(Y)earning for (Y)esterday

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, Siti and I watched dolphins swim alongside our tugboat as we traveled 4 hours from the offshore platform to mainland.

In all the years we’ve worked together, this is my favourite memory with her.

Siti joined the company several weeks before I did and though she was several years younger than I am, we clicked and started becoming friends. We’d more often than not got paired for projects and we worked mostly well with one another as we knew, more or less, one another’s strengths and weaknesses. She was more gregarious than I was and tended to get on with the clients better. I was more reserved. Though she seemed tough on the outside, she was actually sensitive to critiques while I tended to gloss over criticisms (mostly).

I remember a project we were on where the client was extremely difficult. We had simultaneous presentations in different rooms and when we were done, I checked in on her and saw that she was red-faced and her eyes were glistening with unshed tears. The client hadn’t allowed her to finish her presentation but mocked her throughout. She’d tried to soldier on but the comments stung and in the end, the client didn’t want to listen to her presentation. I think that incident was the straw that broke the camel’s back for her because several months after that, she left the company.

We kept in touch when she left, meeting up for lunches or dinners. We had to raincheck our last dinner plans, both of us citing increased workload and promised to set a new dinner date. We never got around to it.

Christmas Eve 2015, I received a text from an ex-colleague who worked with both Siti and me. Siti had passed away. It was sudden, she wasn’t ill. Complications from a major surgery she had early-2015 was suspected but to this day, I never found out. It didn’t matter.

Every time I think of her, I remember that trip with the dolphins and how I am the only one in the world who’ll remember that moment.

This post is dedicated to Siti.

(X)ylene and other hazardous chemicals

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, I found out that before eggs are cracked by a machine and filled into jugs to produce liquid eggs, the eggs are sprayed with a mixture of water an 0.01% chlorine, for sanitisation purposes. This might seem strange, but it’s actually a food safety requirement.

Other stuff I encountered when I visited facilities using chemicals:

  • Folks who’ve worked at the facility for 20 years are less likely to listen when you advise them to use a respiratory mask so that they don’t inhale toxic fumes. Their justification? “I’ve worked here for 20 years, haven’t used a respiratory mask that entire time, and I’m still alive!”
  • Workers like to use mineral water/ soda bottles to store thinner, which is colourless like water. A previous client had an incident when one of their workers accidentally drank thinner, thinking it was bottled water.
  • The process of conducting maintenance in oil pipelines is called “pigging”, I always imagine that it’s a cute little pink pig being launched into the pipeline but the actual “pig” (see picture below from Wikipedia) isn’t cute at all.

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Note: “X” stumped me, hence the short post (also partially due to memory loss pertaining to chemical-related encounters during work) and lateness 🙂

The (W)ine and Cheese Fiasco

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, I had to morph from my regular day job to reluctant party planner.

The week before, The Boss had a wild hair and decided that the office should throw a wine and cheese party for our associates and partners. Our eyes went wide and she told us not to worry as she’ll take care of everything for the party. Okay…

The Boss had emailed everyone that the wine and cheese party would start at 430pm. Nearing noon on the day itself, there was no food, no drinks especially no wine and no cheese. Okay…

Then after lunch, The Boss looked at me and asked “So, when do you intend to get the stuff for the party?” WHAT?????!!!! “But you mentioned that you’d handle it?” “Oh yes. I changed my mind but if you go to the supermarket now, I think you can make it.” WHAT?????!!!!

And that’s how I ended up racing to the supermarket with the admin assistant as we shopped for wine, cheese, crackers, soft drinks, et cetera et cetera. The Boss gave us a WHOLE list. Helpful.

After nearly three hours getting everything that was needed for the wine and cheese party, we returned to the office. Tired and hungry. We didn’t have time to stop for lunch, afraid we’d be late. The Boss looked over what we had bought (which included paper towels, which were not on her list, so I was certain that I’d gone above and beyond), and remarked “Were these the only types of cheese you could find? Were there no other crackers? Why did you only get one type of beer? Wasn’t there wine from Chile? This one’s from Australia.”

Exhausted and feeling used, I replied “This is what we could find in the short time we had. Where do you want everything set up?” We had a silent standoff which lasted several minutes before she told us where we could place everything. We did it posthaste and when the first of the guests arrived, I said hello and made my excuses to leave. Partying was the last thing I wanted to do by then. Let The Boss deal with the cleanup.

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What was the most memorable office party you’ve ever attended?

That time I (V)omited at sea

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, I vomited.

We were transferring from one platform to another by boat. Being a novice, when the captain suggested we stay in the air-conditioned cabin because the weather was quite rough, I thought it was the best idea ever. Not.

