Friday, May 27, 2011

Cant get no satisfaction (with perfection)

"Its the perfect job, I think I should go ahead and accept it. I am making the correct decision, right?" asked my more than moderately excited friend as we were munching on some popcorn at a fast food outlet during one of our regular weekend lazying around doing nothing sessions. I ignored the raised eyebrows of the people sitting next to us who suddenly started straining their ears to catch our conversation and asked my friend what makes the job so perfect.

"Well, first of all there is the work, it’s exactly what I have been wanting to do for a very long time. It’s definitely a huge step up from my current job profile and I'm sure that even though it will be challenging, I will be able to manage it rather well."

My Ok was a little more dragged out than usual which made my friend suspicious. "Plus there's all the other stuff. To be honest, saying that you are working in that company gets you a lot more respect than when you mention the name of our beloved employer. And then there are the perks"

"What perks?" I grunted while trying to chew on a mouthful of popcorn. "Well, there’s the taxi service that offers a free pick up and drop from your home and the timings are pretty flexible as well. And you don’t have to pay for anything that you want to eat within the campus. Which means that you get free fruit juice, soft drinks, chips, short eats and just about everything else. Add to that the fact that the work culture is great, you don’t need to come to office if you don’t have any work and you can hit the spacious gyms anytime you want to. The H.R team does a phenomenal job as well, they frequently organize team outings and actual fun filled sessions. Oh and then there’s the big incentive - the women there are rumoured to be prettier and smarter than in any other company. Now does that seal the deal or does that seal the deal, huh? So what do you say?"

"Don’t take it" I replied and had less than half a second to duck under the incoming popcorn that my friend spat out of his mouth in disbelief. "Bu... bu... but why?" he stammered in disbelief as more popcorn kept falling out of his mouth. Not a pretty sight to say the least.

"Its the perfect job. Hence you shouldn’t take it." Rather surprisingly he had some difficulty in comprehending what I was saying and I deliberately chewed on my popcorn in slow motion for added effect as I watched him wait for me to shed some light on the matter. Just as I was about to grab another handful he pulled the box of popcorn away and asked me to explain.

"So you join the company and you find the work is good and that the company is doing just about everything to make you happy. You know what happens if anyone is happy for too long. They get bored. That right, B.O.R.E.D. There's nothing to look forward to, is there? And what’s going to happen when you lose interest?”

In the manner of great orators I paused, waited and continued, ”You can’t switch again because you already have the perfect job. Let’s be honest, any new job will seem like a walk in the park with an obedient dog and nowhere close to challenging. You’re not going to get the same perks anywhere else and each time you put your hand into your pocket to buy lunch you will be left with the bitter taste of your memories. I will guarantee that a guy like you will end up taking vows of chastity when you realize that no longer will you be able to meet such wonderful women day in and day out. You will have to take a major pay cut as well since everyone knows that you were overpaid and underworked in your dream company. We need to get more popcorn, do you want some?”

I’m not sure why my friend suddenly wasn’t in the mood for more popcorn, I even offered to get him the one with additional butter which he was extremely fond of. I sat for a couple of minutes and pretended to be extremely interested in the menu as he closed his eyes and seemed extremely engrossed in thought. Alarmed by what seemed to have become his permanently furrowed eyebrows, I asked him to relax a little which he eventually did. “This is true for everything isn’t it? If I find the perfect woman I should drop her like a hot potato, shouldn’t I?”

“Uh-huh, you need to stay away from anything that is perfect. Once you reach there you have nothing left to achieve or look forward to. You cease to ask yourself that important question – What next? You need to strive for perfection but you should always remember that if you do find it you should never do anything to attain it. You always need something that is out there just beyond your reach. It is our pursuit of happiness that makes us happy.”

Frankly even I was astounded by the wisdom of my words. Profound! My friend, on the other hand, seemed at ease with the whole concept that I had unravelled in front of him and had a smile plastered on his face. Slowly he started muttering to himself while rocking himself back and forth. People at the next table started eyeing us with extreme suspicion and not without reason. One of us (read me) looked like he had just had a moment of revelation while the other looked like he was slowly losing it.

