A MinD in MoTown

Mork & Mindy.
January 11, 2010, 5:34 pm
Filed under: Argh, Getting my RANT on, The Woes of Work

It never fails:

“What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Melissa.”
“No, it’s Melinda.”

My first name isn’t challenging. It’s not even terribly uncommon. And yet on a regular basis, people erroneously call me Melissa (or Missy, Belinda, Matilda, Miranda, Minnie, etc.). I’m not even going to bother explaining the difficulties people find with my rather-simple last name. Suffice it to say it’s very similar to a certain Russian satellite, which leads to numerous spelling errors and a ridiculous amount of unnecessary references to the 1950s space object.

Whenever this mistake emerges, I can’t help but question if I’m to blame for their blunder. Did my enunciation fail? Was I speaking too softly? Is it possible I said the wrong name?**

But when an individual I speak to regularly – for work, especially – commits this gaffe, my annoyance goes through the roof and a blog post erupts.

As a journalist, you are strictly taught to ensure you have the correct spelling of someone’s name at all times. To go to print with an error in that person’s name is a rather huge error. Why exactly don’t people apply this rule to life in general? It’s one thing to mispronounce a name on the first meeting, maybe even the second. But when it’s the third encounter***, you should at least verify the name before slaughtering it and possibly causing some offense.

So who else has a name that’s often mistaken for another? What’s the craziest thing you’ve accidentally been called? And do any of you regularly face this problem, as I clearly do? Depending on the situation, I might correct an individual. How exactly do you react when this happens? And in all seriousness, is there something I should be doing differently to guarantee this doesn’t repeatedly occur? Or am I merely doomed for a long life of mistaken identity?

* Feel free to substitute this conversation with Mindy v. Missy or a multitude of other mistakes people consistently make.
** I did this once. Sad, but true.
*** Or the 15th and I just said my name when you answered the phone, yet you call me “Melissa” anyway when sending a followup email less than ten minutes later…

Who needs money anyway?

When my company implemented furloughs – required unpaid days off work – it came as no surprise. Most media outlets were already jumping on that bandwagon, forcing full-time workers into 32-hour weeks to save a few million dollars. But I never realized how grateful I’d be for the free time and the lost wages.

Unlike many others who work in this environment, I have a supplementary income from the restaurant I serve at on weekends. So when the furloughs were announced – one per month through September – I figured an extra shift or two each month would even out the monetary loss. And with just as much cash in hand, I took advantage of the work-free days by relaxing at home, conducting massive cleanups of my entire house or heading out of town to enjoy a long weekend*.

September arrived and I scheduled the last of my furloughs – used, along with paid vacation time, for a trip to the Outer Banks of NC. And then, shortly after returning, the news came: More furloughs would be necessary.

At first I was disappointed. Talk of wage raises was swirling prior to this announcement, but that quickly faded as six additional work-free eight-hour days were planned before 2010. 

Less than a day later though, my anger and agitation turned to relief as I remembered how much these furloughs allowed me to do so far this year that was previously beyond my reach when I worked six or seven days each week.

Not only did I visit Scranton on a non-holiday weekend in August, but I traveled to the Outer Banks this month, Virginia Beach in July, Penn State in April, Carowinds in June and so much more. (And thanks to the newly implemented furloughs, I’m heading back to Penn State in two weeks for a four-day weekend.)

These furloughs have strangely provided me with an amazing year of adventures and fun. So perhaps I won’t get a raise – bummer! – and maybe I’ll have to grit my teeth through a few more waitressing shifts, but with so little paid time off, these furloughs have helped me attain a happiness that was slightly missing in 2008 because all I seemed to do was work.

I guess this somewhat defines “turning lemons into lemonade.” I have seriously made the absolute best I could out of a very crappy situation, and what more could I have asked for? My wallet might struggle here and there, but I’m genuinely happy and that’s worth eating Ramen noodles for an entire week on occasion, for sure.

So, have you been in a similar situation where you’ve been able to “turn lemons into lemonade”? I’d love to hear about it. And if you’re in the media business, how have furloughs impacted your lives? I’m curious to find out.

* I suppose it should be noted that I can afford and often schedule one weekend off at the restaurant each month as well.

May 27, 2009, 10:58 am
Filed under: News Girl, The Woes of Work

I have decided my biggest journalism pet peeve is when people s-p-e-l-l words for me (other than their last name) without me requesting them to do so. And truly, I’ve recently become so frustrated by this, I felt the need to share my irritation.

The act is not only annoying and somewhat condescending – after all, I likely wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t know how to adequately spell – but it’s distracting.

In taking notes, journalists are typically a few words behind, hurriedly writing whatever the individual just said. But when that person breaks out his or her spelling skills, I’m often so caught off guard by it that the words I was scribbling onto the page are simply lost into thin air. And clearly if he or she considers me stupid enough to require the spelling of a particular word – again, with me asking that person to do so – I’m not going to ask for the repetition of whatever was just said. Thus, I simply miss out.

