Certified Emergency Response Team Training

(Part 2.)

Staci and I were victims.

Victims of something terrible. An earthquake, a fire, a bomb, the apocalypse. The meeting room was in shambles, tables overturned, chairs strewn about, and moaning employees trapped in the dark. Well, we were supposed to act like we were trapped and really moan like the end of the world was near.

September 2007 083We even had makeup done. Clearly, you can see that my injuries looked legit: a burned forearm and a broken femur.

The femur was the injury that usually killed me.

At the time, I had been with my company for about two years and was in my second position. Staci and I were working on the same project together, which felt like glorified data entry, aliasing assays in a code set.

Because that makes sense to you. And because you are impressed with our skills to accomplish this task!

We took a break from the grueling project to take part in onsite CERT training. The company always had a team of CERT folks around, in case of emergency. Those who passed received coveted hard hats and fluorescent vests.

Here’s how the training went down:

  • With supervisor permission, employees were chosen to help out as victims for CERT training
  • We had makeup done for our injuries
  • The meeting room was turned into a disaster area
  • Usually, the disaster was an earthquake
  • Each victim found a place in the disaster area, then the lights went off
  • CERT trainees came in, the room was dark, and people were screaming
  • CERT trainees had to find the screamers and get them out
  • Once assembled in the other meeting room, victims were triaged by other trainees
  • Some survived, others died, according to how trainees handled them and severity of injuries
  • How did I die? The time my broken leg was straightened out before being secured for my journey to the other meeting room.
  • The time I survived? A trainee tied my leg up, in a bent position, to the overturned chair I was trapped on, and I was carried to the safe zone with the chair.

The best part? Getting paid to do something other than work tasks for an hour.

And those were not MY ripped pants. I didn’t sacrifice my own wardrobe for the cause.

Episode 58: Bring Back File-For-Fun Fridays

I think the fact that my desk at work was often covered with paperwork, labels, charts, and post-it notes was just a sign that I had a lot of work to do and that I was doing it. But some of my coworkers had clean desks and I know for a fact that they were still getting their work done. I think they did something that I only did once a year or so: THEY FILED THINGS.

When I first started at this company, I was the IT Secretary. I have no clue why they didn’t change the job title to Administrative Assistant, as that seems to be the PC term, but I just wanted a job with benefits while I finished my last classes for my ever-useful English BA so I took it, job title and all.

And then do you know what I found out?



But thankfully there was a cubicle next to me that was empty so I used it to store things to be filed. Strangely enough, it kept getting filled up with more and more papers. I swear, I filed things, though. Friday was filing day.

After several months of spending Fridays filing (and wearing Capris… Friday was also Capri day, oh, and it was also Friday High Five day, but people didn’t always play along with that one), I decided the best way to get out of File-for-Fun Fridays was to get a new job.

So I transferred.

They paid me more for doing it, too.

I moved around the corner, we hired a new secretary and I trained her on how to file. Luckily, she, too, had learned how to alphabetize back in elementary school so the training was pretty easy.

In the new job, I had minimal paperwork. Mostly, I just had documents on processes for how we built things in the computer system. They started out in piles on my desk, but I was sitting in a large cubicle and sharing it with a very neat coworker, “Stacky.” She never said she didn’t like my piles of paper, but her side was so neat. Eventually I decided to use the filing cabinet that my new boss had purchased for me and wrote some labels on a hand full of folders.

I filed my paperwork and had a clean desk.

Then they promoted me. That meant they paid me more… again. Nice.

I even got my own desk and now I sat across from Stacky. By this point, we found ourselves getting even more paperwork, which actually meant that we were getting even more work, but can I tell you what was GREAT about this paperwork? It was REQUIRED to be filed. And guess what your boss does when everyone in your department is REQUIRED to get their paperwork filed and she doesn’t want you to get behind or forget to do it?


When I finished with my paperwork, I put it into an outbox and it went on its merry little way to the filing cabinet at the end of the row on the new secretary’s Filing Fridays.

My desk remained clean.

And then I decided that I should find a way to get some more money again so guess what I did? I transferred.

And they paid me more. Nice.

And then I found out there was even MORE paperwork in the new job. So I did what I did best. I put it in an outbox on my desk (which really meant that I put it on a pile on my desk). Filing Fridays came and went and NOTHING HAPPENED.

Oh man. They were paying me more because now I would have to file MY OWN PAPERWORK. They didn’t pay me enough.

Before long, there were papers that needed to be filed on top of my label printer, then in between my computers, then in the corner of my desk. I kept telling myself that this way, I wouldn’t have to dust my desk ever. Just add to the paperwork pile every now and then and there would be a new top paper to gather a wee bit of dust. Good plan, right?

