Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What are the signs that you should get out?

Why is it appalling for a woman to spend three years in an abusive relationship, but acceptable for her to spend twice that long with an abusive boss? How come it's not okay for someone to yell at you and berate you at home, but it's overlooked at the office?

I was a victim of workplace abuse in two separate locations, one physical and the other emotional. At my first real graphic design job, I had a very hot headed boss. He would fling boxes of fliers at employees when they were folded wrong and even threw an inkjet printer across the room, narrowly missing my supervisor, when a customer refused to pay for a botched job. This type of behavior was common from him...and yet my ex-husband encouraged me to suck-it-up, day after day, and be thankful for the work.

In another location, I had a boss who openly admitted when he brought you into his office that he wouldn't let you leave until he had made you cry. He would attack us personally, even after commending us on a job well done. He picked-on clothing, demeanor and family life. Nothing was off-limits. Although he attributed the torture to management training, it was clear that he just enjoyed keeping his employees (particularly the women) in a subordinate position. Again, I was encouraged not to take it too seriously. I mean, it's only a job, right?

The truth is, with as many hours as we spend at work, doesn't it make sense that we would want our professional environment to be as safe and supportive as our home? Why aren't more people in an uproar over treatment in the workplace?

My mother works for a place where she gets 8 minutes of personal time. 8 minutes! If she's not on break or lunch, she only has a total of 8 minutes to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, sneeze, cough, or anything other than talk to customers on the phone. She's got no fewer than 5 things that she's required to do with every customer, yet she's penalized if she's on the phone for more than 200 seconds on average. She's monitored via recording, managers on the floor, and buttons that she has to press which indicate that she's on a call, on hold, or in after-call mode. Her use of after-call is also limited via monitoring.

If a woman were controlled like this in her personal life, she would undoubtedly feel major pressure to abandon the relationship. What's the difference? Can anyone shed some light on this for me? Is it because the working hours only account for 1/4 of our work week? Does that make it okay to have a boyfriend who's verbally abusive or controlling as long as you only see him on Saturdays? Maybe it's because there's an assumption that jobs are more easily exchanged than relationships. I would argue the opposite. One can lead a very functional and safe life when they live without a partner for months or years, but life without a job gets very sticky after even a few weeks.

I don't know what to suggest for this, I certainly don't think unions are the answer.

I think recognizing and pointing-out the behavior is important. As a culture, we need to take responsibility for ourselves. We need to decide how we will allow ourselves to be treated and hold ourselves accountable for surrounding ourselves with people who maintain that standard. If we can be strong enough, I suggest we also force ourselves to be so bold as to inform others of our requirements when they don't meet those criteria. It may not cure the disease, but it can help inoculate us individually.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be better than this

I'm pretty sure I'm doing it wrong. I'll be the first to admit that I don't have enough experience.

That's right, I'm talking about dating.

If you don't happen to know my history, I'll give you a short overview. I started dating the man that I eventually married when I was 15. That means that 100% of my relationship experience was created with one person. It's an idea that was romantic while it lasted, but when it was over I was left jaded, confused and naive. So much so, that when a gentleman tried to kiss me at the end of a date last night, I actually had an internal struggle.

So much of my life (almost exactly half) was spent being faithful to one person, that I find it difficult to let my guard down and enjoy the dating experience. Last night, I realized that this apparition of loyalty has been manifesting itself in many ways since the very first day that I became single again. Most notably, the creation of rules. Some of these rules are logical, common sense.

* No married men (or guys with girlfriends)

Other rules are highlighting themselves as unreasonable attempts at keeping me from getting attached to anyone.

* No dating coworkers or people in the department
* No second dates

As a result, I've had a string of dates with people that I have no attachment to and no desire to form one with. After my epiphany, I can see how I was constructing that situation for myself. I was stuck inside my head. I was over-thinking everything, completely unable to navigate by heart or libido. By breaking just one little rule, things got intense enough for me to step back and actually see the walls I've been building.

