Ode to Busy Season 2018

With apologies to Walt Whitman

O vodka, my vodka! Our fearful trip is through
The car has rounded every bend, and gently carried you
At the thought of drinking you my step has extra bounce.
I open the trunk and reach for you to carry you into the house.

Mother-fucking piece of shit!
How I cursed my clumsy grip
The vodka tumbled downward
It did not survive the slip.


O vodka, my vodka! How can you not know
This week has been abominable; I desperately needed you so
For you I made a special trip out to the liquor store
For you I pined and dreamed (and rhymed!) and only wanted you more

I can’t believe it; it cannot be!
It’s really just my luck.
You leave me here without even a taste!


My vodka does not answer, all shattered on the ground
It does not recombobulate, my wailing now resounds
The car is parkèd in the drive, commencing its repose.
It’s too cold to go out again; besides the store is closed.

You all enjoy your evening
While I with mournful tread
Walk the ground my vodka lies
Fallen cold and dead.


Scene: Husband and I in the basement on our computers, each playing a game.

Me: *grumble*

Husband: What?

Me: Nothing.  It’s fine.

Husband: No really, what?

Me: *inwardly sigh and make the decision to let him feel like he’s helping* This game mechanic isn’t working, but it’s okay.  I’m just not going to worry about it, and I’ll try it again some other time.

Husband: Have you tried clicking it?

Me: Yes.

Husband: Have you tried reloading the user interface?

Me: …. Yes.

Husband: Have you looked up what else you’re supposed to do for it to work?

Me: Yes I have, and there’s nothing else.  It should be working but it’s not.  No reason why.

Husband: *irritated* Look, things don’t just not work without a reason.  So there’s not no reason, there is a reason.  You’re probably doing something wrong.

Me: *also irritated now* Yes I’m aware that there is a reason that exists somewhere in the bowels of the program.  I just don’t feel like spending my limited leisure time figuring it out.

Husband: Well if we don’t figure it out, we can’t fix it.  Here, let me try –

Me: *interrupting* Look, I don’t care.  I really don’t.  I’m aware that if I don’t investigate, I will never know.  And I’m okay with that.  See, while you are content to remain agnostic with regard to important things like the existence of God and the implications (or lack thereof) on the universe as a whole and your place in it, I am content to remain agnostic with regard to shit that doesn’t matter, like why this game mechanic doesn’t work.


To my esteemed employer

Greetings and salutations,

You’re dumb.

I just submitted my expense report for a work trip (this one), and it got kicked back to me.  Why?  I ran through everything I spent on the trip – flight, hotel, rental car, food, and I received the following response:

Lunch is not ordinarily a business expense.

Excuse me?  Yes of course lunch isn’t ordinarily a business expense.  Because I don’t buy lunch when I work in town.  That’s why I tried to run it through – because it was money I spent while out of town that I wouldn’t have spent otherwise.

If there is a valid business reason for this meal, please provide the reason and the attendees, in accordance with the expense policy.

Um – yes.  The business reason is that I’m a human being that needs calories from time to time in order to be productive throughout the day.  Sigh.  Who am I kidding?  I know better than to try that one.

But that’s only how the policy doesn’t work for me.  What you don’t realize is the completely obvious way the policy doesn’t work for you.  Hence my previous assessment of your intelligence.  See – now that I know I can’t get lunch reimbursed, I’m going to go back to the policy, take a look at the allowances for all the other meals, and get more food for those meals to make up for having no lunch.  Instead of a small breakfast, moderate lunch, and light dinner, I’m going to get a late breakfast and a large early dinner that I’ll eat half of in the early afternoon and the other half in the early evening.

Here’s about how my out-of-town meal expenses compare before I was aware of the no-lunch policy and afterward:


You see?  I don’t want to be out the cost of lunch every day, so I changed my behavior.  And now you’re spending more money on my travel because of your policy designed to spend less money.

Good job, genius.

Kind regards,


How to get your very own TSA pat-down

Wear this.


Yup – that’s what I wore to work today as I flew out of O’Hare to join one of my audit teams for a couple days.

It turns out that there is metallic thread in the shirt, and the airport body scanners don’t like it.  Because of that, I made it to second base this morning with a very nice TSA lady.

So!  Lesson to all of you – watch out for metallic thread in your clothing if you have to fly for business, lest your diabolical plans to go to work at your boring, run-of-the-mill job be foiled by the TSA.

