Friday, May 29, 2009

My office.

You know, I always have this fear that "people" will find my blog and use it against me. Perhaps this is what prevented me from blogging before this. I've been trying to keep this as anonymous as possible so that nobody's name is named and I'm only associated with situations purely circumstantially.

Anyway, on with the post.

I adore people watching.  Everyone is so unique, not only in looks, body language and culture, but in the way they deal with certain situations (read: anger, sadness, stress) and the way they live their lives.  I think the people in my office are interesting to observe.  Considering that this is a summer position and I'll only be with them a short time, I'll never really know them all that well, but here's a little peek into what I've observed thus far. Consider it a virtual tour.

There's C, the accountant/administrator:  She's probably over 50, is married and has a couple kids older than me.  She struck me as a "no-nonsense-tough-momma" type at first, and from what I've seen, I was right.  She also has a raspy-smokers voice, which is oddly comforting.  She calls everyone sweetie, but not in that patronizing, "I-think-you're-an-idiot-but-I'll-be-nice-to-you" way.  It just glides off her tongue like she's known you for years and you're about to sit down for apple pie.  She doesn't put up with excuses, and doesn't like hypocrites or liars.  She knows everybody in the area, so if you want the dirt on anyone, she's your go-to-lady.  
C is also my personal Google-map in human form.   This town is not adequately Google-mapped, so I rely on C. I've never gotten lost by following her directions, which is more than I can say for Google-maps sometimes.

There's J: The head-lady around here when the real head-lady K isn't around. 
J told me she loves to write, and she's good. I really admire the way she chats to people as well. Her husband says she works too much, but she actually likes her job, which I think is great. If there were more people like her in this business, I'd enjoy my job more too.
She has a human skull on her desk, which struck me as a little strange, but you've gotta take things as they come.  I asked her about it one day and she explained that it's name is "Bob".  "Bob"  has awful teeth.  J said that when she's having a bad day she looks at "Bob" and sees that it could be worse... she could be like him, no body, no skin, no brain... or worse, she could have his yellowed, crooked teeth.  She got him when she was dating a medical student 20 years ago.  The secret of "Bob's" plight was further revealed to her when she interviewed an archaeologist who said that judging by certain features, "Bob" is actually a female, probably from India. 
I think of ways she could have possibly died every time I see her, but it's rude to stare so whenever I look into the office, I try to keep my eyes on something else. 

There's A: Probably one of the most interesting people, but the person I know least about.  She's in her 30's, has a husband and two kids.  She's one of our advertising people.  We seem to have more ad people than reporters here... but I digress. One of the first things I learned about A is that she sells sex toys.  That gave me more insight into her life than I wanted, but she doesn't emanate what I imagine to be the "sex-toy-saleslady" personality, she's the person I would least suspect would sell such things and when I do hear a snippet of conversation about it, it's as if she's selling Tupperware.   Upon further reflection, this is a good thing, because nobody wants an extremely awkward sex-toy saleslady. Anyway, from what I've ascertained A sometimes has a hard time doing her job, and C hounds her a little bit to do more. The other day they had a friendly little tiff where C said something like "Well, if you weren't back there reading your book, a little more work might get done around here!"  When C said book, I imagined a romance novel with some busty blonde and a body-building beefcake on the cover. I think perhaps I have judged A a little bit and need to broaden my constructivist framework.

G:  G is the only male in this office.  Enough said.

Just kidding. He's pretty easy to get along with. Enjoys his job and was quick to give me tons of tips and contacts when I first arrived. Given that I took over his job while I'm here and he was shifted to writing for the area's seasonal newspaper for the nearby tourist destination, this was very helpful.  Oh! Did I tell you that I am in charge of filling two sports pages every week?  This isn't too difficult, but I was a little intimidated when this was assigned to me, because I'm not a sports-fan generally, but it's turned out to be great.  But back to G... J says he has a head like a chicken... and it's true, he is a bit all-over-the-place, running around and having to write, write, write at the last minute.   He's entertaining to work with because he's a great storyteller.  
C and J both say he needs a girlfriend... which is hilarious because I thought he was gay when I first met him.  Again, I think I may have judged him a little too quickly. He's got a poster of Jim Carrey's YES MAN on one wall, but some sexy trick rider girls from the Stampede on the other... what does this say about his personality? I don't know, but time will tell.

Last but not least, K, the boss.  She's the publisher of this whole thing and comes into the office two days a week.  I think she may be judged a little harshly by everyone, but if you saw one of her conniptions, you'd perhaps think she's permanently PMSing too.  She does publish two weekly papers and a women's magazine and has a family.  She's a little high strung. In fact, she's on stress-leave for a week right now.  C makes a real effort to get along with her, but she's even taken a beating.  One day, she went into a rage over the phone and everyone plotted to put all their old fruit peels and tea bags into her garbage can, stick it next to the air vent and shut her office door so that her office would smell putrid when she came in.  They didn't do it, but I thought I was having a flashback to high school during the devious planning stages.  I think just being straight with her is the best idea... and if she yells at me, I can take it. She's always been nice to me though, so perhaps I just haven't made mistakes that were terrible enough, or haven't caught her on a bad day.  

Whew... well that was lengthy, but I think the people in the workplace definitely make a difference in how enjoyable the job is.   So far, the quirks and craziness of my workplace has been interesting to say the least.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


"Whammy!" is an expression that can be heard frequently around my office.

Occasions when people will shout "Whammy!" include:
-When an article is finished
-When production is finished
-When we've scooped the other local paper (which really isn't hard to do considering they have one reporter and a 12 page paper.)
-When the coffee has finished brewing
-When someone has gone to Tim Horton's and come back with Tim-bits.
-When someone has found the pen they lost.

