Sunday, July 24, 2011

Who Has Not Had a Horrible Boss?

   Having such a large plethora of bad boss stories stored up, I'll share here one quick Horrible Boss short story:  

100 years ago when I was 22 and out into the real wide working world for the first time (aside from babysitting, cutting grass, being a camp counselor and waiting tables) WOW, was I in for a large surprise! I was apparently so sheltered and naive during my childhood, I thought the bullying, the caddy comments, the raised eyebrows, sideways glances, and outright rudeness all were officially a thing of the past. We were all adults now and we were supposed to act as such. Man, was I wrong. I have no idea why I thought adults in a corporate business environment were supposed to be professional.
   My first job was in a "Devil Wears Prada" world. Once a week or so for lunch, seemingly always in frigid temperatures, I had to walk 4 long blocks in New York (long blocks are the cross street blocks between Lexington and Park), to fetch hot french fries for my supervisor (not the big boss I adored working for). Not just hot under the heat lamp fries, mind you. We are talking freshly cooked searing hot fries straight out of the grease, and a big hamburger and soda.
   Trying hard to please my boss, I would wrap my scarf not around my head, but around the fries and hold them inside the matching Sherlock Holmes coat my Mother had given me for Christmas. Her idea of style, but it was a heavy coat and not so warm.
   Fries and hamburger inside my coat with one arm, cold soda and purse outside my coat with the other arm, I would run from 57th and Second Avenue back to 57th and Madison hoping both hot and cold fine cuisine would meet with approval. Delivering the lunch to my bosses desk first, I would then hang up my coat, sit at my desk and begin to quickly and quietly eat my yogurt I brought from home and go back to work.
   If I heard a disapproving scowl: "These are cold", and saw a french fry flying down onto the bosses desk, it was going to be a long afternoon. However, if I heard a full, muffled mouthful of fries saying: "These are good", at least I knew the long afternoon may be better.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Meditation from Mother Theresa

I have sent this quote out with Christmas cards in years past and have posted this quote on this blog in the past. So, during these uncertain times, often negative times, and because America is just not going through a Renaissance right now, here is my favorite quote again:  

People are often unreliable, illogical and self-centered;
forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives;
be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies;
succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend your years building, someone may destroy overnight;
build it anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, it may never be enough;
give the world the best you have anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It never was between you and them anyway.

--Mother Theresa

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sweet Briar College Community Always Remembers Daisy

Forget-Me-Not, Forget-Me-Never, Remember The Fun We Had Together

   Some say people who have passed, live on in our memories as long as we remember them. Although generations of Sweet Briar students did not know Daisy Williams, she surrounds us all, day and night. Her spirit is all around our campus. A lovely young soul that is not forgotten, but remembered.
   Early on Freshman year, we are told the tales, stories, myths and mysteries of Daisy's ghost. On Founders' Day every Fall, there is an annual pilgrimage, all the way up to Boxwood Hill where at the pinnacle sits Daisy's Grave. Not just any simple headstone, oh no. At first sight, this 20 foot tall granite monument complete with Corinthian columns all around and decorative plaques adorning it, topped with a statue of "Faith" pointing to Heaven, is a bit awesome to behold. But wait, "Faith" has a finger missing. What's up with that? Was it Daisy?  Then and there, on Boxwood Hill, as a Freshman, you start hearing the stories.
   Allegedly in the 1970's, a group of girls visited Daisy's monument to search for an unmarked grave which has since been removed. The legend is, if you place a quarter on top of the headstone, when you return, there on the ground will be scrawled, the name of the person next to die. Apparently, one girl was so upset by this legend, she immediately ran back to her room in Grammer Dorm, as fast as she could, and locked herself inside. Her friends tried to get her to open up, knocking and banging on her door, but there was no answer. Finally, they crawled through the old transom. They found her alive, but with scratches all over her face!
   Typically on the weekends, there is always one group of girls who take a trip up to Daisy's grave to scare each other. One such trip consisting of a few friends and I, produced a very eerie strip of film. In the bottom right corner of one of the photographs taken was a faint, fuzzy gray image of a person. Was this human-like photographic presence Daisy? Maybe.
   Following each Freshman's Founders' Day, begin the tours of Daisy's bedroom in the Sweet Briar House. Stepping up the windy, narrow stairs, we peek around the corner to see where, as we are told, Daisy died. Scared to look too closely, scared to be in her room for too long, and afraid we may see something unknown, or that she may see and remember us as intruders, our glances are distant and quick. Therein lies Daisy's little twin bed, her dress and dolls, her child's chair and her Hope Chest. Here comes the glitch. If the stairs creak when you step on them, on the way up or down from her room, Daisy herself will pay you a visit. So, rationally speaking, if you dream of Daisy that night, are you dreaming of her, or is she visiting you in your dreams?
   From then on, it never fails. Every time a book falls off of a shelf, each time you hear a noise in the night, every time something weird happens, it is Daisy. She's not forgotten. She is remembered. She's around.
   One of my classmates still freaks out at the mere mention of Daisy's name. She will simultaneously burst into a spell of shrill shrieks, small screams, shivers and immediately shakes her head, quickens her pace and walks on!
   Daisy follows us into the dining hall, along the green grass of the Dell and down to the "Dungeon", (a study hall in Reid Dorm basement). She also follows us as we walk down the stairs of the 100 year old library into the dark halls of the hallowed "Stacks."
   Whether it be frightening Freshman or scaring each other silly, Sweet Briar students will continue to remember their founder with fondness, and a bit of fear.  