A Valentine’s Day love story

Or, more accurately, a meditation on my feelings.

I am in love with my coffee.

Mmmmmm .... oh yeah baby ....

Mmmmmm …. oh yeah baby ….

That first sip of dark-roast divine delight sets my tongue alight with flavor and heat.  I feel the warm glow slide down my throat and enliven my entire body.  I feel the invigoration of the caffeine flow through my veins as I reflexively flex my biceps – I can take on the world!  Or at least this audit.

Yeah! Go me!

The same excitement as kissing a naked lover with wet lips.  The same comfort as being curled up in a blanket with a spouse.

first love wattpad

Wait, what?!  That wasn’t what I wanted!  A little morbid, don’t you think?

true love mirror-of-my-soul

That’s more like it!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

In honor of Valentine’s Day and all the cynical things it represents, I am going to share my best date cancellation story: I once had a guy cancel a date because he was being detained by military police.  No lie.

Here’s the story:

Once upon a time I was stationed at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, California.  And the earth was without form and void …

Like this

Like this

Hold on a second – that’s the wrong story.  I’m sorry everyone!  I need to go yell at the interns.  Please stand by.

Insert smooth jazz here

Insert smooth jazz here

Okay, now that I have the right script, where were we?

I believe we’ve already established where I was, so the next thing I should tell you about is when I was.  When I arrived in the middle of the year 2000, DLI was what was called an “open post.”  There were no guard stations and there were many easily accessible ways to come and go, in the form of both roads and walking paths.  Many of us were more interested in the walking paths since we didn’t have cars.  In fact, I had a particular favorite perpetually open gate in the border fence which was useful for greatly shortening my weekly grocery walk to Safeway.

Now, if you have a passing familiarity with military installations, you’re probably thinking, “Why would you go buy groceries?  What was wrong with the chow hall?”  Great question – I’ll tell you.  I found dirty dishes in the “clean dishes” pile.  Not once.  Not twice.  Three times.  After the third strike, that was it – I started buying my own groceries.  Plus the air being vented out of the chow hall always smelled like decaying food garbage and spoiled dairy, which wasn’t super comforting.  I have to tell you, though –  what I really didn’t understand was why more people didn’t buy their own food.  Anyway – I digress.

When September 11, 2001 happened, the post virtually immediately went from open to closed.  Very, VERY closed.

Do not enter

Do not enter

By mid-morning, all buildings were locked down.  One entrance per building was guarded by active duty personnel and all other entrances were blocked.   National guard units were mobilized and began arriving that evening.  By the next morning, guards armed with M-16’s manned every post access point.  The line of vehicles waiting to enter by the one open entrance stretched all the way down the hill and into downtown Monterey.

In short, it was absolute madness.

The one silver lining was that we were now perpetually in a state of “battle-readiness” which meant that we got to wear this uniform every day –

bdu abu

Comfortable AND functional!

and we got to skip the usual once-a-week dress-up day where we wore this –


Uncomfortable, ill-fitting, 1940’s design.  No identifiable redeeming qualities.

After about a month of no successful or attempted terrorist attacks on our proud installation, they grudgingly agreed to open a second entrance.  Now there were TWO WHOLE WAYS to get on and off post.  Joy!  Notably absent from our new, relaxed, anything-goes attitude toward post access was my favorite pedestrian gate that took a good 20 minutes each way off of my walk to Safeway.  Bummer.  Oh well.  It’s not like I didn’t sign up for this.

Q: Didn’t you say this was a story about a cancelled date?

A: You know, a story is no good without a proper background.

Q: That doesn’t answer my question.

A: I’m getting there, okay?  Patience!


One day in October, the unthinkable happened.  Good unthinkable, that is.  On my way home from class, one of my male Air Force compatriots named Vik fell in step next to me, started up a conversation, walked me back to my building, and then asked for my phone number.  The next day, he called me and asked me out for that Friday night.  With racing heart and fluttering stomach, I said yes!

I mean, up until this point I seriously thought that this sort of thing only happened in the movies.  But it happened in real life!

No that's not what happened but I really was THIS excited!

No that’s not what happened but I really was THIS excited!

So Friday morning came and Friday afternoon came and finally FINALLY Friday evening came.  About an hour before we were supposed to go out, I get a phone call.

Remember these?

Remember these?