I’m unsure of why exactly this bugs me so seriously – perhaps a combination of my intelligence seemingly being questioned and my annoyance at the distraction itself – but it does, and I wish I could convey that to every individual who f-e-e-l-s the need to s-p-e-l-l into my ear.

Happy Turkey Day!
November 26, 2008, 6:17 pm
Filed under: The Woes of Work, Tis the season

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been a bit MIA in the last week – including reading blogs – and honestly, I’m blaming work. I mean, how dare they actually make me do stuff!!

Moving along… I’ll probably be sans-computer for the next four days, but wanted to give everyone a head’s up that yes, I’m still breathing, yes, I’m still in the blogosphere and yes, your regularly scheduled programming will return … eventually (I’m hoping Monday?).

In the mean time – following my marathon 32-hour/3-day work week – have a great Thanksgiving everyone and catch ya’ll (oooo, the southern life emerges!) soon. HAPPY TURKEY DAY!

Poor Big Bird... (As if you all haven't seen this before, but cut a girl some slack.)

Poor Big Bird...

Thou shall not ruin my sex life.
September 16, 2008, 6:42 pm
Filed under: Argh, The Woes of Work

For the last few moments, I was staring at the computer screen, fairly uncertain of what I wanted to write … and then a small child’s head popped up from behind my computer screen, smiling and holding a small blue doll that may or may not have been a strange looking miniature Cabbage Patch Doll.

I work in a generally lax environment. I wear jeans on a regular – nearly daily – basis, and today, I’m even rocking a glittered green camoflauge pair of Roos (you know, the sneakers with pockets on the side that were way awesome in the ’80s).

And yes, there have been a few occasions where I’ve snuck my dog through the back door and allowed her to run around the office as I finished up some work at 7 p.m. on a Wednesday night, but she rarely pees on the carpet – only once that I can count – and aside from a small mishap of jumping on top of my desk and sliding off, riding my desk calendar all the way to the floor, she causes little trouble.

But small children? They not only have the quick-moving legs and high energy that my puppy also shares, running around the office as if it’s a marathon for those under 3-feet tall, but they have the ability to talk and annoy … and I’m saying all of this as an adorable, but way too energetic four-year-old races back and forth through the newsroom desks on a rolling chair, yelling “weeeeeee” the entire time.

Wee-girl is the product of an advertising agent who is currently in the room next door, undoubtedly with her 8-month-old infant sitting in her lap, cooing and drooling, still unable to gallivant through the office while her older sister glides her way from one end to the other with little to no disregard for my blogging working. (…Wee-girl just ambushed another chair and knocked it over, then gave me a look of death when I said, “you gotta pick up the chair.”)

Okay, perhaps I’m not actually doing anything work-worthy, but they don’t know that. They have no clue that as I sit here, quickly typing away, I’m ranting about their small children (Did I mention the infant just began to cry? ‘Cause she did…loudly.) and how the sounds pierce my eardrums and send me into a downward spiral, swearing I’ll never, ever miss a birth control pill or subject others – especially at work – to my spawn once I hit 35 and the internal clock I’m clearly not yet in tune with begins to die a little and some poor soul emerges from my loins.

…Argh, way too much information, I’m sure – so my apologies to those still reading.

It’s not as though I don’t want to see how adorable Wee-girl’s new haircut is or the new tooth poking its way through your infant’s cotton-candy colored gums; it’s just, I’m only 23 and the idea of children still terrifies me inside, so when the products of your hot and heavy evenings at home with the hubby begin disrupting my blogging work, I tend to clench my jaw a little, force a smile, ignore your children and squeeze my thighs together as tightly as possible, vowing to never have sex again.

And damn it, I really do like sex. So please, please, keep the youngin’s away or else – and forgive me for saying this – I might have to sacrifice them to some god I’m not yet aware of just so I can get it on at night without the worries of producing yet another child that will inevitably disturb my blogging work.

Like a glove, baby. Like a glove.
August 26, 2008, 4:42 pm
Filed under: Just whatever, The Woes of Work

In an office dominated by 30/40/50-somethings, I occasionally feel like an outsider. I cannot relate to stories of the early 1980s – the pre-womb days – nor do I recall much of the latter part of the decade despite my 1985 birth. But some moments allow me to feel right at home, as if these coworkers are my North Carolina family, and the newsroom, my home away from home.

And in that family, I often feel like the tattle-tale daughter, always running to my editor when so-and-so doesn’t return my phone calls for a story I’m working on. Although my intentions are typically to explain that the article may run later than my 3 p.m. deadline, he dives to his computer, pulling up the applicable email address, reiterating the importance of so-and-so to swiftly return my message. More often than not, my phone rings within ten minutes and the information I spent hours trying to get was just laid out at my fingertips. Thanks “dad” Mr. Editor.