“Will that be all, sir” asked the waiter as he realized we were making the rest of the customers extremely uneasy.
“I’m not going to accept it.”
“What’s that sir? I was asking whether I should get the bill”
“"I’m not going to accept it. Don’t you agree?”
“Not accept the bill? I’m afraid I don’t completely understand, sir.”
“Sit down, sit down. Let me explain how it’s the perfect job and why I’d be a fool to accept it …..”

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Why the myphone is better than my phone ....

I am not a person who gets irritated easily. If you do decide to sit behind me in class and throw tiny paper balls at my head, it would take several hundred such paper balls to get me to turn around and give you a piece of my mind and several thousand such paper balls to get me to kick you sorry arse all over town. If you decide to park your car at the office parking lot in such a way that it eats up half of my usual parking spot, I would happily go park somewhere else and carry on with life while not pondering on your lack of parking skills which would be understandable if you are a woman and inexcusable if you’re a guy. Basically it takes a lot of effort to get me out of my unflappable state but it takes very little effort for me to irritate people to an extent that they want to toss me out the window. Even if they have only just met me. Like the tragically birdbrained myphone messiah I met last week.

Apparently first impressions are supposed to be lasting impressions. I have heard my friend talking about this girl a fair bit and she seemed interesting enough, which falls somewhere between being as boring as a documentary on the physics behind drying paint and as interesting as a full fledged, all out, edge of the seats, stand up brawl between two top MMA fighters. The initial weekend plan was to head out for lunch and watch a movie and my friend had invited this girl for reasons that are still not clear to me. Why he is her friend is a bigger mystery but Im jumping the gun. We decided to meet up for a light lunch (the seats in theatres are extremely conducive to sleeping which means you have to go a second time to watch the parts which you missed) and then catch the movie and unfortunately just after introducing us to each other, my friend received a call from his bitter err better half and vanished before I could ask him to at least hand over the tickets.

Our conversation was as light as our meal and I couldn’t really complain until I made the mistake of asking the girl what the time was. In a flash she had pulled out her myphone and a couple of swishes later she told me the time. In my defense I had asked her the time only because she had a watch on her wrist. Since she seemed rather proud of her little techno gizmo and was probably the type who didn’t know anything more than dialing and sending sms’s on such a complicated phone, I asked her how good the phone was and whether she had any apps on it. Cardinal error!

“Of course it’s got a load of apps on it” she exclaimed as she pulled her chair closer to mine to show off her phone. Now being something of an annual occurrence, I usually am not one to complain if a girl would like to sit close to me but this time warning bells were going off like air raid sirens. “Check out this application, it shows me all the different footprint marks of wild animals and it can even tell you how old and heavy the animal is depending on the depth of the foot mark”. An animal lover, looks like my spidey senses were wrong this time. I asked her “So I take it that you’re an animal lover. How often do you go to wildlife sanctuaries?” I could’ve sworn she shuddered a little when she said “Im terrified of wild animals, I just like watching them on the tele.”

While I wondered how she would use the app, she excitedly moved on to the next application which was called G-Park. “This is like the best application ever”, she exclaimed, ”when you park your car all you need to do is turn this application on and when you want to go back click on ‘Where did I park my car’ and it will guide you back to it. Isn’t that amazing?” I had to agree, this seemed to be like a pretty nifty little app. Just to try it out, I clicked ‘Where did I park my car’ on her phone and after several minutes of analyzing the directions I came to the conclusion that she had parked her car in the men’s restroom.

I’m not sure if the puzzled look on my face gave me away but she seemed to realize that I wasn’t really buying the whole myphone story and so she decided to further try and convince me by showing off the next application which was meant to capture the first letters that a baby writes on a myphone and captures it for posterities sake. “I didn’t know schools have given up on handwriting” I cheekily mumbled “In our time we used to get a rap on the knuckles for not writing our letters properly. How times have changed ……”

As my voice trailed and I tried to keep a straight face, she realized that it would really take something to get me onto off the skeptics list and onto the myphone bandwagon.

