Posted by: maureen in meeting, meaning, laugh on
May 1, 2013
When I was fresh out of college, supervising a dozen or so telephone company technicians, I held a weekly meeting.
Someone told me to do it, so I did it.
I can’t remember what the focus was. Something about safety, if memory serves. Maybe the latest change to our escalation policy--which was a fancy term for deciding which squeaky wheel got greased first. When there was a snag getting a circuit installed, a technician appealed to his bosses--who appealed to their bosses--to appeal to the managers at the other end of the problem circuit to get their technicians to fix it.
It’s been many years, so I don’t know if I characterized anything correctly in the last paragraph. I do know that as those meetings were happening I couldn’t have imagined a bigger waste of time, whether we were talking about a safety issue or a policy change.
Though just in typing that last sentence I changed my mind.
Can you imagine how entertaining it must have been for my technicians to watch a naïve young woman try to hold court for a half hour or so once a week? Even people who love their work--and some of them did--need breaks for comic relief.
In that respect I was perfect.
The techs came around. I had one thing over so many others who’d come before me. I hadn’t pretended to add a single thing of value to the group. I’d won them over by admitting I was a waste of space.
I’ll probably always wonder why I didn’t challenge the manager who insisted I hold those weekly meetings. My guess is that it would’ve been quite the project. A culture shift. Was I really up for that? Apparently not. At some level I was going through the motions. I took the job out of college that paid the most and gave me the most number of windows on the world. I wasn’t ready to plant myself in one office for the rest of my life and devote that life to solving problems that didn’t hold any meaning for me.
After a year I got promoted. I’ll never forget one of the brightest technicians, whom I respected above all others, howling with laughter at the news. I laughed along with him, because I knew I hadn’t made enough of a difference in this department to get promoted to another one. I had a good gig and I was going to enjoy where it took me. But I’d also stayed humble, worked hard--at what, I don’t remember--and according to the techs, made it more fun for them to come to work every day for a year.
I don’t know how much I’d helped, but I certainly hadn’t hurt.
For a fresh-faced young thing with the capacity to demoralize just from the unfairness of it all, I’m filing this in the win column.
Posted by: maureen in play, personality, laugh on
Mar 13, 2013
Once upon a time the people ushering me from one rung to the next on AT&T’s corporate ladder gave me some coaching.
I was about to be interviewed for a midlevel management position, and the suggestions were specific: “Cut your hair. Wear a suit and top it off with one of those (silly) little ties. And whatever you do, tone down the bubbly personality!”
Which I did. I sat in the lobby of a swanky office building in Kansas City, petrified. The receptionist--who later became one of my best friends because she was a sweetheart and thought I was, too--took me in. And at first she decided, “What a (insert unflattering noun).”
I carried off that oh-so-cool corporate demeanor for--what?--about three hours once I got the job. I’m surprised I was hired, considering the receptionist had shared her first impression of me with anyone who’d listen.
I had a lot of fun during those couple of years in corporate America--flying to and from New York City, for one thing, to attend still another marketing meeting--even though I hated the actual work. Which mostly meant, to borrow from Dave Barry, keeping the blame balloon afloat. I wasn’t very good at that, to begin with--but we had a lot of laughs at my lame (and occasionally adequate) attempts.
Oh-so-cool is so not me.
The highlight of that job was after my boss told our staff he thought we had a very honest, open group. I turned to my nemesis and said, “I agree. I have to believe that what you say behind my back isn’t any worse than what you say to my face.” Everyone cracked up. My boss pulled me aside later to tell me he thought I was the reason the group was so much fun. An agent would echo that many years later: “You don’t have any filters.”
Okay, so that would suck if I aspired to be a poker player. But I hate playing games--except for Scrabble, and Tetris.
I’d rather play it straight.
Posted by: maureen in wisdom, play, laugh on
Jan 8, 2013
“Life is too important to be taken seriously.”
That’s wisdom--or at least, I’d call it wisdom--from a new book, The Dude and the Zen Master
Jeff Bridges is one of the authors and this little gem is worth lingering on, I think…
“Kevin Bacon and I recently worked on a movie together, R.I.P.D.
Just before we’d begin a scene, when all of us would feel the normal anxiety that actors feel before they start to perform, Kevin would look at me and the other actors with a very serious expression on his face and say: ‘Remember, everything
depends on this!’”
