Examining the “fire brigade” approach

Some of you may have heard of this but for those who haven’t, let me enlighten you.

You know that colleague who rushes to you the instant you step foot in the office, when you haven’t even dropped your bag? Yes, the one that asks you for a document in a mad panic. EVERYTHING seems to be an emergency with this person. Well, that’s the fire brigade approach. And it can be lethally annoying!

Photo courtesy of http://isntlifeterrible.com

The first thing I’m thinking is: Take a deep breath. Ask yourselves some keys questions like, ‘Is it life-threatening?’ Usually, it isn’t but it doesn’t stop the fire brigade.

Recently, I bought a phone from eBay. The moment I became the highest bidder, he sent me an email asking whether I was “real” and that he had had some bad experiences so he was just checking. I was fine with this, I understood perfectly so I replied saying I was real. Then as soon as I won the auction (literally 10 minutes later), the seller emailed me again to say that if I paid that day, he would post it the next morning with special delivery. ‘Great,’ I thought as I sat in the cinema watching ‘I don’t know how she does it.’ As I left the cinema 2 hours later, I noticed another email! This time, the seller said since I didn’t pay that he could no longer send it the next day and I’d have to wait till the day after.

This person was giving me a headache. It was standard fire brigade behaviour. The problem with this approach is that I react strangely to it. I generally slow down (the opposite of what they want me to do) and start watching the person intently, looking for signs of mental illness or anti-social tendencies. I admit that I usually just see a person that is impatient and in a hurry. I have not found evidence that links this to mental illness – yet.

Since I could not watch this seller intently, and I really wanted the phone sooner rather than later, I went on PayPal and paid. Then I sent an email to say I had and casually asked what the mad rush was about, AND to please still send the phone as I couldn’t see why not – after all, it was still today!

Can you sense how exhausting this approach can be for all parties involved? There are times when this approach works – like when there’s imminent danger. But I really wish everyone would calm down. I have used this approach in the past, you’d be surprised to know but I always got a bad vibe from the recipient. And as you know, I’m very perceptive so I deliberately watched out for when the behaviour was coming and I stopped it. So if you are a fire brigade junkie, try these top 5 tips:

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Consider if there’s any real cause for alarm e.g. is it murder or is it life threatening or will lives be lost?
  3. Does your victim look like they are in the mood to be hassled?
  4. Is your victim holding a weapon? If so, back off.
  5. Could you perhaps come back later when they have had their morning coffee and done emails?

Do you know any fire brigade junkies or are you one yourself? Come on, everyone knows at least one person that behaves like this. I’ll try not to judge :-).

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The secret codes of restrooms

photo of toilet seat

Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know what it is about restrooms, but I don’t like to talk in them. When I am in the toilet cubicle, I try to make as little noise as possible especially if I know there’s someone next door. I also feel embarrassed if I’ve seen a person go in. I secretly hope that there’ll just wee and skip “number 2”. There’s obviously a secret code in the restrooms.

When I come out of the restrooms and head to the wash hand basins, I’m sworn to silence. If there’s a colleague washing hands next to me, no words are exchanged – we wash side by side, heads bowed.

The other day, the phone in the cubicle next to me started ringing! And…you guessed it, the lady answered it! A sacred code broken. She talked a little about some presentation slides she forgot to send but DID keep the conversation short. At least, she didn’t flush while on the phone. What a relief! I understand that no one makes these rules but it’s just less uncomfortable when people follow them by:

  1. Not looking at me when I enter the cubicle. It’s bad enough that you now know I use a toilet.
  2. Not trying to strike a conversation with me at the wash hand basins, especially if you’ve inadvertently heard me doing “number 2”.
  3. Definitely not peeking over (or under) the cubicle wall to say ‘hi!’.

I often find myself staying a little longer in the cubicle if I hear movement at the wash hand basin. I think its a woman thing but I may be wrong. Are men having chats across the toilet bowl, I wonder? What other codes are out there?

Name this alien fruit!

