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Like most everywhere else, Berrett-Koehler has a monthly staff meeting. You’ll know what day the meeting falls on by how the price of coffee beans takes a sharp hike on the NASDAQ following frenzied market demand by BK staff. These are marathon days for my position, too. Amongst the staff, these meetings are as informative and useful as they are dreaded.

Because I favor the dreaded side of things, here are five really annoying things that happen in BK staff meetings:

1. Every Minute Becomes Five (or Twenty): Our staff meetings are scheduled, on average, to be three hours long. I know that this doesn’t seem that laborious, but unfortunately it doesn’t account for the fact that despite years of experience, almost everyone underestimates the amount of time needed to discuss a topic to death. I cringe and hope, but inevitably someone will say “Oh, well, I’d like a bit more time to discuss this issue – perhaps the whole dang afternoon will do?” (Okay, they don’t ask for the whole afternoon — usually only ten or twenty minutes — but that’s how it feels to me.)

2. Yada Yada Yada: At these meetings, I am the scribe (which is a fancy word for “minutes-monkey”) and I am required to record everything everyone says as part of the minutes. This means not only the important decisions, but also the pontificating, lecturing, meandering, really unfunny joking, and out-loud self-obsessed ruminations that are part of this whole circus. You know what the one thing worse than a bad joke is? Having to transcribe that bad joke word for word, thereby reliving the horror yet again in my mind.

3. Space Cadets: I am always exhausted after a staff meeting, not because of the amount of time we’re locked in there, but because I have to be constantly alert and activity listening because of (#2) above. So you can imagine the burning injustice I feel when I look up and see people staring at the wall, employing the hand-to-forehead-in-deep-thought tactic to take a nap, or tweeting about how boring the meeting is. Oh, and by the way, holding your iPhone under the table to play Angry Birds isn’t exactly covert. I’m watching you, and I hate you all.

4. Democracy Is the Biggest Pain-in-the-Butt: We are BK, so when it comes to decision making everyone’s opinion counts and we vote. On EVERYTHING. You see, I’m fine with the fact that we vote on things like pay raises and company health plans, but do we really need to vote about which restaurants to use to order lunch? Note to management: At about 75% of voting scenarios, someone inevitably asks if there’s an “I really don’t care” option. This is a hint.

5. Feeding Time: About half way through the meeting, it begins. I hear the first crinkle of a chip bag, the first protest of plastic wrap being stripped off a sandwich, and I realize it’s lunchtime. And like some twisted Pavlovian  response, I begin to feel rage. Because I have to continue taking the minutes, I can’t eat (and if you refer to point #2 above, you’ll know that there’s no rest from taking minutes because someone is always talking). And our staff are not the most graceful eaters either, which just amplifies the hunger-in-the-face-of-gluttony factor. I secretly wish someone would start choking on his or her food. Then the staff could  vote on whether the person is actually choking or not.

As the song says, suicide is painless. Unfortunately, meetings aren’t. Until next time

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Jeevus Cocoa Addicticus

Jeevus Cocoa Addicticus

 

In high school I worked in the daycare room at a local gym. It was a nightmare but I hung in there for the free membership. Whatever those hellion tots threw at me, snack time always took that circus to a whole new level of crazy. I dreamt of the day I would enter the “professional” working world where there were grownups. Sadly, I was wrong.

Here are five food habits of my coworkers that I could live without:

1. Using the Fridge as a Petri Dish: Pay no attention to the numerous signs I post on the fridge asking to keep it clean and not leave food festering in there. Even though it is sternly worded, please, consider it as not a request but just a suggestion – sort of like the traffic lights in Rome. Here’s a hint: when the lunch you packed last month starts to look like it went and got itself a fungus sweater, it’s probably a good time to throw it out.

2. Displaying Pigeon Behavior: The number one rule of pigeons is never feed pigeons. If you give them food, it will just encourage to keep coming back. I made this mistake early in my time at Berrett-Koehler when one of our editors (I will not name him here, oh wait, I will – it’s Jeevan) came to my desk asking for chocolate. I just so happened to have some stashed away so I gave it to him. Now he keeps coming and asking and won’t leave me alone. Now I’ve had to resort to locking my desk.

3. “Let the Maid Clean It”: Here’s the problem, we don’t have a maid, but since I am responsible for the general upkeep of the office, guess who is on permanent feather-duster duty? Picking up loose napkins or the like is okay, but I went to college so that I wouldn’t have to bus tables and abandoned meals. Then there’s the microwave, let me tell you – the savory mélange that results from that blended, congealed mess of a hundred nasty exploded microwave meals is truly a treat.

4. The Leftover Combo-Nightmare: I know that throwing together a bunch of leftovers and making some sort of hybrid dish can be fun, but there are limits. Some combinations were made for consumption and others for the trash compactor. Some of the food I’ve seen staff eat is Frankenstein-ish – an unholy amalgam created from the remains of several long-dead meals.  Oh, and the smell of 2-day old tuna with cauliflower emanating from the microwave? An olfactory garden of delights, I tell you.

5. The Envious Palate: There are many food options around our office but few of them are any good (and the ones that are, you get tired of quickly). So sometimes I’ll actually walk a death-defying three blocks to get my food from elsewhere. But the moment I get back to the office and begin eating, others will start to stare, and then the dance begins:

Them: Oh! That looks good, where did you get that?

Me: I found it in some homeless guy’s hobo bag and stole it (it doesn’t matter what I say, this was only an instigative question).

Them: Oh! Wow! That smells so good…and it looks tasty. All I got was this crappy sandwich from Lee’s, but I’m so busy, I just can’t…you know

Me: Yeah, totally busy, I know. [Thought to myself: but you have enough time to stand around and chat about my lunch?]

Them: Yeah…so…it looks really good…hmmm

Me: Um, do you want to try some? [Thought to self: which is what you really wanted all along but just couldn’t say.]

[The dance ends with me losing a precious portion of my lunch, usually followed by “Oh, that is good!” Yeah, I know, that’s why I hiked three frickin’ blocks to get it only to have you eat half of it.]

Oh, excuse me, clean-up on aisle six…