I’ve had a little bit of a thing for Kevin Bacon ever since his character in A Few Good Men
teased Tom Cruise’s character about the not-so-strong witnesses he had in reserve. “And handsome, too,” Cruise’s character fires back. Bacon’s character cracks up. To think he might be as playful in real life? Oh…
It reminds me of a story I once heard about a bus driver who, when asked how long the trip was going to take, said the following: “I don’t know. We’ve never made it.”
Who can you make laugh, today?
the Lord’s work.
So help me God!
Posted by: maureen in stories, laugh, conversation on
Dec 10, 2012
“It’s just soap, for crying out loud.” That was Darrell, teasing Katie about how much time she was taking deciding on a body wash. Which inspired quite the lecture from her about which products were best for what parts of your body--and why. Which (you guessed it) slowed down our grocery run even more.
I was watching someone else next to us, noticing her face go from interested to amused to finally, “This is a conversation I want in on.” Soon all four of us were almost doubled over, laughing, at the reminder for Dad it isn’t so much the destination--in this case, the checkout line--as it is the reason you made the trip.
When you look back on your life, what stands out? The graduation? The promotion? The big purchase of the big house that’ll be yours in--what?--twenty years?
My money’s on the stories.
When my life flashes before my eyes, I hope the much-debated body wash makes the cut. I bet it will. Same with the conversation about cow sex as we crossed the Nevada desert. You can take everything fun we’ve ever done as a family. Just give me the look on Darrell’s face as we howled with laughter watching him ponder this question: “Do the cows enjoy it?”
Just the other day I asked Darrell how he wriggled his hands up under the light-up Christmas presents under the lit-up Christmas tree decorating the lawn in front of our house. There are approximately zero inches of clearance--and I was fascinated by how he could’ve maneuvered under those closed boxes to get his hands inside them, let alone anchor them down. It didn’t occur to me you could open the boxes from the top, the same way it wouldn’t occur to anyone I have an engineering degree.
What struck Darrell wasn’t so much the question--“How’d you do that?”--as it was the sound effect that accompanied it. “That’s a technical term, right?” he asked as he imitated me. And we were off.
Continuing the conversation on still another ordinary--and yet, so not--day in the life.
Posted by: maureen in laugh on
Oct 8, 2012
When Katie was little she begged Darrell for a snow cone at the state fair. “It’s flavored ice,” he told me in protest. “And they want how much for it?”
I wasn’t proposing we feed her only snow cones from here on out--but they were calling to me, too. We went back and forth about it for a while, and--you guessed it--Katie got her snow cone.
She was little, but she was old enough to know how she felt about how long it had taken us to reach this decision.
She took the much-lobbied-for snow cone, looked at Darrell, and dumped it on the ground. I say “dumped it” now, but I wouldn’t have said it then. It was an accident. It had to be. She wasn’t old enough to know there was such a thing as giving someone the proverbial finger.
I defended her for years. Darrell was sure she’d done this on purpose. I was sure she hadn’t.
One day we got to talking about it with Katie. And guess what? She had done it on purpose.
As bad days go, this one was right up there.
But of anything we laugh about, only one other incident tops the list--and with the permission of everyone involved, I’ll probably tell you about it sometime.
It’s endlessly fascinating to me, how the worst possible times make the best possible memories. It’s only logical, I suppose. Do you howl with laughter during the movie if the heroine, in her beautiful evening gown, gracefully descends the staircase? No. Much more entertaining when her heel catches on something and she takes a tumble over the railing, falling headfirst into the punchbowl.
Here’s one secret to life. Shorten the time between having a really bad day and knowing you’ll have a really good story.
Posted by: maureen in laugh on
Jul 9, 2012
I follow Albert Brooks on Twitter
. That’s how I learned Neil Armstrong used to tell unfunny jokes about the moon and then say, “I guess you had to be there.” You should’ve heard the giggles when I shared that with Katie. There’s no sweeter sound in all the world, because she never laughs just to be polite.
I love that about her. She doesn’t pretend I’m funny when I’m not. All it would get her, she knows, is more boring. She does us both a favor. She doesn’t humor me.
She learned this from her parents. We don’t laugh just to be polite, either--and we are laughing all the time
. I don’t remember what we found so funny on our grocery run, but my stomach hurt by the time we reached the parking lot. That’s when I saw it. A soda cup, on top
of the trash can next to our car.
