Friday, September 11, 2009


Apparently, Outlook doesn't put up with passive-aggressive behavior. When someone at work sends me an invitation to a meeting, and I don't respond to it either way, it still goes on my calendar. Worse, people expect me to show up. "Invitation" seems like the wrong word: it's really more of a summons. I don't want to attend about ninety percent of the meetings that someone wants me to attend, but I rarely have a compelling reason not to. Or, at least, it's not compelling to the person who invited me. I consider the very nature of most meetings a compelling reason not to attend them. If someone invited you to a public execution, you could probably get away with saying, "Oh, thanks, but no. Capital punishment is really not my thing," but you can't say the same thing about meetings. And how is that fair? Meetings and public executions are equally objectionable for all but one of the participants.

Anyway, this morning my calendar kept warning me that I had a meeting with our director of human resources to go over the results of my Predictive Index survey, and, boy howdy did I not want to attend that meeting, even though there was only one other participant and even though it was scheduled to take place in my office, so I wouldn't even have to get out of my chair.

I was forced at gunpoint encouraged to take the PI survey six or so weeks earlier. The PI survey consists of two identical screens of adjectives. On the first screen, you're meant to check those that describe how you're expected to behave by others. On the second screen, you're meant to check those that you believe truly describe you. I immediately saw problems with both the methodology and the choice of words. But I filled the survey out with all the attention that I thought it deserved (maybe even more), and, well, that's ninety seconds of my life that I'll never get back.

About a month ago, I got an email with the results, and, well, you know how you hear people talking about this or that diagnostic test (a lot of the people I go to church with, for example, are government workers, and if I hear one more person try to describe another person by reference to his or her Meyers-Briggs profile, I may plotz) and how the results described them exactly? Well, I started reading my results, and I was going, yeah, yeah, WTF? oh hell no! It was a fascinating mixture of spot on and laughably wrong.

We'd been told that the PI would be used as a screening tool for new hires and as a management tool for existing employees. I'm really the only person in my organization who does what I do. I like what I do, and they would have a hell of a time finding anyone else who does what I do, so my job isn't changing significantly any time in the next decade, but I was a little annoyed at the prospect of such a wrong-headed analysis being in my personnel file, so I printed out the index and took it to my boss and said, "Does this sound like me?" And he said, "yeah, yeah, WTF? oh hell no!" But he mostly just thought it was funny.

I told him, "If anyone tries to manage me using this, there is going to be a problem." And he replied, "You can be managed?" And then he laughed at me again, and I went back to my office.

The HR director laughed today when she asked me what I thought of my PI survey results and I said, "I think it's a bunch of hooey." Then she told me that the PI is approved as a tool by the EEOC, which to me says not that it isn't hooey but that it's no more or less hooey for any particular classification of people. Then she went over the charts with me. Sadly, I have forgotten most of what she said. I got momentarily excited when she told me I was a "high C," but after she left I tested myself, and my vocal range had not in fact expanded. Typical.

Later, she said that when we were discussing my results, she could see that I agreed with some of them, and I said, "Well, if you throw a thousand darts, some of them are going to hit," and she laughed and said, "I knew this conversation was going to be interesting." Talking with an HR director is much like talking with a fundamentalist minister: no amount of well-explained doubt will shake the faith of either of them. I'm not drinking the Kool-Aid, and my failure to imbibe is something that anyone who knows me would have predicted, even though according to the PI, I should be lapping it up.

By the way -- and à propos of nothing -- it occurs to me that the problem isn't that you can't convey irony on the Internet. The problem is that most people are either too dumb or too mean spirited to perceive it.

Even more tangentially, does anyone know of any free room layout software? I've been using the free evaluation copy of SmartDraw, but I'm really not willing to drop $200, no matter how much fun it is moving virtual sofas around the virtual living room.

The house closing is now twelve days away, and I find myself behaving in unpredictable ways. Have you ever heard of badly referred pain? Badly referred pain is pain that presents at some distance from the affected organ. One most often hears about the concept in gall bladders. Your gall bladder might be inflamed, and you might eat or drink something with too much fat in it, and the resulting annoyance of your gall bladder might manifest itself as a pain pretty much anywhere in your torso. Or maybe your extremities. Or maybe in your neighbor's cat, I don't know.

