Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bless Your (Judging) Heart

               In my current position, I sit on many interview panels for both my facility and peer facilities throughout our region.  Judging others has become my life’s work.  If those readers with whom I attended school can kindly refrain from smirking and just say, “bless his heart” and move on with your day, it would be much appreciated.

                Everyone has skills.  Some skills are awesome, some are not; some used for good, some for evil, but we all have them.  Most times, people use skills learned at work only at work and those learned outside of work only outside of work.  I think we are selling ourselves short by not finding new, creative uses of our skills.  For example, I use Lean processes at home to make my shopping trips as efficient as possible. In preparation for the grocery store, I list the needed items in the order I will come across them in the store, saving myself steps and time.  I am Lean like Toyota, people. 

As much as I try to be a good executive and always make the best hiring decisions, I know there are those who don’t seem equipped to make good choices.  I say this only as I see people making bad choices and I feel as if they simply don’t know the best way.  With this information, I thought I would share some of my expertise and the interesting genesis of this different way of thinking. 

                As you know I began working with the Miss America system when I was in college at MUW.  I began as Assistant Student Director and have since served as a Local Director, State Judge and State Trainer.  When I was still in Mississippi, I attended Miss America Judge’s Training with a multitude of fantastic people with gravity-defying hairdos and exceptional outfits.  To clarify, Miss America is not, I repeat NOT, Miss USA which Donald Trump used to own.  I feel the need to distance this blog and my reputation from anything as gaudy and gold-plated as The Donald. 

                Miss America Judge’s Training teaches you not to compare the contestants to each other.  Instead you compare each contestant to the ideal contestant, whatever it may be for you; speaking ability, critical thinking skills, musical talent, ability to levitate, etc.  This way each contestant is judged according to how well they measure up to the ideal.  This is important.

                For example, if you wanted someone on your trivia team who would help compel you to the winner’s circle, you would choose someone with significant knowledge of useless information, wouldn't you?  However, if you were to compare The Dad to my sister, she would know more than he about trivia, so you’d pick her.  The Dad’s answer to any and all trivia questions are “Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood or Leave me alone!”    My sister would seem to be the best of that particular group, right? 

Let’s look at the facts:  my sister thinks Chevy Chase and Bill Murray look so much alike she can’t remember which one is which, just that she likes neither.  She calls Jack Black, “That ugly, greasy, not funny guy.  What’s his name?  Adam something?”  When describing most movies she says “You know that guy?  The one with the face?  No, not him, the other one.  The one with the hair I don’t like.  You know the one who looks like the other one in that movie that I thought I liked but remembered I didn’t?”  She will not help you win trivia.  By the way, she was talking about Hugh Grant.

You should always pick the best; not just the best of the bunch, because your bunch might be a big ol’ mess.  I’m just saying.   Judge not lest ye be judged are definitely words to live by, however, since you were judged in order to get your job, feel free to judge others from the perspective of selecting a candidate for a job.  I feel sure Jesus is okay with it, in this context.   

I use the Miss America training to help me pick the best candidate.  If I am looking for someone who is skilled at critical thinking, I will choose the person most similar to my ideal critical thinker.  If no one in a group of applicants comes close to the ideal, I simply choose no one and re-advertise for the position.  I would rather be alone than regretful. 

Of course, I realize there are situations where you don’t have the luxury of time, but it doesn’t mean you still can’t look at your options more critically to ensure you are getting the best people on your team.   No one is perfect, except Jesus, but He’s not applying to work at your business.  He should already be there, in your heart.  If He’s not in your heart, we can help you, heathen, but not in that judgy, interviewy, pageanty way.   Bless your heart.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Putting the 'Duh' in Humidity

Part of my daily routine, even on weekends, is to check the weather prior to confirming the outfit which had been decided the previous evening is still appropriate.  And while we are safely beyond Memorial Day and in the white shoes/seersucker/linen zone, I am still reluctant to wear any of these things if there is a chill in the air.  Nothing says distressed more than a preppy shivering in cream suede wingtips and pastel chinos and the possibility exists in Southern California in June.  I had checked the forecast, with a current temp of 63 and an anticipated high of 72, but I also did a visual check as “almost” only works in horseshoes and hand grenades and apparently meteorology.  The weather app on my phone is rarely accurate.  Of course it was raining.

