Thursday, May 13, 2010

The increased dating pool

I didn't go to work today, at least in the normal sense. Rather than my thirty-five minute semicircumnavigation of the city followed by nine hours of mental labor sitting in front of a admittedly quite nice 24" LCD monitor, I drove 10 minutes to a local distribution center where I was to endure eight hours of Diversity Training. Those amongst you with experience in the ways of Corporate America are no doubt wondering what my infraction was that warranted such harsh punishment, but I went voluntarily. Well, it was mandatory training, but I volunteered to attend at this particular location just for the easy commute that was in it.

It's not that I find no value in these classes; some of them are quite valuable. Others, not so much. The corporate CYA classes, for example, are shallow, facile time-wasters that serve no purpose other than allowing the company to wash their hands of you and your behavior should your actions ever result in a lawsuit.

"Hey, we trained him. Don't blame us!"

This was not one of those classes. The knowledge imparted was both contemporaneously pertinent and well presented. The class did feature one of the things I hate the most about these kinds of seminars, though. We had to separate into sub-groups for "an activity." The only thing worse is role playing. In this case, there were three groups separated based on our childhood environments. One was rural, one was urban, and mine was suburban. We were instructed to write on the large easel-mounted paper some of the defining traits of our environment. For us suburbanites, we came up with:

- Safe
- Quiet
- Lawns to mow
- Neighborly
- Etc. You get the picture.

We were then instructed to flip the paper we were writing on. Our next sheet said Rural. We were to write our perceptions about what it would have been like to grow up in a rural area. We came up with:

- Boring.
- Wide open spaces.
- Lot's of animals and smells. (Hey, have you ever smelled a manure spreader on a hot August day?)
- Early morning chores.
- Dangerous. (That one was submitted by an agoraphobic co-worker that watched the movie Deliverance at an impressionable age)

The fun part was when we had to read our lists to the entire class. We suburbanites got a chuckle when the urban kids listed 'Upper Class' and 'better stuff' under the Suburban category.

When that was done, we flipped our charts again. The new headings were 'Straight', 'Gay', and 'Bi'. Our category was 'Bi'. Assuming that we would be tossing out our perceptions regarding those lifestyles, I suggested that our number one item be "More Options."

In retrospect I wish I had worded that "Much larger dating pool."

It was after we had recorded our perception for all to see that we noticed that the rest of the class was not participating. The reason became clear: the intent was not for us to actually write or say anything; the facilitator (what normal people call the 'teacher') had been trying to make a point. The point was that we are perfectly willing to talk about mundane cultural differences, but are far more squeamish about discussing more personal or potentially controversial traits.

In theory, anyway. I didn't get that memo. I was perfectly will to talk about it.

So, you're wondering why I share this story, aren't you? Well, the fact of the matter was that I leapt into action without waiting for the full set of instructions. The interesting thing is that I did exactly the same thing last night.

Consider this set of instructions:

I read through that paragraph at least five times. My sticking point was that I was being instructed to install nutplates to only the F-1225-R Seat Floor, which kind of left the fate of the F-1225-L seat floor up in the air. Now I figure that if Van's doesn't specifically tell me to do something, well, it's not my place to question why. There is inevitably a step later that answers that question. The problem is, if I was going to do both floors I'd prefer to do that all at once so I wouldn't have to reconfigure the rivet squeezer from 'dimple the nutplates' mode to 'squeeze the rivets' mode. Resigning myself to the fact that I'd end up doing the left side sometime in the future, I went ahead and did the right. I dimpled the nutplates, changed the rivet dies and the gap between them for the AN426AD3-3.5 rivets, and finished installing the nutplates.

By this time, 99% of you are screaming "HEY! It says RIGHT THERE to repeat this step for the left side!"

In half a dozen times reading through that paragraph, I swear that I never saw that sentence.

There's a lesson in there. It ought to be a lesson that sinks in now. After all, I've learned it twice in as many days.

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