity.  After all, no sane person would attempt to simulate real life within the pivoting matrices of a recalcitrant spreadsheet.  That’s what Visio is for.  With Excel you can, at best, create some crude 2-D simulations of rudimentary real-world processes.

Later in the day, I began to question my own existence.  I have read that the universe as we know it is just some grand simulation that a race of super beings is running for purposes we cannot fathom (my guess is a government grant).  If that is true, then why am I creating simulations within an Excel spreadsheet that approximate portions of real life … or what we think of as life?  Are there little people running around in my spreadsheets who believe they are thinking, living beings, but who are, in reality, merely references to other tabs and other cells (and probably the wrong ones, at that)?

It was too much for my feeble brain to churn on so I was glad when 5:00 rolled around and I was able to flee the scene of so much simulation.

Or did I flee the scene?  Perhaps I’m still there and the grander simulation is able to have me in both places at once: at my desk at work and also at my desk here at home.  Is the code of my life re-entrant?  Or is my stack about to overflow?

Perhaps my employer misunderstood me at my job interview many, many years ago when I mentioned that I wanted a job where I was constantly stimulated.  Perhaps they heard “simulated”, for I am pretty sure the past several years have just been a poorly constructed simulation.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac – Friday Finally

writer

Friday is finally here, and not a moment too soon.  I don’t know how much longer I could have gone on with the workweek that just ended.

You might have noticed that I have not posted in awhile, though I flatter myself to even think that.  Well, the reason for my absence has been a perfect storm of events.  Each of the events, if isolated and looked at in a vacuum, are singularly uninteresting.  However, taken as a whole, and observed as the swirling variegation of events that they were, they remain just as uninteresting and probably a little more so.  It is the same sort of uninteresting you experience when someone relates to you a long, drawn-out, incoherent dream they had.

So I’ll just sum up the whole tiresome mess in as few words as possible.

A.  I have been putting in a lot of hours at work.  In fact, I had my 40 hours for this week in by Thursday morning.

B. My spending so much time at work has taken up all the time that I might have spent doing something more interesting.

C.  Even in my free time, I don’t do anything that is interesting, so scratch item #B above off of the list.

I think that is about it:  lack of free time and lack of anything interesting in my life to write about.  I probably could have just written it that way up front and saved us all a lot of time.  But it’s too late now.  The damage is done.  You cannot unread what you just read and I certainly cannot un-write it (though I suppose I could just delete it all, but I have too much invested in it at the moment to let it go).

And to top it all off, I think I am catching a cold.  I began getting a sore throat yesterday afternoon at work.  It was significantly worse this morning when I woke up, but a good dose of Tylenol, a hot shower, a cup of hot coffee, and gargling with Listerine downgraded my condition from “extremely miserable”  to “merely miserable”.  The sore throat has just become scratchy and raw.  The lack of energy and general malaise persists, but I am hoping a full weekend of intense lethargy and idleness will cure that.

Though I’m not sure if my body will ever forgive me for gargling with Listerine.

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Thursday Evening Edition

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It has been an arduous journey, but I have managed to stagger from Monday morning to Thursday evening.  I still have the Friday workday to get through, of course, but the weekend is so close that I can practically smell it.  It smells sort of like funnel cake at an outdoor carnival.  It is the aroma that helps you realize you’re having a good time.  Or about to.

One of the things that has made the week so toilsome is a “special project” I was assigned at work a few weeks ago.  Whenever anyone approaches you with anything labeled as a “special project” you should run, not walk, to the nearest exit.  Leave your personal belongings behind, forget about your dignity, and gallop towards the door like the Roadrunner avoiding Wile E. Coyote.