There is a meteorological phenomenon known to Southern California and Hawaii; I call it spritzing.  Spritzing is actual precipitation but more along the lines of a baby slobbering than anything even remotely replenishing to Mother Earth.  It comes in fits and starts and is sometimes so light, you think maybe you’re imagining it.  All it is good for is stirring up the latent dirt on your car causing it to look a mess. 

Since it was spritzing, I had to alter my intended wardrobe and choose a more weather-appropriate ensemble, replacing the suede shoes with stylish, navy leather wingtips.    However, because of the humidity, I was forced to wear a Polo shirt, which was much cooler but did not look as nice as a button-down would on my body.  Despite being bereft of children, I have somehow morphed into what can only be described as a “Dad” body, resplendent with man boobs and a spare tire worthy of a dune buggy, people.

Speaking of dunes, the very next day summer arrived in all its glistening glory.  Once I escaped the clutches of the swamp-like conditions of both Louisiana and Washington, DC; I thought man-boob sweat would be a thing of the past.  My four years in the Bay Area led me to believe California to be the land of broken dreams and no need for air conditioning.  My interstate relocation to Long Beach, 18 months ago, gave me the false sense of not needing any appliance to cool one’s household.  I was told on more than one occasion by the bald-faced liars, I mean citizens, of SoCal, “It doesn’t get hot enough to need an air conditioner.”  And like any other yokel from out of state, I believed them.  I wanted, needed, to believe them as my apartment did not have an A/C unit.

                July 2015 reared its fire-emblazoned head which led me on a fruitless search for anything resembling an air conditioner, swamp cooler, fan or ice chest.  None were to be found as they had purchased by the ridiculous people who assured me I didn’t need anything to help cool.  Hateful!

                Not wanting to put the ‘Duh’ in humidity again this year, I learned from my mistakes.  So when I went to bed on a chilly Saturday in Long Beach and awoke Sunday morning stranded on a pirogue in a Louisiana swamp (it’s a boat; look it up), I simply turned on my air conditioner, which I had purchased back in April when it was still 50 degrees outside.  The only thing I want moist in my home are baked goods. 

                And my friends say, “But Dustin, you’re from the South.  Shouldn’t you be used to the heat and humidity?”  And I always reply, “Yes, I spent the first 32 years of life, traversing every boon and cranny in every part of the South not touching the Atlantic Ocean, sweating and pouting about sweating.  I was a hot, unhappy child, yearning for a family from somewhere cold.  I was convinced I was switched at birth with a preppy family from up North who somehow had a small redneck child, begging for Wranglers and boots while swaddled in layers of MY argyle and corduroy.”

Why do you people think the first place I moved out of the South was to Alaska?  No one moves to Alaska by accident, y’all.  And speaking of Alaska, my little air conditioner keeps it chilly in mi apartmento por favor.  Seriously, you can see your breath in my living room.  And that’s all I’m saying for now as I have become too cold to type.  Winning!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

You. Are. So. Gross.

               Visiting relatives always sparks memories and you spend much of your time reminiscing, mostly about embarrassing events.  Now, I would never air my siblings’ dirty laundry but as you have come to know, I will air mine like a reality star hoping for their own spin-off.

                In 1979, we had returned to Northeast Louisiana, settling into an old plantation home situated behind the post office, a block from Sonic, in the bustling metropolis of Tallulah, Louisiana, which was the first US city to offer shoppers an indoor shopping mall, Bloom’s Arcade, built in 1925.

