Archive | July 2012

Belgium, googled

21 juli Nationale Feestdag

Google’s idea of Belgian-ness in honour of Belgium’s national holiday today! Thanks google

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Rainmakers

Someone used the word “rainmakers” recently, referring to mighty powerful people who make the world go around. If you had been living in the UK, like me, then you will understand my uncontrolled revulsion. I fear I even made an ugly face, but I can’t be sure. I hope not, it would have been very inappropriate because this was a clever, expensive consultant I was clearly supposed to find common ground with. The word “rainmakers” used to inspire admiration, but somehow the persistent rain has changed all that. Rain is now a bad, bad thing. Rain equals floods, puffins drowning, no strawberries, no barbecues, slugs everywhere. And ferns growing to hideous hairy size, which is actually quite impressive. But except for its fern-growing capacities it is a really bad thing. My mind, I am finding, has formed such a rejection of rain that it is rubbing off on the “rainmakers”.

I understand that if you’re in Africa or even in the US this year you may actually have moved from admiration to awe for rainmakers. Everything is relative. I have good news for you though:

I myself have been carrying the nickname of Rainmaker for years now, sadly for the ability to make it rain everywhere I go for a holiday rather than for being powerful. The name truly stuck when I brought torrential rain to the Masai Mara‘s bone dry land, returning it to grazing fields for the Masai cattle within days. A miracle. Even I saw it as a good thing then. Now a strange thing has happened: I finally decided this week to give up staying indoors and buy a fully waterproof raincoat, so I can rejoin life. No sooner did the coat arrive than it stopped raining. I turned the tide! I truly am mighty powerful! And I am told that the changes mean the drought in the US will ease. So there. You’re welcome.

Dilemma

Shelves full of books have been written and many movies made on dilemmas and how people handle them. They typically describe BIG issues,  about whether or not to save someone’s life for example – Schindler’s list, The Pianist, … The Deer Hunter, dealing with the aftermath of the war, or stories about loss like My Sister’s Keeper. The Pianist I faced a dilemma a couple of days ago that I still feel the tiniest bit bad about, deep down. Silly really, because it was not a BIG issue and the outcome was overtaken by events. Here’s what happened:

Airport, gate D7. We were all waiting for an evening flight back to London, tired after several long days’ work. Looking forward to  coming home again. Then came the dreaded announcement that our aircraft was still in London “with technical difficulties”. Eventually the flight got cancelled and we were instructed to queue for a rebooking, from VIP loyalty card holders down to standard card holders and then the plebs. Nice touch, that. I guess they have to make it worth our while to pursue their wretched cards. By the time they got down to my level they had just given away the last seat on the next plane. There were two of us, an American suit and me, narrowly missing out. Not to worry, said the airline lady brightly, I can put you both on the waiting list. Then she paused, and added: “What if there is only 1 seat?” I mean, what was she hoping for? A fight? We just sighed and looked at each other, our minds whirring. Well mine was, anyway. This was my Moral Moment: I really wanted to be nice and courteous, this man looked as tired as I felt; why would I take precedence; it was the right thing to do. Another voice in my head screamed NOOOOOO I WANT TO GO HOME!!! It took me longer to resolve my inner conflict than it did the other traveler, who pulled the gallant card and “in that case offered the seat to the lady”. I was obviously delighted and thanked him appropriately – not too profusely, just showing appreciation -, but I couldn’t shake the hint of disappointment at my cowardice.

That guilt made me feel relief alongside disappointment when it turned out neither of us got on the next flight home, and we both were put on the same even later one. I am comforted by the thought that I did not cause the gallant American any avoidable delays, but I am now carrying the knowledge that I am a coward. If only he’d been a rude ass. That would have evaporated my dilemma in an instant. I am a coward…

Jeans vs suits: they belong

Does anything in this photo strike you?

Facebook staff meeting – credit: Business Insider

Don’t see anything untoward? Look again. These are Facebook staff, listening to a speech by their chief Mark Zuckerberg. They chose to work there because they want to be creative, original, at the forefront of technology and other such sexy reasons. They choose to be individuals rather than conform to the suits and standards of traditional corporate life. You read about technology companies offering their staff all sorts of entertainment to relax their hardworking minds, and being pretty relaxed about dress code. No suits required, wear what you like. Show us who you really are. Now: how many people in that picture are not wearing jeans? I only spot one, or maybe two if the guy in brown is wearing chinos rather than coloured jeans. The audience is a sea of blue denim from the waist down. That does make you wonder how comfortable people really are setting themselves apart from the crowd.

It has been said that people are happier among like minded people. This picture speaks volumes to that. I could be cynical and point out how conformist these creative souls are. Or I could marvel at the primal urge of human beings to belong. I am in a mellow mood today, and inclined to seeing the wonderful rather than the weird. I’m confident those people feel pretty good about being part of that team. It isn’t a bad thing to want to be part of a group, as long as you feel you are free to be true to your core self. A trade-off of wearing a sort-of-uniform for bringing the best out in yourself and others has to be worth it. Groups have to have something in common. Let them just not tell the suits they are conformists. They are all doing exactly the same thing, even if to achieve other aims.