Walking in Memphis

Got back from Memphis late Wednesday night, I was at the FedEx head office for a couple days. I’m getting too old for this.

Almost every time I get sent somewhere for work, it’s because something isn’t working properly, and there’s a limited amount of time to diagnose the problem and fix it. This time around it was an 18 hour work day, five hours of sleep, a skipped breakfast, a crappy and expensive late lunch in the FedEx cafeteria, and a late, mediocre dinner.

Think business trips are about dining lavishly and lounging in five star hotels on company coin? Not in my experience. I’ve had to do this kind of thing on and off since my first co-op term, and I find the whole process quite nerve wracking, actually.

The key to thriving in situations like this is to cultivate a tendency to identify faults before strengths. Regular readers of this site (especially the posts with more lengthy comment threads) will have picked up that I have this trait down pat. I tend to focus on the root causes of problems and ways to eliminate them, which is great for my line of work, but can make for some pretty odd human interactions.

On several occasions I’ve caught myself openly assigning blame and fault to people in situations where perhaps I should have been less abrasive. What makes for even more awkward (though funny in retrospect) situations is that the more unreasonable and confrontational the other person is, the more abrasive and verbally abusive I become. “Victims” have ranged from the president of the company, to arrogant customers, to snarky old men in the supermarket.

When someone gets on my bad side I can do some pretty spectacular things that in the worst case are probably career limiting and bad for business, but in the best case make for some pretty amusing anecdotes. I know, it’d probably be better if I just held my tongue, but the fact that most people have never seen this side of me is a testament to how unreasonable a person has to be before I feel the need to bite back.

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