“Do you know to make a reef knot”
“A what not?”
“A reef knot!”
“Of course not!”
“What if you suddenly had to make a reef knot”
“Why on earth would I want to make a reef knot?”
“Assume you did ….”
“Ok but before I do that could you explain to me what is a reef knot?”
“Argh! It’s a knot. And stop asking questions and assume you need to make a reef knot, do you know how to do it?”
“Of course not”
“Well the myphone has an application that teaches you how to make any knot in 10 easy steps”

I will admit it, I had to agree that the myphone was useful for something. Even if the only knots I ever needed to make were the ones on my sneakers. She insisted on demonstrating how anyone could make a reef knot and proceeded to take two straws and attempt to make the knot. After about a minute she had to let go of the straws and pick up the phone to check the next step. After starting from scratch she managed to complete 2 steps and had to drop the straws again and check for the third step. Again she had to start from the beginning and each time she put the straws down they managed to completely disentangle themselves and in the process raise her blood pressure a couple of notches.

Not wanting her to feel worse, without a single trace of sincerity, I agreed that the app was a pretty useful one and that the phone was a good buy. Now there is nothing in the world that you can do to a myphone owner that is worse than that because we all know that they have paid more than a bundle for bragging rights and an ego boost and a phone that is perpetually behind the competition in terms of features.

To settle the matter she pulled out what she thought was her ace card. “Check out this app, it can tell you whether it is day or night and where the sun or the moon is at that particular time. Can your phone do that?” she said with a silly victorious look plastered all over her face. “Of course not” I replied nonchalantly. “I just look out the window if I want to know where the sun is …..”

She stormed off without a word and with a rather disgusted look just as my friend returned back from his phone call. “Where did she go?” he enquired quizzically as he watched her disappear into the crowd. “You’de better go after her and help her find her car, I have a feeling she’s not going to be able to find it” I remarked in all innocence.
“But why did she leave?”
“You’ve done it this time. Can I at least have my ticket, the movie is about to start”
“Here take your ticket, at least tell me why she pulled a Houdini on us”
As I got up I said “You and your phone. It was pretty rude the way you disappeared like that. I think you managed to irritate her …..”

Friday, May 20, 2011

Yikes! A Hike!!

"Why so serious?" I asked my usually glum looking colleague who was sitting with such a morose look on his face that it looked like he had just got word that the world was about to end and he hadn’t completed even one of his top 100 things to do before he moves to a better place (Neil’s note: Here better place refers to the other world and not another company as many of you would expect). All I got in return was a blank stare. “Come on, cheer up. Didn’t you see the latest email on the hikes that have been announced? Looks like we will get a 14% hike this time! This calls for a mini celebration, let’s go grab some tea” I said, trying to infuse some semblance of happiness into the still way down in the dumps colleague of mine.
“I did”
“So why the long face?”
“Because I did”
“Because you did what? And don’t you know youre not supposed to start a sentence with because? Didn’t you pay attention to your English teachers?”
“But you did”
“Did what?”
“Start a sentence with because”
“You. Why?”
“Start a sentence with because?”
“I didn’t start a sentence with because, you did”
“Of course not. But why did you start a sentence with because? I thought you paid attention to your English teachers”

Suddenly it felt as if the room was spinning around me at an extremely dizzy pace and I tried to get back to the matter at hand. “So aren’t you happy about the pay hikes?” I asked wondering to myself why I had asked such a question when the answer was pretty obvious. “Of course not” he replied with a steady firmness that was more than a little worrying. “But why?” I asked with more than a hint of incredulousness in my voice.

“Its my HIIKES (pronounced hi-i-ke) theory, one that no one has been able to dispute. HIIKES stands for Hopelessly Inadequate Increments to Keep Employees Satisfied. “
I wondered what was so inadequate about the hike, after all a 14% hike did seem to be quite substantial. Add to that the fact that not many this was the only company that deemed me to be employable, it seemed more than generous.

“You see, as an employee you always lose. First the company gives you a hike and you happily think you are going to get more money. Unfortunately the fact that you are getting a hike is not a secret. The government is obviously out to ensure that you don’t earn too much and further widen the gap between the haves, the have a little but think they are the Indian middle class and the have not’s. So the government goes ahead and increases petrol and diesel prices by a percentage higher than what corporate India is giving its employees. This in turn makes food and all other products that get transported by road more expensive. Not only does it cost you more to reach your local supermarket, the prices on just about everything have gone up as well. Double whammy! So you earn more but you have to spend even more to maintain your same lifestyle …..”