“What? You couldn’t go all the way and put the cup inside
?” I pretended to scold the person who left it. Darrell watched me wrestle it--still filled with soda, I suddenly realized--into a can that wasn’t big enough to hold everything it was, let alone this. I imagined a store employee emptying that trash--as the cup tumbled to the pavement and splashed hot, sticky soda onto his leg.
“What?” I imagined the employee muttering to himself. “You couldn’t just leave the cup on top?”
Darrell cracked up.
But I guess you had to be there.
Posted by: maureen in laugh, contest, attention on
Apr 12, 2012
When you make a mistake, do you call attention to it? Or do you hope no one noticed, and move on?
I usually point it out. I want people to know I realize it’s people who
, not people that
. So I made a mistake. So what.
So some mistakes are more humiliating than others, that’s what.
I was once so eager to enter “eschew flip-flops” in a subject line contest I didn’t catch the fact the subject line was supposed to entice people to find out more about some conference.
The panic set in immediately. It wasn’t that
ridiculous, was it? You should
eschew flip-flops if you’re going to a conference, right?
Never mind. Please!
I’d finally forgotten about it, when Laurie Ruettimann
admitted in her blog she doesn’t pay attention sometimes. Suddenly I couldn’t wait to share the story, especially considering she’s my featured expert in the blog post entitled, “eschew flip-flops
This is the formula I try to live by: Something Bad + Time = Something Good. At the very least, you’ll probably have something to laugh about
. I mean, really. When’s the last time you sat around with a good friend, howling with laughter over what went right
Posted by: maureen in wonder, name, laugh on
Jan 24, 2012
What if you could look at mistakes as just information
You’d be in good company. Improv actors, jazz musicians, and even public speakers are at their most entertaining when they look at so-called mistakes as jumping-off points as opposed to, well, mistakes. Nick Morgan
is a public speaking coach with an acting background. He reminded me what I love most about the talk show--the potential to mess up. I’m much more likely to play a clip over and over if it involves a boo-boo. Darrell swoops in, my guest is reassured he doesn’t have to be perfect, and we all have a good laugh.
Speaking of which! I have it from two sources I’m the only person in the history of cartoon watchers to mispronounce Boo-Boo the Bear, friend to Yogi. I got it in my head his name was pronounced like the “bow” in (his) bow tie. “How?” a friend wondered. “How
?” Pause. “It isn’t like you heard someone else
pronounce it that way…”
But I have to ask Darrell every time. Is it bow-bow? Or boo-boo?
You can say that again!
“What’s your biggest achievement this year?” Someone posed a question like this on Twitter recently, and…nothing came to mind. But you know what? I’m okay with that!
We’ve had fun.
I laughed so hard at something The No Asshole Rule Bob Sutton said
on the show I thought I was going to fall off my chair. We took a whole week to do nothing more strenuous than decide where best to watch the sunset. Darrell and I snuggled in a darkened television studio, watching Katie and her brainiac friends tape a high school quiz show--delighting in the concentration, the scrunched-up faces in that second or two between hearing a question and deciding if they know the answer. I talked with my good friend Chris Shea
on The Career Clinic
less than a week ago, wondering if I’d ever had as much fun in my life. Then I realized it was only the hour before that
, when I interviewed the high-powered Washington lobbyist Rick Berman
about everything from animal rights to texting while driving.
Is there such a thing as making it? And can it be any more fun than doing it? I’m not entirely sure where we’re going, but we’re having so much fun getting there!
What I feel the best about is how much laughter there is in this house. Darrell and Katie and I never laugh just to be polite, and we are laughing all the time
I did one thing right this year. I got the squirrel bungee out of storage. Darrell attached an ear of corn to it and hung it from a tree we can all see from our screens. Watching the squirrels try to nibble off of it is as much fun as watching a baby try to pick up a Cheerio for the first time. Maybe more, because--and it’s been a couple of weeks--the squirrels never seem to get
it. Add the neighbor’s cats to the party, throw in a blackbird or two, and…well, I should get back to work!
Posted by: maureen in laugh, job, credit on
Dec 11, 2011
“Would you like to save fifteen percent on your purchase?” the gal taking our credit card wanted to know.
“Not by signing up for another credit card!” I said, brightly.
She looked horrified. As if to reassure me she hadn’t written that script. We reassured her with our laughter we knew she was just doing her job, to make customers feel like morons for turning down a discount.
How about this instead? “If you sign up for our credit card, we’ll take fifteen percent off this order.” Less insulting, more to the point.