Anyway, I've begun to think that the stress from a home acquisition is manifesting itself on other stressors of greater or lesser magnitude so that, for example, I'm finding work very stressful just now, even though it's probably no worse than most other years at the same season. Also, there's a slight chance that I may occasionally be short tempered at inappropriate times.

There's no point in being stressed about the home purchase. I have occasionally wondered whether it's the right thing to do right now, but I always come down very firmly on the side of do it and do it now. And it's going pretty well. I finished arranging the homeowner's insurance this morning, so there are no immediate tasks left for me to complete. I will have to move at some point, of course, and before that I'm sure that there are other hoops to be thrown through, but the closing is in twelve days, and as far as I know, the only thing left for me to do is to show up with a large check and sign lots of documents, and there appears to be no shortage of people to tell me either where to sign or the size of the check.

Still, it's a lot of uncertainty. I've run the numbers, more than once, so I know I can afford the house, but it's a big financial commitment, and a significant majority of the money that used to go into my savings accounts will now go directly to the mortgage and other home expenses. And then there's the whole aloneness thing. I very much want to live by myself (or, rather, the combination that I'll have of by myself and with the kids), but there's always that fear that you'll wake up one night and realize that what you thought was badly referred gall bladder pain is more likely a ruptured appendix or perforated ulcer and that the difference between screaming in pain and being rushed to the hospital by your partner (or an ambulance that he's summoned) and finding your cell phone, which could be God knows where, and summoning the ambulance yourself might be the difference between a painful recovery and eternal slumber. That fear's probably even less reasonable than the financial ones, but it exists nonetheless.

I don't fear loneliness per se. It's not my nature to feel lonely, I'm extremely busy, and I expect that, if anything, my technical singleness will encourage me to spend more time with my non-b&c friends. And I'll probably still spend a significant amount of time with b&c, unless he wises up and sells the exurban house and relocates to Tuscany, the way any sensible retiree who's fluent in Italian would. But he's somewhat set in his ways, so I reckon he'll be around for the foreseeable future. I hope that he'll start dating again very soon. I hate the idea of any dating that involves me, but I love hearing about other people's dating disasters. The successes are not nearly so entertaining, but I reckon that the ratio is at least seven-to-one in favor of disaster, so I'm likely in for a year or two of good stories before he settles down again. Unless he wises up and imports a hausboy from the former German Democratic Republic, the way any sensible retiree who's fluent in German would.

Anyway, between the new house, the moving, the end of my relationship (also the guilt at being so excited about the new house; I don't have a good reason to feel guilty about it, but I was raised Southern Baptist, so guilt happens), the health issues with my father, and the long hours at work, I haven't been sleeping so well, and I find myself forgetting things. For example, I apparently, some time ago, arranged to play bridge this weekend with a couple of my longest-standing gay friends and some guy I've never met. And this totally slipped my mind until one of my friends called me yesterday to remind me, so I also, earlier this week, made arrangements to meet a buddy of mine for dinner and a movie, at the very same time.

And oh the regret, the remorse, the chagrin. There is nothing I fear more than being rude, and, really, double booking social engagements is something that you might expect from, say, people hooking up on craigslist (not that I would know, of course, but I've heard stories), but it is not something one does to one's friends. No wire hangers double booking ever! Fortunately, my buddy was amenable to lunch and an earlier movie. I had to buy each of his boyfriends a pair of leather pants to make it up to him, but I reckon I got off cheap: if the situation had been reversed, I would have demanded one of the boyfriends.

Anyway, I should knock wood and or not jinx myself, but I figure that once the house closes and the last tax deadline passes and I make what should be EFU's final tuition payment, I should have at least a few weeks of relative relaxation before the universe comes up with something else to throw at me. Hopefully in the meanwhile, I can avoid any major disasters like buying the wrong house, misplacing YFU, or doubling someone into game.

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