I’m never at a loss for words, but once in a long while I’m at a loss for jargon.
I’ll reach out to spew just the right jargonesque triteism, and so thoroughly miss the mark that the listener becomes emotionally agitated. If you think people cannot become emotionally agitated over something silly, I need only direct you to any business committee meeting. You will find emotional agitation all over the place, usually concealed under icy smiles of contempt.
At any rate, the other day I mentioned to my tiger team the possibility of a brainstorming session on matters of core competency. I was greeted with silence. What have I done, I wondered, to offend my tiger team? My faithful S.W.A.T. Team (in which there is no ‘I’, of course)?
They were embarrassed to know me anymore, and were packing up their Frank Clegg briefcases and heading out the door.
This was not good. If they left, who in hell would do my work?
“Now just hold on there, tigers!” I cried. “Open the kimono, tell me what is going on here. Let’s leverage this situation, and make hay. Let’s not boil the ocean, peeps, reach out to me. Air it out. Gimme the deets.”
“Well,” one replied, “if you ever get around to crawling out of the 90s you’ll realize that the term ‘brainstorming’ is incredibly passe.”
I was so ashamed. It really impacted me. I thought I was giving jargon 110% but it turns out I was only doing a more mathematically reasonable 100%, a real Fail in today’s world. It was time to take it to the next level, but how could I, without knowing the replacement term for brainstorming? I couldn’t ask because they wouldn’t tell. They wanted to see me squirm. This was going to be tricky.
“Hey, I’m in the swim lane here, but you know what? I’m not going to drink the kool-aid without first up knowing what’s wrong with the word ‘brainstorming’."
If I could get them to tell me that, at least, I had a fighting chance of intuiting the new word.
“Oh man, if you even have to ask you’re never going to move the needle. To be honest, it must really suck to be you when you wake up in the morning.”
I thought about it. There was some truth to what he said, one look at the mirror first thing in the morning generally scared the hell out of me. Sensing a burning platform, I had to find out what the new word for brainstorming was PDQ. I knew it must be a real bleeding edge term to be so new that I’d never heard it.
Could I trick them into saying it?
“So, is there anything we should . . . discuss in detail this morning?”
“Probably time to collectively pore mindfully over some of these ideas of the brain. . . .”
“Time to get the brains rebooted?”
This was not going well.
“Okay then, let’s get our ducks in a row. Only one way I know to do that is. . . .“
Time to herd the cats.
“All hands on deck! We’ll jump into a collaborative discussion about our industry vertical! Best way to do that is by. . . .”
“Now hey, you guys, if we don’t get this meeting started, we’ll be sending our project over the wall before it’s ready. We won’t be full service. Time to drill down, people.”
“HA. It is what it is,” they said. “What EXACTLY do you want us to do?” said the little bast . . . smart-alecks.
“Maybe we should just take this off-line for now, revisit it after a break. Look! Doughnuts!”
No one made a move toward the doughnuts. Well, I did, so they wouldn’t go stale.
Several doughnuts later, after a tastefully quiet burp, I suggested that it was serious time to synergize, to reach out to each other, get back on track. “Let’s get to . . . taking our brains and storming ideas with them?”
“Restarting our brains and enabling virtual brain RAM?”
I started to whine. “Oh come on, guys, let’s talk that, then take it to the next level. It’s pretty cut and dry. I just want to talk. About ideas. From our brains. In an, ummm, storm setting.”
Silence, with sneers of jargon-setter derision.
It was hopeless. I was going to be out of pocket at this rate. If I didn’t find a window of opportunity quickly, the door of doom was going to whack me in the arse.
“Okay, dammit, start peeling that onion. Make a grab for the low-hanging fruit. I want to hear the replacement for ‘brainstorming’ in five seconds, hard stop.”
Hearing the ‘I can fire you, you know’ tone in my voice, I could see they were going to cough up the new term, albeit reluctantly.
It was a come to Jesus moment. They were onboarded.
Yes! I’m in!
Wait, hold on . . . thought showers?
I had to say ‘thought showers’ out loud? In front of people?
Ah well. The business world is a tough place and you need to be tough to get by. And you know what they say, when the going gets tough, the tough get . . . well, they get together and have thought showers.
A couple of weeks ago, an article in Huff Post called ‘10 Things Your Mother Never Told You’ went semi-viral on facebook.
