Monday, October 29, 2018

Can Do!

Whereas at the Firm I worked with a lot of people who had no shortage of confidence and believed they were incredibly SMART and AMAZING (caps intended) as the company also kept reminding them, at Household Name, I am often surprised at how baffled people often are if somebody does something that is not within their actual job-description and that they assumed only experts could do. I sometimes facilitate workshops (the picture above is from the most recent one) and it's clearly no rocket science that I do. I would never regard myself an expert by any means, but I just watched other people do it and try to deliver what the person who commissioned it would like as an outcome. In fact, I am almost embarrassed when somebody congratulates me on something that I don't think is a big deal at all and always want to should "YOU can do it, too, you know! You only need to try it." I never received any formal training as a trainer, nor as a facilitator and have often rendered "services" that might well be called "coaching" or "mentoring", my main approach (arguably, the only one) being to use common sense and negative definition. By that I mean that when designing a workshop I just think of the many boring ones I have attended myself where the day felt endless and I could not see the point of the exercises. I don't force others to do what I would hate as a participant myself and that seems to go remarkably well. Sometimes I think I should offer a workshop with the goal to empower others to have a go at things they otherwise would have hired an "expert" for...

Monday, October 22, 2018

Memory. That Cheeky Little Beast

Last week, as I was having lunch with colleagues, I got a "missed call" notification. The name on my phone display was that of a sewer cleaning company. I called back and the lady told me they were doing work in my building and needed to gain access to my cellar compartment where they suspected a leaking pipe ran through. I told her that, no, I did not even own such a compartment and had no idea who was using the one with my door number on it. 
I moved into my apartment 19 years ago and while the real estate agent had answered my question for storage space in the basement with "you have to ask the janitor for keys", it turned out that there was none left and the cellar was a rather off-putting, almost scary space with earth floor and wooden partitions and doors that came off their hinges. 
The evening after that phone call I suddenly remembered. Wait, I did get a cubicle after the janitor cleared away stuff she had apparently dumped in one. My ex-boyfriend and I stored some packaging there as far as I could remember, but I had not been back since. I dimly remembered buying a padlock. I came home late that night and did not feel like an expedition into the dimly lit cellar where rats or other creatures might be having a midnight feast.
On Friday, I was working at home, waiting for my dishwasher delivery (HALLELUJAH, after some inevitable problems, that mission got completed) when I opened my key-cabinet rummaging among the random keys that I could not remember what they were orignally for, for one that looked like opening a padlock. I eventually went downstairs, entering a part of my building I had been in for about 17 years...or so I thought anyway. It was rather brightly lit and I started lookning for my cubicle that I remembered being right next to the staircase. Except it wasn't. I could have SWORN that it was to the left of the door. A door I didn't remember either, but where the same key that opened our street door, fitted. All in all, that cellar looked different from what I remembered. I eventually found a cubicle with a metal (!) door that one of my "random" keys opened and found some objects in it (all wrapped in plastic) and a wine-rack with a single bottle of red wine that I don't remember putting there either. When did all this happen?! I rang the company again and told them I would leave the door open and yes, there was indeed some leak, it seemed.
I was reminded of the many times I was shocked that people had a completely different recollection of an event that I was witness to myself (or at least they claimed they did) and also of a book I have had in my Amazon wishlist for a long time. So THIS is how it happens! I'd have sworn an oath in court or at gunpoint that I did not own a cellar compartment with a metal door...