After talking to my parents following my recent run in with the law (see Policia! Policia! for further information), I called a fellow reporter and bawled on the phone, attempting to think about something other than losing my driving privileges. And it wasn’t the first time my tears prompted turning to her.

Around Thanksgiving – the day before my parents planned to travel 500 miles south and visit me in NC for the holiday – my step-father was electrocuted and broke his hip after someone tackled him to the ground, breaking his electrically charged grasp on the live wire (’tis true folks). I was at work when I got the news, thus the Crybaby broke free and took control. It was tough, especially knowing it would now be the first holiday away from my family, with step-father in the hospital, awaiting months of rehabilitation just to walk again.

And as I cried upon hearing the news – and receiving periodic updates as I took photos of the MoTown Christmas parade – that coworker was there to console me. It meant a lot, and it still does, knowing there are at least a few people here I can turn to despite not having known a single one of them just 15 months ago.

Since moving to North Carolina in May 2007 – a whole four days after my college graduation – I’ve come a long way. I’ve learned how capable I am standing on my own two feet. I’ve realized it’s possible to manage my money instead of splurging at every available opportunity. And I’ve figured out that the work place can be more than a job.

I got lucky and stumbled into a career I enjoy, as I’ve said before on numerous occasions. And what I’m slowly determining is that I found a newsroom where – regardless of an age difference that allows me to remember childhood television that surrounded Eureeka’s Castle and David the Gnome while my coworkers fondly recall shows I’ve only seen on Nick at Nite – I strangely fit … comfortably … and for that, I’m more than grateful.

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater.
August 13, 2008, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Argh, News Girl, The Woes of Work

Part of the daily banter here at the office often surrounds celebrities/politicians/gossip, etc. – something only natural in a newsroom dominated by females. And on Monday, the subject of John Edwards’ infidelity arose and two of my coworkers had a different stance on the issue than myself.

Note: By now, I assume we’re all fully abreast on the Edwards “situation,” and if you aren’t, what hole have you been hiding in? (Check out this Associated Press story, Edwards admits he had affair after heated denials.)

While I don’t condone his cheating – while his wife fought cancer, of all things … not a cold or perhaps the flu, hell, even bird flu, but CANCER – I really don’t see this topic as the public’s business, unlike my fellow Tribune employees. I felt the same way about the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal of the ’90s. What an individual, public figure or otherwise, does sexually behind closed doors is simply none of my concern.

Thus arises the question, “if he’s putting himself in the public eye, doesn’t his infidelity then become public information?” To an extent, this is a logical thought, and a person thrusting him/herself into the spotlight should realize the lack of privacy his/her life would then carry. However, at what point does the media’s desire for scandalous news like sexual activity become little more than titillating chatter?

As a reporter, I should have this inward desire to hunt for the truth and expose people like Edwards who claim faithfulness to their spouse despite evidence pointing elsewhere. But when it comes to a topic like sex, I don’t feel as though it’s my place to pry into a public official’s life for the truth. That is an issue that should be handled by a husband and wife – perhaps the immediate family, if necessary – and not one that should be picked at by society.

Yes, he lied, repeatedly, to the media about his 2006 affair with campaign staffer Rielle Hunter. And clearly he has lost the trust of many people as a result. But was it ever truly the public’s information to know? What right did they … we … have over knowing Edwards’ personal life, personal mistakes and personal drama? Once admitting his affair late last week, he claimed he told his wife of the affair. This was his statement:

“In 2006, I made a serious error in judgment and conducted myself in a way that was disloyal to my family and to my core beliefs. I recognized my mistake, and I told my wife that I had a liaison with another woman, and I asked for her forgiveness. Although I was honest in every painful detail with my family, I did not tell the public … I was and am ashamed of my conduct and choices. With my family, I took responsibility for my actions in 2006, and today I take full responsibility publicly.”

And why did he openly admit his error in judgment to the public? Because following The National Enquirer’s (what a reputable source of information, eh?) expose (okay, I can’t get a little accent mark to work!) about Edwards’ infidelity, various media outlets would not stop hounding the man until he came clean with the truth. It was only a matter of time before he cracked, and clearly he did. But, as he blatantly mentioned, he already took responsibility for his actions nearly 2 years ago with his family, the singular source he needs to answer to on this planet.

My coworkers believed Edwards – as not only a public official, but a man who wanted to become our next president – had a right to be honest with members of this country. He owed it to Americans, and specifically the North Carolinians he represented as a state senator for many years, to be upfront and truthful in all his endeavors. And that remains accurate in his political moves, in my opinion.

But, despite being a senator and a man with presidential dreams, Edwards is still a human being … a man, nonetheless … who is apt to err in some fashion. In letting down the person he loves most in this world by cheating, it does raise questions – rightfully so – of his leadership abilities and the likelihood of disappointing people across the nation. But what line did we cross in forcing him to tell us? This was his own battle to fight, one he had to reconcile with his wife and family alone. Who are we to badger and pester him until he spills the truth to the entire world?