Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Favor

Recently, on a cold windy morning, as I approached the office building I work in, I was stopped for directions by a young man – maybe 30 years old. Heading in the same direction we engaged in conversation. I soon learned he was from southern California and unused to the Northeast cold. Nearing the entrance to my building, I spied two of my colleagues on the far side of the entrance enjoying a smoke break. I left the young man from southern California to continue on his way and pass by my colleagues as I turned into the building. Prior to departing, I asked him for a favor. Would he, as he passed my colleagues, tell them that I (and I gave him my name) thought they were f—ing idiots for smoking and for smoking in this weather. He laughed and said he would.
The following afternoon returning to the building from lunch, I was accosted by my two colleagues who were again engaged in smoking. They laughingly informed me that a young man on the previous day had walked up to them and said “Some guy had paid him $5 to tell them they were f—ing idiots.” Imagine my surprise.


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Kudos to a fellow blogger Bianca Befana (“BB”) for coining the above as well as TextAge in her HuffPosts.

Recent generations of mobile phones (formerly and sometimes currently “cell” phones) brought us the age of texting. Tie texting into other forms of social media and you have the sister and brother watching a movie with their father texting and posting to Facebook rather than looking up and speaking to one another. I get that in some situations one would prefer to text than dial the phone and speak to the other person i.e. breaking off a relationship (shame!!).

The drive to communicate by the written (digital) word has spawned a slew of texting abbreviations. They run the gamut from simple shortcuts – L8R, GR8, B4N, CYA* and OMG to capturing a little of today’s conversational idioms – TMI, Dilligas, LMAO and ROTFL.

None of these, though, provide the amusement found in military acronyms. Spawned over generations and led by the DON (Department of the Navy)(not Corleone) one sees the full expression of the military experience.

We can begin with MSG – decades old it means what it means today – Message. Though many today order their food without it. We have TFOA – Things Falling Off Aircraft. I really like that one. One can only imagine its genus – a bomb, a wheel, spare fuel tank, hand held compass tumbling from the skies. Well known today is the acronym Whiskey Tango Foxtrot or “WTF.” Same meaning. From there we move on to Charlie Foxtrot aka Cluster F—. With emphasis we have FUBAR (F—ed Up Beyond All Repair) and SNAFU – Situation Normal, All F—ed Up.

More illustrative is BOHICA – Bend Over Here It Comes Again!


The desperate search for demonstrative acronyms gives us VERTREP. Take a guess? It means eating standing up – Vertical Replenishment. Really brilliant!

And for those who have spent any time in Naval Aviation or the Air Force a common punishment when you pissed off your superior was FOD duty. Jet engines suck up a lot of air on take-off and thus paper or other litter needs to be removed from near the aircraft. A regular duty punishment was walking the flight line picking up cigarette butts and other litter to prevent FOD – Foreign Object Damage. The litter was sometimes known as Foreign Object Debris but that pre-supposes the non-foreign object is domestic. More recently FOD also has also come to be known as a Friend of Dechert generating an assortment of value judgments.

You may have noticed my starring of CYA. Generally it is used in texting to mean See Ya. Less frequent is “Cover Your A–.” However, for some us, CYA meant Catholic Youth Association – a group which often sponsored sporting leagues like basketball. Among my friends when you referred to “Covering Your A–” you often used the expression Catholic basketball. A description which takes on new meaning in light of the abuse scandals. We segue into new territory though and rather than cause any Barney we will leave Cockney rhyming slang to another time.


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A colleague, departing from the office one day, turned and graced us with such a smile that its warmth and brilliance thrilled the hearts of all within its ambient radius. A recent text exchange brought up the examples of the “Mona Lisa” and “Chesire cat” smiles. (I think the Chesire cat is more of a grin – though it is difficult without context to differentiate between a smile and a grin, I digress) (A Mona Lisa smile is said to be enigmatic).


                                                                                                                                                               Sand stone carving circa 16th century of grinning Cheshire Cat, St. wilfrid’s Church.

A web search reveals a site containing pictures of 16 different ways to smile. Ranging from the the “Slow and Steady” (seen as authentic and flirtatious); the “come hither”  (think Lauren Bacall); the “genuine” or “Duchenne” smile:


to the “swooning” smile:


Combine the last two, add a dose of serious radience and you approach the one recently bestowed upon our office. Now, when the days are long or drabby or harsh one need only reflect upon that smile to be transported to a better place.

