Physics-ally Wearing A Shirt

, , , , | Working | August 19, 2019

(My boyfriend works as a researcher at a physics lab. As such, he works with people from all over the world. Most of his coworkers have met me and know we’ve been dating for several years. One of those coworkers is a very sweet woman from the UK who loves to compliment people. Another aspect of his work is that the dress code is very lax, of which my boyfriend takes full advantage by wearing graphic T-shirts and shorts to work pretty much every day of the year. On this occasion, however, he is at a conference giving a talk about his findings and so is in a nice dress shirt.)

British Coworker: “Oh, [Boyfriend], you look so nice! I like it when you wear a shirt!”

(Other coworkers give them weird looks.)

Boyfriend: “I… I think I usually wear a shirt.”

British Coworker: “Oh, does that mean something different here?”

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Not An Industry-Standard Greeting

, , , , | Working | June 14, 2019

(I am a woman in my mid-20s. In February, I go with my company to my first conference focusing on our industry. The first day is wonderful. I am meeting peers from other states and countries and learning a lot about the goings-on of our business. The second day, I am walking around with a coworker who is also a woman, in her 60s. She also happens to be part of the LGBT community.)

Me: “I love how they have all the vendors set up in the ballroom so we can check the booths out on breaks!”

Coworker: “Yep! It’s a great way to see what everyone else is working on this year.”

(We approach a vendor booth and start looking at their brochures when one of their reps, a man who I assume is in his late 40s or early 50s, comes over to talk to us.)

Company Rep: “Good morning! Let us know if we can answer any questions for you!”

Coworker: “Thank you! We’re just looking around before the talks start.”

Company Rep: “Which company are you with?”

Me: “We’re with [Company], from [Southern State].”

Company Rep: “Of course! I know exactly where you’re located.”

(My coworker begins to walk down the line of booths, and I move to join her when the guy stops me.)

Company Rep: *looks at me expectantly* “So, are you originally from [Southern State]?”

Me: *thinking maybe he’s visited there* “Yes, born and raised. Haha…” *looks to see my coworker has already moved a couple of booths down* “I should go join my…”

Company Rep: “[Southern State]’s had a lot of trouble with [slang, derogatory, term for LGBT people], huh?”

(I stare at him for a second. It’s no secret that many southern states in the US have had rocky legislation and communication with the LGBT community, but I am of the opinion that things are starting to move in a more positive direction. I try to deflect the subject because this is a business setting and this man’s job is to make our company want to hire his. Plus, he has no inkling of my opinion on this subject, so why would he bring something like that up?)

Me: “Well, I haven’t been a fan of many of the state’s decisions in recent years, and I have friends in that community, so…”

Company Rep: *interrupts me and cranks the topic up 100 notches* “Well, you know, there was a kid in [Other State] who was assaulted in a bathroom by a man dressed as a woman.” *smug look*

Me: *barely keeping my voice calm* “I had not heard that. Was it an actual transgender person, or was it a predator pretending to be one?”

Company Rep: *looks panicked for a second that I actually asked a real question about his comment* “Well, uh, he had a wig and stuff on.”

Me: “I see. Well, it appears I’ve lost my coworker. Excuse me.”

(I walked quickly away, found my coworker, and told her what happened. I was so angry I had to excuse myself for a few minutes to calm down. We both sat down with our manager that evening and told him what happened. He is also a staunch believer in professional behavior between businesses, and made it a point to contact the rep’s superior to let him know how his employee was talking to potential clients. Turns out, this guy had gotten in trouble for bringing up touchy political topics with strangers before — apparently, he liked to get a rise and arguments out of people — and was already on the superior’s radar for disciplinary action. He thanked my manager for letting him know this was still going on. I was so glad that my manager stood up for me, and for our coworker, instead of dismissing my experience as something this guy “just does,” or something that “wasn’t a big deal.” It doesn’t matter what side of a topic like that you fall on, or if the other person agrees with you or not; don’t ambush a stranger in a professional environment to get a rise out of them, especially a stranger who could potentially make the decision to spend thousands of dollars with your company.)

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[Citation Needed]

, , , , , | Learning | May 29, 2019

(I’m at a conference for school librarians, attending a discussion about disinformation on the Internet.)

Speaker: “It’s amazing how often educated teachers will blindly believe something they’ve read on the Internet without bothering to verify it. One district banned the Amelia Bedelia books because of something false they read online.”

Me: “What did they read?”

Speaker: “I’m not sure.”

Me: “When did this happen?”

Speaker: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Could you give us the URL of your source? I’d like to read this.”

Speaker: “I can’t; I saw it on a friend’s page.”

Me: *thinking* “So, you just read something on the Internet and blindly believed it without bothering to verify it?”

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Think Outside The Box But Not Too Far

, , , , , , , | Working | April 5, 2019

Our company decided, for some odd reason, to have a training conference. Part of the conference was a session where they were trying to get us to “think outside the box.”

The exercise we were given was to drop an egg from a six-foot height without breaking it, using only a small number of straws, some tape, and a few other pointless and useless things.

I asked for very specific instructions on what constituted success and was told that we had to drop the egg without having it splatter.

The first group tried dropping the egg into a net of straws and failed. The second group wrapped the egg in tape, with a tape loop sticking out, stuck taped-together straws through the egg’s loop, and successfully slid the egg down the straws. The third group simply taped the straws together with the egg at the bottom, held the egg over six feet of the ground — with the top of the taped-together straws over twelve feet of the ground — and successfully managed to catch the top of the straws before the egg splattered.

Our group dropped the egg into a nest of straws… and it didn’t break, because we had gone into the bathroom, poked a couple of tiny holes in it, and blew the insides out.

We were disqualified. The lesson we learned? [Company] wants you to think outside the box, but only in a proper, company-approved fashion.

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Preach, Teach!

, , , , , | Learning | January 29, 2018

(I have a friend who has one of those always-young faces. She looks a lot younger than she really is. She also has one heck of a smart mouth on her, and has taught me a lot about how to quietly take people down without losing her temper. We work in different companies, but in the same speciality, and we often meet up at work conferences. At one of these conferences, we meet up for lunch and sit at the same table as a husband and wife we don’t know. We get talking, when the man springs this little gem on my friend:)

Man: “You know, the problem is that you young ones in [industry] know nothing, these days.”

Friend: *polite smile* “Is that so?”

Man: “Yes! Now, you should think of doing [professional qualification]. It might teach you something!”

Friend: *thoughtfully, but sadly* “No. I really don’t think I could do that.”

Man: “It’s not too difficult, you know. You could always study and revise a bit first, if it feels a bit too hard.”

Friend: “Oh, that’s not the problem. It’s more of a logistical issue.”

Man: “How do you mean?”

Friend: “I can’t take that course, because I teach it.”

Man: “…”

Friend: *friendly, but wicked smile* “Yes, I’m afraid I’m one of those people teaching the young ones nothing, these days.”

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