Taken by a colleague who really wants to know what it is

I thought it was an apple. But then it also looks like a kiwi fruit. Has anyone seen anything like it? It was taken in Germany. What is it? Please let me know.

A day in the life of a task mistress

Heathrow Express train prepares to depart from...

Image via Wikipedia

I have had a rather gruelling couple of weeks. As you know, I started a new role this month, which meant that I was in London at the start of the month. The flight to London from Aberdeen where I live is an hour and a bit but it’s still exhausting. It’s even worse when I have to catch the ‘red eye’ – waking up at 4.30am to catch a 6am flight is NOT fun. Anyway, I thought it’d be interesting to give you a sneak peek into how my days normally run. I was in London on Monday and Tuesday this week…

11 Sept, 11.15pm

packing my travel bag. notebook – check. cosmetics – check. change of clothes – check. laptop and charger – check. I try as much as possible not to have any hold luggage so it makes packing extra tricky.

12 Sept, 4.30am

Alarm goes off. Switch it off and go back to bed!

12 Sept, 4.47am

Wake up suddenly in a panic thinking, ‘Oh God, I’ve missed my flight!!!’ Look at clock – PHEW!, I’m fine.

Showered and ready. Wake hubby and say good-bye. Off to the airport.

12 Sept, 9am

Arrive at London office. Check emails and work on presentations and proposals. Meetings all day.

12 Sept, 6.25pm

In no hurry to go back to empty hotel room but leave reluctantly. Discover I forgot my toothbrush – buy one on my way to the hotel.

13 Sept, 8am

Check out of hotel and catch Heathrow Express train from Paddington Station.

13 Sept, 10.45am

Arrive home and go to the office.

13 Sept, 5pm

Leave office to pick up kids, who are happy to see me :).

13 Sept, 9pm

Everyone’s in bed. I relax with a cup of tea. There’s some knitting to be done. I try to get a few stocking stitches done before my bedtime.

Books I never read

I have scores of unread books on my shelf. I often look at them with guilt, wondering when I’ll have time to read them. There are great fiction books by Marian Keyes, Adele Parks, James Patterson to name a few. I’ve also got some religious literature and one book in particular about the 5 love languages of children. I have a feeling that specific book will make my parenting life more fluid. There’s another potentially life changing book on the ‘Speeches that Changed the World‘ by Simon Sebag Montefiore– in fact I bought it twice! There are all just sitting there. And I keep buying more.

Cover of Speeches that changed the world

Yesterday, I rushed to WH Smith in the airport, again attracted by the books. A book called Gypsy Boy by Mike Walsh caught my eye. It is about a young boy who has to choose between his gypsy roots and ‘freedom’. I read the synopsis with interest and smiled at how familiar the main theme was: breaking away from a mould to become your own person, taking a risk that it’ll be better than never trying. Your roots never leave you but they shouldn’t be limiting either.

I let my gaze rest on an autobiography of Amy Winehouse (1983-2011). May her soul rest in peace. The pictures of her growth physically, and musically were intriguing. One picture of Amy at age 2 brought a tear to my eyes – perhaps because I have a 2-year old who I want to live forever. Amy was an extremely talented soul.

Amy Winehouse (Image via Wikipedia)

The guilt of imprisoning all that literature on my now bulging shelf wouldn’t permit me to buy any books yesterday. I walked away from the temptation this time.

But I have read some books. I recently finished ‘The Ice Princess‘ by Camilla Lackberg, my baptism into Scandinavian crime novels. A fantastic story but one with heavy issues such as child rape. I’m a little sensitive and found the author’s lack of exploration of the psychological issues surrounding it a relief.

My favourite and most memorable read is probably ‘Never Let Me Go‘ by Kazuo Ishiguro. It made me cry with sadness. But I still loved it. I’ve learnt over the years that my sensitivity is a good thing. It allows me sympathise and walk in the shoes of those who are often complete strangers. Now you know the books I’ve dared to read and those I’ve never read (yet!).

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