“Hi – Athena?  Yeah, it’s Vik.  Listen, I won’t be able to take you out tonight.  Jake(*) and I are being held at the guard shack until they can get ahold of the First Sergeant(**) so we’re going to be here awhile.  I’m really sorry about this – I’ll make it up to you as soon as I can.”

Not quite sure what I was hearing, I thanked him for calling me and hung up the phone.  I didn’t see him all weekend.

We had a Monday morning ritual called “formation.”  It was called “formation” because all the Air Force personnel arranged themselves (i.e. formed up) into rows and columns in pre-determined groups.  At 7:00 sharp we were called to attention (Flight – tenHUT), turned 90 degrees to the right in order to face the flag (right HACE), and ordered to salute (present ARMS) while reveille played.(***)  After reveille finished, we were put back mostly the way we were (or-der ARMS, left HACE, pa-rade HEST).

For reference:



Present arms

Present arms

Parade rest

Parade rest

From the left, the guide-on bearer and the formation commander began marching toward the middle platform in front of the assembled squadron.  That was normal.  What WASN’T normal was Vik and Jake marching behind them.  They reached the middle and stopped.  Plunk, went the flag, and the formation commander addressed us all in a booming voice – “SQUADRON!  Ten-HUT!”  First the low thunder of over a thousand pairs of boot heels snapping to attention, and then silence.  The unnatural silence of over a thousand airmen at attention – not even the sound of breathing.

Again, from the left, the TSgt who usually addressed us every week began walking toward the platform in the middle.  When she reached the middle, she called, “At ease!”  Instantly, the sound of breathing and hushed chatter was all around.  “Good morning!” came her chipper voice.  For the next few minutes, she went over whatever communications were required that week, and then when she finished, she said, “And now Airman Jones and Airman Waverly would like a few minutes to talk to you all.”(****)

I see.

Picture your favorite articulate, intelligent, easygoing college professor calmly explaining a very important foundational concept in a conversational style to help the knowledge calmly settle into your mind, and you know exactly what Jake sounded like as he took the mike and explained to us all that it was very important to not jump the border fence and to only use the two post entrances that were open.  He continued to explain that it was also important to listen to the guards when they tell you to stop.  Vik then took over and added that the guards had M-16’s and that they were authorized to shoot if they thought they needed to.

Wow.  Okay, then.

We gave them the obligatory round of applause and that was that.

Vik caught up with me later and explained that Friday after class, he was heading to Safeway to buy some flowers and things for dessert to “try to be all romantic.”  He ran across Jake heading in the same direction, so they decided to go together.  Upon seeing that the pedestrian gate was closed, Vik thought they should use the open gate, but Jake said, “Why?”  There were no guards around, the fence was not that hard to climb, and it really was a big time saver if you’re walking to Safeway.  Jake won.  He went first.  As Jake was climbing down the other side of the fence, the two patrolling guards saw from the nearby road.

“STOP!!! HANDS UP!!! DOWN ON THE GROUND!!!”  Vik sensibly realized he had no other option, so he complied.  Jake dropped to the ground and bolted.  Well, wouldn’t you know – guards are equipped with radios as well as guns so within a few short minutes they had Jake, too.  Shortly after they were taken to the guard shack, Vik did the polite thing and called to cancel our date.

Sometime between when the First Sergeant came to retrieve them and Monday morning it was decided that in addition to extra duty, Vik and Jake ought to address the squadron to help make sure no one else “embarrassed the squadron” like that again.  So they did.

And that is the story of the date that got canceled because the guy was being detained by military police.  At gunpoint, no less!

Funny-Motivational-Quotes-7 rapidlikes

Not quite this bad. Almost, though.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

(*) Jake was another Air Force guy that I knew from my language class.  He was a tall, strong, softspoken free spirit of a gentle giant.  So he was a bad influence, of course, but he was a great guy so we all loved him.

(**) For those not familiar, the First Sergeant is a MSgt or above (E-7 – E-9) whom, among other things, deals with personnel issues.  Such as when personnel are apprehended by guards, for example.

(***) Side note: after being jolted awake by reveille more times than I care to count, I have realized that anyone who has reveille as their ring tone is a sick fuck.

(****) Airman Jones = Vik and Airman Waverly = Jake

Cows and Graveyards, Revised

Once upon a time, I went on a two-hour drive through rural Iowa with some classmates, and the girl who was driving taught us all how to play Cows and Graveyards.

