Friday, December 7, 2012

Careful with those winky faces: some notes on friendliness

Our era of pervasive (invasive?) technology, constant texting, and social media has changed the way people interact. Don't believe me? Check out articles here, here, and here. Whatever your thoughts on the matter, technology is here to stay (and grow), and the way we communicate is adapting along with it.

For instance, let's take texting. Have you ever tried to explain texting etiquette to your father, a man who could barely be bothered to TURN ON his phone and yet has recently purchased a smartphone?

My text: "Dad, you have to add some more punctuation to your texts...otherwise you sound detached, like a robot ;) "
Dad's text: "Beep"

Thanks, Dad. You're hilarious.

Smiley faces, winky faces, sunglass faces, evil grin faces...they are powerful little emoticons that can help soften your messages, adding color to something that could otherwise be very flat and impersonal. They can also convey things that words simply cannot. Just ask anyone who's ever flirted via text. Ahem, don't ask me; in case this isn't abundantly clear from earlier posts, I'm kind of awkward.

However! Be careful with thy winky faces! For with great power comes great responsibility: you may think you're being friendly, chill, and awesome [Drinks after work? 6? ;) ], but text messaging has an amazing capacity to be misunderstood. It lacks TONE. Maybe someone's response [Sure] is short and curt because you smell and are clingy and they actually don't want to get together for drinks. OR maybe the office is busy and he/she just can't think beyond the next 10 minutes.

Texts can also be misunderstood in the other direction. Say, for instance, you're harmlessly chatting with the cute desk manager at your gym. He happens to have experience in your desired career. You exchange numbers and start texting, arranging a time to meet up and talk about that career further. Then he sends this: "I hope business isn't the only reason you come to the gym. :D"

Oh my.

You don't want to give him the wrong impression. You have a boyfriend after all. (Readers, it should be noted that this is not my story.) So you gulp and, being both sensible and sensitive, send back, "Hey, hate to do this over text, but I actually have a bf. Always interested in meeting a new friend tho!"

He returns, quickly: "lol thats not what i meant but i could see how it would come off that way. i actually have a girl myself."

You: "Oh awesome. I'm gonna go die of embarrassment now."

Take-away lesson here: Be care with thy winky faces, people. Be careful with thy winky faces.

Editor's note: Texts have been changed to reflect some norms of punctuation, in order to make content accessible to those not familiar with texting jargon. Aka, my parents. Love you guys! 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Workin the DC grind

Last week wrapped up what was probably the busiest week of my life at work. I've occasionally worked into the evenings, but last week was the first time where 8 pm saw me still at my desk, tapping tiredly at the keyboard, trying to make deadlines, filing paperwork, etc etc, other Frantic Office Stuff.

I don't know about all of you, but 11 hours in front of a computer leave me drained and sad about my future.  

I've always believed in having a healthy balance between a work life and a personal life. I want to be passionate about what I do, yes, but I also don't want my job to drive me into the ground and destroy whatever fervor I have for my field. (Otherwise I'll just end up a fat dog-lady (the new cat-lady) who yells at the dumb broads on The Bachelor.)

This is pretty tough to manage in DC. (The work-life balance, not the dog-lady thing.) People define themselves by their job. Whenever you meet someone here, the first question is almost always "So what do you do?"

This really frustrates me, but I haven't figured out a classy way around it. "Tell me about who you ARE, as a PERSON" doesn't come off too well. And asking lots of detailed questions about someone's non-work life can veer quite suddenly into stalker-land. I'm still working on this...suggestions welcome.

Now that that segue is over, I want to take some time to address the work culture of DC. Because clearly, I missed out on some club meeting where everyone here decided the new Rules that Everyone Shall Follow. Drat, it's middle school all over again. 

Also, I like lists. Aren't they efficient? 

Rule #1: Thou shalt go into the office early. What job you have will determine how early you go in. Government job, think early. Like, early early. I don't have a government job, not yet anyway, so I can't speak to this entirely, but 7 or 8 seems normal. Even if you don't have a government job, earlier is better.

Rule #2: Thou shalt stay late. Leaving at 6 is leaving on schedule, but 7 or 8 seems more normal for some of my friends. Later gives you a Truly Dedicated Award. (I have one friend who stays until 9 on the reg.)

Rule #3: Thou shalt donate weekends. Notice I say "donate." Oh, you thought you'd get overtime? Hahahaha, excuse me, but bahaha. That's precious.

Last weekend I was up until 1 am trying to meet a deadline. Nope. No overtime. If you have a cool boss you can shuffle those hours around and take time off later, but not everyone has a cool boss.

I can take the above three rules and distill them into a nice graph for you.

*Note: Graph may not be mathematically accurate. As previously mentioned, I'm no math major.

As you can see, people in my age and pay bracket (that would be the "who are you" section) commit ungodly hours to our jobs. This is because we want to prove ourselves and move up the food chain. We want to move up the food chain so that we can eventually put in the same ungodly hours -- but at least we'll have a fancy title! And we'll truly AFFECT policy! And there is nothing unrealistic about this dream whatsoever! Yay!

Until then, the drudgery must continue. And that brings us to Rule #4, my personal favorite.

Rule #4: Thou shalt observe Happy Hours. I did not know this term when I first moved here. Happy hour? Eh?

Ahem. What do overworked professionals need more than anything? A break, you might say. No no, young padowan. Overworked professionals need alcohol. 

"Happy hour" refers to special bar hours (usually 4:30 until 7 or so) that offer discounted drink prices. Cocktails, beer,'s a great marketing scheme actually, because by the time happy hour rolls around, we (and the bar adverts) have convinced us that we DESERVE some libation. And nothing feels more cathartic than to get deservedly tipsy and complain about your job, right?

Right. Now if you'll excuse me, Irish Whiskey Public House is calling my name.