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Does a casual picnic outdoors cause your inside manners to go flying out the window?

   Over the July 4th Holiday, Prince William and Princess Catherine enjoyed a romantic picnic on a remote Canadian island dining on paper plates. Did picnicking outdoors cause William and Kate's indoor manners to go flying out the window? Did William and Kate use their Royal manners casually? Of course they did!
    How was your picnic over the July 4th holiday? Was your picnic a mass of balled up greasy gross paper napkins on top of crushed cups and bent paper plates? Did you find dirty plastic plates on your buffet table and Styrofoam cups strewn all over your yard?? Well, if the Royals can regally dine off of casual paper plates, so can you!

Here are a few tips to help you enjoy yourself and help your host and hostess enjoy themselves:
  • Treat your paper napkin just like you would treat a cloth napkin. Fold your paper napkin neatly in your lap. 
  • If you need more than one paper napkin, neatly stack a few together on your lap. FOLD them together when done.
  • No one wants to eat their meal while looking at your gross out, grubby used ball of greasy mess of a paper napkin on top of your paper plate. Get up from the picnic table, find a trash can, dispose of your trash, then re-join your party.
  •  Do not fold up your paper plate. Just dispose of it and your neatly folded paper napkin in the trash.
  •  Do not crumple up your paper cup or tear off chunks of your Styrofoam cup like you are a seven year old. Simply place your cup in the trash.
  •  Do not pluck off the tines of your plastic fork and play with it like a sharp tool. Rude and dangerous to point it at anyone.
  •  Never place a used plate or used cup on the buffet table. Yuck. Find a trash can.
  •  If you go back up to the buffet table for seconds, get a fresh plate. No Norovirus here, please!! 
Have fun this summer on your next picnic and use your Royal casual outdoor manners!

Kate and William enjoy romantic picnic on remote Canadian island

Monday, July 4, 2011

America's Table Manners Meltdown and Please, Pass the Salt

   Today, a wise friend made the comment: "Unfortunately, I am afraid to say, manners in America are becoming passe." Yes, in the last decade, there has been a noticeable change in manners in America. There has been a change in the lifestyle and priorities of the younger generation, thus a change in the manners and objectives of my students. Yes, some manners never change and are neglected. Other manners are passe. Certain other manners have evolved into a new generation as different. Not right, not wrong, just different.
   For example, ten years ago, parents sent their children to me to fine tune their 10 year olds' table manners. Today, I teach 17 year old Seniors in High School how to hold a fork. Why? Change in lifestyle. Now, there are kids' menus at many casual restaurants kids can eat with their fingers. Easier for the tired, working parents. Children also eat fast food in the car with their fingers on the way to 6:00 p.m. soccer practice, or Sunday afternoon lacrosse practice.
   Last year, I taught an extraordinarily talented teenager who had straight A grades, perfect scores on her SAT's, played in the US Open Tennis Championships with her Father, and had 600 hours of community service, but she did not know how to hold a fork. At least she knew that she did not know.
  Today, sophisticated teens know everything there is to know about technology and how to gather any information needed on each of their multiple social media gadgets, but due to their busy school schedules and both parents working, families rarely sit down at the table for dinner. Not right, not wrong, just different.    
   Competition is so stiff for these few full scholarships, colleges and universities now invite these students to lunch. They want well rounded students and figure if a young adult has missed simple table manners, what else have they missed. If a student is asked to pass the salt, and only passes the salt, this student does not get the scholarship. Why? The simple answer is simple to those in the know.
   This student did not correctly anticipate the next need of the other person, which would be also passing the pepper. The etiquette dictates that a self-directed, empathetic student, or business professional, always anticipates the next need of the other person , or customer, whether they know their own next need at that time or not.
   Never mind one slip of the tongue. One slip of the fork, or passing of only the salt and one does not get the scholarship. By the way, can you pass the butter?

Happy American Independence Day!

Happy July 4th to all Americans and remember those who made and make our freedom possible.