The list could continue.  One thing I noticed is how quickly I picked up on this phrase.  I still haven't adopted it, but I find myself thinking it when I encounter any of the above situations.  

Language is a funny thing.  There are so many expressions I use daily that I identify with certain people or places, but I've never really noticed myself adopting them till today.

Just thought I'd share.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My joy, their grief and conflicting emotions.

That twisted-knot feeling in the pit of my stomach is there again.

I just had to make a call to a family whose son recently died about a donation their making to a school sports program in memory of him.

It sounds pretty simple, and as a sensitive soul, I was able to handle it with as much respect and gracious compassion as I could muster.  They invited me to their home to chat about it, and I was taken aback.  Just like that, I was invited into someone's personal space to talk about their dead son.
Startled, I hastily suggested we meet shortly before a memorial service they're having at his school next week.  On neutral (comfortable) ground.

In the last minute and a half though, I've been asking myself, "Is it actually my own comfort I'm concerned about?" Probably.  But as a reporter, I felt I would be invading their very personal space by stepping into the home where this young man lived, played, fought with his sister and bother, laughed, cried, ate and slept.   Part of me thinks about the great story it would make, but part of me is revolted that I would even think to publicize their pain, which, in this small town, is already fairly public. 

Even I, from a different town entirely bear some small connection to this boy.  This connection, however small, gives me that spooky feeling I get whenever a coincidence, happy or sad, occurs.

On February 12th, 2 days before my wedding, I was in an excited flurry, going here and there to get everything ready for my big day.   Elsewhere, about 45 km away from me, a young boy in a pickup truck was passing a semi on the highway which hit his truck and killed him.  

On February 13th, my husband got a phone call from his cousin, who said she wouldn't be able to come to our wedding because her boyfriend had lost his young cousin to a car crash the day before and would be going to a funeral.

5 minutes ago, I realized that the cousin, whose death had prevented some of our wedding guests from attending was this boy whose father I'd just spoken to. 

I realized that on what would be one of the happiest days of my life, the saddest days of the lives of this family were beginning.  Their boy, who would have graduated this month with his girlfriend at his side, was gone from them.  The guests who would have come to my wedding to see my husband and I begin our life together, would instead attend this funeral to mourn the ending of a life.  

I distinctly remember hearing the reason our guests couldn't attend our wedding and thinking, "What if that had been my friend or my cousin who had died?  Would I still get married tomorrow?"  But I quickly dismissed the thought and went back to cutting ribbon for my table-centres.  

Somehow knowing exactly who it was that I was indirectly thinking about brings up a new feeling that I can't quite identify.  The contrast between this family and me is so real when I think about their pain, my joy, and how timing connects us in this small way.

It makes me want to write a better story, not for myself, but for them.  Somehow because I was so happy while they were so sad, I feel I owe them that.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Just stand there then.

Sometimes I can be rude.

I'm sure it isn't just me. It must happen to other people. When words just fall out of the mouth and you aren't really sure where they came from or why you said them out loud, but there they are: Out there. Naked and cold, waiting to be dealt with.

This happens to me every so often, mostly in moments of high stress or emotion. Sometimes I think I should carry some duct tape so that when I come to these situations, I can at least think about why I carry duct tape and just shut up before I have to use it.

(As a total aside. It is duct tape... NOT duck tape: "Duct tape got its official name in the 1950s when it was commonly used to secure duct work for forced air furnaces." - 3M website)

One of these situations took place on a recent trip to Australia. I was on a boat in the Sydney Harbour on a glorious sunny day with my then-boyfriend, now-husband, snapping pictures of the coastal scenery when, just as I was about to snap what I deemed the perfect picture of a lighthouse, another couple came and stood right in my viewfinder.

Then, the terrible words that I am constantly reminded of whenever I claim that I'm not rude, swam to the surface of my being and "fell out".

"Just stand there then." I said, unfortunately loud enough for this poor smiling couple to hear, turn around and apologize profusely to me, whom they would probably remember for the rest of their lives as "that rude photographer," or worse.

I think I sputtered an apology and tried to back down as my boyfriend looked at me in utter disbelief. He, who is one of the most friendly, personable people I have ever met, though I do admit my bias, never would have committed such a social blunder.

He still married me, despite this flaw in my character, and is unfortunately now the victim as well as the witness of these moments of indiscretion.

He actually suggested that I name my blog "Just stand there then," and I did, because it reminds me not only of my unapologetic nature that sits beneath the surface, but of my instinct to stand up for myself, no matter how unjust the cause. Perhaps it will serve as a reminder to take my assertiveness and use it for good, rather than for ruining someone's day.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The first one.

I can't believe I'm sitting here blogging. There are so many other things I could be doing, but somehow this world, this bloggers world, has captivated me.

Of course, there will be many posts following this one, but for some reason this one seems very important. It's the first one. The one that sets the tone for all the others. It's a little bit daunting because it has to be readable, yet punchy, vibrant. Something that draws a reader in and makes them want more.

Well, let me tell you, I'm no arrogant fool in thinking that I'm the most fantastic writer, but I do have some great stories to tell, if you're into my narrative style. Sometimes I can ramble aimlessly, and I can't really promise that I'll be funny or even profound. However, if I were to sell you on one thing, it would be that I'm honest.

Lots of people say that they're honest and don't really mean it. How would you know I'm not lying though? There's an element of trust that you don't have if you're reading this for the first time with no idea who I really am. You're just going to have to see how this plays out, aren't you? How do you trust that a novel will be good? The first chapter? Well, welcome to the first chapter.

There. How's that for an introduction?