Here’s how you play:

  • Divide the car into two teams: left side and right side. Note: It should be decided before the game begins which team gets the person sitting in the middle of the back seat.  It is recommended that they be on the “left side” team, as the “left side” team includes the driver, who cannot really commit to playing since they are, you know, in charge of driving.
  • Each team watches their side of the car.
  • When you pass cows, count them. You must count them out loud, and you must stop counting when you can no longer see the cows.  Cow totals are cumulative.  For example, if you pass a herd of 15 cows and later pass a herd of 10 cows, you have a total of 25 cows.
  • When you pass a graveyard, all your cows “die” and you have to start over.
  • The winning team is the team with the most cows when you reach your destination.

It was a lot of fun!  So naturally I taught my children how to play.

Good times, right?  Wrong.

See, the problem I run into while driving through the Chicago suburbs is that there are no cows.  There are plenty of graveyards, but no cows.  So to make sure we had a playable game while driving to my parents’ house in Iowa, I made some … minor modifications.

General rule:

If you can see it, you can count it.  All animals count – cows, horses, dogs, squirrels, birds, and even musk oxen.  However, the unit of measurement is still the cow.  So, for example, if you count five horses, two dogs, and three birds, you have ten “cows.”

Count modifiers:

Different things you see while driving will either add to or subtract from your total cow count.


Fast food: Some of your cows are hungry and stop to eat.  -15 cows.

Gas station: Your cows are more energized.  +10 cows.

Hotel: Your cows feel better after a good night’s sleep.  +10 cows.

Starbucks: Your cows are more energized.  And Mommy is in a better mood.  +2 cows.

Wal-Mart: Save money.  Live better.  +3 cows.

Optional rule:

As a practical expedient while travelling on the highway, players may elect to use logos on blue highway signs (i.e. “Lodging next exit” or “Food next exit” signs) instead of looking for businesses from the road.

Medical centers:

Secular medical center: +50% bonus cows.  Because science is awesome.

Religious medical center: +100% bonus cows.  Because science + God is even better.

Catholic medical center: +110% bonus cows.  THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU … to have more cows.


Catholic church: +6 cows.

Any other church: +5 cows.

Note: Initially, passing a Protestant church required subtracting 2 cows for embarrassingly bad theology, but my 10-year-old protested, “Mommy, you’re not being very nice to people who believe differently than you.”  Point taken.

Other landmarks:

Water tower: Some of your cows drown.  -10 cows.

Community college or university annex: Yay for smart cows!  +30% bonus cows.

Trains: +1 cow for every train car with graffiti.

Optional and proposed rules:

Optional rule:

When passing a graveyard, instead of all of your cows dying, a number of cows equal to the number of gravestones in the graveyard die.  Useful for those small country graveyards with maybe 20 stones.

Proposed rule:

“Mommy, what about auto parts stores?” asked my 12-year-old.  I don’t know – it seems like we should do something with auto parts stores, but I’m not sure what.

Proposed rule:

When crossing the Mississippi River, all your cows fall into the river and drown.


Okay, fine: when crossing state lines, your cows are confused by the new surroundings and get lost.  Lose 20% of your cows.

Proposed rule:

“Mommy, shouldn’t we get +10 cows for passing a barn because the cows are rested?”  You currently have almost 200 cows – clearly you are doing fine.  Why are you lobbying for more?  “I don’t know.  Just ‘cuz.”

The following rule is optional, but if adopted, it must be wholly adopted.  Partial adoption is disallowed.

When approaching a barn, barn-like structure, or a cluster of barns or barn-like structures, if cows are visible from the road, players may elect to either: 1) count all the cows they can see (consistent with the rest of the rules); or 2) use the 10-cows-per-structure practical expedient.  Before passing each newly-sighted barn, barn-like structure, or cluster of barns or barn-like structures, one option or the other must be verbally elected.

For each green highway sign (mile-markers and exit signs don’t count), one of your cows stops to read the sign.  Lose that cow.

(And this is how you know your mother is a CPA.)

(P.S. The above proposed rule was NOT adopted in my car.  I can’t imagine why.)


Obviously, you can do whatever you want with this.  If you’re an atheist parent, for example, you may want to flip around the bonuses for the medical centers, or subtract 5 cows for ANY type of church you pass.  Whatever makes it fun!

This is my deadline song and I’m gonna play it

Hi everyone!