We (The Boss and I) found ourselves in an air-conditioned cabin with bunk beds. She immediately went to the bottom bunk and I pulled myself up to the top bunk. Not easy to do when the boat was swaying not-so-slightly. I was fine for the first, oh, 10 minutes. Then I started to sweat. Even though it was freezing. I shifted my position on the bed and tried to nap. The trip was 1.5 hours, I still had a long way to go.

Then The Boss suggested I use acupressure to relieve the feeling of nausea. She showed me where to apply pressure on my left wrist using my right hand. I pressed until I was sure it’d be blue black later, still I felt my lunch crawling up my esophagus.

I hummed to myself to distract myself. My humming became louder and louder, the nausea grew unbearable.

I jumped down from the upper bunk and made a beeline to the toilet and said goodbye to my lunch. The sounds of my own heaving echoed in the toilet. By the time I was done, I was spent and laid my head on the cool porcelain. Mmmm…Then I heaved again, again, and again.

Finally, when I was pretty sure there was nothing else I could vomit, I flushed the toilet and got ready to exit the stall when I heard the toilet door slam open and in came running the client, a big guy who was also a novice himself on offshore trips. He ran into the stall next to mine and I heard him say goodbye to HIS lunch. The only thought that ran through my head then: I thought this was the ladies.

For the rest of the trip, I sat at the main deck of the tugboat. I got soaked from the sea water splashing onto the main deck but then, anything was better than feeling my meal leave my body through my mouth. Ick. And Ugh.

'Seasick already? Why, we haven't untied from the dock yet.' Are you prone to seasickness?

The (U)ncircumcision Revelation

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, during a steamboat dinner with the clients, I accidentally found out that one of them was uncircumcised.

I was in Si Racha, Thailand. The clients brought me to one of their favourite restaurants, Zab Restaurant, which was famous for serving Northeastern Thai cuisine, a type of steamboat/ spicy sukiyaki cuisine where you were given the broth and raw meat/ seafood on a platter and you’d cook them yourself.

Two of the managers I was with decided to do the ‘cooking’ which consisted of mixing a raw egg with the raw meat and then dropping it into the boiling spicy broth. Two men cooking for lil’ ol me. It felt surreal.

Of course, what came next went way, WAY beyond surreal.

The managers were regaling me with stories about their family. One manager was asking the other if he’d get his son circumcised. The other manager was expecting their first baby boy. He said he wasn’t sure whether it was necessary or not since he himself wasn’t circumcised and everything was working fine.

I almost spit out my beer but didn’t. Too. Much. Information. How in the heck did I get into situations like these?

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What did you accidentally find out about your clients/ associates that you wish you didn’t?

The (T)ale of the (T)rolley

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, The Boss rushed into the main office and asked us “What happened to the trolley in the pantry? Who took it?”

This is the woman who schedules meetings and forgets about them.

This is the woman who makes a decision and when we minions carry it out, changes her mind causing us to scurry around rectifying things like headless chickens.

This is also the woman who can’t remember what the organisation general email address was (even though she’s the longest serving staff in the small organisation and was likely the one who had it set up) and was not aware that a spreadsheet can have multiple tabs.

I digress, back to the story about the trolley.

She’s obsessed about that trolley. Or maybe, possessive of it. Who knows really. It’s used for ferrying around heavy objects and is normally kept in the pantry/ store. The pantry/ store is frequently unlocked during office hours as instructed by The Boss. I know this because one day I locked the pantry and returned the key to the main office and she comes to my cubical and tells me that it’s not necessary to lock the pantry during office hours because the staff will be going in and out. So, I’ve never locked it since. Oh, and the pantry/ store is accessible to everyone traversing the hallway. Even the folks from the neighbouring office.

So, since she likes to know where the trolley is at all times and most of the time it’s in the pantry/ store, shouldn’t she insist that the pantry/ store is locked since any tom, dick and harry may sneak in and steal her beloved trolley?

Also, this is not the first time she’s asked about the whereabouts of the trolley. Even when we inform her we’re taking the trolley to ferry stuff, 15 minutes later when she’s in the pantry and it’s gone, she’ll ask “WHERE’S THE TROLLEY?? WHERE’S THE TROLLEY??”

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What strange/ unique/ funny idiosyncrasy does your boss have?

(S)colded for being (S)ick

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, well, I didn’t go to work because I was sick as a dog.

It wasn’t perfect timing since we had a public lecture planned but I thought we had it covered since I checked in with The Boss a few days before the flu got a hold of me and held me hostage.

When we planned the public lecture, all initial negotiations were done by The Boss, whenever I asked if there was anything I needed to follow-up on, she said everything’s sorted. I believed her.