And then there was silence. It took me a few minutes to digest what was explained to me. It seemed so simple and yet so blatantly wrong. There obviously was something faulty with his theory and I was determined to find out what it was.
“So the government makes more money on taxes? That’s it? It’s all about the money?” I asked as I started to make some sense of the entire situation. “Of course not, it’s about the numbers as well” he replied which had me hurtling down the path of confusion even faster.

“It’s a win-win situation for the government. They raise petrol prices and rake in the moolah. And if you think about it, the only way out of this predicament as an employee is if you slog so hard that you perform exceptionally well & get a higher pay hike than everyone else. Now since everyone is working extra hard, this means that the output of our industries is shooting up and more trade means better numbers for government statisticians who don’t have to resort to high levels of fudging to make you feel good. So you read your newspaper and feel proud when in reality for every step the country takes forward in terms of GDP and other 3 letter acronyms no one understands, you have taken two steps backwards with your family and loved ones as you try and outdo everyone else by working harder and harder.”

This time the silence was prolonged as things slowly began to sink in. Since it took me so long to understand and accept the problem, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be able to figure out a solution within a reasonable timeframe. “So what’s the way out?” I asked. “There isn’t any. Either you keep working harder and harder to make more money but give up all hopes of seeing you family for days together or be the family guy and stop running the rat race.”

And then it struck me, the answer to the problems of all employees in corporate India. “Jump!” I exclaimed. “What? Why?”. “No, no, don’t jump now. I meant jump from one company to the other. Get a substantial payhike in the process and I guarantee that you will be able to make enough to overcome the hikes in prices for everything else and hence make more money. Am I right or am I right?” I asked as I sat back with a triumphant grin on my face.

“You’re right. And wrong.” Said my fried as he slumped further into despair. “You see, if you shift companies once you would be able to beat the price rise for a while. But jump a second time and you will definitely move into the upper tax bracket which means you pay more taxes…..”

Dejectedly I threw in the towel. If someone would have told me earlier that the more I earned, the poorer I would become, I would’ve laughed and said that he was off his rockers. But it is true. Feeling down and out, I resigned myself to my fate and stared gloomily at my laptop for what seemed to be an eternity. That was until another colleague of mine cheerily came up to me and asked “Didn’t you get the email on the pay hikes? Why so serious?”

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Watchs wrong ?

There must be something wrong with my watch. How could I explain the fact that despite leaving for office at the same time every day, I find that my office floor is rather full when I arrive as compared to what it was a couple of months back? Even more surprisingly, these days there are more people in office when I pack up and leave at the end of yet another arduous day than what there used to be. Being a stickler for routines, I come and go at the same time every day and this change in office occupancy really did puzzle me.

Was my boss not happy with my work and hence giving me a lighter load? Did I accidentally delete an internal company email saying employees had to put in an additional hour of work? Was there a new policy of getting paid more for spending even more hours in office? Were people spending more time in office to avoid peak hour Bangalore traffic? Were they trying to ease me out by reducing their dependency (whatever little was there) on me?

I had a ton of similar questions that worried me no end. I was fretting, worrying, anxious and tense as I noticed that for the third week in a row I seemed to be the last to arrive and the first to leave. Is it any surprise that I couldnt get a proper night's sleep? As the days passed by, I grew more irritable and short tempered. Slowly people started avoiding me at work and took the longer route around the office floor just to avoid passing my desk. Those were gloomy days indeed.

And then one monday morning, all my fears were put to rest as I read the latest email from our H.R. team. People were giving me second and even third looks as they noticed that I had smiled for the first time in weeks. It even made a few stop in their tracks when they saw me. Suddenly it seemed to me that it wasn't just a monday morning. It was a nice bright sunny monday morning.I took a walk around the office floor exchanging pleasantries with people who hadn't made eye contact with me for days. More than a few of them were surprised to see my smiling face as they looked up from their laptop screens.

I eventually made my way back to my desk and read the subject line of the email again - Appraisal Season is here, time to fill in your goals and objectives. Obviously there was nothing wrong with my watch. Its just that time of the year ......