So, we have this person at work we’re calling “the phantom pooper.”

We have no idea who the phantom pooper is, but we know that she was raised in a barn, because she obviously snacks on hay if the smell she leaves behind is any indication.

It all started about a month ago when the call center for our company moved onto our floor. Gone were the quiet days when we could consentrate on our work. Instead, the floor was filled with clutter, loud noises and a plethora of new smells. A trip to the restroom was often an escape in those early days, but that didn’t last very long, once the phantom pooper left her mark.

And I don’t mean “left her mark” rhetorically, by the way. She quite literally left her mark, in the form of the long, stinky, brown skid-mark she always leaves on the toilet seat.

No, I’m not kidding.

And that’s not all! In addition to the skunk stripe she leaves as a calling card, she also leaves toilets unflushed, pee on the seats and floor (How does a woman do this?), and diarrhea spashed along the back of the toilet bowl. (Again, HOW does this happen?)

The concept of a courtesy flush is alien to her. She is proud of the smell of her poop and wants to make sure the rest of us can smell it, too!

The phantom pooper has become a subject of much conversation around the water cooler. Just who is she? What the HELL does she eat that smells so bad when it’s digested? In what position must she sit on the toilet to leave the diarrhea spray against the back like that? We warn others of her visits. “For the love of all that is holy, don’t go in there right now!”

I actually brought packs of matches to all my friends, so we can light one upon entering the restroom. Our only hope is that the fumes don’t combust and singe our eyebrows off. So far, so good.

We have begun an unofficial forensic investigation, and we know these things about the pooper:

  • She’s a big girl - Only a big girl could leave a skunk stripe like that on the toilet seat.
  • She’s not clean - She doesn’t wipe her rear end, people!
  • She’s insensitive to the needs of others - Those of us who are clean would like a restroom free of crap stains, floaters and pee puddles.

We have a few suspects. The big girl who comes to work with her pants unzipped because they’re too small and wears a short shirt, so everyone can see her open fly is the prime suspect.

I was actually in there the other day when she came in, talking on her cell phone. (This is another clue that she’s the phantom pooper. Who uses the restroom and talks on the cell phone at the same time? How does she wipe? What does the person on the other end of the phone hear?) From my stall, I heard her say to the person on the other end of the line, “It smells like smoke in here!” I answered her, “That’s from the match I light so I don’t have to smell everyone’s crap, since someone isn’t clean!” She just chuckled and farted.

Oh, yeah. I think we’ve found our gal!

Letters from HR have been sent out and have done no good, so now it’s up to my forensic squad to solve the problem. Once we’re completely sure who the pooper is, we’re giving her some object lessons on bathroom etiquette and a care package…moist towlettes, body spray, air freshener, her own pack of matches!

Until then, I’ll be using a restroom on one of the other floors. None of them smell like roses, but at least there are no racing stripes!

What a great week last week was!

The work week flew by, which is always good news. I had plenty of work to do, was able to complete a long and tedious project and lined out what I needed to do to get my other work done. Work accomplished and done well is always a mood booster, and it certainly boosted my mood last week!

Speaking of accomplishments, I hit a big one last week when I finally hit the 10% mark on my weight loss. It was a very proud moment when I got my 10% charm at from Weight Watchers meeting, particularly since I’ve been struggling so much this past month, thanks to my bout with the flu. It feels great to know I’ve lost 10% of my body weight after so many years of trying and failing. I have finally come to understand that weight loss is all about mind set. Through my journey — so far — I’ve learned that I can basically eat what I want as long as I control my portions, and I’ve learned that there is no such thing as failure. For example, this week my friend, Kim, celebrated her birthday, and I had a HUGE piece of red velvet cake with cream cheese icing piled so high that it easy made up a third of the cake’s height. (OMG, yummy!) In the past, I would have considered myself a failure after eating something like that, but now I just count it and go on. The good news is I lost 4.8 lbs in a week, AND had cake. Failure? I don’t think so!

Speaking of weight loss, I am one of the many participants in the Oklahoma City weight loss initiative that our mayor, Mick Cornett, set in motion. ( I got an email from them early last week saying that a new show on the Food Network is giong to be spotlighting the initiative, and they are looking for people to interview. On a whim, I wrote the woman representing the show, and to my surprise, she called me back! She did a phone interview with me and, at the conclusion of the interview, asked me to send her a video tape of myself, my son and my sister, so she can show it to the show’s producer and the Food Network. So, it looks like I have a pretty good opportunity to be on the show! How cool is that?

Just when I thought the week couldn’t get better, I went to see a holistic physical therapist for help with the constant pain and burning in my shoulders. The first thing I learned there was that I no longer have to associate torture with physical therapy. Holistic physical therapy is completely different. They use a lot of resistance and gentle manipulation to treat the pain. The environment was very relaxing, with soft mood music and fountains that fill the rooms with the sound of trickling water. The woman who worked with me had hands of gold, and when I left an hour later, I was loose as a goose and felt better than I had in a long time. The place is called Back in Action, so if you live in the OKC area and need physical therapy, look them up!!