I’m sharing. If I had to read it, so do you. It’s a rule:
Being a kind and gentle soul, I didn’t make any snarky remarks when people posted it on facebook.
Okay. Yes I did.
You see, the reason your mother didn’t tell you those things is because they are nothing more than insipid cloyingly banal Hallmark pap-bits dreamed up in a cesspool of maudlin sentimentality. Somehow those pap-bits managed to escape, and finally come to rest on facebook walls everywhere.
There’s another reason your mother never told you those things: She loves you too much to guilt-trip you like that.
Random excerpts from the article:
1. You made her cry... a lot. She cried when she found out she was pregnant. She cried as she gave birth to you. She cried when she first held you. She cried with happiness. She cried with fear. She cried with worry. She cried because she feels so deeply for you. She felt your pain and your happiness and she shared it with you, whether you realized it or not.
This one is a Level 5 Guilt Trip if ever I saw one
How did that mother find time to actually take care of the kid when she was crying all the time? “I’m holding my CHILD, *sob* *sob* *sob*”. “OMG, you did a poop! How precious is that. Oh! OH!!!! *sob* *sob* *sob*”. “Dammit, you just spat up in my coffee cup, I’m going to wring your neck! *sob* *sob* *sob*”.
2. She wanted that last piece of pie. But when she saw you look at it with those big eyes and lick your mouth with that tiny tongue, she couldn't eat it. She knew it would make her much happier to see your little tummy be filled than hers.
A minor Level 1 Guilt Trip
She handed you an apple, kid, and told you to get lost so she could enjoy the pie in peace. Not only that, she stole your Halloween candy while you were sleeping, and the Easter and Christmas candy too. She never once felt guilty, either. In fact she was pretty gleeful about it.
3. It hurt. When you pulled her hair, it hurt; when you grabbed her with those sharp fingernails that were impossible to cut, it hurt; when you bit her while drinking milk, that hurt, too. You bruised her ribs when you kicked her from her belly; you stretched her stomach out for nine months; you made her body contract in agonizing pain as you entered this world.
A bona-fide Level 10 Guilt Trip
Oh boy, well looks like you will have to spend the rest of your life making up for that one, won’t you. Especially the guys. How could you.
4. She was always afraid. From the moment you were conceived, she did all in her power to protect you. She became your mama bear. She was that lady who wanted to say no when the little girl next door asked to hold you, and who cringed when she did, because in her mind no one could keep you as safe as she herself could. Her heart skipped two beats with your first steps. She stayed up late to make sure you got home safe, and woke up early to see you off to school. With every stubbed toe and little stumble, she was close by; she was ready to snatch you up with every bad dream or late night fever. She was there to make sure you were OK.
A sweet li’l Level 2 Guilt Trip
Seriously, who is this demented mother-creature, and why was she constantly afraid? What on earth were you doing to worry her like that? How could you.
5. She knows she's not perfect. She is her own worst critic. She knows all her flaws and sometimes hates herself for them. She is hardest on herself when it comes to you, though. She wanted to be the perfect mom, to do nothing wrong -- but because she is human, she made mistakes. She is probably still trying to forgive herself for them. She wishes with her whole heart that she could go back in time and do things differently, but she can't, so be kind to her, and know she did the best she knew how to do.
Solid Level 4 Guilt Trip
Get real. She has long since forgiven/forgotten/justified the mistakes she made and is now focusing on YOUR mistakes. All of ‘em.
Alright, I’m slowly going mad thinking about the article, so let’s race through the rest of it. Read the article for expanded details on each number. It’s worth it, trust me.
6. She watched you as you slept.
A shuddering Level 9 Guilt Trip
CAUTION, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
7. She carried you a long longer than nine months.
A maudlin little Level 5 Guilt Trip
Just the basic tasks of motherhood, written into some kind of sainthood by the author. It’s not real. Mothers, on the other hand, are real. So real, in fact, that your mother probably dropped you on your head when someone waved a delicious cocktail in front of her. Which would you be grabbing, the set of screaming lungs contained in a smelly lump of fat and pee or the cocktail? It is a no-brainer.
8. It broke her heart every time you cried.
Ooh, a hefty Level 8 Guilt Trip
How she even noticed you crying when she was bawling her own eyes out all day and all night is anybody’s guess.
9. She put you first.
A mild Level 3 Guilt Trip
But . . . hold on now, she went without showers? Really? What happened, she used up all the water giving you a bath? She could have collected all zillion of her tears and had a lifetime supply of water. Hell, she could have bottled it. ‘Mother’s Eau de Guilt Trip’.