So, the Thursday before the public lecture on Friday, I woke up and my entire body was aching and I had a fever. I dragged myself out of bed to the doctor’s and called in sick. Friday was a repeat of Thursday. Except that Friday afternoon was the day of the public lecture. I texted The Boss and informed her that I was calling in sick again that day and also let her know what else needed to be done for the public lecture aside from the arrangements she’d already made prior.

Apparently, on my deathbed sickbed, I learnt that when she said she had everything sorted. Nothing was sorted. How did I know this? Because she texted me and demanded I come to work and sort everything out and that it was my responsibility and if it was her, she’d come in to work. I was getting sick of this rubbish.

I replied to her that I had updated my colleague what needed to be done, and that there was still time to wrangle a laptop and projector, we had both in the office.

But no, that didn’t satisfy her, she repeated again that I was not being responsible by acting the way I did.

I replied that I wasn’t coming to work for the public lecture because I’m sick and if she was unhappy with my work performance then I’d be happy to discuss it first thing on Monday morning. There was no reply after that.

I texted my colleague to let them know that The Boss is angry at me and to not let it affect the public lecture. She texted back saying “Oh, really? But The Boss seemed all right, she’s even helping with the public lecture.” What the heck?

At the end of the day, when I knew that the public lecture had ended, I asked my colleague if everything went well. “Yeah,” she replied, “We had one person turn up.”

“One person???” I messaged back.

All that angst on the sickbed for one measly public lecture with one participant.

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What unnecessary reprimand/ scolding have you gotten from your boss?

The (R)escue

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, my colleagues and I rescued a co-worker who was trapped in the changing room at a training centre on the other side of town.

It was nearing noon when she called the office and asked us to call the folks at the training centre. We asked her why didn’t she speak to them herself since she was there. She said she can’t because she’s trapped in the changing room. After several minutes of interrogation, we got the whole story out of her. During the training, she went to the changing room to change out of her street clothes and into swimwear and coveralls. The next session would require the trainees to experience what it felt like to be in water while wearing coveralls. Since she was the only female in the training, she had the entire changing room to herself.

The problem was, out of all the stalls she chose, she went into the one which had a door that fit too snugly to the frame and try as she might, she couldn’t pull the door open to get out, once she finished changing.

She said she tried shouting but no one came. The next session of the training had started and still no one came to look for her.

She even considered squeezing herself underneath the door but the gap was only a foot wide and she worried that she’d get herself wedged between the bottom of the door and the icky floor of the changing room. She abandoned that idea.

Luckily, she brought her cellphone with her which was when she called us.

We phoned the training centre and asked them to go to the changing room to save our colleague. They were shocked at first that it took her calling us to call them when she was just several feet away. They got her out and she resumed the rest of the training. Apparently when the trainer asked her where she’d been, she calmly replied “I had to attend to an urgent matter from the office.”

We spoke of that rescue often for the next couple of months.

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What has your coworker done that made you roll your eyes/ shake your head wondering how you ended up working with them/ laugh/ cry?

(Q)uitting: The Telltale Signs

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, a co-worker resigned.

After 4 years watching people come and go (at last count, 9 ex-coworkers), I’ve regrettably become an expert at telling when people are intending to fly the coop.

It begins with the earphones for drowning out the conversation in the office.

Then it’s skipping lunches so that they can take and make calls to potential future employers.

A marked increase in sick/ emergency leave comes next which is most likely for attending interviews.

Underlying all these is a general apathy towards any new projects on the horizon.

Oh, and I’m forgetting, the glazed look in their eyes which signals I just don’t care anymore. Do whatever you want. I’m not going to be here soon anyway.

I noticed all these symptoms in the co-worker before he resigned and knew that it was just a matter of weeks. I was wrong, it was only a matter of days.

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What are some of the signs that you’ve noticed about your co-workers right before they quit?

 

To (P)ee or Not to (P)ee

This post is part of the A to Z Challenge. Each post will be associated with a letter of the alphabet with the theme ‘Today, at work…’.

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Today, at work, The Boss told me I couldn’t take a toilet break.

We’d organised a seminar for which I was the emcee. My responsibilities included welcoming the attendees, announcing the house rules, introducing the speakers and at the end, thanking everyone for their participation. It was a no-brainer, anyone could do it.

We were nearing the end of the seminar and I anticipated that the speaker had about 10 more slides which meant anyway between 15 – 30 minutes left. I told The Boss “I’m just going to run to the washroom.” I turned to leave when I heard her exclaim “No! You can’t go! You have to stay till the end!”

What the heck! “Yes, I am. I’m just going to pop into the washroom, it’s just around the corner and I’ll be quick.”

“No, you can’t go, you’re the emcee!” She glared at me and I glared back.

I went and when I got back, no one died.

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What weird/ strange instructions have you ever received from a superior at work?