I did this for a couple of years.

And then I decided to try the whole transfer thing again and guess what? I got THAT job, too. And they even wanted to pay me more. Wow. I started to wonder: would I have to file EVEN MORE?

When leaving the old just two weeks ago, it took me an entire day to go through those piles of paperwork on my desk and file them. Not bad, actually. And then I moved to the new desk and it was lovely how nice and clean it was. JUST LOVELY!

It lasted for a week.

I have four small piles of paperwork on my desk today.

Oh, and the secretary is out on maternity leave.

Looks like for today, the Filing Friday will be so much fun! And when I get all the small piles put away (which I will do, oh yes, yes I will), then I will dust all of the empty desk space. And by dust, I really just mean wipe it down with a Lysol wipe.

I really missed Filing Fridays for the past four years. Glad they’re back.

Episode 46: A Corporate Lactation Program

I logged in to our time clock application this morning: Double click to open the kiosk, enter employee number, enter last four digits of social security number (oooo, how secure). Ah, there you are. Let’s check and see when I’ve been arriving at work. Yep, lookin’ good (for me):
8:11 AM
8:09 AM
8:05 AM
8:26 AM
8:16 AM

Let’s check and see how much paid time off I have accrued. OH BEAUTIFUL VACATION HOW SWEET IT IS: 89:10 hours just waiting for me to sign up for on the calendar. I need to come up with a way to trick my boss into letting me use those. Last year, it was, “Hey, I’m going to Portland, where you used to live and I need some suggestions on where to go… oh yeah? Multnomah falls? Sounds good. Oh, yeah, and will you approve my vacation, please? It’s in four days and I already bought the flights. Thank you.” Yep, I got the vacation.

Okay, back to the time clock application.

Let’s check and see how much long-term sick I have accrued: HOLY FRAGRANT B.M., BATMAN, THAT’S A LOT OF SICK TIME: 264:53. So if I want to use that I have to do one of three things: really get injured so I have a doctor’s note about why I’m staying home or in the hospital for 33 days; find a doctor friend who will write me a note and a really good reason like, “Her imaginary therapist (whom she fired) says she needs a mental break for 33 days or she’ll go seriously insane”; or, have a baby.

Looks like I won’t be using that sick time for a long time, but that brings me to my next topic: having a baby.

I was talking to Stacky last week.

“Hey, you look pregnant.”

She’s due at the end of July and I’ve known since almost the start. See how funny I am saying things like that? We laughed so hard.

No. We didn’t. Stacky just looked at me and said, “So, I look fat?”

I quickly changed the subject to something much less awkward.

“So. You’re going to be breastfeeding before too long now.”

Yeah, I’m pretty smooth. And somehow, instead of giving me an odd look, she started talking about some of the things that she’s purchased already, some of which are related to breastfeeding, but let’s not really go into details here. And then I found out about our company’s HUGE SECRET.

Did you know that companies have corporate lactation programs?

Yeah, you read that right: a lactation program.

Somebody in HR was sitting around one day thinking, “Hmm, wonder what kind of a benefit program I could come up with today because I don’t have anything else to do this moment.” She looked over at a picture of her little baby and thought about how right this moment, she’d really LOVE to have a private place to pump some milk.

Yep. That’s how it went down and the next day, the lactation room was created.

So now I have a new mission at work and it has nothing to do with testing web applications. Somewhere there is a locked door and behind it, is a serene room with soothing music, comfortable chairs and, if I was the designer, a couple of hammocks.

We have a lactation room somewhere.

They give out keys to this secret room.

It’s a benefit I had no idea existed.

Did I mention that there is a SECRET lactation room somewhere?

I’m going to go for a walk now. There’s a door down the hall that I haven’t checked behind yet.

Day 23: How to Make a Phone Call

I’m looking for some advice. And so I’m coming to you, internet. Please to help.

It fits the task for today’s “Build a Better Blog,” too.*

So what do I need help on? Making phone calls.

I hate doing it. Seriously. Even when it comes to calling my bestest buddy or a sibling. It’s excessively difficult to hit ‘Send.’

Here is how a phone call goes down for me yesterday:

I’m staring at my phone because I need to call Quinn about getting a professional out with a moisture meter to check for damage in my home from the flood. Clearly, this is an important phone call. It needs to be made now because the damage won’t wait around for a convenient time. I stare at my phone for a bit and then think, oh, I’ve got to send this email first. I’ll get back to the phone.

I send an email.
I go to lunch.
I write some test cases.
I chat with Stacki about a date with a cute guy this weekend.**
I use the middle stall in the bathroom.
I read the weather forecast on KSL.
I find a bug in an application and start recording the steps to reproduce.
I set up some automated testing.
I go to a meeting.
I log off my applications.
I leave work.

