Team Building, Word Counts, and Your Dignity

Dear Uptight Seattleite,I'm over at my neighbor's place, watching his cat. Would it be unethical for me to copy down the "Notes to Myself" he has taped to his refrigerator? They're pretty funny and I want to make use of them in my writing.Author Arthur

Dear Arthur,Are you telling me there's something funny about activity practices like "Getting in touch with my body wisdom" and "Focusing on my gifts for the world"? I guess you should be congratulated, since you apparently never need to be reminded to "Simply be" or "Find your 'now' now." Some of us, however, need to reach for a helping hand to get through the day, and the nearest hand is often our own. Perhaps your own method of feeling better is to scoff at others. I'm not going to stand here and tell you that's not a valid approach. Poking at the soft underbelly of your neighbor's guilelessly exposed inner life, however, does seem like a betrayal. On the other hand, the proverb "Never trust a writer" should also be considered in this case.Dear Uptight Seattleite,As a "fun" team-building exercise at work, we have to perform a little skit at the end of the all-hands meeting. The thing is, the script is pretty bad. It's about a group of people who get locked out on the veranda at work and then have to learn how to engage in cooperative problem-solving. I'm embarrassed to be associated with this thing, but the woman who wrote it is a graduate of a playwriting program or something, and I get the idea she wouldn't exactly be receptive to criticism.Typecast Caucasian

Dear Caucasian,The only decent thing to do is to "forget" your lines and "accidentally" substitute lines you've written yourself. If the original line is "I guess getting stuck out here has resulted in all of us learning something today," substitute "Behold this day these fresh learnings!" For the line "Now I know respect starts with me," say "From self outward, ripples become waves." She'll take note of your more concise and evocative renderings and quietly rewrite the whole thing. Give her a wink to let her know that the source of these revisions will be your little secret and she's free to take all the credit.If for some reason she doesn't respond favorably to this strategy, you might have to take more drastic action. Go along with her script during rehearsals, but during the performance itself suddenly shout "Look! A helicopter! We're saved!" Pantomime getting into the helicopter and say "And they've got beer! Dance party, everyone!" Then pull out a boom-box and start blasting James Brown's "I Feel Good." As the room erupts in applause, dancing, and laughter, you'll have just finished demonstrating through your actions the very essence of cooperative problem-solving.Dear Uptight Seattleite,I open up a Word document and run a quick word count. When I go to close it, a little dialogue box asks if I want to save my changes. What changes? Have I altered my document simply by measuring it?Werner Heisenberg

Dear Werner,Yes.Dear Uptight Seattleite,The movers are coming in an hour. What is my role as a man when they get here? It seems kind of effeminate to stand around while brawny characters in sports T-shirts carry my boxes of art books around.Uncertain Ernie

Dear Ernie,During my last move I learned a few things not to do. In an effort to empathize with the manually laboring lifestyle, for example, you shouldn't offer to give the crew "a quick round of shoulder massages." I've found that this can result in a peculiar and unpleasant look. Also liable to be misconstrued is any attempt to show your respect for their profession by asking how long they've been engaged in "the moving arts." Indeed, I have reluctantly concluded that movers want to talk to you as little as you want to talk to them.But once you realize this, you're free to more clearly formulate your goal: to maintain your dignity while making as little effort as possible. The most efficient way to do this is to explain that while you'd love to stand around awkwardly and make half-hearted offers of help, you have an errand that requires a little brawny effort of your own. Like tuning up your car or making a run to the dump. "I gotta make a dump run" is in fact the single most satisfying sentence in the English language. Try saying it right now. You'll immediately hear a low hum in response. That's the whole world saying "Whoa! Get out of that guy's way!"Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to

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