It’s crunch time for me at work right now, so unfortunately two things have happened:

  1. I’ve been quieter than I would prefer
  2. I haven’t been reading all your posts with any sort of consistency

Now, #1 isn’t so bad – it’s a big, wide internet with TONS of great things to read.  But I feel kinda bad about #2 – I follow so. many. amazing bloggers, and you all deserve to be read and discussed by as many people as possible.  I haven’t been able to make my usual contribution to your traffic and for that I apologize.

Moving on – depending on how long we have known each other, you may remember my deadline song from last year.  Here it is again (below) for anyone out there that is buried under too much work and needs a little tune to hum; crowdsourcing request for improvements is still open.  If we’re newly acquainted, enjoy!

Deadlines never bothered me anyway
(to the tune of Let it Go)

The lights are on in the office tonight
Not another soul around
With stacks of my workpapers
On my desk and on the ground

My kids are howling ’cause I can’t see them tonight
Couldn’t keep my promise; heaven knows I tried

Don’t stop to think – just get it done
You’ll only make it worse for everyone
Can’t take much more; I don’t know why 
I even try

Fuck it all; fuck it all
Don’t give a shit anymore
Fuck it all; fuck it all
Grab my keys – I’m out the door
I don’t care what my boss will say
I don’t give a fuck
Deadlines never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how my world now
Comes suddenly alight
As I leave my work behind me
And run into the night

It’s time to see what happens next
When I send my boss a nasty text
Fix this, fix that – no not for me 
I’m free!

Fuck it all; fuck it all
What a sweet refrain to sing
Fuck it all; fuck it all
Strike a match to everything
What delight on this beautiful night
As I drive away.

My boss comes in now like a hurricane of flame
With clenched jaw, bulging eyes as he spits out my name
And one thought crystallizes like the frosty air 
I’m getting fired now – and I can’t seem to care!

Fuck it all!  Fuck it all!
You are all a bunch of tools
Fuck it all; fuck it all
Flip the table; screw you fools
I won’t take this bullshit one more day
I don’t give a fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!!

Never liked that company anyway.

I actually do like where I work, and I actually would care if I got fired.  Still, I really hope my boss doesn’t find this.  I would never hear the end of it.

I forgot my birthday

Well, technically I haven’t forgotten it yet this year, but most years I do indeed forget my birthday.

If a robot sings Happy Birthday on Mars and there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a robot sings Happy Birthday on Mars and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?


For people that don’t forget their birthdays and want to celebrate, there is apparently a group of killjoys roaming the earth that would ban self-hosted or self-organized birthday merrymaking:

“But modern Western culture is predominated by a belief that the individual is owed recognition, accolades, respect, honor and gifts for reaching certain life milestones and if friends and family won’t do it, then they feel justified in taking matters into their own hands to make sure they are sufficiently and deservedly honored.  Humility is a dying character trait.”

Or … people like excuses to party and a birthday provides the perfect excuse.  Using one’s own birthday as an excuse to party is not inherently honoring oneself, because that’s not how birthday parties work anymore.  Birthdays are fantastic excuses to drop everything and party – just by virtue of the fact that there are 365 possible days a year for people to have birthdays and only around 10 or so of those days are official holidays, there’s a good chance that any given person’s birthday falls between established holidays.  It’s a nice deviation in the routine and a break from reality.  Similar to how a beloved patron saint’s feast day works in certain cultures.

Yes, etiquette supposedly forbids hosting a party where people bring you gifts.  But somehow hostess gifts are okay, as are wedding gifts.  It is true that certain types of people cannot move past the idea that “birthday party” = “bring me presents,” and I agree that such an attitude and expectation is very childish.  And yet they still accuse those of us who do not expect gifts of being childish, as if they simply cannot believe that people would throw a party and not expect gifts.  Cultural norms change, and sometimes for the better.

In my circle, when it’s your birthday it’s your turn to host everyone.  That’s how the reciprocation of hospitality works for us.  As a result, I have been to many self-hosted birthday parties but never to one where the birthday person receives any sort of gift.  The only exception is a hostess gift (which authorities agree is allowable) if they are hosting a party at their house with all the planning, decorating, cooking, and alcohol that it entails.  Etiquette calls for reciprocation of hospitality; if you take your turn on your birthday because everyone takes their turn on their birthday, what does it matter?

Answer: It doesn’t.

But because that would limit our ability to be judgmental and haughty, we can’t possibly look at it that way.