Finally, on Friday afternoon, I got the afternoon off, so I coufrom: be home when the window replacement people got there to measure and replace my storm window that broke in last night’s hail storm. The only thing better than having to wait less than 24 hours to get a broken window fixed after a very damaging storm is the fact that it was the only storm window I had that was letting condensation in, so I needed to fix it anyway. Oh, and getting the afternoon off on a Friday, of course.

I’d say life is pretty good for this old gal. Here’s hoping that your week was just as exceptional! Now, let’s make this week a great one, too!

Boredom sucks.

There, I said it. (And so eloquently, too) Boredom makes every minute seem like an hour, every day seem like a week. Thomas Szasz once said, “Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.” That’s where I am right now; every moment I spend at work waiting for something to do is a total waste of time. I could be doing something worthwhile, but instead, I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting and doing…NOTHING.

Frankly, I doFrom:’t see how lazy people do it. We all know the types who avoid work like the plague, even when it means sitting at their desks staring into space. How can they stand that? I swear I’d slit my wrists!

I’m the kind of person who wants to be busy all the time at work, and if I’m busy with more than one thing, even better. When I’m busy, the day flies by, I’m happier, and I’m more apt to be on top of my game. When I’m bored, the day drags, I’m a drag, and all I want to do is leave and do something productive.

For me, there are two distinct types of boredom. One involves a job where there is often nothing to do. The other involves a job with plenty to do, but the work doesn’t require creativity or strategic thinking. In my current situation, I have both. I’m bored without the work and I’m bored with the work.

Frankly, I can’t think of anything worse.

I look back to the job I had that was my favorite - CommunFrom: Manager at America Online - and it’s easy to see why I loved it so much. I was busy all the time, things were constantly changing, my mind was creative and my thinking strategic. As busy as I was, I didn’t mind working extra hours, because it was more like play than it was work.

Contrast that to my current situation where I spend long periods idle, nothing changes and I’m never tasked to be creative or strategic. No wonder I want to run screaming from the building at 4:55pm every day.

I need some serenity. For the love of God, someone put me to work on something that matters!

A few months ago, I was tired.

I was tired of working long hours for little recognition and even littler pay. I was tired of trying to ferret information I needed out of subject matter experts who were more From: in the latest office gossip than they were getting a job done well. I was tired of seeing people with less experience and talent get rewarded for work I had done. I was just tired of being tired.

Now that I’m not so tired, I can look back and clearly see that times like those are not good times to be making life changing decisions.

Tired Maggy thought it was time to step back a little, time to take a position that would be easy, time to move away from strategy sessions, company-changing decisions and endless headaches. Tired Maggy thought that a technical writing job would be easy and would allow her to rest and avoid headaches.

Tired Maggy had no idea how bored she’d be or how unfulfilled she’d be in a position like this.

Now that I can see through the eyes of one who is no longer tired, I’ve learned a big lesson about myself. Easy mode stresses me out. I need a challenge in order to be fulfilled. I need to be able to make a difference. I can’t just sit back on the sidelines and watch the action fly by without wanting to stick my foot in and trip things up a little.

Once I faced the facts, I realized that, while I am a writer who can author just about anything, the real me — the core me — is more of a communications strategist. From: communications can be daunting, but it is in that capacity that I’m most energized and fulfilled. I love how it feels when the cogs start turning, when I can look at the big picture and see the little things that can be tweaked to improve the business. I love being able to write a public relations piece that highlights the positives and minimizes the negatives. I love working out the particulars of crisis communication and then seeing the bad situation blow over as a result of my work. Most of all, I love that I am so good at knowing the right rhetorical stance to take on difficult communication.

So, as much as I like the people I work with, particularly my boss who is probably one of the smartest, nicest women I have known in the business world, I’m going to actively begin searching for another position in the field of corporate or public communications/public relations. Securing such a position would bring me back to the real me, and as the song goes, I gotta be me.

Just making this decision lifts a huge weight off my shoulders. I’m now on a personal communications mission, and the subject I’m highlighting is me! What better way to exercise my rhetorical wings and get them in shape again?

Wish me luck!

One of the things that bothers me the most about American society today is a pervasive “I don’t care” attitude. It seems that most people today really don’t care about the things our country used to stand for - patriotism, accountability and good grammar among those that stand out most.

Patriotism used to be so important to our citizens that it was never in question. People from: up when the Pledge of Allegiance was recited; now, many schools don’t allow a recitation of the pledge. Similarly, people stood up when the flag passed by in a parade or color guard. Now, for the most part, only elderly people still honor our flag that way. Everyone else just doesn’t care.