Another phrase that should make your ears prick upwards as your internal alarms go off is the dreaded:  An opportunity to excel.   If you hear this phrase come out of anyone’s mouth that is above you in the org chart, you should spring upwards like a bunny who just saw an eagle’s shadow and bolt violently (remembering to run in a serpentine fashion).  Run!  Run like the wind!  Run until your little bunny heart explodes (figuratively) from the exertion of exercising your choice of flight.  (Fight is rarely an option in corporate America unless you enjoy being unemployed.)

“Opportunity to excel” is really just management euphemism for one of the following:

  • Career-ending debacle
  • Reputation-shattering fiasco
  • Soul-sucking disaster
  • Confidence-crushing catastrophe

The worst part about being saddled with a “special project” is that it is like the tar baby from Southern folklore.  Once you have gotten your hands on it, you can never rid yourself of it.  It will follow you for the rest of your career.  You will become known as “the guy who worked on that special project that time“.  Your fingerprints will be all over it.  Your name will be on all of the drawings and documents.

What’s worse, you will become known as the expert in that thing.  Which means every time another “special” project arises, you will be the go-to guy.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Thursday Night Edition

writer

Work was kind of a grind this week.  Lots of tedium.  Lots of spreadsheets.  Lots of sitting in meetings.  Lots of generating PowerPoint slides.  Lots of wondering if all of human history has been leading up to this.

I remember watching a movie a long time ago.  Sorry … I can’t remember the name of it; I was only a child.  The only thing I remember is a scene with a mule tied to a horizontal pole that was attached at the other end to a sugar cane press.  The mule walked around and around in a circle, the pole turning the sugar cane press as he walked.  I remember noticing that he had worn away the grass on the ground and was walking in a deep rut.

The mule had blinders on, which I thought was gratuitous.

I’m not sure what made me think of that scene 40 years later.  Just one of those weird things that pops into our minds sometimes, I guess.

The Ascent of Biff

man climbing ladder

Today was a good day.

But then again, most Fridays are.  Almost by definition.

However, a good day is not the same as an exciting day.  There is not much excitement to be had while sitting in an office working on month-end financial reports, updating schedules, reviewing staffing, and knocking out a few mandatory on-line training modules that were due.

I console myself by telling myself that a million years of evolution led to my being able to sit in a climate-controlled box while manipulating ephemeral concepts and abstractions on non-permanent media to be stored in equally abstract locations as a safeguard against the eventuality that someone somewhere someday may want to audit these things.

We all know that that’s not going to happen, but it’s important that we all buy into the fantasy or else it unravels and falls apart before our eyes.   Our very society is built upon the vague fear that we may be audited someday and asked to prove that all those hours we spent in our climate controlled boxes were, in fact, value added.  We all know they weren’t, but that too is part of the ruse that we all buy into.

In other news, I successfully passed my online training module on Ladder Safety by successfully answering 8 of the 10 questions correctly on the assessment following the 30 minute training video.  Never mind that no part of my job requires that my feet leave the ground.  However, I am now certified to climb ladders of up to 12 feet (excluding articulated ladders) provided:

  1. I have the correct PPE (Personal Protection Equipment)
  2. I have a properly certified “ladder buddy” to spot me while I am more than 1 foot above the floor
  3. The ladder conforms to UL/ALI/ANSI/CSA standards and has the proper markings
  4. There are no non-ladder-certified people within a ten foot radius of said ladder at the time of my ascent
  5. The area in which the ladder is in use is properly cordoned off from incidental foot traffic.

This is definitly NOT what I had in mind when I used to dream of climbing the corporate ladder someday.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac: Thursday Evening

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When last you heard from this intrepid reporter, I had only managed to make it a mere 60 percent through the workweek.  However, since my last report, my shrewd investments have paid off and I now find myself a full 80% through the workweek (a little less if you take into consideration the eroding effects of capital gains taxes).  This means that nothing stands between me and being 100% done with this workweek except for Friday, and I shall make short work of that soon enough.