TL/DR: Cultural norms change.  It’s a thing; look it up.

Some other choice quotes:

Poor commenter Athena (not me!) asks:

“I’m holding a wine tasting party for my birthday, and I’m paying for everything. Am I consigned to eHell?”

My response:

It depends on who is on call the day of your Judgment.  If it’s someone from a generation or two ago, you are certainly doomed.  To be safe, you should avoid planning any sort of social event or even leaving the house (except for work and limited grocery shopping) for a full 30 days before and after each birthday or half-birthday, lest any intentional or unintentional frivolity be seen as shamelessly honoring yourself.  It does not matter that you are paying for everything or that you do not expect gifts.  Anything you plan in the vicinity of your birthday shall be deemed to be a “self-hosted birthday party” and you shall be found a “selfish gimme-pig.”

On the other hand, someone from our generation (say, ages 20 – 40 or so), will likely have much more sense.  They would tell you not to give it a second thought and go have a blast.  It’s your birthday, after all, and you clearly do not have the expectation of being “honored” or being showered with gifts – what could possibly be wrong with having a good time and sharing the occasion with whomever you want?


I was totally joking about the “no events 30 days before and after” bit, but commenter Daphne contributed:  “just don’t call it a birthday party, and better yet don’t have it on or near your birthday.” (emphasis mine)  So what I said in jest apparently people are actually saying in seriousness.

Commenter kingsrings says:

“And now awaiting all the comments on here disagreeing with admin, crying foul over her opinion, and naming all the reasons why it’s okay to throw your own birthday party. I predict that the biggest counter-argument will be that it is acceptable practice in other countries to do that, so it’s okay.”

Um – yes.  That’s how it works.  Interesting that even though etiquette is a collection of culture-specific customs, we have people arrogant enough to insist, “Customs be damned – everyone must do everything in a way that makes sense to ME and MY culture.”  We’re not talking about universals of natural law (ex. slavery, human sacrifice), we are talking about culture-specific, morally neutral customs.

In fact, commenter Goldie says that in her country, “As an adult, you were EXPECTED to throw a birthday party for yourself and invite people, especially if it was a big milestone like 30, 40, 50 and so on. People would be hurt and confused if a friend of theirs skipped out of throwing a birthday party – you kind of owed them a celebration.”  RJ adds: “Living on Crete for a time I discovered that Greek people celebrate their Saint’s name day not their birthday: Dimitri would celebrate on St James, Costas or Cristina on St Christopher’s day. But no invitations were issued! Friends were expected to know all the saints’ days and to know that on Christopher’s day Costas would of course be ready to host guests.  Costas would therefore prepare a feast and hope his friends turned up to the party!”

From the admin:

“The first question you should be asking yourself is, ‘Why do I need a birthday party after the age of 18?’ You and others appear to have this unrealistic and selfish expectation that the world owes you a party and if your cretin friends won’t do it, you’ll take matters into your own hands to make certain you get the requisite party marking some age milestone. The second question that apparently no ever asks themselves is, ‘If I consider my birthday that important, why have I not considered the feelings of others in regards to their birthdays and taken the effort to host a party for them?’ ”

To answer the second question first, everyone knows their own birthday.  It’s administratively easier to plan something for a date you already know.

To answer the first question, of course no one “needs” a birthday party; no one is arguing such. Also, no one “needs” to socialize with friends or “needs” to host a dinner party or “needs” to meet coworkers for drinks. There are a host of things that no one “needs” to do and yet we do them anyway because they provide enjoyment to all involved.

What bothers me is that the specific prohibition from hosting a party (that presumably everyone would find enjoyable) on one’s own birthday lends far more weight to the idea that a birthday is “special” somehow than any party could.

From the admin again:

“There are 364 days and 51 other weeks in which to gather friends together to offer them hospitality yet quite a few commenters appear to have deceived themselves into believing they must have an excuse to entertain friends, in particular using the occasion of their own birthday.”

Yes.  That’s how it works when times are lean and money is short. like it has been for a lot of people these last few years.  You do need an”excuse” to do anything financially beyond the bare necessities.  Goldie adds, “I guess maybe because we grew up with a shortage of everything, people weren’t throwing parties for their friends just because, for no reason. It would’ve been weird.”

As much as I ordinarily hate the phrase, it applies here: “Admin, check your privilege!

