Part 1: The Absence
Admittedly I had blogs I wrote in my head during these last few weeks. Well, okay, not “written” but had the gist of them hammered out during the work day. I’d get home, often exhausted, and would look at the blank web browser. I’d think, “Should I go to the blog and hack out a few paragraphs?” “Naw,” I’d then think, “I don’t want to get into it.”
“It” being talking about life. “It” being talking about work. There are those from work who read this here blog in ones and twos, to be sure. Not that I had anything bad to say about people—it doesn’t get a person anywhere to bash people outright, especially from under the skirt of the Internet (yes, she’s a lady and she’s sexeh). It’s just the whole conundrum about writing about work. Should I? What else should I write about, then? Work has kind of been most of my life. I don’t have any exciting hobbies. I can only try to play softball (note to self, write post about softball).
What else is there to write about other than work? Social media theory? Ha! I hardly get any chance to read, let alone comment on that sort of stuff now that I’m in corporate America. There’s too many meetings to go to. And, honestly, when I get home, logging in to Google Reader and seeing the 1,200,000+ unread items is depressing. I’ve heard others talk about that. It’s one of those features I think actually dissuades people from using Google Reader. Maybe I should write a note. Like they could flip the feature around and talk about how the two posts I read today was a full 100 percent more (ZOMG w/ exclamation point) than the previous day’s reading. That sort of thing might get me out of bed in the morning in the hopes of getting around to Google Reader right before I get back into bed.
So all that to say, by the time a few days got between me and blogging, the gap sort of fed itself. It was like seeing how long it took for a flickering candle to eventually sputter out, or a car to run out of gas. Ok I don’t do that. Maybe not that example. Or it was like seeing the sun fully slip under the horizon. Better, yes. I watched it, saw the days compound and sort of just let things go.
Pretty bad of me, right? Well, that’s the thing about the Internets, people are jerks.
Part 2: The iPad
So, as an impulse, I bought an iPad a couple of weeks back. Don’t think I did it to prove I was alive or whatever shopaholics claim is the muse for their condition. I just sort of decided to buy one. For me, the build-up was a two day process. I heard how frikkin’ amazing the damn things were from clergy, coworkers and nature itself (Dreamed about an otter using an iPad. That was my sign. Otters, dude. Yeah.). I arrived at work the next day, decided to get one and bought one that evening.
Didn’t make a big production out of it. I didn’t make an announcement. Didn’t update my Facebook status. Didn’t see the need to really call it out. I guess part of that was my embarrassment at claiming I would not get one—that I already had a Kindle, a laptop and a will to live, so an iPad just didn’t do anything for me. And yet, maybe I needed a new type of will to live. Maybe I needed a media consumption “will to live”. I heard an iPad would reinvigorate my love for interacting with rich content—which itself sounds both intriguing and revolting in a “is this where I am in life?” sort of way.
Now, for my remaining two readers’ (hi Mom, Dad!) benefit, iPads are a pretty big deal where I work. We are a company that is absolutely infatuated with hip buzzwords like “innovation”, “synergy”, “thought leaders”. And our hearts are in the right place, but sometimes it’s a bit much. We develop apps for iPhone and iPad like it’s our job…which it is, but regardless, our company has an almost unhealthy love and indirect endorsement for Apple products. iPhones and iPads are handed out to leadership and select managers/leaders like candy. Scores of directors, VPs, AVPs, SVPs, EMGs, DSKWEs, EWKWOIJGDOSDIs and whatever else walk around the building with their issued iPhones, iPads and wax eloquent on how their lives have morphed into living technological haiku, all because of the tech-kensei status bequeathed to them from the very POSSESSION of such implements of awesomeness. The ‘tic tic tic tic’ of iPad keystrokes is a five point palm exploding heart technique on my soul!
So of course I wanted one! JEEEZ!
And it is pretty cool, except for the part where I may not be allowed to use it at work. We’re reeeeeeeeeally sensitive about keeping all corporate things confidential. Not to be confused with military intelligence classification. I have a government clearance. That’s easy breezy. They just hand those out. Doesn’t count. Our policies are moar hardcorez! Nothing can be trusted!
So I may be asked to not ever bring in my personal iPad to work at some point. Which is a bummer, since all the cool leaders and managers and anyone worth a damn have theirs to get ahead in life. The plebes fail.
Part 3: The End
Of the post. Ah, that was cheap, wasn’t it? Okay, scratch that.
New Part 3: The Beginning
As you may or may not know (again, to my readership…Mom, Dad), I was hired at my current gig to be the chief blogger, senior community manager and corporate conversationalist. Fancy words for “Guy who writes, trains and empowers others to participate in social media.” Dunno if all that will come to pass. There’s an awful lot of day-to-day grind stuff that needs doing. And new stuff shows up every day—all that “life” and “news” stuff that bubbles up. So, there’s no real way to get on top of it.
There is hope, though.
There’s an unfilled position for someone to be the “communities and collaboration” leader…which, to those paying attention, sounded exactly like the job I was hired to do. This one will get paid a lot more money, though, so I’m hoping maybe I’ll be under that person? Or maybe I’ll be reassigned? Regardless, one way or the other, I won’t have to fret about not doing the job, because I’ll either be doing it for the person it charge of it or letting someone else do it. There is a third option, to be revealed by God’s providence, but those are the cards I have at the moment. Pocket threes and someone raised before the river. Jerks.
And, as a parting shot, please don’t take the cynicism for unhappiness. That’s just my shtick. I’m cool with whatev. I’m happy not babysitting troops—not worrying they’ll get swindled at pay-day loan spots, not get tossed in the slammer, not piss hot, not lose accountable equipment. I do miss the manager/leader stuff sometimes, and look forward to the day when I can be a leader in the normal world and not have to counsel someone for being the “phantom pooper.” But for the moment, I’m fine with life sans fecal crises.
