Monday, January 28, 2013

Letters Never Sent, Part 3 (redacted previously due to an extended bout of post-traumatic stress syndrome)

Dear Go-getter Gloria:

When they announced that they were going to force all the faculty to attend a “motivational team-building workshop” with you, I groaned inwardly.  Then I groaned outwardly.  Then I emitted meta-groans that echoed into space.  I imagined a horrifying universe of trust falls, after which I was either permanently confined to a wheelchair, or riddled with guilt for crushing and killing Savior Steve, who is the only person on campus that I believe would to try to catch me, even though I’m much bigger than he is and his arms aren’t the same size.

Well, it is a lucky thing that physically I am no worse for wear, and Savior Steve is as vital as ever.  But you still suck, Go-getter Gloria.  You still stuck so very, very hard.

Here’s some tips for you the next time you have to deal with a room full of reluctant, post-break faculty, who are ambling around like dazed elk, mumbling about their unfinished syllabi, as they help themselves to Styrofoam cups of crappy coffee and poke curiously at withered pecan rolls obviously left over from the reception of people far more important. 

1)     Develop a sense of irony.  Most faculty, at least in the humanities, have an acute sense of it.  As in, “Isn’t it ironic that I only earn about half of what the new 30-year-old assistant professor in Business makes, when I have a Ph.D. and have been teaching for more than two decades? Ha ha!” 

2)     We’re not the audience of the Oprah Winfrey show.  We aren’t going to sit there rapturously, our eyes gleaming with unshed tears, as you try to inspire us with your arm-waving and fist pumping and gesturing off into the blue.  We know what’s off in the blue, and it sucks.

3)     Your life, and your own personal “Dream it, do it!” narrative is not a universal template of success.  In fact, other people might even think your life goals are horseshit.  It’s nice for you that you attained your ambition of reaching your version of “the top”—that is, Head of Hamster Resources at Big Corporation Led By Very Important People Down the Road—but I have to tell you that I would rather be lashed to a rabid mule and dragged across west Texas than do that job.    

4)     Team-building exercises usually make intelligent people despise each other.  This is because intelligent people resent being manipulated into a false feeling of camaraderie, and would rather remain wary and uncooperative with one another than prove a person that would initiate team-building exercises is actually capable of making us into a team. Brown-nosers that cooperate cheerfully (also known as the Education faculty, who love this sort of shit) are looked upon with the same malice as the collaborators in Vichy France. In the end, the only way we will coalesce into a team is if we decide to burn you in effigy.  Or for real.     

5)     Don’t ever, ever ask a grown human being to do the hokey-pokey.  I am not putting my right foot in.  I am not putting my right foot out.  I am not putting my left foot in.  I am not putting my left foot out.  And for the love of all that is holy, I am not shaking anything. 

6)     Lastly—and I cannot stress this strongly enough—No matter what the song says, the hokey-pokey is not what it’s all about. 

17 comments:

  1. "....are looked upon with the same malice as the collaborators in Vichy France."

    This.

    POTFFMH!

    (post of the first five million hits)

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  2. I'm sorry you have such a dim view of the hokey-pokey, Stella, but back before lower-back tattoos (you know, tramp stamps), that was how young guys like I was could tell the girls who did it from the girls who didn't. I'd watch during the verse, "You put your ass in, you take your ass out, you put your ass in, and you shake it all about..." Ah, happy memories!

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  3. Ever since the Stephen King episode of The X-Files, the Hokey-Pokey creeps me right out.

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  4. Ok, you won't shake it, but will you wiggle it, Stella? Just a little bit? ;)

    And +100 for the drive-by on the Ed faculty...

    Frod: +1

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  5. You put some glucose in, you take pyruvate out,
    you put coenzyme A in, and then you cycle it about,
    you make some ATP so you can move yourself about,
    that's what it's all about!

    (For the non-biochemists: all you need to know is that this is a very abbreviated description of the chemical reactions you use to extract energy from food. Stella, and I, and every one of you, is continuously doing this Hokey Pokey in virtually every cell, whether you're aware of it or not.)

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  6. in my old job this type of overnight offsite "bonding" exercise usually turned into couple pairing off for the night to do their own private team-building..

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  7. I love these kinds of unsent letters. The misery pours on.

    We disagree on the value of teamwork, however. Some people work better independently than in groups, but there are definite benefits to collaborating on committee -- that is, if the committee is run in a competent fashion. My guess is that your sparkly sunshine person was not running it competently, but a smoothly run meeting is a rare thing of beauty.

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  8. "a room full of reluctant, post-break faculty, who are ambling around like dazed elk, mumbling about their unfinished syllabi, as they help themselves to Styrofoam cups of crappy coffee and poke curiously at withered pecan rolls obviously left over from the reception of people far more important. "

    You rock, Stella.

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    1. Indeed. That's one of the best sentences I've read in some time. And there's also this, which is a bit less elegant, but equally evocative in its own way: "I would rather be lashed to a rabid mule and dragged across west Texas than do that job."

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  9. Stella, you've perfectly captured what I've felt about team-building exercises since, oh, about ninth grade:

    " Team-building exercises usually make intelligent people despise each other. This is because intelligent people resent being manipulated into a false feeling of camaraderie, and would rather remain wary and uncooperative with one another than prove a person that would initiate team-building exercises is actually capable of making us into a team."

    I honestly don't know whether it has to do with being intelligent, or being an introvert, or being an intelligent introvert, but man do I hate that shit. It probably didn't help that I'd already survived at least one major Very Difficult Life Experience by the time I reached 9th grade, and wasn't much up for confidence-building via made-up challenges.

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  10. Lovely sentiments here, and wonderfully put.

    And I only do the Hokey-Pokey during lunar eclipses.

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  11. team-building exercises were designed by extroverts for extroverts. I don't even like eating lunch with other people most days, let alone doing some lame "exercises"

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  12. Oh Stella, I'm so sorry Gloria turned up at your campus. I'd hoped my surly, non-participatory colleagues had convinced her a career change would be good. She'd be a great Junior Miss pageant coordinator. Oy. I've been in that inservice, and I feel yer pain.

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