Thursday, November 20, 2014

danger in every turn

One of our club's most valuable players was involved in a horrible construction accident. A person was killed and our friend was very badly injured. We are all thankful that he is alive. After several weeks in intensive care he has been relocated to a hospital very close to us so SB and I are looking forward to visiting him.

In the meantime one of SB's hockey friends broke his leg very badly. From glancing at the X-ray I saw five to seven distinct pieces that were not attached to anything. He is having reconstructive surgery today. We are hoping for a full recovery because he is a skating instructor and needs his body for his livelihood.

While we were in the hospital visiting the hockey player we discovered that another rugby player from our club was being wheeled out of surgery for yet another freak accident. He broke his hip and almost severed a large nerve. He couldn't feel his foot before the operation but since surgery he has been able to slightly move it and we hope that physiotherapy can help him to regain his mobility quickly. He told us that the nerve is supposed to repair at the rate of 1 mm per day, so at that rate it will be healed in a year for a worst case scenario.

From there we discovered that there were two other rugby players from other teams in the ward, one who was undergoing neck surgery and one who also had some sort of leg trauma. When I requested the day off to visit my friends before and after surgery, I thought that my story sounded unbelievable to my own ears. Yeah right, my boss must have been thinking, you have three friends in hospital with broken legs. It's like those college students who ask for extensions due to dying grandmothers every semester before finals until by the time that they graduate, six or seven grandmothers have passed away.

And so this morning I could only shake my head in shock when I read an email from my boss, stating that he had fallen down some stairs last night.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

where's the fire

Today marked our annual office fire drill, a necessary evil for those of us in tall buildings. Each year, upon discovery that we have to complete the entire escape without shortcuts, the fire drill organizers are met with a disproportionate number of complaints and excuses compared the the actual inconvenience caused. This is some type of right of passage I believe.

Upon observing reactions to the fire drill, you can get a fairly accurate personality profile of colleagues. The younger ones who are probably the most physically able of the workforce are also the loudest of the complainants, but this is to be expected when taking into consideration that they are also the most likely to submit reports filled with hyperbole. The self important higher level staff are never seen during the fire drill because they have really important meetings and are excused. No one questions the sudden exodus of associate level and above staff ten minutes prior to the drill, nor that these meetings all adjourn within the hour. The colleagues less likely to carry their weight on a project are also most likely to be literally unable to carry their own weight. During the drill, they are excused from participating for sensitive health reasons and continue to sit at their desks playing solitaire. Of the actual fire drill participants, you can easily identify the colleagues most likely to miss deadlines and overlook urgent emails. They are the ones hobbling down forty two flights of stairs in wobbly high heels or pinching oxfords because they woke up that morning in their typical state of being and forgot one more thing in their list of things that they can't recall.

Unfortunately the hobblers tend to travel in flocks and one particular flock in the front of the drill caused a traffic jam by attempting to open the fire doors at every floor and re-enter the building rather than walking down the remaining flights. Due to those dodos standing about on the stairs and blocking other people from continuing down, we have been informed that our group failed the fire drill by not exiting the building in a timely manner and now will have to undergo a remedial fire drill.

You can tell who the Type A personalities of the office are by noting who is glaring laser beams of rage at the wobbly dodos on the elevator ride back up to our office.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

her life as a robot

Some of my friends asked me if it was really a good idea to be talking about my job in a blog. I asked my boss and he doesn't mind as long as I properly describe how brilliant he is. Besides, the person who I didn't want finding out that he was being called an ass was copied on the email so the worst case scenario has already occurred.

Today I will  highlight another project manager who has since left her job, probably to become a customer service representative at PCCW. From my numerous telephone conversations with equally numerous customer service representatives that have resulted in likewise equally numerous futile results, I can assure you that she would shine at that job. She would perform spectacularly.

During her time as a manager of a major interdisciplinary project, she performed her job as something akin to a poorly calibrated mail sorting facility. Information would be received and sent out for distribution. "Please arrange a meeting between the civil and drainage disciplines," an email would read, and she would forward the message to everyone. The end result was that the civil and drainage team showed up for the meeting so it was no problem in her mind that architectural, structural and building services were all receiving corporate spam. 

My rock bottom of working with her happened when the client asked whether a requested kiosk had been included in the drawings. I replied that the kiosk had been added and attached a file with the item circled on the drawing in red pen. The project manager added my markup to the queue of drawing amendments and later insisted that I needed to update the drawing to show a circle on the floor around the item because it had been in my markup. "We need to match the markup that was issued to the contractor," she insisted. This went on for a month. Every other day she emailed me to remind me that I had not yet added the circle to the floor tile pattern and that I was delaying the issuance of the drawing amendment. At my wit's end, I finally called her boss who apologized and confided that he sometimes wondered if she was a robot.