Remember how I was going to make a phone call? I finally pull out my phone while I’m walking through the parking lot. I scroll through my contacts to Quinn’s number and hit Send really-really-fast-before-I-can-realize-what-I’ve-done-and-before-I’ve-thought-about-what-to-say. Okay, here we go. Deep breath. I put the phone to my ear. Do I want to talk to him or to his voicemail? If I talk to him, what do I say? If I talk to his voicemail, I better make sense.


Um, he answered. Um, yeah. Okay, so, it’s Larrie. Oh right, say it, don’t think it.


Wow. Talk about being neurotic. It’s just a phone call.

And now, here’s the part where I ask for your help. Can somebody please tell me how to be normal about making phone calls? How to not get a little anxious about it and how to JUST DO IT?

I guess this is the Universe just balancing things out, because in the rest of my life, I’m probably TOO laid back so I have to be fretful about SOMETHING. Let it be phone calls. You should watch me when I call a hot boy.

*Are you getting sick of these yet? Truth be told, today I am, but perhaps tomorrow, I’ll feel differently.

**Oo, a dating teaser. That’s all you get, though.

Episode 36: What would YOU do with four walls?

Stacky forgot yesterday that she only has three walls here at work. I reminded her of this, but didn’t remind her that those walls are mostly made of fabric and not even as tall as I. They’re still taller cubicle walls than some workplaces, though.

So I got to thinking about what life would be like with four walls at work. Stacky helped me with this thinking. We came up with a nice list in our IM conversation of what we would do if we could close the door and get some privacy. None of the list items had to do with working… imagine that.

10 things to do with four walls at work:

  1. Sleep – a power nap every now and then (or every morning and afternoon) would really work wonders for me
  2. Exercise – we’re not talking about lifting weights or busting out the treadmill here, but more like some yoga stretching after sitting for so long
  3. Surf – cowabunga, dudes, we can look up stuff online without checking over our shoulder constantly
  4. Read books – yes, this was my preference and I do it anyway, but only when I eat lunch at my desk
  5. Read magazines – Stacky prefers this type of reading enjoyment
  6. Photoshop pictures of my coworkers – need I say more?
  7. Play computer games – it’s been ages since a good game of hearts against my PC
  8. Change – sometimes, it’d be nice to mix the day up a little by changing my shirt… just for the reactions of coworkers
  9. Breastfeed – guess who came up with this one
  10. Pick your teeth, nose, and/or wedgie – because we’re ladies and would NEVER do these things in public

What would you do with a little privacy at work?

If You’ve Been Dumped, Your Brain Will Eventually Get Over Him

Bring on this week’s fabulous installment of Therapy Thursdays where Larrie gets her much-needed therapy from the Doc (hey… imaginary therapy works, too, and costs less).

DOC: You made it; would you like to discuss what everybody else is discussing?

LRE: Who’s everybody else?

DOC: Yaknow, all of my patients.

LRE: Unless you’re scheduling therapy sessions with all my other personalities without telling the main me, you don’t have any other patients.

DOC: Well, if I did, they’d all be living in fear because of the economy.

LRE: Oo, no, let’s not talk about that. There’s too MUCH to say.

DOC: So you think this blog would be too long if we went down that path of discussion?

LRE: More like a path of destruction and definitely, yes, it would be too long. Here’s a great link for the best economic blog, in my not-so-humble opinion. We’ll leave it at that.

DOC: Gotcha… one of those underlined things. Okay, then let’s talk about something else F-U-N.

LRE: Oh yeah? What have ya got in mind there, Doc?

DOC: Dating, of course.

LRE: Oh, how super.

DOC: I did some research… well, basically I clicked on one of those blue underlined things from MSN’s homepage and came across some interesting little facts about love.

LRE: Oh good, love.

DOC: Yes, should make for an interesting conversation.

LRE: All conversations in my head are interesting. Okay then, Doc—bring it.

DOC: So, scanning over this list… oh here we go. Here’s something talking about office romances and it says, “the single biggest predictor of love is proximity.”

LRE: Oh that’s a very true statement.

DOC: Oh yeah? Got something juicy to share from work?

LRE: Not exactly, but the statement about proximity, I think, is very true.

DOC: Well, duh, that’s a given.

LRE: Yeah, apparently, even some guy living in Phoenix is too far away for much of a relationship.

DOC: Plus, who would want to live in Phoenix?

LRE: Seriously.

DOC: So no office romances?