I'm tired of being lead around by my brain. If I keep this up, I'll end up a frigid, lonely, old spinster. I don't want that. I want to be happy. I want to enjoy my life. As far as relationships are concerned, I just want to spend time with someone that I enjoy being around and someone who enjoys being around me, too. It's increasingly obvious that I'm going to have to break a few rules to get there. The problem is convincing myself that I'm ready.

Unfortunately, I don't think this is something I'm going to be able to research and create a plan for. It looks like I'm going to have to jump in head first. I can only hope that if I get cold feet there's someone out there willing to give me a little push.

Monday, December 22, 2008

What the GRE taught me about myself

While I am apparently an effective writer, it seems that I have no clue as to the meanings of obscure, multi-syllabic words...especially when you toss them at me with no context.

I mean, really, if I jumped out at you and yelled "SESQUIPEDALIAN," would you embrace me and say "Yes, I understand!" or would you grimace and wait for more? Now add the expectation that you're supposed to derive the opposite of my outburst and you'll know the state of confusion that I just had to endure for two and a half hours.

Fortunately, I consider math to be one of my skills - even paper & pencil math. After nearly a decade without using the Pythagorean theorem, circle geometry or the quadratic formula, I still managed to rock the quantitative section...that is, until half way through when I realized that I only had 10 minutes left! The state of panic that enveloped my body is unexplainable in the confines of a blog. It really requires beat poetry or interpretive dance. It goes without saying that the last half of that section was completed with considerably less care than I had used leading up to that point. So much so, that the last five questions had to be done in thirty seconds, which barely gave me time to click through to the next page and select a circle at random. Boy was I relieved to see that my math score was still higher than my verbal.

Poor, poor verbal. As if the first time through wasn't bad enough, I was randomly selected to do *another* verbal section, to test questions for future testing versions. This was another 30 minutes of taunting that will either be incorporated into your score - or not - but they won't tell you which. The entire time, all I could think was "Holy crap, I just threw away the last 5 math questions. They're gonna send me back to high school."

After the damage was done, I drug my defeated ass back to Deschutes. After talking to Star, I was relieved to find out that my scores will still qualify me to join the department. So now, I'm tormented. I don't have to retake the GRE for any logical purpose, but if I don't I'll have to live with this score for the rest of my life! I only have one thing to say "PHILOPHRONEA!"

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Big things come in small packages

Bull. Small packages just can't fit big things quite the way that big packages can. In particular, I'm talking about my new Mini Laptop, the Eee PC.

I got this computer as a spare, to keep in my school bag for taking notes in class and accessing the internet on the fly (since I use Verizon and therefore don't have an Iphone like everyone else.) My primary computer - a 10 lb, 17.5" HP notebook - Is hella fast and great to work on. Unfortunately, it takes forever to start-up and requires a separate bag for transportation. With all of the great tech sales going on, I decided to take advantage of the crappy economy and pick up the 9" notebook that I'd had my eyes on since they first hit the market.

Let's start by saying that I am well aware that you get what you pay for (or in this case, don't.) At less than $300, I didn't expect my Eee to be lightening fast, or have a lot of hd space, but I did expect it to be at least as functional as my 3 year-old Palm Pilot. So far, it doesn't look promising.

Granted, I've only been using it for about 4 hours, but the network is slow, the programs are slow and the interface doesn't feel very customizable. I'm hoping that it grows on me as I get used to its eccentricities and it's teeenie little keyboard, but I see many upgrades in the near future.

One such upgrade is the hard drive. Right now, the solid state drive holds a whopping 8 gigs. Less than my Ipod. It comes with a subscription for an online storage package, but I can't see a benefit to doing that when I have my own server space.

Speaking of that agreement, while reviewing the terms, I came across something very odd. One of the things that they disclaim in their agreement is that they accept no liability for suspension of service in many cases. One of those cases is: "Suspension or termination due to acts of God."

The phrasing of this note strikes me as odd on so many levels. First off, if we accept their terms, are we also accepting that God exists? If they're trying to excuse the unforseen, couldn't they have blamed acts of nature, or did they want to allow room for burning bushes and locusts?

At any rate, I wanted to share my experience and say with as much authority as I can muster while typing on a 8" keyboard, try these suckers out for a good-long time before you buy one for yourself!