Signs You’ve Hit Middle Age

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How do I use this thing?
This post is for all you Generation X’ers like me. You can no longer hide from middle age. Trust me, I tried. That said, if you exhibit any of the below signs, don’t be completely depressed. There is hope….see number 11.

1. They remake your favorite movie from 7th grade, “The Karate Kid.” You refuse to see the new version, insisting the original version was better. C’mon people, you can’t beat Mr. Miyagi!

2. Speaking of movies, you saw the original Star Wars when it first came out in the theater.  You rub this in your kids’ faces to make them think you’re cool.

3. It doesn’t work.

4. While giving a presentation at the office, everyone on the other side of the room is fuzzy. Since those same people all put on their reading glasses to refer to the handout, at least you’re in good company.

5. You can’t figure out how to use your iPhone to actually call someone. To be fair it isn’t easy; unlike your home phone, it takes at least 4 steps to place a call.

6. You still have a home phone.

7. Your kids figure out how to use your iPhone’s camera without first entering in the password. You didn’t even know that was possible until you discover the inappropriate pictures they took of you in the department store dressing room.

8. You can’t figure out why your kids watch YouTube instead of good, old-fashioned TV. Instead of hours of  mind-numbing cartoons, they watch people playing with toys.  That’s what’s wrong with today’s generation!

9. You nearly get into a physical altercation with the doctor’s assistant when she measures your height and insists you’re an inch shorter. You’re definitely too young to be shrinking. At this rate, you’ll be down to four feet by the time you’re 70 (that’s 122 centimeters for my two, loyal non-U.S. readers).

10. When you recover from the shock, you wonder if you should start hair spraying your bangs up high again like you did in high school in the 80’s. That should give you another inch or two.

11. You start hanging out with fiftysomethings whose issues with persistent chin hair and curling eyebrows make you feel young. Besides, they don’t know how to use their iPhones either.

 

 

10 Signs Your Vacation is NOT Normal

I recently wrote a blog post entitled “Rate Your European Vacation – A Short Quiz.” Unfortunately, I quickly noticed that publishing that post was premature, since we were still on vacation and overwhelmingly subjected to further torture by the Vacation Gods. In pursuit of my mission to provide cutting edge (albeit clearly uninspiring and unprofessional) journalism, I feel it is my duty to continue on with this topic. Thus I present to you, my loyal readers, 10 signs your vacation is not normal (and has probably landed you in the Twilight Zone.)

1. The side of the hotel room’s shower/tub combo is so high, you have to hoist yourself up on the edge and roll over the top. You wonder if pole vaulting in would be easier. Good thing the Olympics are on – you can watch the professionals to learn proper technique.

2. The bedsheets are starched like nothing you’ve experienced since the 1970’s. At least you wake up freshly exfoliated. Now you can cancel that expensive spa treatment you have planned when you get back.

3. The TV is set up so you can only see it by looking into the mirror above the bathroom sink.

4. After running around the ruins of the nearby ancient Roman amphitheater, your kids relax by watching YouTube on their iPads.

5. The hotel furniture your kids are relaxing on is so old you suspect it too may have belonged to the Romans. You entertain yourself by inspecting it for Latin inscriptions.

6. You find some.

7. The horse you take a selfie with while visiting your brother in-law’s farm keeps nudging you until you show it the picture. You wonder if it wants you to tag it on Facebook.

8. You watch in awe as a wasp lands on your dinner, bites off a piece of meat and flies away with it. You consider trying to sic that wasp and its relatives on the hotel’s manager, who turned off your Wifi without telling you and then went to bed.

9. After watching the Olympics every night from his bathroom sink mirror, your English-speaking dad has managed to pick up enough German to fill you in on all the highlights. By the end of the first week, he starts correcting your German grammatical errors. You fear what will happen now that he’s switched to the Italian channel.

10. You spend every morning at the hotel breakfast buffet trying to figure out how many packs of hot chocolate you have to steal to make up for the outrageous cost of the room. On second thought, you might recoup your losses more quickly by selling the Roman artifact furniture on eBay. Your plan is foiled when you realize the manager still hasn’t turned back on your Wifi.

Power-Hungry Art Coordinator

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In my previous post The Volunteer Part II, The Art Docent, I discussed my role last year as a volunteer art docent for my oldest daughter’s class. This proved to be a fascinating experience, particularly because, much to my surprise, the behavior of a room full of elementary school students was not all that different than the antics I’m subjected to in company meetings.

This interaction was close enough to my corporate comfort zone that the kids can consider themselves lucky I didn’t break out a bunch of Excel tables and start lecturing on the importance of using the correct variables in your statistical regression models. (I’m not actually a statistician, but I work with one and have figured out how to imitate him well enough to sound considerably more intelligent than I really am. Look people, it’s all about perception.)