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Co-Worker II

Obviously, imposing a false schedule to adhere to has not prevented us from failing to add to our blog on a daily basis. Perhaps spring time will be inspiring.
But, before we go, let us share with you a description of the illustrious environment at which the editors of this lackadaisical blog work.
The space is leased to a prestigious and nationally known law firm. It is, however, on a separate elevator bank. One cannot have that elite group of clients that patronize the firm coming into contact or mingling with the minions in our office.
Approximately 65 by 30 feet, the space is furnished with those temporary folding meeting tables, a handful of run down cast-off desks and office chairs that went out of use in the secretary stations 15 years ago. The carpet was new when the building opened 15-20 years ago. It has never been replaced. Criss-crossed with tape from tears or for holding down computer power cords and cabling it poses a safety hazard to the unwary or as is usually the norm – the listless. Occasionally it is cleaned – sort of like pushing the dirt from one place to another. Around the interior 3 walls are 8 feet tall steel shelves – most of which are empty. The wall color is said to be white but it is difficult to tell as the lighting fails to cast enough radiance. The window wall does offer light but the view is of a parking garage and besides we have been advised to keep the blinds down in order to prevent heat loss or incoming heat from the sun (depending upon season). It appears to be impossible for the room temperature to be maintained with any consistency.
Approximately 50 people work in this area, scattered about in a desultory and haphazard fashion. There is no privacy. To make or take a call one must go into the hall, seek the stairwell or the service elevator entrance. The peal of laughter or that of a chuckle is frequent – less so a harsh word. Surprising one would think given the environment, the work, and eminent lack of respect offered by the employer.

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We have worked for more years than we care to remember – perhaps more years than we remember (check out and they can help those with memory issues). From food service to pushing wheel barrows full of concrete to sandblasting toxic chemical storage sites, we have risen to the exalted heights of point and click decision making. A constant in every environment were our co-workers. A motley crew to be sure spanning the ones your mother warned you about to the one or two life long friends, lovers or spouses (not necessarily in that order).

Beginning today, the editors will attempt to discipline themselves and bring one story a day for the foreseeable future. Hopefully this will inspire us to put out additional material more suitable for contemplation by our respected audience. However, as our audience is made up of our co-workers we expect very little response as the vast majority are lost in their own personal nightmares.

Large law firms, each year in the fall, start a class of associates ranging from a few to a couple of dozen or more. All of these persons have little or no legal experience – at best, one or two have clerked for a judge and the rest usually participated in that rite of passage known as “Summer Associate.” Summer associates are known for their ability to accept large paychecks in return for appearing earnest. The best summer associate positions are with those firms having international offices such as London where the associates travel for a round of pub crawling and a spot of tea. The bane of each summer associates day is deciding which lunch invitation to accept.

At one such firm, thirty five summer associates were frolicking about on their own floor – peering into each others offices and engaging in polite banter about the superiority of their particular law school, undergraduate degree or yacht size. Into this romantic picture of privilege stepped one such person (as a sop to popular TV we will call him Sheldon) to throw a wet blanket on the joyous carefree days of his colleagues. Sheldon knew it all and was not at all hesitant to let his fellow summer associates bask in the aura of his brilliance. No matter the topic, torts, contracts, mergers, the price of coffee in Brazil, Sheldon was expert. Sheldon exalted his knowledge before his lesser colleagues regaling them with his lack of wit, boring pronouncements, exhausting stories about self and his overall superiority. The summer days stretched endlessly before his suffering audience.

As luck would have it though, Sheldon soon found himself assigned to a corporate tax partner having the amusing trait of collecting glass and crystal bird figurines and arranging same on shelves in his office giving rise to the perfect opportunity to bring down Sheldon. A fake internal memorandum was written – purporting to be from the partner – expressing concern over a particularly valuable piece of crystal depicting an owl which had gone missing from his collection. The “memo” found itself to Sheldon and was discussed by the group in his office. Where could it be? Who had removed it? Sheldon, of course, knew that it was one of those office janitors who had absconded with the relic.

On the following day, as Sheldon emerged from the elevator (fashionably 30 minutes late as was his wont) he was met by the group continuing to discuss the missing figurine. Accompanying Sheldon to his office, along with one of the group’s administrative assistants, it was discovered that atop his desk on the very “memo” (which shortly disappeared) was a smashed figurine bearing some resemblance to an owl. Consternation and panic ensued. Sheldon was vehement in his denials – me thinks he doth protest too much a common refrain – that he was innocent, what was he to do? It was smashed. He didn’t have the kind of money needed to replace it. Alas!

The group quickly dispersed to their respective offices putting up a front of “not my problem – yours” ignoring his plaintiff pleas, unseemly begging and the like. Hours later it emerged that the entire episode was a practical joke. Sheldon was irate. Days later he left, returning home and professing to have accepted a position at a prestigious NY firm. The group heaved a collective sigh of relief – one less competitor in the game of obtaining a full time position.

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The Land of Green Ginger

A magician’s creation? Medieval street in Hull, England? Yorkshire pastoral life turn of the 20th century? Perceive that which is around you and your place within it. Do so in a brutally honest fashion. Assess your roles, how they came to be. Your memory permits you to know you are. Without that memory you could not know. Now a choice – float away forever, continue to be a waiting room member or leap into the abyss. The Land of Green Ginger in Hull contains a hotel with the smallest window in England. Through it one can see an arrival but little more. Our own personal Land of Green Ginger displays far more; much choice and many opportunities. Most often though, we are like that little window unable to see more than one chance at a time. It is said that the people’s idea of the truth is what makes it possible to live in a society. Are you one with that? The group’s idea of choice? Or, can you be the magician and create your own Land.

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