There have been a lot of things to get used to after hanging up the uniform.
- People don’t use pockets for anything in particular. They just shove their hands in there. For whole minutes.
- People lean against walls.
- First names predominate.
- You can potentially not work out for days!
- Work doesn’t usually call on the weekends. Pt. 2, coworkers don’t call, needing to be bailed out after a DUI.
- Saying “yeah” won’t incur extra duty.
- Walking either on the right or left of someone is completely acceptable.
- You can walk around, completely *^%$^&@ oblivious.
The last point has been getting to me. I mentioned it to a coworker. I’m actually not too keen on it. People are generally clueless to their surroundings. They bump into things, block doorways, block aisles, cut off vehicles in traffic, talk too loudly, trip other people, knock over stuff, on and on.
In the service, there’s this state of mind called “situational awareness.” It’s almost this Zen-like state, where a service member is imbued with the near-godlike ability to know where he or she is in relationship to the universe.
No, seriously. It’s pretty frikkin’ epic. You may not realize it, but most service members who haven’t gotten away with standing at parade pretty (entire other series of posts) know where they are. It’s awesome!
What does that mean? It means a service member will wait for others to go through doors. He or she will say “sir” or “ma’am” when encountering another human being in the general vicinity. And generally, although American road rage trumps all, they will know when the hell to stop, yield and accelerate when it comes to vehicular traffic.
It all starts at basic training. I remember it well. My particular unit stood outside in the January South Carolina evening air, which, contrary to what you might think, is pretty blasted freezing.
We were told to exit the bus, quick like, arrange our backpacks in an orderly fashion, and extricate ourselves into a line all in a span of about 15 seconds. Of course, you might imagine what happened, all manner of hell broke loose. There was no coordination. There was no consideration. It was every person for him or herself. We bumped, tripped and shoved our way into the drill sergeant’s escalating rage once the requisite 15 seconds passed.
Tests like that were designed for us to fail. Passing the test wasn’t the point. The point was to show how absolutely clumsy and self-centered the average person is. We’re like heifers, chewing the cud, oblivious to the semi trucks attempting to pass us on the road. We’re completely self-centered, expecting the world to pay us mind, pay us heed and worship us at our feet. We have more cars, clothes and money than 90 percent of the GD world, after all, there’s definitely a sense of entitlement that comes with that sort of nobility.
So, it is the job of the drill sergeant (or drill instructor for our maritime friends) to undo the worthless, clumsiness of the average U.S. civilian. Thus begins our quest toward situational awareness.
When a sergeant walks to work, you may see a confident stride and a sharp-looking man or woman; but inside, there are all manner of processes and checklists going off in that person’s head. Every single person that walks into a service member’s viewable area (six paces radius from all living things, for your information) must be checked for rank, uniform, disposition, proximity to others. A service member will see if there’s something in the person’s right hand (which there shouldn’t be, since he or she needs that hand to salute at a moment’s notice), and that hands are out of pockets. Service members will salute, if appropriate (depending on the rank, uniform, time of day). They will check to make sure others are behaving, that they are being respectful. They will stand ready to correct junior troops, alter their course if needed to stay on sidewalks, stop completely if a cell phone rings. They won’t chew gum or eat while walking. They will walk tall, taking 30-inch steps, their hands held in loose fists, as per regulation. They will scan passing vehicles to render honors if officer rank placards are displayed. They will watch for the right time of day to render honors to the flag in the mornings and evenings.
All of it, just from walking to frikkin’ work, is to hone a person’s acumen for situational awareness.
And it doesn’t stop in the states. There are a whole mess of other checklists service members go through in deployed environments.
Over there, weapons must be carried properly, cleaned, uniforms maintained. Service members must keep a sharp ear out for incoming mortars, alarms, approaching vehicles. On patrols, they must watch out for piles of debris in the road, quiet streets before an ambush, influx of onlookers before an ambush, pot holes, wires, discoloration on curbs, orderly piles of trash compared with disorderly piles of trash. Vehicles must be listened to. Is the engine sounding healthy? Do the brakes feel right? Are there fluid leaks? How about the radio? Do the headsets work? Got enough ammo? Got trash bags? Got the stretcher? How’s the .50-cal? Barrel clicked in (learned about that one the hard way)? Sights clean? Pedestal pin in (yet another story)?
When walking around, service members need to know where their barrels are pointing AT ALL TIMES. As they pass each other, as they walk to the chow hall, as they go to bed; is the chamber empty? Has the weapon been cleared? Where are all the other accountable items? Body armor? Ballistic goggles?
Leaders must know when and where incidents occur, in the states, the field or downrange. What time did the rounds hit? What grid location? Whose battlespace are they in? What frequency should they use to call the medics? What’s the alternate in case there’s no response? Where are they? Where’s an alternate route to get around the roadblock?
None of this aimless walking around. A troop’s mind needs to be on, sharp, at all times. Is it, always? Ideally, sure, but all troops are human. There are lapses, sometimes a lot. But they should be paying attention. “Get your head out of your @$$!” is a common verbal exchange as one troop points out the spacial perception lapses of another.
I’m newly a civilian, and while it’s sort of cute it’s also a little unsettling to see how frequently people walk down halls, ear buds in, running into others, or seeing people back into people while looking for birthday cards, or how accidents occur with cell phone users in cars, nearly hitting me as I go to H.E.B. to get toilet paper.
I guess it’s because most people haven’t had the pleasure of having situational awareness drilled into them almost literally. So it remains a quintessential skill possessed by few—that ability to analyze and categorize a dozen characteristics and traits of people, places and things entering and leaving a service members proximity every step and every second of the day.