Merry Fu**ing Christmas

If you find yourself unintentionally getting into the holiday spirit, head over to Slate for the cure. It’s an article called “The Corporate Scrooge Contest Results,” full of anecdotes about lousy bosses and stingy corporate behaviour during the holiday season. It includes gems like the dentist who gave his assistant a $30 gift certificate – valid only at his wife’s pricey boutique, where nothing could be bought for anything near $30.

Then there’s the generous corporation that gave everyone a $25 Christmas bonus – tacked onto their paycheques, pre-tax. Or how about the company that promised a chance at a cash prize of $100 for any of its 2000 employees who worked 80 hours in the two-weeks between December 18 and 31? That can rightfully be interpreted as if you work through Christmas, there’s a really small chance you might win a hundred bucks.

It reminds me of a company I know where they give employees, on the fifth anniversary of their employment, a cheap, unpadded laptop bag bearing the company logo. This, despite the fact that barely any of the employees actually use laptops.

I often wonder if this kind of behaviour is borne from malice, or plain old stupidity. And I’m not sure which is worse.

Forget about golf

There was an article in The Gazette this week in which writer Stephanie Whittaker discusses the reasons why professional women should take up golf. The jist of it was that golfing is a great opportunity for networking (aka schmoozing), because golf courses are flush with business and professional people who gather there to meet, greet, play, and talk informally. Most of these people are men, and Whittaker makes the argument that women who don’t golf are missing out on the action and the opportunities.

Andi over at the Nightingaleshiraz Blog weighs in. She acknowledges the value of networking but she feels one should partake of networking events not so much because they are “opportunities for networking” but because they are activities that one genuinely enjoys. In other words, don’t golf because it will help you get ahead, golf because you like to play golf.

I fully agree.

Unfortunately, the world — and in particular, the business world — is full of people who are opportunistic, culturally shallow, and just plain dull. The astute observer can spot these people quite easily. They’re the ones over there, standing on the golf course.

no golf

OK, I’m being unfair. Without doubt, some of those suits on the links actually enjoy the game (and by “enjoy” I mean “enjoy playing the game and socializing with others,” not “enjoy yet another opportunity to kick someone’s ass and display their alpha-male status”). However, there is equally no doubt that a lot of those people are there for opportunistic reasons.

They are easy to spot. They’re the same ones who go to “gentleman’s clubs” (stripper bars) with clients in the evenings, and baseball/basketball/hockey games with their colleagues at every opportunity. During these events the topic of conversation rarely goes beyond (a) sports, (b) industry technical stuff, (c) tales of people striking it rich from good business opportunities.

I would rather nail my own head to the floor than endure any more of those conversations. As such, I gladly suffer a loss of professional prestige and opportunities by boycotting the golf links, sporting arenas, and strip bars.

The sad thing is that many (unfortunately not all) of these people have the potential to be interesting if you can get them out of their suits and out of their comfort zones. How about a picnic? A game of frisbee? Sadly, no. There’s something about clustering those (mostly) men together in those predictable environments that causes them to abandon their humanity and to climb into their robotic suits of opportunism and dullness. Clack clack clack as they playfully bump their blunted swords together. Spare me.

On the other hand, the infusion of more women into that environment might change things. Call me a gender stereotypist, but I think that, in general, women in suits are more inclined to have a broader range of interests than men in suits. My speculations as to why this may be true are far beyond the scope of this post, so you’ll just have to trust me on that. But let’s just say that men in packs easily fall into pack mentality and pack behaviour. Injecting women into the pack has been shown to dilute this effect. To me that’s a good thing.

However, if I were a woman with the same frame of mind as I currently have, I still wouldn’t buy this argument and run off to the links. I’d leave the dilution of the besuited man packs to women who actually like to and want to play golf. And unfortunately, I would have a difficult time not being judgmental towards them, but for completely other reasons. In case you don’t know it, golf courses are hazardous to our natural environments. They require an obscene amount of water, as well as chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, etc.), and their creation often disrupts natural wetlands and breeding grounds.

Read more about it here, and here, and here. For example, Tourism Concern claims that “An average golf course in a tropical country such as Thailand needs 1500kg of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides per year and uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagers,” or enough to supply the irrigation needs of 100,000 farmers. Maybe that has nothing to do with your golf weekend in North America or Europe, but try bringing the topic up with your colleagues and then see if that’s who you really want to spend your weekends with.

So forget about the golf. And forget about the suits. If you ask me, you’re better off spending your “free” time with people who are not in the same line of business as you. Diversify your mind. Diversify your life!

Will Write for Chocolate

There’s a new cartoon strip on the block: Will Write for Chocolate will publish a new strip every Wednesday. According to its author, Debbie Ridpath Ohi:

“The strip will address issues familiar to most freelance writers,
including the struggle of finding markets for your writing, the
challenges of working at home, e-books and e-publishing,
self-publishing options, networking with editors and other writers,
rejection slips, procrastination, and other topics within the craft and
business of freelance writing.”

I can think of at least one freelance writer who will probably bookmark it…

The rising cost of working

In keeping with tradition, the cost of taking public transportation has gone up as of the new year. A monthly bus pass for Montreal now costs $63, and $70.50 and $71 for Laval and Longueuil respectively.

In my case, I live in Longueuil and work in Montreal, so — like many commuters — I have to buy a combined pass. The one I get is called a "Tram 3" and it now costs a whopping $99.

To be fair, that’s still fairly inexpensive when compared to monthly transit costs in places like Toronto ($98.75 for a basic pass) or Vancouver (between $69 and $130 depending on the zones). But it still seems like a lot — particularly since it is not a matter of distance that causes me to need the more expensive pass. It’s because I have to use two systems.

take me home

People who live in the far end of Lasalle, or Lachine, or Ahunsic (for example), are all on the island of Montreal, so they need only buy the Montreal STM pass even though they travel a greater distance to downtown than I do.

You could argue that I can also use the Tram 3 pass to travel around the rest of Longueuil, but in the two years I’ve been living in this suburb I’ve never had the slightest need to do so. The public transit system in Longueuil is centered around one task — getting people from their homes to the Longueuil Terminus and back. (There is an entry point into the Montreal Metro system at the Longueuil terminus.) Otherwise, it’s not very useful.

Aside from the terminus, there are few other places in Longueuil that I might want to go to (with the exception of a few places in my immediate neighbourhood). If I did, however, decide to take a bus to some other part of Longueuil, it would probably take me half an hour just to figure out how to do so, and the trip itself would take even longer.

It would likely involve waiting for my regular commuting bus (depending on the day and time, it might only come once an hour), which would take me to the terminus (a 20 minute ride). There, I might have to wait five, 10, or even 30 minutes for the connecting bus that would take me back out of the terminus and to the destination.

Forget that — I’ll just drive there in six or seven minutes. Which would you choose?

Despite the above, my daily commute is quite easy and relatively fast — because I know when the bus will come to my corner, and my destination is the terminus (OK, that’s the first leg of my journey). Coming home is the same — I take the Metro to the terminus and then have a choice of three different buses to take so I rarely have to wait more than a few minutes. But using the buses for any other pattern is just a waste of time. Too bad I have to pay so much for it.