                This particular house was built long before indoor plumbing was even a glimmer of a hope in anyone’s mind in a small Southern town; therefore the bathrooms were located in areas not previously utilized for daily ablutions.  Hence, the master bathroom was an enclosed part of what had previously been a wrap-around porch, with an additional half bath near the kitchen.  The upstairs lavatory was directly at the top of the stairs.  To give you a more vivid picture and place you right in the episode, the toilet was situated directly facing the door within full view of all stair travelers.

                On this particular day, I had exhausted myself with manual labor and farming (full disclosure: making my bed and raking leaves) and retired to the bathroom with the latest tome in my favorite series about an 11 year-old detective, Encyclopedia Brown.  As my sister was attending an ironically named slumber party, I felt completely comfortable leaving the door open due to the ridiculously warm weather often found across the South in the fall.

                Having been trained through example by The Dad, I was settling in for a relaxing, lengthy session when I heard footsteps on the stairs and girls’ voices.  I froze.  What else can you do when you are seated with the door open and not remotely within reach?

                My sister and her friend get to the top of the stairs, see me and stop to stare, horrified.  My sister, never at a loss for words, stated matter-of-factly, “You.  Are.  So.  Gross.”  I could do nothing but hide my face in shame.  Instead of walking away, my sister turned to her friend and said, “See?  I told you.  He’s so stupid.”  Still staring in disgust, she yelled, “Mother!  Dusty is so gross!”

                My mother walked to the bottom of the stairs and asked what had happened.  My sister, still looking at me, now with a mixture of condescension and revulsion, like Alexis looked at Krystle on Dynasty, responded, “He’s pooping!  With the door open!  Reading a book!  With the door open!”

                I stated my case, pleadingly, “I can’t shut the door.  I can’t reach it.  Make her go away!”

                My mother started up the stairs and asked my sister, “Why are you standing there?  Shut the door or go to your room.  Actually, do both and leave him alone.”

                My sister huffed in frustration and departed with the scathing indictment, “You.  Are.  SO.  Gross.”  Her friend looked traumatized, which is understandable.

With the humiliation, you would think I would have quickly dethroned to shut the door but you’d be wrong.  I felt I had earned my spot with the poor treatment and I remained ensconced until my leg fell asleep. 
I spent the next year and a half unable to look my sister’s friend in the eye, until we moved to Oklahoma, not only from this but from an additional embarrassing moment. 

Do you remember Big Wheels/Hot Cycles from the 70s and 80s?  You know those plastic tricycles with the big wheel in front, but low-riding like a gangsta?  My little brother had one back when we lived in the previously mentioned house.  Please note our neighborhood had, at the time, short hedges lining the sidewalk. 

Like members of the royal family, my sister enjoyed being outdoors but not necessarily under her own exertion.  Deciding she desired to traverse the perimeter of the yard but lacking the inclination to actually pedal the Big Wheel herself, she directed me to serve as the horse to her molded plastic carriage; her team of Clydesdales if you will.  Her idea included a jump rope fastened to the handle bars and looped around my waist.

To give you pertinent information into the situation, you must understand I was in 4th grade, age 9, measuring just a notch above five feet.  My sister was in 6th grade and measured 5’7”.  She was taller than my mother and almost as intimidating as my father.  When she said jump I instantly complied, not waiting to ask how high or how far; hoping against hope I would meet her unspoken expectations.

Cut to me pulling Princess Shontyl down the sidewalk like one of those carriages in Central Park if they were low riders and the horses wore husky-sized Tuffskins.  As we were making our way in front of the house, a car slowed down and before I knew what was happening, my sister leapt from her vessel into the hedge to hide, leaving me to stand on the sidewalk pulling an empty Big Wheel behind me.  As the car passed, I realized it was my sister’s friend (who bore witness to the previous bathroom-related shame) who was in the back seat staring out the window. 

Her look informed me she had just crossed over into the same territory as my sister, thinking I was indeed So. Gross.

A single tear slid down my cheek.   
Not really, but I sure was shamed, y'all.