LRE: Not that I’m going to tell my imaginary doctor, but Stacky and I do have a good time discussing romances in general and coming up with nicknames for the lucky men who take me out.

DOC: Oh, now we’re getting somewhere interesting… nicknames, huh? Let’s discuss…

LRE: Yeah, there’s some good ones, but it’s hard to keep track.

DOC: Ha, I bet… stop being so facetious and share a nickname or two already.

LRE: All right; there are the good rhyming ones like “Shuttle Boy Toy Troy.”

DOC: Oh yeah, that is a good one.

LRE: Yep. And then there’s odd ones which really make fun of our nerdiness for working where we work.

DOC: Huh? Didn’t follow that one.

LRE: Well, see, that guy in Phoenix area, we called him Milk Protein.

DOC: Yeah, I definitely don’t follow.

LRE: It’s because we have a test here for an allergen to the protein in dairy products… called casein. Anyway, Phoenix’s name was similar to that so we, of course, called him Milk Protein.

DOC: And did he have a milk moustache and did he turn his head to the right when you kissed?

LRE: Yes and mostly.

DOC: So, other nicknames?

LRE: Of course, there are plenty, but two is good enough for now.

DOC: Fine; don’t share.

LRE: Fine; I won’t.

DOC: Oh, come on, please?

LRE: You’re begging? Fine, I’ll just throw out a few more: SU (for stood up), UFSteve, and TBBF (for to-be boyfriend). There ya go. Anything else from your FASCINATING MSN article?

DOC: Thank you for sharing and yes… here’s one. Says that 11% of women have researched a guy online. Have you?

LRE: But of course. I’m surprised that number is so low.

DOC: So anything interesting from that research?

LRE: No; sorry.

DOC: Oh, thought that would be a good question. Hmm, let’s see if there’s one more good one.

LRE: Yes, let’s.

DOC: Here’s one… it says that after you get dumped, you love the person even more… for a time.

LRE: Really?

DOC: Because the “brain regions that lit up when we were in a happy union continue to be active.”

LRE: Oh, okay. That makes sense then.

DOC: How so?

LRE: Well, I was thinking about how quickly I got over one certain relationship a wee bit ago.

DOC: How quick?

LRE: Really quick… like one day quick.

DOC: So then how does that make sense?

LRE: Because it refers to being in a happy union.

DOC: Oh, well then… good thing that relationship is over then.

LRE: Definitely.

DOC: What was his nickname?

LRE: Don’t worry about it.

This may come as a surprise to no one: people think I’m crazy


Freddy told me. He thinks I’m crazy. Other coworkers around agreed with him. Or at least they didn’t disagree.

Freddy: I read your blog. You’re crazy. What’s it called when you have voices in your head?

McJosh: Schizophrenia.

Freddy: Yeah, that.

Instead of concentrating on that conversation and the fact that the Lead in my group diagnosed my multiple personalities, I concentrated on the fact that it took reading my blog for him to figure that out. Do you know what that means? They actually think that I am normal at work. Man, I’m good.

Reasons why they think that I am normal:

  • My signature on emails looks like all the other SQAs (Software Quality Assurance Testers) in my group – nothing there about the crazies in my head.
  • My desk is just as messy as the other SQAs.
  • I work a 9-5 job.
  • My emails sound quite professional (unless you’re a developer and you tell me to “stand by” for a new release of an application – how could I NOT reply with “standing” and therefore lie about the fact that I was sitting in my ergonomically-happy chair?).
  • My voicemail message sounds fairly normal.
  • MOST people call me Lauren.
  • I wear jeans and a collared-shirt on most days.
  • I type really fast.
  • I stare at the clock waiting for 5pm.
  • Most of my sticky notes posted around my cube are boring and work related (e.g.: “InputString1: String, InputCurrency1: Currency, TFS2358-4490331, TFS2361-4490332 – what? It makes sense to ME).

Reasons why they might not think I’m normal.

  • Sometimes I send emails that say, “Standing…”
  • I check my email at midnight or on vacations.
  • I draw cartoons in meetings about Stacky defenestrating another coworker, Bret.
  • A FEW people call me things other than Lauren – like Skinny, Man-toes, Larrie, and Trashy.
  • I’m really tan.
  • I type really fast.
  • There are the other sticky notes in my cube that say not-so-boring-work-related things (e.g.: “Dear Lauren, I love you. Love, Someone Secret.”).
  • I don’t smoke or drink coffee or alcohol.
  • I rarely swear and am not obsessed with sex.
  • I blog about my normalcy or lack thereof.
  • And a Bush calendar hangs on my cubicle wall with pictures of many of my coworkers taped up next to him; they LOVE being placed so that George puts a loving arm around them!