So did anything interesting happen to Biff today?  No, not really.  I have wrung every last post possible out of my workaday world.  There is only so much spreadsheet humor and PowerPoint humor to be had, no matter what price one is willing to pay.  From what I have been able to ascertain, no one is willing to pay a single farthing for any humor at all related to MS Office products.  Even the cease-and-desist letter I received from Team Microsoft, Re: MS Office Products Humor, was itself humorless.

It was not a good day for office humor.

 

Poor Biff’s Almanac — Today’s Rejected Blog Post Ideas

Poor Biif Featured

Okay … here we go.  Dinner’s out of the way.  The pajamas are on … which is perfectly acceptable because I have to wear business casual all day long (don’t judge me!).  A hot cup of coffee sits beside the computer.  Basia is playing through my headphones (which is what happens when you put your iPod on shuffle).  The mental list of all the things I should be doing have been pushed to the back of my brain where they won’t pose a danger to anyone (especially me).  Now comes the search for something to write about.

I went back through the game tape of the day looking for anything at all that’s worthy of being written about.  Here’s the list of what I came up with after thinking about it for a few minutes.

  1.  That guy who cut me off in traffic on the way to work.
  2. The person I accidentally cut off on the way to work because they were driving in my blind spot.  Leviathan (my truck) is very unforgiving of people who hover in my blind spots (of which there are many).
  3. How the weather is very similar to what it was yesterday.  And the day before that.  And the day before that.  (Repeat that about 20 more times in your head; my fingers are tired.)
  4. An essay on whether or not I should be concerned about how, every time an organizational announcement comes down via blast email from on high (i.e. from Corporate … and you can’t see me, but I’m genuflecting towards our corporate headquarters), I don’t recognize the names of any of the people they mention.  Or their titles.  Or their organizations.  Or anything, really.  Am I that far down on the org chart?  Who are these people?  Am I somehow inadvertently working for a different company than the one I think I am?
  5. Another essay (or perhaps a haiku) about how, when I went to the vending machine for a snack, I saw a Zagnut candy bar hanging precariously from the dispensing screw.  Obviously someone had been deprived of their much-needed Zagnut.  So I was faced with a moral dilemma.  If I put in my money and pushed C7, I would get two Zagnuts for the price of one.  But would that be ethical?  Perhaps the victim of the Zagnut vending mishap had run back their their desk for some more change.   I would be depriving them of the opportunity to retrieve what they had already paid for.  But what if I walked away with a different snack, but someone else came along and did what I was thinking about doing?  Then two out of three people would have been screwed out of double snacks.  I finally decided on Peanut M&Ms.  I can’t stand coconut and so I don’t even like Zagnut bars.  But it’s hard to turn down a two-fer deal.
  6. My musings about whether or not, if someone were to quietly die during a typical meeting, if anyone would notice.  And if someone DID notice … would they envy the dead person?  They’d be like, “Wow, Bob doesn’t have to have his financial reports in by COB Friday.  Lucky!”   (For those of you who don’t speak Corporate Acronym fluently, COB = Close of Business)
  7. My contemplations while sitting at a red light on the way home about whether cities deliberately mis-time their traffic lights to maximize fuel consumption so as to increase revenues from gasoline taxes.  (Biff can be very cynical while sitting in traffic.)
  8. And now I’m wondering if Basia understood English enough to know  what the songs were about that she was singing.  I love her voice and her accent but I always wonder what people think about when they’re singing songs in a different language.  I mean, their managers could have them sing a song that’s wildly inappropriate and the singer would never know.  It doesn’t matter.  Basia is awesome.  Even if she didn’t  understand a word of the songs she sings, she still sings them as if she does.

Well, now you can see why it is so hard for me to write blogs that attract readers.

 

 

By Any Other Name

secretary

Humorous Short Fiction by Biff

I pushed the button on the intercom on my desk and summoned Rose, my secretary, into my office.  She stepped in and promptly set off the smoke alarm.  I stood on my chair to reach it and, after pounding on it with the stapler for a few moments, I finally managed to quiet the beast by removing its battery.  Once that matter was dispensed with, I gestured for her to sit down.