Final thoughts –

It’s also pretty amusing to flip through the comments and watch people talk past each other on this issue.  In reading these conversations one would never guess that the point of communication is to convey ideas toward a goal of mutual understanding.  Apparently the goal of communication is a trial by combat in which one bludgeons the other person with the same words and phrases over and over until they walk away out of frustration.

I’m just glad I don’t have to put up with anyone like this in real life.

How to talk to clients: intermediate

(Content warning: moderate sufficient profanity)

For those of you that have mastered the skills in the elementary course, now it’s time to step it up: this time I am going to give you some tips on how to communicate diplomatically.  I am joined today by More Charitable Athena (MCA) who more accurately represents my true professional persona.

Scenario 1:

When the client gives you a supporting schedule that has no relation whatsoever to the area you are trying to audit:

Don’t say: Your stuff is fucked up.  Fix this shit before you give it back to me.

Although this is probably the most accurate thing you can say, it is ultimately unhelpful.  Mainly because if it were obvious to your client how fucked up their shit is, they would have fixed it before they gave it to you.  So you have to point out specifics about where and exactly how much their shit is fucked up.

Also, the aggressive phrasing can be a bit off-putting.  They might get defensive, cry, or worse, complain to your boss about what a big meanie you are.  Bosses are notoriously unsympathetic to client misstreatment of their employees, so if that happens you’re really screwed.

Instead try: I am having some difficulty with this supporting schedule you provided (point out at least two or three specific things that don’t work).  Could you please prepare a reconciliation between the supporting schedule and the account I’m looking at?

MCA says: Many people who work in private accounting (i.e. our clients) spend all day working in the trees.  They see the bark on one tree, the sap on another, that damn squirrel that ALWAYS grabs those acorns that need to stay JUST SO to put the picture together.  (Their training conveniently neglected to mention that goddamned squirrel, by the way.  They had to figure that shit out all on their own.)  They don’t see the forest because they have more than enough to do with just the goddamned trees.  So when we auditors come in looking at the forest, we need to communicate with them in terms of the trees they understand.

Bonus: When the client gives you the exact same shit they gave you before that’s fucked up in the exact same way and says, “Here you are – I fixed it.”

Don’t say: What in the actual fuck?  This is the same shit as before, fucked up in the exact same way.  Try again, numbskull.

Same pitfalls as above.  Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?

Instead: Bring your computer over to them and ask, “Can you walk me through exactly how this reconciles these two areas?”

MCA says: I have found that a lot of people don’t know what it’s like to not know what they know.  Sure, THEY know that you have to add these three numbers and subtract 1/3 of the fourth number and multiply by the average internally-assigned acuity code of the patient population because they DO it every month.  But you don’t.  If you ask them to reperform what they did, one of two things will usually happen: 1) you will understand it, too; or 2) they will see that the supporting schedule they gave you is actually wrong and will fix it for real.

Scenario 2:

When the client disagrees with you and you turn out to be right (duh):

Don’t say: In yo FACE, sucka!!  Haven’t you learned yet not to argue with me?  I’ve forgotten more shit than you’ll ever know!

So you know all there is to know about accounting and auditing.  Fan-fucking-tastic.  Is that really where your sense of self-worth comes from?  Has it occurred to you that most people have priorities other than your particular area of expertise?  Look, the unfortunate reality is that while you see how important it is for people who do accounting for a living to, oh I dunno, actually know something about accounting, the rest of the world doesn’t feel that way.  And it shows.  Don’t suffer under any illusion that you’re going to change this.

Instead say: I’ll go ahead and post the adjustment on my end.  Would you like a copy?

MCA says: Most people care about doing their job right, but unfortunately may have been taught some incorrect or expired information.  If you want clients to be more helpful, get good at explaining things.  Talk to them in terms of the trees they understand (see Scenario 1 above) and walk them through how things work.  Draw pictures.  It helps.

Scenario 3:

When the client says to you on Thursday, “Let’s try and get these financial statements issued before I go on vacation next week.”

Don’t say: Well if you would quit having me change little LITTLE things that ripple through 7 workpapers, 2 adjusting entries, and 3 places in the report, maybe this would have already been done.  Don’t expect me to fix your shit and then question the manner in which I fix it.

Instead say: ….

(I got nothin’ here.  Ya just gotta do it at this point.  Sorry.)

MCA says: Can’t think of a positive spin on this one.  Your client’s just an asshole.

Note: This may or may not be inspired by my job right now.  I will admit nothing.