Many companies and private citizens who display our flag no longer follow the rules of care. Even at the building at which I work, the flag is left up in rain, sleet and snow. Its white stripes are a dingy gray, its ends worn and tattered. I stopped and looked at the mast the other day. They have moved the tether up so far that someone would actually have to stand on a ladder to change the flag. I think it’s simply shameful, but the powers that be obviously don’t care.

At my old job, they treated the flag a little better — it was put up and taken down every day, flown at half mast when appropriate, removed during inclement weather — but even then, it was wadded up in a box while it rested instead of folded appropriately. It was allowed to touch the ground, even though, traditionally, that is a no-no. When I brought it up to facilities, I got shrugs and blank stares. They really didn’t care one way or the other.

Even at my alma mater, The University of Oklahoma, a lack of patriotism is sadly evident. At sports events, many people don’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem. Most talk right through it. What’s worse, many people who do sing along have replaced the words “home of the brave” with “home of the Sooners.” Some people who still believe in God and Country are appalled by this behavior, but for the most part, people are pretty laissez-faire about it. It’s the football game that matters, as for the patriotic trappings, well…they really don’t care.

Personal accountability has been tossed out with the trash along with patriotism. People just don’t seem to take pride in their work anymore, and if they can blame a personal error on someone else, they will do it in a flash. Similarly, many parents, when confronted with their children’s bad behavior in school, back up their child rather than the teacher, ostensibly pulling the rug out from under any hope that their kids will learn to take responsibility for their own actions. They don’t seem to care that their son or daughter is a teacher’s nightmare, nor do they seem to care that their child isn’t learning anything about discipline or a positive work ethic.

As a result, “half assing” work assignments has become the norm in the corporate world. Some companies are built on the foundation that mediocrity is a way of life, and sadly,from: some of these companies still do well. Why? Because they’re competing against other companies who half ass things. (Great…I’ve used the word “ass” twice now. Let the porn spam comments begin!) People with good work ethics come into these environments believing they can affect change for the better, but what usually happens is that they either quit in frustration or are fired for rocking the boat. (Ask the superintendent of Oklahoma City schools who was just railroaded out of his job, because over the past six months, he’s fired several people who weren’t doing a good job. This was exactly what the school board wanted him to do, but when it became apparent that no one was safe from his scrutiny, they decided to protect their own asses instead. [There’s that word again!] I guess they decided that they didn’t care as much about reforming the school system as they thought they did.)

Finally, Americans don’t seem to care about our own native tongue. As a student of grammar and linguistics, I’m fully aware that, through linguistic shifting and rubbing, languages evolve over time. If they didn’t, we’d all still be speaking Sanskrit. I’m also from: that every language in the world is weaker than its predecessor. Each language offshoot is more disordered than its parent and has less power of description. Modern English, at its best, is nothing but a series of labels attached to ideas and objects — the words have no intrensic meaning of their own. That said, our language has always been very ordered. You could take any sentence and diagram it, no matter how complex it was. Today’s English is becoming dirtier and dirtier. Just try to diagram the sentence, “Get a new TV for free!” It can’t be done.

When I was a graduate assistant at OU, one of my greatest disappointments was when I was told, “Don’t worry about a student’s grammar; focus only on content.” (Frankly, I couldn’t do it. My students were taught correct grammar and punctuation.) Just knowing that the administrators didn’t care about grammar hurt. It was even sadder to learn that their opinion that grammar didn’t matter was shared by almost every major university in the country. It’s no surprise that our language has degraded so quickly since university English departments adopted this “We don’t care” attitude.

I believe that our country’s downfall will be a result of our lack of passion for excellence in all we do. “I don’t care” will, eventually, drive us down the path of the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire and other great societies that fell. To survive it, we must adopt an “I DO care” attitude. And I don’t just mean a few of us — I mean all of us. Parents must be good role models for our children and demand only the best from them, teachers must be allowed to teach and grade on the things that matter and the rest of us must strive to achieve to the maximum of our abilities. If the majority begins to show that it DOES care, the minority will, for the most part, follow suit. It’s up to each of us to take a stand for excellence!

So, ask yourself…do you care?

In the continuing saga that is now my work life, the proofreader has returned my work to me with some changes.

Some of those changes were good, and I readily made those changes, but most asked me to change text that was grammatically correct into text that would be grammatically incorrect. I have chosen not to make those changes.

We’ll see what happens as a result.

Those of you who know me, know what a perfectionist I am, particularly when it comes to grammar. I simply refuse to put my name on something that I consider substandard. So, if one of the requirements of this job is that I must make correct grammar incorrect in order to justify some uneducated proofreader’s job, I won’t do it.

I made copies of the proofreader’s comments and added my own, citing sections of the AP styleguide that proved I was correct and sent it back to the proofreader. It should be interesting to see what kind of pushback I get on this. Obviously, at this point, I don’t care, but I won’t compromise my work just because someone with questionable creditials says I should.

Stay tuned for more on the continuing saga of Maggy’s Continuing Adventure or How to Piss off a Writer in One Easy Step.

Next Page »