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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.

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.”

The Machines Are Aware…

| Working | March 31, 2017

(I am meeting my boss at a conference. I keep him updated on my whereabouts by text message.)

Me: *by text* “I’m at the corner of [Street #1] and [Street #2].”

(I arrive at the venue.)

Me: “I’m here.”

(After waiting in line for a long time:)

Me: “Still in line.”

(I make it through the line and find my boss seated at a presentation. There’s little room and I’m late, so I have to sit two rows behind him and he doesn’t see me. So as not to interrupt the presentation:)

Me: *by text* “I’m two rows behind you.”

(He takes his phone from his pocket and looks at it, so I assume he’s been receiving my texts. After the presentation, we meet.)

Boss: “Good to see you here. But I wish you’d let me know you were going to be late.”

Me: “I did. I was texting you all the way through.”

Boss: “Really?”

Me: “Yeah! Look at my texts!”

Boss: “I haven’t received anything from you… Here, I’ll send you a text to test.”

(I receive a text from another number. Then it clicks.)

Me: “Wait a minute… I was texting the OFFICE number on your business card, not your cell phone!”

(The poor receptionists at the office had to hear a horrifying robotic text-to-landline progression of someone coming up the stairs, culminating in “I’m two rows behind you”!)

X-tra Stupid

| Learning | February 14, 2017

(While finishing my Master’s in 2009, I am volunteering at an academic conference. My job is to make sure organize the presenters’ files, and to run our audio recording software that syncs with PowerPoint. It is the lunch break.)

Me: “Hello, everybody. I’m sorry but we are having a problem with our recording software. It doesn’t work with the newer PPTX format so could you please convert your slides into PPT and re-submit them? Thank you.”

(Shortly afterward, another student comes up to me.)

Student: “I was trying to convert my PowerPoint into PPT like you said, so I deleted the X at the end of the filename, but now it won’t open at all.”

Google Your History

| Working | October 31, 2016

(My coworker and I are talking about one of the famous scientists at this conference who happens to have the same name as an American burger chain, although the scientist is from South Africa.)

Coworker: “You would think parents would at least Google their kids’ names.”

Me: “Think about what you just said. She’s a middle-aged lady.”

Coworker: “[Burger Chain] has been around for a long time. I would guess it still existed then.”

Me: “I’m pretty sure Google didn’t!”