“Rose,” I began, sitting behind my desk.  “Let me start off by saying how happy I am with the work you’ve been doing.”

“I’m fired, aren’t I?” she said, her voice distraught.

“What?” I asked, flustered.  I hate it when people break my chain of thought.  I had been going through this conversation in my mind for two days and not once in those two days did she utter anything of the kind.  Now she has thrown off my rhythm.

“You’re giving me the sack, aren’t you?” she said, sounding for a moment as if she might cry.

“Of course not,” I said, shocked.  “Why would you think such a thing?”

“You always start your sacking speeches with ‘Let me start off by saying how happy I am with the work you’ve been doing’.”

“Do I?”

She nodded self-assuredly.

I leaned forward and jotted on my Day-Timer, change sacking-speech opening.  I then leaned back and steepled my fingers and considered her somewhat paternally.

“I assure you, Rose, you are not being sacked.  I really am happy with the work you’ve been doing.”  I cleared my throat nervously as I approached the delicate subject I had called her in to discuss.

She looked at me suspiciously, but did not say anything.

“No,” I continued, this is a much more delicate matter.

“Delicate?” she asked, her voice even more suspicious.  She pulled her sweater closer around her throat as if she thought I were about to lunge at her and shower her with unwanted affection in direct violation of our Employee Handbook, specifically Section 7, Paragraph 7.2.1, bullet 2.

“It’s about your perfume,” I said, deciding just to jump into the matter feet first.

She softened a bit and seemed flattered.  “Oh, you noticed?”, she said, seeming to momentarily forget all about Paragraph 7.2.1, bullet 2.

“Yes, I did.  As did the smoke detector a few minutes ago.  I’m afraid, Rose, that there have been complaints about the copiousness of your applications of it.”  I slid my finger under the collar of my shirt and tried to loosen it a bit.

“I don’t wear that much,” she said defensively.

“The office pool has the over/under amount at 1.1 gallons per day,” I said, dabbing at the tears that were now forming in the corners of my eyes.

Rose gasped, obviously shocked and hurt that such a thing could happen.

“I was as shocked as you are, of course,” I said sympathetically.  “And so naturally took the under.”

“Well, Allan in shipping wears too much Old Spice aftershave,” she said haughtily.

“Yes, I know.  I was going to have a word with him about it yesterday, but unfortunately, he got too close to someone who was smoking a cigarette and burst into flames.  He had to be rushed to the hospital.”

“Is he okay?” she asked, horrified.

“Oh, yes, he’s fine,” I said, edging towards the window.  “Apparently, it was one of those low-heat chemical fires and did no more damage than a bad sunburn.”

I gave a tug at the window.  It didn’t budge.  Damn these modern office buildings!

“Well,” she continued, re-adopting her haughty tone, “I don’t see how anyone could possibly say I wear too much perfume.  I can’t even smell it.”

I tugged a bit more determinedly at the window.  The room was beginning to warp and shimmer.

“I’m sure you can’t,” I said, my throat a bit dry and hoarse.  “One’s olfactory senses tend to become immune to strong smells over time.”  I tugged again with a little more urgency.

“Besides,” she continued, “This is a very subtle fragrance.”

“No doubt you’re right,” I said, “I’m sure it is, in the proper measure.  I say . . . do you see fireflies in here, Rose?”

“Fireflies?  Of course not.  What are you talking about?”

I was seeing small flashes of light in front of me where ever I looked.  I knew what my course of action must be.

“Please stand back a little, please,” I said to her.

“Why?  What are you going to do?”

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to throw my chair through the window.”

“What on earth for?” she asked, horrified.

I clutched at the arm and back of the chair, but could not lift it.  Too weak.

“Must . . . . . get . . . . .  air,” I said.  The fireflies had become fire-pelicans and circled around me lazily.