Monday, November 10, 2014

my life as a joke

My uncle Jon used to wave around Dibert comics on an almost weekly basis. While I thought that they were funny, I didn't have Jon's level of enthusiasm. And then I started working at a large corporation.

Last week I eavesdropped on my boss arguing with a client. They were having a very heated discussion because our site architect took a day off last month for sick leave and the client deducted 4.5% of his salary. The client argued that the contract did not include sick pay. My boss argued that the contract didn't specify that sick leave would be deducted, either. Be fair, my boss urged. There were days when the client had an urgent task or a tight deadline and the site architect stayed late to get the work done. It was expected that this type of thing would happen from time to time and we would not have tried to bill the client. Our client, taking his HR policies straight from Dilbert, remained firm that sick leave was to be deducted. As a result, the site architect is unhappy with his pay cut and I don't expect him to ever agree to work late for the client again without demanding cash.

Dilbert's boss reared his pointy haired head in the form of one of my project managers. He sent me an email bemoaning one of the consultants being a difficult ass. I replied that the consultant could be a difficult ass all he wanted but he still had to submit a licensing application for our processing. The project manager then forwarded his request that the consultant provide the application, and included the entire email conversation. We are still awaiting the application.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


SB's cousins were hosting a horsey event on their land when one of their friends asked if she could bring a guest from out of town. They agreed and the next weekend were introduced to a British woman named Anne. B used to be kind of a big deal with the secret service and knows stuff so she quickly deduced who Anne was. Her sister C had no idea until she was clued in afterward, at which point she was tickled at how she had rubbed elbows with royalty. They had only nice things to say about Anne, whose horsemanship was notable.

Friday, November 7, 2014


My sister's father in law ended his life a few days ago. He told his wife that he was going on a walk. She asked when he wanted supper and he told her maybe don't cook tonight. Then he drove from Sonoma to San Francisco, called the police, and put a gun to his head.

In February he bought the gun. In May, at the end of my visit, he surprised me with a huge hug after having taken me aside for a chat, which in hindsight I recognize it for what it was. In August he began trying to talk to his wife about how to take care of their finances; he was very well off but she had a habit of spending all that she had when he met her. Last week the news reported about a young woman with terminal cancer who elected to kill herself rather than be suffer a slow and debilitating death. A few days ago he gave my sister an even bigger than normal hug, cuddled his grandson for also a long time, and that was it.

My sister, SB and I all have had friends who have committed suicide. Each time, we replayed all sorts of seemingly insignificant details in our heads and wondered what we could have done to change things. SB still wonders if not having that $100 in his wallet to loan his friend set him over the edge. I blame myself for somehow not knowing how Mike was feeling even though he was 14000km away. And now C wonders if she could have said anything. Maybe if she had told Jim that she loved him more strongly...

This is what I told her, small comfort that it was. When I met Jim, he reminded me a lot of my foster grandfather, Stan. Stan was 82 years old and sharp as a tack. Over the years I realized that being of sound mind while your body became unsound was not a blessing. While I preferred hanging out with Stan because he could talk to me about everything, unlike my Grandma who was probably nuts long before she was old, I became aware that sharp minded Stan was all too aware that he was in decline. On several occasions he told me that he was tired. He wasn't depressed in the typical sense, but he wasn't all that happy. His body betrayed him constantly. He was exhausted just getting out of the car so those wonderful cruises that he used to take were a thing of the past. His friends were almost all dead. He was losing his sight and hearing no matter how much he still had to share, so when he got sick, he never tried to get better. He died of a cold but really, he died because he didn't want to live anymore.

In his note, which he had given a friend to deliver, Jim said that he was tired. He was sorry that he never got to do those things that he had wanted to do, but he couldn't find the motivation. He was done.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

my fellow Americans

I met a lovely lady at the dog park who invited me to join her dragon boat team. Unlike my team which trains seven weeks per year in preparation for for the one big race (and usually enjoys all day drinking on race day) this team of all female paddlers is serious. They train three days per week. Already I am at a disadvantage since I work and can only make it to Saturday training.  But they all friendly and understanding that I have to make my job a priority.

So that is how I spent Saturday morning surrounded by tall and/or blonde women with the exception of the coach who is short and Asian. I had gotten used to being tall among Asians and now I'm reminded that back home I'm a shrimp. At least SB will have no problem picking me out of the crowd. I'm not joking that everyone else is tall or blonde, or both tall and blonde in most cases.