10. She would do it all again.
God I hope not.
Oh no. Remembrance Day has passed and that can mean only one awful thing: It’s time for The Annual Bombardment of Everything Christmas.
Ahem, including, of course, this column.
It happens that I have a long list of peeves about Christmas.
The (Many Many) Things About Christmas That Irk The Hell Out Of Me
1. First up is the strange idea that we have to buy at least one truly amazing gift that will wow the recipient so profoundly that they will have a heart attack, at which point they’ll need to exchange the gift for a bunch of bedside novels to read during recovery unless, of course, they just die on the spot, in which case there is that sweet bicycle you’ve had your eye on for some time now.
2. The endless-loop stream of ‘funny’ (read: mean-spirited) videos that’ll crop up anytime now - videos that show screaming kids who are genuinely frightened to be on Santa’s lap. What says Christmas better than making a video of your kid crying his heart out (he’s holding his arms out to you to hold and reassure him, isn’t that cute, and you would, too, but dammit you’re too busy recording, he will have to wait). You get to play the video again and again so your kids can see how much fun you have watching them cry. The best, of course, is that you then get to post your video on YouTube so it can go viral and millions of people can laugh at your kid for being scared and unhappy. If that isn’t the Christmas spirit, I don’t know what is.
3. And speaking of Christmas spirit: Even before Remembrance Day we saw the first stirrings of the ridiculous and repetitive Battle of Merry Christmas VS Happy Holidays. This new tradition involves, among other things, posting lots of memes on Facebook to let people know that by god you are going to say ‘Merry Christmas’, dammit, because, it is not ‘Happy Holidays’, it’s ‘Merry Christmas’, and you’re not ‘afraid’ to say it. You can’t help it, you’re just really brave like that. And if someone says ‘Happy Holidays’, you will, after defiantly throwing a ‘Merry Christmas’ in their face, curse them and, if given the chance, run them down with your car, because Christmas is all about kindness and generosity and good-will to all, except for people who say ‘Happy Holidays’. Here’s a tip: It really doesn’t matter which one someone says as long as it is said with good friendly cheer. You can respond by using my special greeting for this year, one that will keep things simple by offending everybody: “Seasoned Hello”.
4. Businesses that so much as whisper the word ‘Christmas’ before Remembrance Day. Businesses that so much as whisper the word ‘Christmas’ before American Thanksgiving Day.
5. Facebook. It’s bad at the best of times, worse during any holiday and absolutely awful for all of December and most of November. Walls reach new levels of inanities/piousness/cloyingness/pretensions/blessings/maudlinisms, etc. at this time of year. It rattles the brain. Aside from the Merry Christmas VS Happy Holidays schtick, you have the Annual Altruism-One-Upmanship schtick, the Season Is The Reason schtick, the Famous Christmas Quote By Someone Who Didn’t Actually Say That schtick, and, of course, 1,000,000,000,000 memes celebrating or vilifying Christmas.
6. Re The Annual Altruism-One-Upmanship Game. Yes, this is the time of year when you brag as much as possible about your wonderful efforts for charity. If a donation is done without an audience, does it count? Hell no. The secret is to come across as humble while doing it, which is tricky at best. You can’t say, “I gave a whack of money to Families of Happy Holidayers Murdered by Merry Christmasers - oh boy what a good boy am I!” No, you want to be all casual, “Yeah, so this FHHMMC is a pretty good cause, I can vouch for that because I donated a bit of money to them. BTW, Christmas presents will be smaller this year as a result, but it’s all for such a great great cause. Oh, hang on, the repo guy is here to repossess my car now. It’s okay. My money has gone to something more important.”
7. Endless articles with tips on how to eat sensibly during the holiday season. Those articles are delusional, self-defeating, pointless, done-to-death, boring, and absolutely unnecessary. Eat and drink whatever the hell you want, it’s for two weeks tops, people. You’ll survive (and those who can’t indulge for health reasons, you already know I don’t mean you).
8. People who go on and on about their Christmas holidays to warm climates while you sit, cold and cranky, in front of a fire that won’t burn because you set it up all wrong and there’s nothing you can do about it because you used up your last match. Hey, ‘Merry Christmas’ crowd, I’ll bet those sunbathing fools are ‘Happy Holidayers’. You should meet them at the airport when they return and yell ‘Merry Christmas’ at them before running them down.