 

*          *          *

 

When I opened my eyes, I noticed a paramedic was staring down at me.

“He’s coming to,” said the paramedic into a small microphone on the shoulder of her uniform.

I took a deep breath.  Ahhh . . . fresh air.  Well, fresh for the back of an ambulance, I suppose.  It reeked of rubbing alcohol and disinfectant and diesel, but it was not so bad after being buried alive under an avalanche of Eau de Malodour or whatever the heck that stuff was.  I tried to sit up.

The paramedic kept me down with a hand on my chest.  “Ah, ah,” she warned.  “It’s best for you to remain lying down for a bit.”

“What happened?” I asked, as if I didn’t know.

“You were the victim of  an attack using an air-borne chemical agent of some sort.   Or perhaps you have been sniffing glue?”

“Absolutely not!” I said vehemently.

“Highlighers?”

“No!”

“White-board markers?”

“Of course not!”

“Well,” she said as if disappointed that I would not cooperate.  “The haz-mat team is in your office now conducting tests on the air quality.  We’ll soon get to the bottom of this.”

“I can save them the trouble,” I said, brushing aside her hand and sitting up.

“Until you admit that you have a problem,” she said in feigned concern that came across as mere condescension, “We can’t help you.”

“The only thing the haz-mat team will find in my office is the scent of my secretary’s perfume.”

The paramedic raised her eyebrows as if to say “hullo hullo hullo.”

“She wears the stuff by the bucket, you see.  I was overcome by the fumes.”

The paramedic seemed disappointed.  “That’s it?”

“And nothing but,” I said.

“The whole –?”

“So help me, God,” I said.

She heaved a heavy sigh, closed the plastic case of her paramedic kit, and snapped the clasps.  She stood up to go.

“Well, then,” she said, sounding disappointed.  “There’s nothing for me to do here.”

“I appreciate your efforts nonetheless,” I said, trying to sound appreciative in spite of her accusations earlier.

She shrugged.  “Well, no crime was committed.  You came out smelling like a rose.”

.

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©2017 by biffsockpow.wordpress.com

 

How to Leave Work on Friday Afternoon

man-running-with-briefcase

I love that moment on Fridays when I have worked my last minute of the week and I pack up my briefcase and prepare to start the weekend.

The whole time I feel like I am in one of those spy movies where the agent (or double agent, as the case may be) has to walk coolly through a crowded space that is populated entirely by people who would shoot him on sight if they knew he was an agent.  I just walk quickly, but not too quickly.  Avoiding eye contact.  Trying not to attract attention to myself.  Coaching myself silently in my head as I walk.

“Just keep walking,” I coach.  “You’re doing good.  Almost to the elevator.  Slowly.  Easy does it.  You’re doing good.  Just look casual waiting for the elevator.”

I hear footsteps and my blood pressure shoots up a dozen points.  Would it be someone wanting just one more thing done before the weekend?  Whew!  It’s just someone going to get copies.

I get on the elevator.  I can hear my heart beating in  my ears.  I feel like everyone is aware that I am leaving.

I get off the elevator and walk down the corridor.  Almost there. I can see the front door 30 yards ahead, just past security.  The light of the sun illuminates it like the portal to heaven.

“Go towards the light,” I coach myself.  “Keep a steady pace.  Don’t walk too quickly.  Just keep walking towards the light.  One foot in front of the other.  Almost there.”

And then …. boom!

Suddenly I am outside!  Sunlight warms my face.  A slight breeze tousles my hair.  I am suddenly free from the possibility that someone will stop me and need a report written before I leave or some data massaged.

I practically break into a sprint from the front door to my truck.  I throw my briefcase haphazardly onto the passenger seat, crank up the truck, and practically burn rubber out of the parking lot, driving over a median in my eagerness to make my getaway.

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I’m free!  I’m free!

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Until I hear my cell phone ring . . .

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