Monday, October 15, 2018

Adulting...Still Hard After All These Years

The night before I left for Canada, my dishwasher (19 years old) announced its imminent demise by dramatically activating the ground fault circuit interrupter. BAM! A little troubleshooting revealed that it is the fuse marked with "dishwasher". I tried switching it on and BAM, I was sitting in the dark again. The cold rinse cycle still worked and so I managed to get the water pumped off at least. Just in case, I deactivated that part of the fuse box before leaving for the airport.
When I came back,  I had a busy week with minimal time at home and accordingly did not need a lot of tableware. On Saturday, I tried my luck again and was met with the same dramatic show of instant darkness 10 minutes into the washing cycle. A little googling revealed that this is typical of dishwashers where the heating element is broken. Mehp. Not so great timing when you have dinner guests, but worse things can happen.
First moment of mild panic along the lines of "OMFG, how do I get this inbuilt beast out and how do I disconnect it?!". Then I found out you can pay a flatrate to have the old dishwasher removed and taken away for recycling as well as connected the new one. Yay.
Next moment of mild panic (or maybe not quite as mild anymore) when I took out my measuring tape and questioned that the new slimline dishwashers were quite the same size as mine, as in: "I think mine is extra slim". A little chat to a representative of the rare breed of "available household appliances sales person" convinced me the that a few millimetres don't matter and they are all standardised. As I did not quite believe him, I measured the solitary dishwasher they had displayed in the store, just to be sure.
Next moment of panic in the checkout process of the online store when I realised I could not specify a certain date (or at least a preference for one) when I would like to have my order delivered and installed. Just a rather vague time window. A call to the shop further confused me (shipping and installation is done by a third party vendor). I was torn between going for a model available in "1-3 working days" or another one "6-9 working days". What if this is just a random number and the delivery guys end up calling me while I'm in Hong Kong?! I eventually bit the bullet and ordered the "1-3 days" version. Fingers crossed! Sometimes it feels unfair to a) not have some competent adults making these decisions for you and b) not live in a nice commune with 3 people who work from home, or are retired already and have nothing better to do than to wait at home for deliveries and plumbers that announce their arrival "between 8:00 and 13:00". 
Plus, why don't dishwashers live eternally in the first place!

Monday, October 08, 2018

We Like to Move It, Move It! (Well, Sometimes)

Among the adjectives my friends use to describe me, "sporty" rarely features on top of the list, simply because I'm not. While I really love skiing and would gladly ski every day during the season if I lived in a ski resort town and had the opportunity to do so before or after work, I don't really do any other sports regularly apart from swimming, which I don't practice in a truly "sporty" way, either. This does not mean that I don't like to walk or move in general.
For this year's birthday, Frida gifted me tennis lessons because she desperately wanted to have a partner to play with and nobody in her family was eager to take on that role. I was really looking forward to it as I had actually toyed with the ideas of learning to play tennis myself. Somehow we struggled to find a time and place to put that plan into action and so she suggested a badminton course offered by the University of Vienna's Sports Institute instead, together with her hubby (known here as the Prototype). Well, last Thursday we had the first 1.5 hours session together with more than a dozen others, most of whom could technically be our children. It was SO much fun and the time was over really fast. If nothing else, our "laugh-muscles" were trained extremely well. Remembering the last time I played badminton, back when I was still as student myself, I also vividly remembered feeling like a granny with severe arthritis for days afterwards when I could hardly lower myself on the subway seats. I told Frida "Wait for those sore muscles!" "No way" she said (the Prototype was in my camp and also thought we'd feel this). Both of them run and work out regularly so I could be convinced that it would just affect me. The day afterwards was fine, but on Saturday, I struggled to climb stairs. I wrote into our WhatsApp group "And, still no sore muscles?" "OMG, the LEGS!!!" she answered. I'm relieved it's not just me who feels old and decrepit, but I am really looking forward to next Thursday.

Monday, October 01, 2018


As I am writing this, I am still in Canada, on the final leg of a 10-day road-trip with my mother, who gifted me this package tour for my birthday this year. I have to admit that I have a bit of a condescending attitude towards group holidays and did not greet this very generous gift with due respect and enthusiasm. With the exception of day tours in Australia and Japan I did not have a group-holiday experience since I was in Jordan with my Mum and this vacation had a rather traumatising element that both of us vividly remember to this day. I got violently sick the first night in Amman, shaking with a high fever that developed while Mum was out for a digestive walk and getting dehydrated so quickly that I passed out in the bathroom when getting up in the middle of the night to...well, you Mum waking up from the thump of me hitting the bathroom floor.  Not that this killer virus or whatever it was put me off group tours. Apart from the fact, that I love planning trips a lot (sometimes I think I should be a tour-operator in my next life...)it also has a lot to do with the fact that I am a very impatient person and group tours tend to come with a lot of waiting for others, typically, and also that I get easily embarrassed on behalf of others (in German, we have a very apt description for this, fremdschämen). In all fairness, both are not to bad with the present tour in Canada and I realised that it is actually quite nice for a change to outsource THINKING and just do what you are told to do. It's like being a sheep in a herd, gladly flocking after the rest of the gang whenever you are told to look somewhere, go for a pee, or hunt for food. Not the worst experience...and yet I have to say that could not imagine just travelling with groups of random strangers rather than with a handpicked set of select friends.
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