9. Schools that don’t have Christmas plays anymore, and people who never stop whining about schools that don’t have Christmas plays anymore, and people who never stop griping about people who never stop whining about schools that don’t have Christmas plays anymore. I hate all of ‘em.
10. I’ve saved the worst for last: Smart-alecky kids who know that it is far better to maintain the illusion of believing in Santa Claus because it means more gifts, especially the
‘Santa-will-get-it-for-me-even-if-you-say-no’ gifts. That’s just . . . well, dammit, that’s just wrong, I’m appalled and sad at the state of kids today. And more to the point, I am devastated that I didn’t think of this angle when I was a kid.
And so, in closing, a Seasoned Hello to all, and to all a Hello With Seasoning.
In theory when you take a break from work you return feeling fresh and eager. You fully intend to stop being a slacker. However, ‘theory’ is just another word for ‘yeah right’, because you will soon find that your brain has come to a complete standstill from too many idle thoughts thunk for too long. This means you will need to work through a back-to-work process called Restarting The Slacker Brain. I have used ‘writer’ for our worksheet example because a) that’s what I was before my brain went into slacker-mode, and b) writers rank as the worst slackers in the entire world. If you’re not a writer, just wing it. That’s what I do.
1. You sure had fun while away from work. Now you are fresh and eager to get back to writing. All you need is a functioning brain, which is not what the idling blob of slacker-tissue inside your head can reasonably be called at this point.
2. You have so many things to write about that you are feeling overwhelmed. Do not worry, that’s just your seized brain, deprived of brain nutrients. It wants a glazed doughnut.
3. Glazed doughnuts are good, they contain an important brain nutrient called ‘toomuchsugar’.
4. While eating your doughnut, you consider using the feeling-overwhelmed card as an excuse not to write.
5. You realize that using the ‘feeling-overwhelmed’ card has ‘Fail’ written all over it. See? Your brain has already recognized a Fail, a sign that it is attempting to reboot.
6. Look! It’s sunny outside!
7. You return from your sunny bike ride to find that the page is still blank. As is your brain.
8. You sit down with a serious look on your face and get busy not writing.
9. Wait, where is your coffee? Coffee is a powerful brain stimulant. However, it only works on an active brain. Your brain is essentially still missing in action. Still, can coffee hurt? Of course not. Go make the damn coffee.
10. You return, with coffee, and type ‘Untitled’.
11. You suddenly remember that years back you wrote another column about writer’s procrastination. Yet here you are, writing another. You don’t care. That column was then, this column is now. People have short memories. People are also crazy. You suspect that crazy short-memoried people are easily tricked, so you start writing. Besides, this column will contain avant garde words fresh off the avant-garde vine, and will be typed in a totally different order.
12. You feel sick. Maybe you are dying of Ebola. That would be an awesome way to get out of writing the column except for certain drawbacks, like dying.
13. You type ‘by Jo Slade’.
14. You realize that you’re not Jo Slade, I’m Jo Slade.
15. So now I am one step ahead of you:
By Jo Slade
17. You have an epiphany: Everything worth writing about has already been written by someone somewhere at some point in time. Why even bother?
18. You think, no, that’s not a good approach to life. You will write because your words will be coming from your unique brain.
19. You decide it is pretty vain, maybe even pathetic, to think that you’re really all that unique.
20. You wonder, can you plagiarize your own work? Sure, why not? Who’s going to sue you? You?
21. If you could, in fact, sue yourself, you could be rich if you won the case, and you’d never have to do a stick of work again. Except you would also lose, meaning you’d be poor, so there’s that.
22. Your brain flutters at #21’s seemingly insurmountable paradox. Your brain slips into full flutter-mode. Not even a doughnut will help now.
23. There is no #23. While your brain was in flutter-mode, I submitted this column.
24. There is no #24. This is the end. You’ve probably failed Restarting The Slacker Brain.
25. Hold on, that wasn’t the end. This is the end.
26. The end.
Read more Old as dirt. Twice as gritty. articles
The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.
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- The day I shamed B.C. Jun 30
- Run-on, little sentence, run on Jun 16
- Fanatic dog owners Jun 2
- No complaints please May 19
- It's Sunny inside May 5
- Where are the clowns? Feb 24
For more stories from Jo, please visit the Old as Dirt. Twice as Gritty. archive
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