With this school year came a unique opportunity. The son of the volunteer lady who coordinated the art docent program was switching to the local school for smart kids. This meant her position was open. Since no one else wanted the job of coordinator (which should have been a sign to me), I jumped at the opportunity. After all, as coordinator couldn’t I wield my newly-gained power across not only the art docent program but maybe even the PTA? Who cares if I didn’t get paid? Since I had no actual power at work (and zero power at home with my kids), my dictatorial cravings would finally be satisfied.

Excited at the thought that people would finally listen to me, I immediately set goals, made a PowerPoint, and met with the school principal to align on said goals. I could barely wait to begin assembling my team of minions, um, I mean volunteer art docents.

Despite my and the principal’s enthusiasm, I quickly learned that running a volunteer program is not an easy task. This is primarily due to the fact that an astonishing number of volunteers are flakes with a limited sense of responsibility and urgency. In all fairness, I suppose this shouldn’t have shocked me, since they aren’t getting paid; even a number of salaried people at my corporate job are neither accountable nor timely for anything not directly related to a department potluck. (People love food…organizing it, making it, talking about it, eating it, etc.)

After the Back to School Night volunteer sign-ups, I had at least one volunteer for each of the 15 classrooms. However, as time passed and the first art lesson was only a few weeks away, half of the parents had stopped responding to my e-mails…and I suspected some of them had even changed their identities.

While I struggled with the concept of grown-ups signing up for something that they weren’t actually interested in doing, it occurred to me that the reason these people had gone into hiding may have something to do with the fact that they realized they would actually have to stand up in front of 30 kids and try to teach them something.

Having attended numerous official company meetings where adults spent most of the hour ignoring the agenda and competing for laughs (kind of like an episode of “Last Comic Standing”), I was used to free-for-alls and teaching unruly kids, while at times frustrating, was only marginally more frightening.

Sadly, there was no room for power-wielding despotism. To keep the program intact, I couldn’t afford to lose any more parent volunteers. There was clearly only one solution.  I was going to have to schlep the group to a series of meetings at my company…and follow it up with a potluck.

The Volunteer Part II, the Art Docent

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In the Volunteer Part I , I had ventured out of my corporate comfort zone of meaningless statistics and mind-numbing Excel spreadsheets to tackle volunteering at my then fourth grader’s Thanksgiving party. As I doled out someone else’s scalloped potatoes to a stampede of hungry 9 year olds, I found that these kids weren’t any scarier than the lunatics I deal with on a daily basis in the asylum…I mean business world. In fact, by the end of the party I even felt comfortable enough to accept the challenge when the room parent called out “Anyone want to volunteer to do the class art lessons?”

As I soon learned, this volunteer role had the official title of  “Art Docent” and required me to teach a series of 4 lessons in art history along with an accompanying art project for each. In other words, for most of the lesson I had to talk loudly to a bunch of unruly people about a topic they weren’t really interested in, while attempting to direct their attention to the accompanying PowerPoint slides. This was definitely familiar territory. I wondered if I would get business cards.

It turns out I didn’t get business cards, but at least the lesson materials were already prepared. All I had to do was edit the heck out of them for “better clarification,” which was a key management technique I’d observed in my interactions with our senior leadership team. (“Leadership Team” is pretentious corporate speak for the people that dump an urgent project on your plate and then immediately go on vacation somewhere without cell phone network coverage, leaving you to work through the holiday Christmas party to meet the deadline. On the positive side, at least you get to miss the crappy White Elephant exchange…)

As anticipated, there really wasn’t much difference between a classroom presentation and a business meeting. In fact, the cast of characters was very similar, which is probably due to the fact that many school kids grow up to be corporate folks.

Here are a few of the personalities I encountered during my lessons, which are also typically present in the business setting:

The Royal Pain: Puts his hand up every time you ask a question, even though he has no idea what you’re talking about and has been holding a sidebar conversation with the kid next to him since you started the lesson. When you move on to the next topic, his hand is still up.

Defense Tactic: Aside from slapping him, which would be illegal, there’s not much you can do. Take comfort in the fact that when this guy gets to the business world, he likely won’t make it out of the mailroom.

The One-Upper: This is the kid who, after you talk about Italian art, tries to impress you with his vast knowledge of Italian pasta shapes.

Defense Tactic: Since you used to live in Italy, continue the lesson in Italian for the next five minutes. Your Italian is admittedly a little rusty these days, but he won’t know if you confuse the word for faucet with the word for toilet.

The Politician: This girl sweetly reminds you how fun it was when you two sat together on the bus during last year’s class field trip. Unfortunately, this is also the same kid that nastily announced at the class holiday party last week that she re-gifted the Secret Santa present she received from your daughter.

Defense Tactic: Sweetly remind her back (in a low, sinister voice), that you know what she did last Christmas…

The Attention-Seeker: This brat complains the whole time that the art project is too difficult. Somehow, despite her complaints, she manages to complete the project within the given timeframe.

Defense Tactic: Give her the attention she so desperately craves by challenging this kid to a game of tetherball at recess. Then, wipe the court with her. If it looks like she’s going to win, however, claim sudden dehydration and explain that you urgently need a drink from the toilet.